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Gut vs Steel and the pros.

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by ERIC A, Dec 8, 2004.


  1. I am a big fan of gut or gut-like strings. But, I have noticed lately that it seems all (maybe that's a stretch) of the greats (Ray Brown, Sam Jones, Paul Chambers etc..) eventually switched to steel strings when they became available. My question is: did anybody stick with gut, or for that matter, go back to gut? I know that a lot of today's bass players love the sound of gut strings, but it seems that the bass players who inspired quite a few of us decided they preferred steel. I know this isn't exactly a big deal, but I was just curious what your thoughts were.

    Thanks
     
  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Please tell me when you think Paul Chambers switched to Steel? In 1968, shortly after I joined the Union (local 802), I read his Obituary.
     

  3. I knew that I would probably be asked that. To be honest, I think it was on this web site.
     
  4. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Gut has a lot of disadvantages...intonation is hard, you need to oil them etc. I think it is just easier to play steel strings. I will never go back to steel if I can help it though. I love the sound of the bass in the old recordings. That is the reason I started playing! For me the advantages out weigh the disadvantages.
     
  5. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    There's plenty of guys that play gut including many on this forum, and I think there's a resurgence of people that are trying gut. I'm a dedicated gut user too.
     
  6. Whilst i like gut strings and dig the warm sound, i've switched back to steel, theirs something truly modern about the sound and definition i get from steel that i just can't hear in gut strings even though i love the sound of the old classic jazzers like P C ect....
     
  7. Simple

    1. In the 60's steel strings were the new thing and the more modern thing. Players did not want to be left behind by sticking to the old way.

    2. Steel strings were more expensive than gut strings back then so there was some cachet associated with them.

    3. Fender bass started making a big impact and players wanted a sound that was more modern.

    4. The novelty aspect - the different sound is the better sound. We like gut partly because it is different than the strings we grew up with. Admit it, it's true on some level.

    5. Just as those guys stuck with steel after making the switch, we will probably stick with gut strings for life.

    6. By the time that gut was considered hip again, the veteran players were already set in their ways. Bad enough to switch once and all that.

    7. In the case of Ray Brown I bet he actually like the sound of steel strings better and was probably held back by the sound of gut strings. Mingus liked the sound of gut strings, that's why he was bemoaning the switch to steel as late as the mid 70's.

    8. Audio reproduction improved a lot in the 60's and HiFi was big hence brighter more defined bass sounds.

    9. Some guys like Art Davis, who were big steel pioneers in Jazz, have gone back to gut or gut-like strings.

    Just some thoughts on the issue.

    Jon
     
  8. I think this question is really bass orientated, some basses respond better to gut/steel strings & how the bassist precieves that sound they have in their heads. On my bass gut sounds bawdy and mellow and steel has an edge with brighter definition. Thats just how i hear it though. Could be different for you.
     
  9. Charlie Haden is probably the most famous gut string player.
     
  10. Jazzman

    Jazzman

    Nov 26, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    Ron Carter plays Labella black tapewound strings, which are very similar to gut. Does that count? :meh:
     
  11. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Hmmm I don't think the Labella tapewounds are anywhere near gut! They have a lot of sustain and are very bright.
     
  12. Jazzman

    Jazzman

    Nov 26, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    Aggghhh...I have never played them, I was just going by this.
     
  13. Steve Bassman

    Steve Bassman Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I just tried gut strings on my bass for the first time tonight. I just had a higher bridge made for my 1949 Kay M-1 and a friend gave me a used set of LaBella gut strings, so I figured I'd give 'em a try. I've played gut strings on other basses before and found it hard to get used to them, but I do so love the sound on those old recordings (Blanton, Chambers, Heath etc.). Well, after installing the G string I thought I was on to something, but with each subsequent string my enthusiasm dimished until by the time the whole set was installed and tuned to pitch I knew they weren't for me. Hats off to all you dedicated gut string players out there though, I have new found respect for you all.

