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Experienced gut users: LaBella? Alternative?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Jeremy Allen, Apr 20, 2005.


  1. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Hey gang,
    I put unwound gut Labella G and D strings on my bass the other day (first time for unwound guts on my bass, though I've tried Eudoxas and various "synthetic" alternatives before), and I'm having a very mixed reaction to them. On the one hand, they feel really fun under the fingers, and they make the bass resonate in a way I've honestly never experienced (I love it--it's almost distracting how much vibration is going on against my torso--what have those steel strings been doing all these years?), making the playing of pre-1967 jazz styles quite a fun time. On the other hand, the D string produces no discernible pitch, only a *thnk* or *thud* noise, on any notes between, well, actually, on all of them (but I still feel the vibration, oddly enough), and the arco tone, while very interesting in its own right (sounds just like any Paul Chambers bowed solo, sort of nasal-buzzsaw-ish), matches very poorly with the Flat Chromesteel A and Spirocore E, which sound like Janos Starker's cello in comparison.
    My question is: is this what gut strings sound/play like? Or is this just what cheapo gut strings sound/play like? I don't want to judge all unwound guts based on this one experience (imagine if someone did that for steel strings based on one week with a set of Flexocors), but if what I describe is par for the course then I don't want to waste a bunch of money experimenting with other guts. (I can't help but notice the guy I just bought a Dlugolecki D and G from is currently raving about the qualities of Animas vs. regular gut strings...) Can anybody else who has used LaBellas and other brands of unwound guts offer a comparison?
    Thanks bunches,
    Jeremy
     
  2. ctxbass

    ctxbass Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Central Texas
    I tried a plain gut Labella D once and didn't like it. Not much tone.
    I've been playing Pirastro Chorda D&G for two years now. I think they are much better strings than the LaBella.

    I think it takes a couple of weeks for gut strings to stretch. They won't sound their best until that happens.

    Part of that is the new gut string. This will improve. I also found that I was so conditioned to hearing a certain sound, that it took a while to hear the new voice .

    It's a whole other ball of wax finding the right wound E&A to match.
     
  3. hofner

    hofner

    Dec 7, 2003
    france
    did you tried the Labella Goldentones D and G gut ? they're gut wrapped on nylon and find them sounding far better than plain gut i used for a long time. Always this great feeling, low tension (i slap often) and gut spirit sound, but more focused than plain gut...
     
  4. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Thanks for the tips, fellas. Chordas and GoldenTones both sound like interesting options. I definitely have fallen for the *feel* of the gut strings; they're just such a pleasure to play on.

    Perhaps it's time to just buy a new bass, so I can keep one strung with gut and one with steel...yes, and maybe one more for orchestra playing and another for solo work...yes...
     
  5. ctxbass

    ctxbass Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Central Texas
    I have the Chordas (Eudoxas currently on the bottom) on my carved bass, and Obligatos on my ply bass. I like to have the two sounds available. Steel or synthetic strings and laminated basses are less sensitive to the weather, so this really helps at outdoor gigs.
     
  6. The Labella D is kind of thin in my opinion. it's only about a 2.65mm. This is too small for anthing but slap. Try tuning up a whole step and I bet you like those strings better. The Goldentones are cool, but they loose that crisp attack with the bow that plain guts have. Try changing out the Labella D with a Lenzer, Gotz or Efrano (Lemur) D which are slightly thicker. Or, you can go all the way and get chordas, but be warned that chordas are a little different from the standard gut string in that they are so stiff due to the low twist ration and the large diameter. According to the NMEC standards (circa the '50's), plain gut strings for schools should be 2.2mm G and 2.85mm D. This is somewhere in between Labella and Chorda.

    Good luck, but be warned that once you get used to gut, you may get hooked and be ruined for steel.

    Jon
     
  7. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    I used plain D and G guts and E and A gut core for years, and I give them lots of credit for helping me figure out how to get that huge sound out of the bass. One of the best combinations for D and G was Lemur's Efrano D string, and the Chorda G. Keep in mind though, that it takes a lot of experimenting with different combinations before you arrive at something you really like.

