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Best strings for newbie to UB?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by GypsyBilly, Jan 15, 2020.

  1. Hello-
    I am new to the UB, but I have some experience with electric bass. I recently purchased a used Roma fully laminated bass, and am looking to replace the Helicore Orchestral Mediums that are on the bass with something more favorable to pizzicato.

    1. What are you using the bass for?
    Not sure where I'll end up, but it will certainly be at least 90% pizz. I enjoy most "roots" forms of music: old jazz/ swing, gypsy jazz, honky tonk, Americana, folk, etc. I also want to try to learn slap, as I know many rockabilly musicians. Finally, I would like the option of bowing (at least to learn how to do it), and I understand some strings aren't at all suitable for arco. I doubt I'll ever be much of a soloist...

    2. What kind of sound are you looking for?
    Probably less sustain, more towards "thump" than not.

    3. What kind of feel are you looking for?
    Medium or lower tension but I don't care for real thin strings.

    4. What strings have you used in the past and what did you like/dislike about them?
    The bass came with Helicore Orchestral mediums, but they are the only strings (and the only upright bass) I've ever used. The E string seems stiff, especially stopping F & F#, but that could be a nut issue.

    Essentially, since I have no experience, I really can't offer much information other than what types of music I'm interested in learning to play. I'd like a versatile set of strings that I can learn on and experiment with and try many different genres. Right now, I've considered Evah Pirazzi/ Slaps, Jargar Dolce, Innovation Silver Slaps/ Super Silvers.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
    Keith Rawlings and dhergert like this.
  2. Bisounourse


    Jun 21, 2012
    Gent, Belgium
    One very sane answer would be: since you are new, just play what you have and think about changing them when they are dead, or when you bust a string. You don't need to go down the rabbit hole before you even start playing.

    Oh, and get a teacher.

    Since this is TB, so other recommandations might follow...
    james condino, salcott and GypsyBilly like this.
  3. First bring the instrument to a good luthier for a setup job.
    Then you may think about strings.
    A good setup is the most important!
    Cheez, salcott and GypsyBilly like this.
  4. Fair enough!

    Got that, just haven't started lessons yet.
  5. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    I would bring your new strings to that luthier for that setup, because I tend to think it makes the setup better if you do it with your preferred strings. Spirocore Weichs are, I think, commonly recommended for the play styles you list. Weich means "soft" and it is just a lighter gauge string with less tension, that most beginners doing mostly pizzicato stuff will like to play and have better success with than a heavier "orchestra gauge" string.
    dhergert and GypsyBilly like this.
  6. nogbert


    Jul 18, 2010
    Denver, CO
    +1 to all the above commenters saying you should get it setup and just play what you have for a bit. "orchestra" style strings will be really thumpy pizz so you can get a feel of what you want from messing with them for a bit. once you're ready to try something new i'd suggest looking for some used sets on here to experiment; you can find some killer deals if you're moderately patient. from what you're describing I would take a close look at innovation polychromes, and the eurosonic orchestral strings (a personal fave of mine; not the nylon wound ones; they might be marketed under the "presto" label now, i think the "balance" line) too.

    one last nugget of advice: when you get new (or used strings) you really should have them on you bass for ~1-2 weeks of playing before you make a final judgment. I see people on here all the time selling used strings with the descriptor "was on my bass for 30 minutes/1 hour/1 day". In my completely honest opinion the string will always sound completely different within a couple of weeks; people are just so impatient. I've NEVER liked the way any new string has sounded on my bass right out of the package with maybe one exception.
    Keith Rawlings likes this.
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    To play devil's advocate here: Helicore orchestra and Helicore hybrid strings are some of my least favorite strings on the planet and i think most suggestions that keep your goals in mind would be an improvement. If you have the opportunity to have your bass well set up by a competent luthier at the same time the strings get swapped out, I think you will be extremely happy with the result.
  8. The reason I am considering changing strings early is that (1) I've heard from several people that these helicore orchestral are optimized for bowing/ classical music - nothing like what I'd be playing; and (2) I'd like the luthier to set it up with the new strings. I can see that the sound post has shifted from its original position on the inside back, so that needs looked at, and there is a very slight hump in my fingerboard that might need planing. The nearest luthier is an hour away and I'd like it all done in one trip...
  9. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California

    As much as I agree that both a luthier and a teacher (and/or mentors) are key for your situation, I have to agree that making your string choice should be done before you have your double bass setup by a luthier. This string choice may possibly be done at the time you are talking with your luthier, if he or she is well schooled for your criteria there might be an objective recommendation from the luthier for specific strings.

