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Gut without Gut?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by JazznFunk, Mar 30, 2002.


  1. JazznFunk

    JazznFunk Supporting Member

    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    Lakland Basses Artist
    K, so I was listening to Bill Evans' Live at the Village Vanguard yet again and digging LaFaro's sound (again). Correct me if I'm wrong, but LaFaro was using gut strings at the time, right? Well, I'm trying to figure out if there is a set of strings out there that aren't gut, but give the same sort of sound. I currently play Spirocore Orchestrals and dig them, but would really like to have a tone closer to that of gut, if that's possible.

    Any suggestions?
     
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    If the sound is in your ear you'll get it. Most of the rest of the crap talked about here is mostly for personal comfort. I get the same sound out of a $1000 plywood with Pyramids (similar to Thomastik Superflexibles) and a $25,000 Italian with Spirocores...
     
  3. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    Notwithstanding what Ray wrote, I personally think that strings have a major impact on the sound you can get from an instrument.
    Tension is one factor, but the string materials too.
    Many players love the synthetic core Obligatos.
    I've found the steel rope-core Jargar string to be close to gut too.
    Steel strings designed for arco playing usually contain dampening material that give them a gut-like quality. Some brands with more, others with less good results.
     
  4. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    While I get the feeling that Ray exaggerates somewhat, perhaps he really is that good that it makes no difference to him. For me however, strings and the bass do make a big difference and I've played $1000 plywoods with super bright strings (new Spiros actually) and theyweren't even on the same planet as my 50 year old carved German with gut.

    In my experience so far, it seems there are so many strings that claim to be like gut but there's no substitute for the real thing. I am open to future string developments but for now, I'm staying with gut.

    Adrian
     
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I may exaggerate a bit, but not that much. Whatever sound you get you will eventually get out of any bass that you play. Next time your bass-hanging with your bass-buds, switch basses and play for a while and pretty soon you'll hear that you are getting your own sound out of the other bass. If a bass is set up terribly or out of shape, then all bets are off, or if your going from Spiros to some very well-played in orchestral strings as well, but throwing out the exteme examples, I think you'll find that this is true.
     
  6. Monte

    Monte

    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    I can agree in principle with what Ray says, but here is the ultimate disproof of that theory. I played Saturday with a group that I haven't played with since November. After the first tune, the drummer:eek: said "You must have different strings". After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said that I had switched from synthetic gut (Velvet) to gut (Oliv / Eudoxa). When I asked how he could tell, he said he could here my low notes much more cleanly and the bass was louder (it's an acoustic gig).

    This is the second musician to make this observation without knowing I had changed. Same bass, same set-up, same player, so if a non-bassist can tell the difference, the difference must be there.

    However, I will say that when I sit in on different people's basses, I sound pretty much like me, but I find myself adjusting the way I play to the bass to get it to sound like my Juzek and gut. I finally quit playing in Austin a few weeks ago on a beautiful Hawkes with Spiros and action lower than my slab. I couldn't sound or feel right on it.

    Monte
     
  7. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    The theory of the player being a big variable in the sound is a valid one but I reckon that it also depends a lot on the player. That is, as far as sounding good goes. I'm sure Ray Brown can make any bass sound good. I on the other hand cannot. I think I've got a good sound happening now (at least my teacher and I agree on that) but I do feel a lot of it is due to my bass and the strings. I've played some other crappy basses recently (certainly crappy setups and typical steel strings) and I couldn't get anywhere close to "my" sound.

    Adrian
     
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I hate to perpetuate an argument on something as subjective as sound, but this can't be considered proof. A set of strings being louder than another doesn't mean that the sound is any different or that you won't eventually get your sound from them eventually, but rather it means that the strings were louder. :)

    My view on this, aside from my own anecdotal evidence collected over 20 years of bass playing, goes back to having a saxophonist for a father and having suffered through a lifetime of mouthpieces. It is true that at first, with different strings or a new mouthpiece, the sound will be different. Eventually though, you will end up getting your sound, either by discarding the new strings or by willpower and determination and getting the sound out of the new setup.
     
  9. Monte

    Monte

    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    Well,

    The strings aren't exactly new; I switched in January. I see what you are saying, but to me there is no denying that the low notes from A down are much clearer and not as "fuzzy". That is not just a function of being louder.

    As I said, I partially agree with what you are saying, but taken to its extremes I don't think any bassist will sound the same on long sustain Spirocores and short sustain gut. I've been very accurate about picking out what strings a bassist is using on recordings when I talk to them later. I've yet to fail at picking out a bassist using Spiros; nothing else sounds exactly like them.

    If your theory were true, we should all switch to red label Supersensitive since they are cheap and will sound the same as anything else. I think that if you are describing fairly equal strings (i.e. Helicore or Spirocore) you will get similar results, but not on varying tensions. High tension strings on my Juzek make it sound like it has a head cold.

    Monte
     
  10. I think what has to be said is that the strings make a difference in how easy or difficult they make it to get your sound. I guess that's kinda the personal comfort Ray mentioned. I don't want to use a set of strings that make me work harder for my sound.

    But I also think there are some innate qualities in some strings they you won't get with others regardless of what you sound is and how hard you work. This has to do with materials in the string. No matter how hard you work you're not going to get Olivs to sound like Spirocores or vice versa.
     
  11. ...back to the original question. I have yet to find a non-gut string that even comes close to the sound of gut no matter how I try to "make the sound". Once you get use to the thick tone of that gut G -every other G seems a let down. IMOP
    I would also have to say that gut is not my choice for the "modern jazz" sound. You will get much more clarity in thumb position with steel -though Scotty seemed to have no problem.
     
  12. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    Even if we are talking about jazz specifically, it depends alot on what your style is. Some people never play in the high register that much. Others use it a lot.

    Adrian
     
  13. JazznFunk

    JazznFunk Supporting Member

    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    Lakland Basses Artist
    Gentlemen,
    Thanks for the input. I think I've decided to snag a set of Thomastik Superflexibles and give them a shot. I really like my Spirocores, but I'd like to give something with just a tad less tension a shot to see how it works. I'm a fairly "busy" player when it comes to soloing, but I don't play in the upper register too often as of yet. I tend to venture there from time to time, especially if I'm really comfortable with the tune. With the Spirocores I feel like I struggle a bit in thumb position, so I'm thinking that a lower tension string may help me out there, as well as in the lower register.

    From what I gather the "gut like" tone is out of the question without going gut, which is fine. My query was answered quite well I do believe. :) Thanks again...