Orchestral strings for jazz ?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by cocoune, Mar 15, 2018.

  1. cocoune


    Jan 28, 2012
    I'm new to upright bass. I play jazz. I have a good setup on my bass but im pretty sure i have d'addario orchestral strings (blue). First, how can i be sure ? Whats the color of the jazz strings ? And second, is it a big deal for now or i should immediately buy the helicore jazz strings ?

  2. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
    They are fine. I remember the great bassist Ray Drummond used them for a while for a darker sound. a lot of other people use these strings for jazz for a darker old school sound.
    PBandJazzBass and Lee Moses like this.
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The above is true. On the other hand, if you want a more weighty/sustaining sound with more high end information, you may want to look at jazz specific strings. A lot will depend on how much you plan to bow and what your overall end game is. One of my top students just moved on from the strings you describe to more pizzicato oriented strings and found the experience life changing.
    Eric Hochberg likes this.
  4. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    I have no experience with the specific strings you're referring to, but my bass has Bel Canto strings, which are generally regarded as a "fairly dark" orchestral string, and the only thing I use the bass for is bluegrass and jazz. The bass-strings combo has what I would call a "heavy, dark, blunt" sound which has a great deal of presence but doesn't cut through much (if that makes sense). I have thought about trying other strings but have not dared to leap into those waters yet.

    So the point is that based on my experience you don't have to jump right into string changes just because you have strings that are generally considered more orchestral in application.

    Another thing, and one that also keeps me using the Bel Cantos, is ease of bowing. Although I almost never play arco in performance, at least half my practice is with the bow. As bad as my bowing is, I am certainly not enthusiastic about changing to strings that are any less easy to bow than what I have; and many of the more "jazzy" strings also have the reputation of being harder to get a good sound under the bow. So if you are (and I recommend it) doing a lot of home practice with the bow, you ought to consider that as well.

    Chris: After writing all the above, I would be interested in hearing about your student's "life altering" experience. Maybe I should reconsider and shake things up a bit?
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Perhaps a bit of hyperbole on my part. :D On the other hand, she was limited in the amount of punch and sustain she could get out of her bass, which limited the way she was able to play and interact with other musicians - especially drummers. Now when she digs in more she gets not only more punch and volume but also a different tone and is able to contour her lines better. Now when she plays a ballad the low notes ring and growl, which they never did on the same bass before. Now when she goes into thumb position the bass sings rather than a quick hint of note.

    If I had to describe the paradigm of the change from arco-designed strings to pizz-oriented strings for the purposes of playing pizz, it would be like changing the font of a document from light gray to bold black. Much easier to read for all involved!
    bskts247 likes this.
  6. The pizzicato set is burgundy red instead of blue.
  7. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
    Also, I would like to add that even though having a specific equipment helps, don't worry too much about strings, pick ups, amplifiers etc. sometimes we obsess about these things and they get in the way of our playing.
    It's more important to spend a much time as you can just playing your bass. I'm sure your bass is overall fine.
    have fun!!! :)
    Naplesllew, Phil Rowan and lrhbass like this.
  8. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    I mostly agree with you, but as someone who occationally has to play jazz on my flatchrome original setup I can tell you that even a six figure bass is a massive pain with inappropriate strings. If all you do is jazz, save yourself a lot of needless work and get the right strings for what you are doing.
    Eric Hochberg and lurk like this.
  9. This is common but terrible advice. It is a nice thing to say to a broke young musician, but we really know it isn't true. A good set of strings is one of the easiest things a bassist can get to make a difference.

    What I would do is see if you are happy with your sound on those strings - in a group setting as well as by yourself. If you want other qualities you can look at strings that have those qualities.
    I don't think in terms of pizz and arco strings. I think there are live and dead strings. I prefer live. Learning to control strings with more harmonic information with the bow will give you a better tone more variety.
    Steve Boisen likes this.
  10. Other things that make a double bass needlessly hard to play:

    Nuts that are too high

    Bridges that don’t fit the fingerboard

    Pickups that are incorrectly installed or just bad

    Amps designed for electric bass
  11. Too high nuts drive you nuts.
    Francois Blais, 16fuss and Sam Dingle like this.
  12. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    I’ve had many students that have Heli Orchestral strings and I used them for a few days myself. I encourage you to get some more jazz friendly strings which in the daddario line means Heli Hybrid or Pizz or Zyex. Bright, more sustain and looser feeling. You won’t work as hard to get a pizz sound and your band mates will probably have an easier time hearing you.
    HateyMcAmp and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  13. Maple

    Maple Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2016
    San Francisco Bay Area
    I agree. When the strings sound lifeless, It's really hard for me to get into what I'm playing. With the right strings, I hear the note and it sounds great - this compels me to keep making notes!
  14. slappahdabass

    slappahdabass Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2013
    Milwaukee, WI
    Some of my favorite jazz strings (when I was playing a more equal balance of classical and jazz) were Spiro or Belcanto solo strings tuned down. Still easy under the bow, but low tension for right hand comfort and some good sustain and growl.
    I think you should wait until you know what you do and don't like about your sound before you drop cash on strings. And there are often good used sets on here so you can try them out before committing $250 (and probably a lot of time) on a fresh set.
  15. There’s a used set of Spiro Solos in the classifieds right now for $50. Cheap experiment.
    Sam Dingle likes this.
  16. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Nashville TN
    My opinion and experience is that if you're trying to play pizz and get that traditional sustaining sound, you may get overly frustrated with an arco string. You'll save yourself a lot of trouble by going with something like evahs or spiros
  17. In my mind, traditional jazz tone is short sustain, gut-like tone.
    Sustained tone would be modern jazz style.
    That said, the sole important thing is to get the tone you hear in your head.
    If you like the strings you have now, there's no point at changing them.
    Orchestral strings are perfectly fine for jazz, if that's the tone you want.
  18. Perhaps fine amplified. Strings designed for arco don’t usually project well played jazz pizz.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  19. Depends on the bass as well...
    A jazz string, like Spirocore is usually considered to be, can choke a bass with its high tension and make the bass sound weaker than an orchestral string, furthermore with its usually stronger bottom end which can cut through much better than tons of highs lost in the mix.
    PBandJazzBass and wathaet like this.
  20. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Nashville TN
    No exaxtly. If the sound in your head isn't coming out of the bass you'll either get annoyed or fight the gear which could hurt yourself.

    I wouldn't tell someone who loves late ray brown to play on belcantos. Wouldn't tell someone who only wants paul chambers to play new spiros...well, I might....
    Steve Boisen likes this.