    But on the other side of that, it is possible that the luthier will recommend strings that just happen to be in stock in the shop, which may not happen to be the optimal strings for you. To help avoid that, developing a relationship with your teacher (and/or mentors) to help with that decision would probably be a good thing.

    If it were me, I'd be doing some research (as you are very well starting to do here) and make string decisions and purchases based on that research before having the luthier do the setup, because the thickness of those strings will definitely affect how the double bass's nut and bridge (and maybe even tailpiece and tuners) are setup.

    It's worth mentioning here that not all luthiers are specialists with double basses. It would be best if you can go to a luthier who is such a specialist.

    I tend to meet the criteria that you've described with my playing... Because I have old hands that also have to play other instruments, because I like thick strings and moderately high action for slap, and because I'm avoiding metallic tone, I've gone completely synthetic and low tension with my strings. I've settled on a mixed set consisting of Innovation SilverSlaps E and A, and Superior Bassworks (aka SBW) Deluxe Dirty Gut medium D and G. The SilverSlaps are available as single strings so to save money I just ordered their EA (from Gollihur Music [NFI]), and the complete Deluxe string sets are pretty inexpensive directly from SBW.

    Aside from comfortable thick-string texture/feel and low tension, this SilverSlap EA / SBW Deluxe medium DG mix provides very consistent tone and volume from string to string (both acoustically and amplified) and the gauge match is excellent. FWIW, the SBW Deluxe strings have bowed nicely from the start, while the SilverSlaps, which are really not recommended for bowing, needed to be broken in for a couple of weeks using generous rosin and a tight bow in order to get more "in the mood" for arco. Eighteen months down the road now, both the SilverSlaps and the Deluxe strings are working extremely well (and showing no wear) for the pizz/slap/arco work I do.

    There is a huge selection of strings that you are facing, and you may not get what you want in the first or even later rounds with strings. Many of us here -- including myself -- are always at least curious about how different strings will feel and sound on our double basses. And, the same strings can feel and sound very differently on different double basses, so you're sort of looking for the ideal string match for your double bass. Personally I'm curious about gut D and G strings on my double bass and I'll probably try them sometime in my playing future.
    Keith Rawlings and GypsyBilly like this.
  10. My luthier is a pro with basses; born & trained in West Germany and has been working here since the 60s. Once he’s gone we’ll be up the creek around here...
    dhergert likes this.
  11. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    You're lucky to have someone available like this. Does he have experience with rockabilly/roots bass setup though? That can be very different from orchestral/jazz setup.
  12. He was recently telling me about a bass he worked on for a young female rockabilly bassist - she wanted hers refinished all in black, and since he’s the only bass luthier within 250 miles, I’m sure he’s done it all.

    *edit- we do have a one other bass luthier, but he’s considered eccentric and more experimental in his approach (and he’s no spring chicken either).
    dhergert likes this.
  13. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Excellent. It sounds like he may have good objective suggestions about strings too then. I'd give him the same criteria you've given us, but to be safe, do your research first, if possible with your rockabilly/roots mentors about strings.

    FWIW, this last weekend I played a nice old flatback double bass that had Eurosonics on it... It sounded and felt great. But I don't know how they are for arco.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2020
  14. nogbert


    Jul 18, 2010
    Denver, CO
    If Christian McBride uses 'em i think they're probably at least OK to start with though. fwiw
  15. Ed S

    Ed S

    Nov 14, 2019
    The Innovations (I have Rockabillys on mine) are a bit of a challenge to bow. Use A LOT of rosin!
    GypsyBilly likes this.
  16. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    A challenge? I would say "almost impossible."
    Keith Rawlings and GypsyBilly like this.
  17. Reiska

    Reiska Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    Another vote for Spirocore weichs. They are overly bright and metallic when new, but they tame into rich and powerful clarity with time and after that they will only get better for something like 5+ years. It`s a classic pizz string, classic DB tone, and fantastic arco string too, they somewhat can be slapped. They`re the best string in that sense that they have super precise pitch center, superb clarity of intonation and strong projective tone, they can be heard. All this will help you in your learning process, I believe. Thump, if that is your concern, is a lot in players hands, even extremely sustaining strings like spirocores can and will thump if the player wants them to.
  18. Spirocores are a great (and very versatile) place to start!

    Never hurts to have them in your cache, if not on your bass itself.
    John Chambliss likes this.
  19. Ed S

    Ed S

    Nov 14, 2019
    Well, I didn't say bow "well"! :D
    GypsyBilly likes this.
  20. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    The versatility is a big part of what makes them fun for a student, and they are totally a pro string that's worth keeping and coming back to. Even in college when I had my required orchestra and solo sets, I think I kept that Spiro weich E on all the time because it was perfect.
    Fretless55 and GypsyBilly like this.

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