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Double bass string history

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Stuart.C, Nov 12, 2015.

  1. I listen to a lot of jazz from the 50's and 60's and it sounds like gut strings to me.

    Does anyone know around what years steel string became the norm?

    Who were the early adopters?

  2. Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
  3. What link?

    Try this, google "bass string history". The top link (as of writing) is:
    History of bass guitar strings?

    Now try "double bass string history"
    first link is Wikipedia, with a very vague description about re-setting necks for steel strings in the 50's ???

    The reason I ask questions on TB is because almost every bit of useful information I have found regarding DB with google, leads back to TB.
    We are writing the internet, google is just searching it for us.
    I have searched ... and only really found steel strings came out some time in 60's ??

    So I was really hoping for some first hand info, maybe some links to recordings that showcase first steel string users. Maybe more real info on the subject in general.

    Lee Moses likes this.
  4. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    New Orleans
    I remember ray brown was one of the first to start using them. I've been told that We get requests by the peterson trio he is playing lycon E/A and gut D/G.
  5. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn

    Feb 25, 2004

  6. Stuart: My mistake. I have now added the link. Some good information there from Ken Smith and others.

    Also if you check Wikipedia "Double Bass", there is a string section if you scroll down. It's good background info.

    Some other suggestions:

    - contact Thomastik-Infeld strings...or Pirazzi? They have been making strings for a long time. I am sure they can give you some valuable information.

    - check with Lynn Seaton who answers questions here on TB.

    - contact Barrie Kolstein at Kolstein's in New York. They probably sold or installed steel strings on basses in the early 60's.

    - Rick Heinl at Heinl's in Toronto may also have some info for you....or could put you in touch with someone. They have been at the centre of things in Toronto since the 1920's, when it comes to violins and double basses.

    I'm sure there are many other sources you could also tap into to get the info you want.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
  7. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
  8. Rocktometrist


    Oct 3, 2012
    From memory, based on random curiosity about this a while back (take with a grain of salt and Google to verify):
    Early adopters: Art Davis (mid 50s), Red Mitchell (mid-late 50s), Ray Brown (late 50s)
    Steel becomes the norm: mid 60s (steels on bottom, guts on top more common at first)
    Stuart.C likes this.
  9. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    The one who first impressed me, and caused me to change to steel was Richard Davis. He was on the "Discovery! Charles Lloyd" album, and knocked me out with his sound. It was also my first introduction to Lloyd. That was a good day
    dfp, geoffbassist and Stuart.C like this.
  10. Thanks martinc, that is a lot of great info.

    I gotta say it kinda blows my mind all that great jazz up to the early 60's was gut strings.
  11. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    Yes. I also heard Art Davis playing steel on a Roland Kirk album about the same time. I don't know about Red Mitchell, but I never saw Ray with anything but guts until much later. He must have used them on cello, however.

  12. stuart: I found this tidbit here on TalkBass posted by "C3000" on July 25th 2005. The thread is "Ray Brown's Strings". The link to a Ray Brown interview was included but it no longer works. "C3000" added this:

    "it's an interview from '63
    He says "What type of string setup do you favour? It's according to what suits the particular instrument. On this bass, I have rope–cored steel strings. The Italian bass gives in best results with a gut G and D and a metal A and E. Lots of orchestral players use all metal strings: they're good for bowing. For pizzicato playing, the metal G and D b strings tend to cut into the fingers. I prefer the gut; they have a more flexible ‘feel."

    So it would appear Ray Brown had a pragmatic approach to things. He used what he thought worked best on a particular instrument.
    dfp, gerry grable and geoffbassist like this.
  13. As many of us do today.
  14. Kung: Yup.....and it also points out that in Ray Brown's case, there was not necessarily an automatic change made away from guts simply because steel strings appeared on the market.
  15. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    This rings true for me when I was studying with Ray's student's student "Ray's genius was in playing the things that worked well on the bass." and my transcriptions of him bore that out. Ray was devilishly smart when it came to getting the most out of his instrument. Some would say a genius; me included.
  16. dfp


    Sep 28, 2004
    I believe some early recordings of Scott LaFaro sound like steel. I'm thinking in particular the sessions with Pat Moran, Victor Feldman, maybe others... One well known TB member and veteran of the jazz scene out west confirmed to me that he had once seen LaFaro with Chet Baker, and LaFaro was at that time using a full set of steel Lycons. Obviously he did eventually switch to guts, certainly by the time he got his famous Prescott, which he played with a facility that was not usually seen among gut string players.

    What do you think? Listen to the walking lines after the solo too.
  17. dfp: Funny thing: Sounds like gut when he is playing thumb positions high up...but when he finishes his solo the strings have a steel-like quality.
    No wonder people still miss Lycons!
    Great album cover too.;)
    dfp likes this.
  18. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    I'm sure he's playing guts here-he's really well-recorded, which makes
    the length of his quarter notes really obvious.
    Eric Hochberg likes this.
  19. dfp


    Sep 28, 2004
    Why are you sure, have you heard recordings of him playing Lycons that you can compare the two sounds?
  20. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Sounds like guts to me.
    Jake deVilliers likes this.

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