    I love the Animas, because I can still get that huge sound, and although they're silk core, they sound just like guts. Aside from that though, I sometimes miss having plain D and G, because I stuck with that for about 4 years, all during my stay at music school, and that sound is really like no other.

    I tried the Garbos a while back but went right back to plain D and G because it just wasn't the same. You have to be willing to sacrifice some things to use plain D and G, but if you can work with the drawbacks you can get some really good results, as I did in my experience.
     
  8. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    The "European" guts strings that Lemur sells are also the "Efrano" guts. I've used the D and G for some time now, and have been very happy with them. Affordable, as well.
     
  9. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    The combination of the Efrano D and the Chorda G sounds interesting. Comparins the Efrano G to the Chorda G was a no brainer to me. The Chorda sounded much better and since it was varnished or had some type of coating on it, it was easier with the bow and required less maintenance. I found the Chorda D so dead sounding just like Jeremy described the LaBella D.

    On the other hand I am now using the Gamut (Dan Larson) Lyon guts (light gauge) on G and D. Only had them on for a week or so. I have Superflexibles on the A and E but will be trying Helicore Hybrids (heavy gauge) next week. The Lyon D is much better for me than the Chorda D ever was. I am still not sure about the Lyons in general and wonder if I would have been happier with Dan's Pistoy gut strings. He recommended the Lyons because they were stiffer and he thought they would be better for a lot of pizz work.

    One thing for sure, using unwound guts on more than just the G, really gives you that old school sound but also really restricts you for playing more modern stuff.
     
  10. Packinmn

    Packinmn

    Jun 21, 2003
    Nashville, TN
    Does anyone have experience using Sensicores for E&A to go with plain gut D&G? I have heard this is a good combination, but haven't been able to find much detail on tension, sustain, and tone (and other attributes) in terms of how they go with gut. Also, can anyone compare Sensicores with other strings of similar construction (which I believe is a metal wrap on a synthetic core)? Thanks for any help you can provide...
     
  11. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    I bought a Sensicore G least year, and it's quite similar in design to the Obligato.
    The Sensicore is thinner though.
    Beautiful clear singing tone, while the Obligato sounds very nasal and harsh on my instrument.
    I can't comment the A & E though, sorry!
     
  12. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    I took the Labellas off and put on a Dlugolecki D and G. They haven't settled in yet, but they are MUCH better strings than the Labellas, it seems. I like them quite a lot, and I feel like the G may be the best G string I've ever played of any manufacture, steel or gut.
    As everyone has mentioned, though, the E and A matchup seems tricky: my action is now so high that the Flat Chromesteel A and Spircocore E are a bit too unwieldy to be practical...
     
  13. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I am now using Gamut (made by Dan Larson) guts. Specifically I am using the light gauge of the Lyon strings on G and D with Helicore Hybrid heavy gauge on the A and E. Loving it. The Gamuts are so much clearer in pitch than the Chordas. But they sure as hell weren't cheap.

    Adrian
     
  14. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Hi Folks!

    I'm new to this forum but I've been reading it for a while. Thanks for all the tips and advice. I'm also a gut-loving glutton (or is that gutton?) for punishment. The problems I always come up against are: the old pizz vs. arco problems and which strings work for different styles and settings. I live in Nashville, TN and play a lot of different styles - swing/blues/bluegrass/Bob Moore-ish stuff, jazz and theatre, and I've been studying arco recently. If I was only doing pizz gigs, blues and country stuff, I'd use a standard plain gut G&D, wound A&E set. The last set I had on my bass (a 1930's King plywood) was a variation of this -- Pirastro Pizzicato E&A with Golden Spiral D&G. I prefer plain gut uppers but also have trouble with plain gut Ds, in particular, the pitch as you play in higher registers. But this type of set has a great feel , thick percussive tone, and amplifies well -- but -- forget arco! The best arco string for me is Flexicor, but they're not much good for anything else. So I've also used Obligato and Superflexible. Great for bowing, wonderful for Jazz pizz. The problem for me is that they don't "thump" like gut, they get more overtones and feedback when amplified, and I just don't feel the note as much. Right now (and many dollars later) I'm using Pirastro Eudoxa with an Olive G. This has been the best compromise. They have a good pizz punch, nice arco tone (but slower starting than steel or Obligato) and they amplify well. They still are not as lively as the plain gut- type sets, but more manageable and better pitch definition. The dang set cost over $300, though!

