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bluegrass strings?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Jeff Bollbach, Aug 12, 2002.


  1. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Hey Guys- Gotta new customer who's a bluegrass bassist and she needs new strings. While I love the grass, I just do not know what to recommend. Luckily, I do know people who do know. Help!
    jeff
     
  2. I've been touting the Velvet garbos. They're gut wound with copper(E,A), aluminum(D), and kevlar(G). Not very good for arco, but man they have some serious punch for pizz. Great for acoustic sessions where you want to be heard through all the other instruments. My biggest concern was string life, but after 7 months of hard playing, they're holding up physically and sonically. Expensive though - US$255.
    A lower price alternative for that style and sound is a mix of Innovation 140H (E,A), and LaBella plain gut (D,G).
    Haven't tried the Obgligatos - how is the tension on these?
    Love the grass?
     
  3. jimclark68

    jimclark68

    Dec 16, 2000
    Morganton, NC
    Hey Jeff,

    I can't make any recommendations if your customer is looking for something along the lines of gut. When I was looking for a string to use for bluegrass/folk, I got a lot of positive feedback about Spirocore Orchestra Weichs. I used them for a while but ended up moving up to the mediums so that I could lower my action a little more while still maintaining some tension due to my small hands. I don't slap or anything, so the lower-tension strings weren't a necessity. Also, the Spiro mediums really cut through in an unplugged setting, plus my newer laminate bass seems to like the higher tension better. I know Spiros probably don't come to mind when thinking about bluegrass, but I've been very happy with them.
     
  4. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    AL/GA
    I've been using Helicore Pizz Mediums on my Strunal, playing a lot of bluegrass and trad country. I know the gut sound is what's usually the accepted norm for this application, but I really don't care for it...I have to work too hard to be heard. Mark Schatz, a well-known bluegrass bassist also uses steels instead of gut or quasi-gut.

    I suspect that the "norm" has more to do with the frequent low quality of bluegrass bassists and their bandmates' desire that they remain WAY back in the mix.
     
  5. wjgbass

    wjgbass

    Mar 20, 2002
    Pennsylvania
    Let me begin by saying that this site has been a tremendous source of education to me, and I appreciate the many contributions. This is the first time I have I felt I could add something. The bass is the foundation and is what drives bluegrass music. No bass, no band. You must hear the bass, therefore, the louder the strings the better. The classic pro setup was Spirocore medium E & A and Goldenspiral D & G. Many of the top players now use all steel (Spirocore mediums & Helicore pizzacato mediums). Some players that do some slap use the cheap Labella white nylon strings. These are real easy to play for long picking sessions, but just don't have the necessary volume. This string is a good choice for women since it is very low tension. Some have tried the Labella full gut set, but once again - no volume. The Labella black wound are easy on the fingers but a little "twangy".
    I have Spirocore medium E,A,D on my plywood and I'm extremely happy with this sound. It is a cannon and these are what I will be using on both basses in the future. I was lucky enough to have ordered two extra Goldenspiral G's before they discontinued them. Since the demise of Goldenspiral's, I am using Thomastic Dominant D on my carved bass with good result and without the hassle of tuning problems in outdoor activities. I'm at a loss as to what G string I will use when the spirals go bad. Trial & error I guess. I remember someone saying that if you don't have $500 of strings in your case you are not really a bass player. I'm not there yet!
     
  6. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    I've been there since a LONG time! :)
    May I recommend Jargar strings for the G (and also D)?
    They're very warm sounding.
    Available in three gauges, too.
     
  7. wjgbass

    wjgbass

    Mar 20, 2002
    Pennsylvania
    Francois,
    Thanks for the tip on the Jargar strings! I'll give them a try. After all, I need to get to the $500 level.:D
     
  8. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    Forgot to add that they're steel strings.
    You won't believe how soft and warm they sound!
     
  9. Kevinlee

    Kevinlee

    May 15, 2001
    Phx, AZ..USA
    I could not agree more with Francois statement about the Jargars. Of course he's the one that recomended these strings to me in the first place. (thanks again)

    And after trying out countless other strings, I stick with the Jargars.

    I just got recruited to fill in on some bluegrass and the Jargars work great. Warm and traditional sounding.

    My other two upright gigs at the moment are a jazz quartet doing old standards and a rockabilly trio playing original traditional sounding rockabilly.

