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Ray Brown's Strings

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by jneuman, Jul 25, 2005.

  1. I have a copy of Wisper Not by the Peterson trio which I date to the early 1960's. The bass sound is exactly what I an striving for. I know that Ray used steel on the bottom with gut on top for a long time but the lower strings don't really sound like spirocores to me. They don't sound like wound gut either...more like something in between. Does anybody know fur certain what he would have been using around this time? It might be the lush sound of his bass that I am hearing, and the strings are not the key. I don't know.


    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    A few things to remember.....Recording techniques were different in those days, so the sound isn't going to be necessarily as clear or defined as it is now. The bass was also played differently with higher action to project acoustically. Another thing is the technique that Ray Brown used. His attack was a key to that sound. I have been all over the place trying to get that tone and finally I realised that I have my own sound(no matter what strings I play), and the only way to get that early "bounce" in your sound is to play acoustically, or "almost acoustically" That is not relying on your amp for your tone, but only using it to add a little more sound when you need it. Strings affect sustain(which is part of the sound being "dark" or "bright") and feel for the most part IMO. This has been my experience.

    Ray used Lycons on the E and A.
  3. Thanks Adrian

    I'm working on the attack thing. I play acoustically whenever I can get away with it and I really try to get the bass to project and fill the whole room if possible. I use most of the length of my first finger to pluck. With spiros, I get a close approximation of later Ray, but I haven't been able to achieve this early sound. My strings height with my current strings (Dominants) is 9-12mm. With gut it's 12-16mm or higher. Those bottom strings on that recording (and the other track from the same era) are just insane. They have just the right amount of thump and sustain to the back end of the note. They almost sound like slightly less damped orchestral strings. I can't believe they could be Lycons if they are supposed to have been brighter than Spiros, but maybe. I don't know. His method book clearly shows steel strings on the bottom, and that predates this recording by a few years. Didn't someone mention he actually used Supersensitive Red Labels for a time? That would be interesting. I used those for a long time before I knew any better. They produce a very dark thumpy sound. They are not as bad as everyone says, just very physically demanding to play and not at all bright.

  4. check this out:
    http://www.jazzprofessional.com/interviews/Ray Brown_1.htm
    it's an interview from '63
    he says "What type of string setup do you favour? It's according to what suits the particular instrument. On this bass, I have rope–cored steel strings. The Italian bass gives in best results with a gut G and D and a metal A and E. Lots of orchestral players use all metal strings: they're good for bowing. For pizzicato playing, the metal G and D b strings tend to cut into the fingers. I prefer the gut; they have a more flexible ‘feel."

    I would think the Rope core strings were probably a lot like the la bella 2004L and 2003L. those are the ones they sell with the plain gut d and g. i have those for sale/trade. barely used.
  5. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Intersting and a good point that it's a combination of stings, instrument, technique, amplificaiton (if any) and recording that produce that sound. I say Ray about a month before he died and he was playing Spirocores and sounded amazing.

    I read or heard that he had one instrument that he used Spirocore Solos tuned down to orchestral pitch on, because it was just what that bass seemed to want.
  6. Pcocobass


    Jun 16, 2005
    New York