    One last thing - pickups. I have two pickups on my bass. The first, a Full Circle, has a really nice tone for both pizz and arco. It's good for direct recording, too. But like the Realist, I find that it's not as good for louder gigs. It starts to get muddy. The Underwood is less "natural " but you can turn it up! Also, like many Nashville bassists, I only use one side of the Underwood (in my case, the E side, but others use the G) the other element just dangles. This produces more thud and less nasal mids. If you want that Bob Moore/Patsy Cline sound , or play Blues/Bluegrass/Rockabilly, then gut upper/wound gut lower and a one sided Underwood is the way to go.

    Well, that's my opinion, and we all know what opinions are like!!
     
    babaseen likes this.
  15. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    The Pizzicatos are of course terrible for bowing. Chordas, Olivs, and Eudoxas are all great with the bow as is the Gamut Lyons I'm using now. I think gut Ds vary. I found the Chorda D terrible - very thumpy and hard to discern the pitch. The one I'm using now is crystal clear in pitch and although the sustain is shorter than the Oliv D I used previously, I barely notice it now.
     
  16. Thank you for sharing your valuable experience. I'll probably try those strings when my Chordas die.

    A few more questions, if I may:

    • Did you order them varnished or with a natural finish?
    • I think you said at one point that you chose the light gauge on Dan's advice. I just checked out Dan's web site, and this means 2.00 mm for the G string, and 2.80 mm for the D string---significantly thinner than the Chordas. Do you remember why Dan advised you to take the light gauge?

    Thanks,

    --Timo
     
  17. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I ordered them varnished. One of the reasons I went with Dan instead of Damian was that he offered them varnished. Damian told me he did not even though some folks I spoke to thought that he would.

    Dan didn't advise me to take the light gauge. After my experience with the Chorda D, I was really concerned about getting an unwound gut D and having it be as unresponsive as that. So I wanted to go with the lightest gauge possible. Also, I wanted to minimise the difference in gauge between the D and the steel A. I was concerned perhaps that the light gauge might not stand up to heavy pizz'ing. I spoke to Dan and he said the strings would be fine and also since I am playing at 440 Hz, he said that having a light gauge wouldn't be so unusual since most of his customers tune at 415 Hz. Also, I went with the Lyon and not the Pistoy guts and the Lyon are a bit stiffer. The Lyon G and Chorda G are 0.075 and 0.08" respectively and the Lyon D and Chorda D are 0.10 and 0.11" respectively. I find them still plenty thick.

    Interestingly, I have the heavy gauge of the Helicore Hybrids and the gut G and steel A are the same thickness as are the gut D and steel E.

    I am very happy with these guts and find them to be much higher quality than the Chordas. I have the gut sound I want but it's much less muddy.

    On another note, someone told me that Damian is the only one using real gut and that everyone else is using reconstituted gut. Apparently Damian's strings are much stiffer.
     
  18. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Welcome to Talkbass, Bobby!
     
  19. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    My experience with plain gut D's is that the thinner ones have had better pitch definition. I had a few Labella Red Gut D's that were nice and they were quite thin. The problem with them for me was that they were very low tension and floppy next to the G or A. I don't like radically different tension between strings, it makes it hard to establish your touch for pizz. Another plain D I liked was a Sweetone. It was a little thicker but still had decent pitch up to a B or C note. Most other plain gut Ds have sounded crappy above a G or Ab. Once in a while you can still find "new old stock" but you really can't count on it

    BTW, Thanks Nicklloyd!
     
  20. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    The Gamut Lyon D is definitely not floppy and I find it great at any point on the string. Comparing various brands of guts, I found the Chorda G to be much nicer than the Efrano G but then again I found the Chorda D to be dead for pizz but I know Adrian Juras has since been using the Efrano D and likes it.