    Jargars work well in all three of these situations.

    Kevinlee
     
  10. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    It's always a pleasure for me when people are happy with my recommendations!

    A few additional comments about Jargar:
    This very small company (about 17 employees last time I heard) produces a high quality steel string.
    I'm very happy to use them, and at the same time support a small business, which is refreshing when you compare them with the big names.
    Many people say they're the most "gut-like" of steel strings.
    The bass strings use a stranded steel core (AKA rope-core), and have a good amount of dampening material inside, to filter out metallic harmonics.
    This dampening also results in short sustain, and stiffer left hand feel.
    This stiffness may be a drawback with the lower strings (A and E), in my opinion.
    But I absolutely love the D and G! (I use the medium gauge)
    (I use orchestral Pirastro strings for the A and E.)
    For added sustain and brilliancy, you can look at the Jargar Forte gauge.
    For a floppier feel, slap bass or solo-tuning, they make the Dolce gauge.

    Happy playing!
     
  11. wjgbass wrote:

    "I'm at a loss as to what G string I will use when the spirals go bad."

    -----------------------------


    You could try a couple of alternatives for pizz with good thump:

    1. Pirastro Oliv...it will probably make you forget all about the Golden Spiral G. The Oliv D is great too. I would recommend you use both with either Spirocore Weichs( my choice) or regular Spirocores for the A and E.

    2. The Picato Innovation G (solid core ). Not as good as the Oliv or the Golden Spiral but a good way to get rid of the twangy G you get with most steel strings. In my experience the Innovation D is not so good. Too much tension and not enough sound.

    Hope this helps.

    MartinC.
     
  12. Sorry for my ignorance.
    I can not just stand still when people talk about jargar string.
    I absolutely agree with Francois (He recommended me for Jargar Forte, thanks).
    I use G and D jargar forte mixed with Flexocore med. A and E.
    That is very happest playing time in my life.

    But, if you order Jargar string from Quinn, it should be around 1-2 weeks to get them.
     
  13. Sorry for my ignorance.
    I can not just stand still when people talk about jargar string.
    I absolutely agree with Francois (He recommended me for Jargar Forte, thanks).
    I use G and D jargar forte mixed with Flexocore med. A and E.
    That is very happest playing time in my life.

    But, if you order Jargar string from Quinn, it should be around 1-2 weeks to get them.
     
  14. robw

    robw

    May 14, 2001
    Long Beach, CA
    We're talking about bluegrass in this thread, so somebody's got to plug plain guts. It's no wonder steel string makers try to imitate the sound. I love 'em, though I like to get a little more volume and note definition from the E and A.

    After the first month with new strings I stopped having tuning problems for indoor and outdoor gigs - maybe living in Southern California solved that problem?
     
  15. I just finished putting a new fingerboard, tailpiece, bridge, nut, and endpin on a Lidl hybrid flatback that was strung up with a full set of hairy guts. I handed him some emery paper and neatsfoot oil and showed him how to smooth the hairy strings out.
    The player loves those guts, and loved them even more when he played the new setup.
    The E string is exactly 3/16" (.187) diameter, but surprisingly tractable and with serious thump.
     
  16. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    Last time I heard you were using Thin Flexocor on the G I think.
    Did you try the Original Flexocor A and Thick Flexocor E?
     
  17. Hello Francois
    How are you?
    Yes, l used Flexocore G last time I told you.
    But, I just came back to Jargar G and D with Flexocore med. E and A.

    Thick Flexocor E is on the way from Quinn (Chris informed me that Thick Flexocor ran out of his stock).

    When Thick Flexocor E arrive, I will mix Original Flatchrome G,D and A.

    Moreover, I am thinking to try real Gut (G and D). Which one is suitable for 65% pizz and 35% arco job? But, I have Oliv in my mind now.
     
  18. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    The Olivs are the best choice, IMHO.
    I have both of them (G and D Olivs).
    The G is simply the best sounding G string I ever tried, but I couldn't get used to the retuning.
    Weather goes humid; pitch gets flat.
    Weather goes dry; pitch gets sharp.

    I was less satisfied with the D though. It'd have been necessary to raise this string's height, but it was not possible.

    The Jargars D and G are the most gut-like steel strings I know, and they're pretty stable in tuning, and more durable than gut.
    (the Olivs are also quite expensive...)