First pickups and steel strings

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by agoya, Nov 19, 2018.

  1. agoya


    Aug 30, 2012
    Hi all,
    i am looking for informations about,
    1. the first pickup and amplifying systems for double bass

    1. and the transition from gut to steel strings..

    what did the people say about this new things.
    who said it is cool and who was against..
    and so on....

  2. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    Kay offered the original Ampeg as a factory option as soon as it became available in '47, and we find them on about 1% of surviving basses. Two lo-z pickup elements with onboard mixing and jack point on an adjustable endpin. People are often mystified to find one in a bass they've just bought. Sometimes they still work.

    Kay factory installed Ampeg pick up

    The DeArmond surface-mount pickup was also popular from as early as '50 into the late '60s, and it's not unusual to find one or leftover parts on older basses. The instruments in the DeArmond ad and brochure are by Kay.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
    Steve Boisen, dhergert and bassfran like this.
  3. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    My understanding is that steel strings first became available in the 1920's but weren't commonly used until the 1950's and first by orchestral players. The Boston Philharmonic is supposedly one the first bass sections to switch to steel strings and according to Orin O'Brien the NY Philharmonic switched in the 1960's. Most jazz bassists seemed to make the switch from gut to steel during the 1960's and nearly every jazz bassist I can think of whose career lasted long enough did so.

    Here's an excerpt from Raymond Elgar's "Introduction To The Double Bass" published in 1960:

    "Modern trends have produced strings made from nylon and steel, but it is some players opinion that these are still second to the gut string for tonal results, the former tending to be somewhat less crisp and the latter giving a 'metallic' harder tone and being rather too rigid for many of the older instruments"

    In his book "The String (Double) Bass" published in 1965, David H. Stanton describes the typically cited advantages and disadvantages of each string type and mentions that some basses respond better to one over the other. He recommends gut strings with a wound E and A for the beginner as well as for laminated bassess or older, fragile instruments.

    Lastly, here's an excerpt from an interview with Ray Brown from 1963:

    What type of string setup do you favor? "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 strings tend to cut into the fingers. I prefer the gut; they have a more flexible ‘feel’."

    Of course, we know Ray eventually switched completely to steel strings.

    - Steve
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2018
    Povl Carstensen likes this.
  4. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I wonder how far back flat-wrapped gut goes? Orin told me once how much of a relief it was when steel strings came out. I told her I was doing silver on gut (Eudoxa) and found it to be excellent, and she was surprised.
    Steve Boisen likes this.
  5. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I'm not certain, but I think that is a fairly recent development. All of the older references to metal-wrapped gut strings mention round wire. I know that synthetic-wrapped gut strings were available in the late 1940's.

    - Steve
  6. There is one of these for sale in Minneapolis CL. Thanks for the info/link to Molly's thread.
  7. Someone gave me an old DeArmond a few years ago. I've never used it but might want to give it a try now, for historical purposes.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2019
  8. Primary

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    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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