Gut String Setup

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Eric Hochberg, Sep 5, 2010.


  1. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    I've never tried pure guts and all the talk here is making me curious. What did you gut users have to do with your setup for a gut and steel mix? I know slots have to be widened. Do guts have to be a lot higher off the board? Does the bridge or fingerboard need reshaping? Will a board with little scoop work with guts? Anything else to think about?

    Thanks in advance for any info.
     
  2. TPugh

    TPugh

    Apr 8, 2006
    Eric:

    One of my basses was set up for and with Spirocores. When I first tried gut, I put on a plain G and D, adjusted the bridge up a bit, tuned them up, and played it like that with no other modifications. I eventually went full gut (wound E and A) on that same bass, but even then, the only significant change I made was cutting a higher bridge, but this was out of preference mainly. I left the fingerboard and nut alone. Long term, this worked for me on this particular bass.

    Your mileage may eventually vary, especially long term (nut, bridge, scoop modifications). But as your are just starting, and most importantly since it's much harder to change those things back, my recommendation would be to just put on a plain G and D with your Spiros and not change anything for a bit. At least until you're sold and you know how your bass responds.

    TPugh
     
  3. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    I didn't change the string height when I went to my current set; Evah Pirazzi bottoms/Gamut tops. I did widen the bridge slots for the guts a little, with some trepidation, because at that point I didn't know if I was going to stick with the Gamuts. Now I know that I will not go back to steels or hybrids, so that worked out fine.

    At some point next week, I'll be getting copper-wound Gamuts E & A, gifted to me by the very generous Bill Hoffman. (He is apparently cut from the same benevolent cloth as is Mark Perna, who originally gave me the Gamut D & G strings that I now use, and which got me on the gut path. I have excellent friends.) So, at that point, I'll probably widen those slots a bit as well, and I'm planning to raise the bridge adjusters just a bit. I want to give these remarkable strings every opportunity to speak... and I suppose my technique has changed a little in my time playing guts; it seems as though I like to sometimes get under the string a little more now.

    As TPugh said, it will be different on each bass. Take some time and play it as is, then you can tweak it later if you find you've drunk the Gut Kool-aid :meh: as i have.
     
  4. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Hi Eric,
    I just had the slots widened at the nut, not at the bridge. If mixing with steel on the bottom, I definitely try to use a light gauge (like Spiro weichs) because the bridge may need to be a little higher for the guts, depending on where it was to start with. But then again, I've found that odd matches actually work well once you get on stage (like mittels on bottom and low guts on top--in a practice room, the steel overpowers the guts, but then the opposite is the case in a live situation).

    You don't have to raise the bridge with guts if you don't want, especially if you use gut on all four strings (because then the whole top will raise up with the lower tension) or if you had high action to begin with. And if you don't plan on playing unamplified, you can stay low with the guts and it feels great (gut strings sound sooooo much better through an amplifier than steel strings do that it's almost comical).

    I have Dlugolecki D and G (plain gut) that you're welcome to try if you want me to send them your way. They're definitely not fresh, but every time I put them on they feel great (and besides, plain gut seems to last forever).
     
  5. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    So many bassists really seem to like the string height so low, as if they're trying to replicate a bass guitar feel. Many people who play my bass say "wow, these strings are high"... but I know the G can't be more than 7mm at present. I don't consider that high at all, especially with gut strings. Weird... I just can't play a bass that has strings just grazing the board.

    Jeremy is right... if you play amplified, you can get away with a lower string height. I like the option of playing acoustically whenever possible, so I prefer a little air under there. I also seem to get a lot more clarity if I get some resistance from the strings; it's just how my hands work. YMMV.

    I think it was our pal Carlos Henriquez, a noted gut guy, who once stated that the bass is actually another drum. (Sorry, Carlos, if I'm misstating that.) When you approach it from that perspective, you really start getting into the Zen of playing guts, I think. I've found that the Gamuts give me a great balance of the intense rhythmic response and a beautiful singing quality as well.
     
  6. I did almost nothing. I filed the bridge and nut of the D slot VERY slightly. I left the G, A and E alone. I didn't change my string height at all (I used a medium height when I was using Spiro Mittels). That said, due to the greater string movement with gut, the minimum string height you can use is a little bit higher than the minimum string height of steel. They'll damp out if they're too low. So if you like Stanley Clarke-like string height, you'll have to raise it a little. The lower tension more than compensates though.

    Just like with steel, you can get different sounds with different string heights. The lower you go, the more singing and less "thup"-y the sound although you never totally lose the "thup". The higher you go, the more classic jazz "thup"-y it gets. The nice thing is you can go pretty low and never get that wiry, thin, big fretless sound that you get when you have Spiros on really low.

    As far E and A strings go, I've discovered that I like having the tension closer to gut. I tried using Mittels first and truly hated the timbre difference between the D and A. Other guys don't seem to mind it but I was almost in the bell tower with a 30-06 nuts when I tried them. Also, the tension difference kind of messed up the balance of the bass a bit.

    I tried the Gamut wound E and A for a while but the constantly changing humidity was a nightmare. The balance of the bass was great but I'd take it out on a gig in winter and the E and A would go 2 steps sharp by the end of the night. I'd detune so much that the bass would sound like a washtub bass by the end of the night. The next morning, I'd get the bass out of the bag and the A would be an F. When I didn't have to detune, the sound was unbelievably great though which is why I stayed with it for about 6 months before reluctantly giving up on them.

