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best strings for bluegrass/old-tyme music

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by jason L, Apr 20, 2004.

  1. jason L

    jason L

    Apr 20, 2004
    denver co
    I am currently playing a 41 Kay and would like some input on what strings would sound best for old-tyme and bluegrass.
    Gut strings would have a traditional sound but do not know if they are worth the price and from what I understand fluctuations. I must keep in mind that I play a lot of outdoor gigs. Any suggestions?
  2. I have been playing Kay basses for almost 50 years. They came with gut strings and that is the sound I know and love. Playing out doors is a problem for gut as moisture is bad for them. Need to keep them "oiled" with tung oil, meneral oil or olive oil. After a night under the trees or stars be sure to wipe them down good after playing. I now use a combo of gut G and D and steel A and E. Tuning is not too bad with this combo. I am a bluegrass player. :hyper:
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Gut is THE bluegrass and old-time sound, especially for slapping.

    You can get all four strings in plain gut which can be tough on tuning and maintenance, gut wrapped in metal (gut wrapped in silver is not recommended for slapping) or gut wrapped in nylon.

    I use the Velvet Garbos which are gut wrapped in copper for the E, A and D and gut wrapped in nylon for the G. They slap well and have the gut tone but are livelier sounding and have more sustain than many all gut sets which you may or may not like; I enjoy the extra "zing" as it helps the bass cut through better. I use these for both my old-time/BG and blues gigs.

    There are also "synthetic gut" sets which use nylon or other synthetic cores, like the Velvet Compas or Thomastik Dominant. These sets sound and feel a lot like gut but are much cheaper.
  4. JJBluegrasser

    JJBluegrasser Wannabe Snazzy Dresser

    Apr 17, 2003
    USA, Raleigh, NC
    I'm a bluegrass player as well. I slap and play melody solos on my bass, as well as traditional 1-5 stuff. I don't like guts. I think they are uncentered. Mike Bub with the Del McCoury band is sort of my model of how I want to sound in bluegrass. He uses Thomastic Spirocore Mediums, and so do I. I know at least 3 other NC bluegrass players that use them as well. These things are murder on your fingers until you earn those callouses (sp?), but they sound great, they have a nice crisp slap sound, and they come out of the bag in tune almost every time.

  5. tsolo


    Aug 24, 2002
    Ft. Worth
    I like the sound Tim Dishman with Special Consensus gets. He uses Thomastic Spirocore too. I tried them for a while but on my bass seemed too bright. I have an englehardt that's a couple of years old. I use pirastro eudoxas and like the sound i get.
  6. Jason, I'm a new bluegrasser (2 years on UB) with a newly discovered string obsession. Did you try out the Weichs as well? A lot of contributors here and at rockabillybass.com recommend them, say that is the way to go. I don't want to babble on but I have tried old Kaplans that came with the bass (dead) Obligatos (got duller and duller) Lenzner Guts (strongly disliked the roundwound wrapped A & E, and the unwrapped G & D constantly go out of tune both sharp and flat) and now I'm putting on the hottest latest newest Eurosonic UltraLights (they have strong possibilities) I think Todd Phillips and Mark Shatz use Spirocores, but I don't know which ones.

    I need to get a life.
  7. jason L

    jason L

    Apr 20, 2004
    denver co
    Thank you for the input from you all. I am leaning toward the velvet garbos. Found a set for 209 w/shipping at http://www.lnrmusic.com/. I will not have the money for several weeks. So any more feedback would be great.
  8. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    Brian (or anyone else), what is the diameter of the Velvet Garbos like? I want to go to a gut-like string but don't wanna have to enlarge my nut slots for the larger diameter guts. Obligatos haven't lasted long enough for me.
  9. I have played several types and really liked Obligatos until they died. For the basic 1-5 I think they are hard to beat. However, I am soloing on a regular basis and recently replaced the old Obs with spirocores. I definitely prefer the spiros for soloing.

    For the most part you have to try several things and see what works best on your bass.
  10. How long a life should I expect from my new Obligatos? I practice an hour each day (at least!), and am gigging 2-3 times a week...

    Cheers, Tim
  11. FunkySpoo

    FunkySpoo Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2002
    Innovation Rockabilly slap specials.

    they're probably the most gut like non gut string out there. I've had a set on my bass now for about six months and I love them.

    They have a bit more sustain than guts do but they're super low tension and nylon tape wound.

    They're a dream to slap and easy on the fingers.

    You can usually find them for around $125.

  12. Milage may vary. My playing habits are similar to yours and I kept the last set on for almost a year--but they were pretty dull well before that time. I believe I remember Monte Butts, who posts here on a regular basis, remarking that he got only a few months out of a set.

    A lot depends on the sound you are going for. If you are looking more for the thump, you might keep a set on for a looong time.
  13. Thanks, Steve! I was hoping for a longer string life, but heck, they're making me money, I shouldn't complain...

    Cheers, Tim
  14. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    Yeah, that was my experience. If you have a pretty heavy right hand, IMHO Obligatos are not for you. I actually got just under 6 months use, but the sound started going south after a couple of months.

  15. ackeim


    Nov 10, 2003
    Boulder, CO
    I agree, I am only getting 5-6 months out of a set of obligaos, but I love how they sound so I keep buying them!
  16. jason L

    jason L

    Apr 20, 2004
    denver co
    I finally broke down and bought a set of Velvet Garbos and they have really brought out the sound of my old kay. The sound is incredible and the sound is a great for the match for the music I play (old-time music). The feel of the stings is awsome. I have had them on for a little over a week and they stay in tune well. I guess the garbo strings are no longer being made with a gut core and they are now using silk. Have also been playing outside every day (when it wasn't raining) and the chages in temp/climate do not seem to effect these strings very much. Going to be playing a good grip of festivals these next three months will see how they hold up and stay in tune.
  17. Josh McNutt

    Josh McNutt Guest

    Mar 10, 2003
    Denton, Texas (UNT)
    I recently got my first set of gut strings (Garbos). Since they're all wound in something , do I need to oil the G or, for that matter, any of the other strings?
  18. I have the Pirastro Eudoxa's and they have a "Flat Silver" winding cover on gut.
    Do I still need to oil them? I enjoy Bowing as well and hate the war between Oil/Rosen/ Bow :-( :bawl: :spit: :spit:
    email me direct at cowboy6591@earthlink.net
  19. I suggest you send an email to Pirastro and directly ask them about Eudoxa (and other wound guts like Olivs and Pizzicatos) strings oiling.
    And please forward us the answer!
  20. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I put a set of those Innovation Rockabillys on my rockabilly pal's bass (actually, my old bass.) He loves 'em (even a year later and he makes his living with those strings) and I liked 'em quite a lot too. I had imagined they'd be kinda quiet and thuddy, but I was wrong. I'd play 'em for jazz, no problem.

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