    BTW if your name is Adrian and you live in Canada, are gut strings mandatory? :D

    - Steve

    http://kaybass.home.att.net
     

  14. I tried a set for a while and definitely non-gut. TWANG TWANG TWANG.
     
  15. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    Actually I know at least one other bassist here in town with the name "Adrian" and he doesn't play on gut so the answer would be "No".

    For me, playing on gut is not just about getting the gut sound, it's about reliving the problems of playing on gut. In addition to playing jazz on gut, I play chamber music on gut and getting the articulation - getting the strings to speak clearly, is a real pain in the damn ass. Every now and then I think of changing to steel or synthetics but it sort of feels like I'd be "cheating" - not to say that anyone else is - it's just part of my personal philosophy of playing the bass.
     
  16. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    NYC
    It's a similar world with amplifiers. From Tube(valve) to solid-state. Some of the reasons are the same as with gut to steel - lower cost, easier maintenance, etc.

    It seems that the more virtuosic bassists got, they wanted lower string height - which is difficult to do with gut....

    I'm sure a lot of the older guys were just dying for a steel string sound. How many of the older guys still play unwrapped gut? Not many...
     
  17. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    A few weeks back I did some Chamber Music with my Gilkes. It has some worn Obligatos on it mainly from being on and off this and anothe Bass. They were installed 4 times, 3 on the Gilkes and one on a Longer Bass (42") so the bridge 'dent" is not in the same spot on the string.

    They now slip a bit with the Bow and remind me ALOT of Gut from when I was in Highschool. We had several Basses and all with Gut till my last year when a new Bass came in with Steel Strings. The Gilkes has that Slip-screetch sound you get with gut when it catches a bit late. It sounds similar to gut but no worse in slippage.

    I think the Obligatos are the most afforadable all-around Bass string for that old sound and softer feel combined.

    I played Sat. and Sun. on Flexocors and my fingers hurt. It was a 5er but all the Pizz on the Holiday music in Nutcracker, Sleigh Ride etc. put a new calius on the tip of my index finger. I would have preferred Obligatos but it wasn't my Bass.
     
  18. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    I was going to say yes, but in light of this new informaion....;)

    Just remember that you have to leave gut strings on for at least 2-3 weeks before they settle in and start to sound the way they are supposed to. My Chordas are only now starting to really sound good. They are deep sounding with a percussive attack. I am quite pleased!
     
  19. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Do you think the Obligatos actually sound better, so simply prefer the feel and playability of them?

    I removed the Obligatos from by bass and went with Flexocors. For straight arco, I get a much better sound. The D and G Obligatos were too harsh sounding and the A and E were too flabby.

    All that being said. I may try something else pretty soon. I did a holiday concert this weekend as well. I loved the arco sound on the Handel and Vivaldi stuff, but the pops stuff with the pizz was a little percussive for my tastes. I would prefer a little more color in the tone.

    I think I am beginning to agree that a two-bass approach is ideal when addressing the pizz v. arco tone thing, but obviously you can change basses in the middle of a song, especially since the pits that I have been in hardly have room for one. There is a true need for some compromise in tone.

    Ultimately, I think my arco technique will get better, and I will have more options with strings, but until then, the search continues.
     
  20. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    That also has to do alot with the Bass you use. It's true that the Flexs bow better overall than the Obligs. But, the Pizz quality may depend on the Bass. The Flex. A and E don't pizz so well and the Oblig A and E may not bow as well equally generally.. But there are some exceptions with basses and players..

    Labella is sending me some strings to try out. I used them a bit in the 80s as I helped them develope their DB Strings. I was pictured on the package then with my Italian Bass. Actually you could not see my face.. Just the Bass and me playing a tri-tone dom7 chord in thumb pos but it looked like I was 'giving the finger' !!

    I bet you guys were not aware of that.. maybe I jogged a few old memories....... maybe you guys are too young and weren't around yet..??