    I've been using Garbo E and A and they've been great. The tension is pretty close to gut and they sound pretty similar to the wrapped gut. They are a little more defined with a little more growl. I don't spend a lot of (read: none at all) time with the bow but I understand Garbos aren't very good bowing strings. I haven't tried them but Animas might be a good substitute. Having the more stable Garbos on had a secondary effect: I think my D and G actually sound better with the Garbos than they did with the wound gut and I think it is mostly due to the stable tuning. The tension across the bass is fairly consistent from day to day now. It's not as stable as when I had Spiros on but it's close. When I was using wound gut, the tension on the top varied from day to day sometimes greatly.

    The biggest change for me wasn't in setup but in touch. The feel of the string is different. It is slower to respond and to recover. You just have to get used to it. Also, I had a number of tricks and go-to licks that worked great with steel that didn't work very well or at all on gut. I now have a pile of new tricks and licks that work great with gut but wouldn't sound very good on steel. There was a period though before I had worked out my new gut tricks that I didn't have many go-to licks and that was a little frustrating. You just have to stick with it and get through the transition period. I had to lighten my right hand pluck a bit and I had to get used to more friction between my fingers and strings in my left. A bunch of scale practice pretty much worked all of that out but it was a couple of months before it felt natural all of the time. I loved the sound so much that I just bulled through the transition period. You couldn't pay me to go back to steel now. If all of the gut strings on the planet were to suddenly disappear into some kind of string black hole and I had to go back to steel strings if I wanted to continue playing bass, I'd probably take up another instrument instead.

    mark
     
  7. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    Whoa! :eek:

    But I can relate.
     
  8. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Thanks so much for the thoughtful replies everyone. I do have a lowish setup, 5-8mm, and will usually play amplified.

    Now another question to the midwesterners (I know in your heart you're one of us, Marcus). Will I go nuts with tuning in Chicago's ever changing weather? Is one season here more "stable" than another for guts?

    Do any of you guys switch back and forth between gut and steel on different basses (or the same bass) for different gigs? Difficult to do?

    Thanks for the offer, Jeremy. I may take you up on it, I'm a bit skeered to dip into this deep pool---

    EEEK!!!
     
  9. I think Pittsburgh weather is REASONABLY close to Chicago's. You won't have ANY problems with a plain D and G. You will have the same problems I had with a wrapped E and A if you went in that direction which I wouldn't recommend. My D has been on for a year and the G has been on for about 9 months and I tune them at the beginning of a gig and rarely have to touch them after that even in extreme weather.

    I have a Kolstein Travel bass with Spiros on it. I occasionally play it. It's less of a problem to change between a steel string bass and a gut string bass than it is to go between electric and upright.

    5-8 might be a little low for gut but, like I said earlier, the tension is so much lower that it isn't a problem getting around on it. I'm running about 7-11 right now and it is MUCH easier on the left hand than Spiros were. Once I got used to the touch, I could play faster on gut than steel as well. Gut does amplify extremely well, too.

    mark
     
  10. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    Yup. GO PACKERS!!!

    The unwound guts on top are very stable. They'll sometimes be a little sharp when I first take the bass out of the bag. Once I'm tuned, they're as stable as any other string.
     
  11. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Does anyone have experience with gut strings and an AMT mic?
    I don't use anybody's pickup anymore.
    Separate thread?
    Donosaurus
     
  12. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    Mine's still busted (the cable, as usual). I'll put that on the front burner, I think it would be smokin'. Probably really help a lot on the arco stuff especially.
     
  13. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Anybody out there with surplus guts that could use a new home?
    Did I mention that I'm kind to puppies and children?
     
  14. George700DL

    George700DL

    Jan 9, 2009
    Maryland
    Granted I play a 3 stringer in a very specific type of music, but... I had my height at about 18mm on the A, until I hung out with a few musicians from Transylvania - and their height was well over an inch. I increased my string height (about 25mm), got used to it, and now I'm loving my bass. I'd go even higher, but my adjusters are already out quite a bit. In this type of folk music, bowed or plucked, absolutely the bass is also the percussion.
     
  15. I used an AMT in conjunction with a pickup for a while. It was ok. I never got anything great out of the AMT. I've since switched to using an EV RE20 mic on a stand and have gotten vastly better results. 1. it's a better mic and 2. I can twist and move around while playing until I find the best sound. The sweet spot for the mic seemed to change with each room I played in. Having it on a stand in front me means I can move while playing until I find the spot. With the AMT, it was play, move the mic, play, move the mic, play, move the mic. It got old quickly. If the sound had been spectacular, it would have been worth it. It never exceed "just ok" though.

    Mics, in general, work great with gut strings though.

    mark
     
  16. One of the "problems" with gut strings is they never seem to wear out. I sent my one surplus set to Marcus over a year ago. I have a spare set of what I'm using now for an emergency and my old Lyon set is on my back up bass. When I used Spiros, I'd switch them out and keep the old set. After a while, I had a half dozen sets of 6 month old Spiros laying around. I don't seem to have that issue with guts or I'd send you some old ones.

    mark
     
  17. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    I met a classical bassist who told me her gut strings were about 20 years old.
    It's a little late to be telling me this.
     
  18. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I can totally relate to this. The thing I like best about using say, Spiro Mittels, is that they stay put for your right hand, the greater tension makes right hand plucking less fatiguing, you can alternate fingers more easily, etc. Gut slows you down some, because they move more. I tend to take more of a one-fingered, or first- two-finger-together "claw" kind of approach with gut. But the feel of gut is great in it's own way, and the sound makes it worth it! I can always hear and feel what I'm playing better with guts.
     
  19. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I don't like using pickups like Realists or Full Circles with guts, it gets a boomy, woofy kind of sound. Currently I'm using a K&K Bass Max, which sounds good with the guts, more or less like using just the bass side of an Underwood, which was what I did for years. Of course using a mic is always best, but often impractical, especially on loud gigs.
     
  20. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    My K&K works very well with the guts too. Mine is the DBT model.
     
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