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Gut Strings for DB - pros and cons?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by RIKODRIKO, Mar 20, 2006.



    Mar 1, 2005
    Brighton UK.
    what are the pros and cons of having gut strings on your DB? how is the tone of the bass affected, or is that more to do with the type of woods used in the construction. what difference in the sound quality would i get? Would i still be able to use my realist pickup?

    what about playability - physically how would they compare to (say) thomastik spirocores (which i have on at the moment). what could i benefit from changing to gut strings?

    Any/ all comments appreciated.

    Rikodriko. Uniting the low end since last night.
  2. bassame


    Mar 25, 2004
    Brooklyn NY
    I suggest you do a Search in the Strings forum for the word "Gut" and read all the discussion on this topic - quite illuminating.
  3. kwd


    Jun 26, 2003
    silicon valley
    I would encourage you to check out existing posts on related topics. There is a preponderance of information on the gut experience here. I poured over the threads for months before putting a gut string on my bass. There's no substitute for trying it. If I wasn't in middle of thumb position arco studies, I'd have guts on my bass.

    Short answers, feedback. As always YRMV.
    The sound of my bass was more gratifying. It was much more resonant with gut. The downside was that the wolf tones became more pronounced. If you don't play arco, that shouldn't be a concern.

    It's a totally different bag. I needed to raise the bridge and build up the nut. Even at higher action, I found them easier on my hands and generally more comfortable to play.

    Yes. I didn't have my Realist on at the time but I can tell you that the amplified sound with the BassMax was greatly improved when compared against metal strings. You won't be able to use a magnetic pickup with gut with for obvious reasons.
  4. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    This is a very broad question. If you peruse these pages you will get a wealth of information and opinions.

    I think that the first question you should ask is: what type of sound do you want to produce on the bass? If you like for example, the sound of Oscar Pettiford and Paul Chambers in jazz, or Bob Moore and Roy Huskey Jr. in country, gut strings will help you produce that type of sound. If you like the sound of Christian McBride, John Clayton or Eddie Gomez, or if you aspire to be prodigious arco player like Edgar Meyer or Gary Karr, then you'll likely want to play on steel strings. You could say gut is more "old school", while steel is more "modern", but that's really a simplification. It's still about what music you're making.

    In general, gut strings produce a darker, thicker sound with more fundamental and less sustain. Steel is brighter, more sustaining, more overtones and a more "pointed" sound.
    Gut is more "punchy" and percussive. Steel is more "singing" and sustaining.

    But these are broad generalizations. Ray Brown sure sounded punchy on steel strings, and Scott Lafaro sure could sing on gut.

    Gut strings are thicker in diameter, generally have less tension and need to be set at a higher action height. Steel come in a variety of tensions and diameters and can be set at lower heights.

    Gut strings are very susceptible to temperature change. They stretch and contract and need to be tuned often. Steel is much more stable.

    Gut is more difficult to play with the bow, however until the 1960s (?) they were the only type of bass strings available. Most all modern orchestral bassists use steel, but many bassists still enjoy playing arco on gut

    Gut tend to be fairly expensive. Steel come in a wider range of prices.

    A pickup like the Realist will amplify both gut and steel. A purely magnetic pickup will not work with gut.

    I hope this helps and I hope everyone else will add to what I've said here.


    Mar 1, 2005
    Brighton UK.
    Thanks for the info so far. Im new to jazz (come from a drum and bass club DJ background) and actually had paul chambers in mind when i was thinking of the gut strings cuz i read somewhere he used them. I like that woody kind of tone... if thats what you call it...

    I agree with Bobby King. I'll expand on it by saying the expense is ridiculous. The average cost is over $300 for a set of strings, in some cases closer to $400. When I first started playing bass in the very late 60's the strings that came on any laminated was a set of guts, with G & D unwound. What a royal pain becaue of the strings drying out and breaking. But then they were so cheap, it didn't matter. IMHO they are not worth the cost for what they deliver, unless you have that kind of money to invest in strings yearly.

  7. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN

    I will say that I really love gut strings and if you love that sound, it's worth the expense. You can probably assemble a decent gut set-up for around $250-$300. My dilemma is that I like to play arco as well as pizz. I just can't enjoy bowing on plain gut, it's too difficult. But an all-steel setup is unsatisfying for pizz. Right now I've got Oliv G&D and Superflexible E&A on my bass and its a good comprimise in both directions. If I was bowing all the time, it would be Flexicors. And for just pizz, I like Pirastro Pizzicato E&A with plain gut D&G.

    If you're happy with steel strings for everything, life is definitely much easier though!

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