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Rockabilly/slap strings?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by casualmadness, Oct 6, 2019.


  1. casualmadness

    casualmadness Man About Town Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2005
    VA
    I’m sure there’s a thread here that covers this but after a legitimate search, nothing came up for me. I’ve only been playing DB for a little over a year (convert from electric.) I’ve been taking lessons and have 100% played orchestral. Rockabilly/slap/bluegrass looks like so much fun and I really want to try it. I’m at a loss for what strings to buy. Someone recommended weed wackers, so I bought a set. I had them on for about ten minutes before removing them. They just seemed so dead and lifeless.
    I don’t mind paying for quality. But I don’t want to spend $$$ and be disappointed. Weed wackers were very cheap so no great loss. Wanna make sure I’m buying the right strings. Any recommendations are much appreciated.
     
  2. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    If you want to play what the pioneers of bluegrass and rock-a-billy played, it's gut strings. There are a few sets of La Bellas in the classified section, for less than you would pay for a set of new Lenzners.

    Guts do come with their challenges: They are harder to get a good sound from arco, they take days to come to stable tuning, and you may need to enlarge and lubricate bridge and nut slots. But they're the real deal.
     
    getrhythm likes this.
  3. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    There is a huge string selection out there, ranging from guts (as @AGCurry described well above) to synthetics, to metal strings. And individual strings from a mixture of sets can also make a good solution. String selection is key to the kind playing you want to do, as well as the kind of tone you want and the kind of feel you want. Because there are so many choices, the selection process is complicated and strings that work on one bass may not work well on another. These are all extremely important considerations.

    That said, do you have more than one bass to work with here? Strings that you use for orchestral and primarily arco work may not serve you well for bluegrass/rockabilly slap/pizz, and similarly, strings that you use for bluegrass/rockabilly slap/pizz may not serve you well for orchestral and primarily arco work.

    Unless you are planning to abandon the orchestral work, you may want a 2nd bass intended for the other side of the world. Aside from wearing different strings, especially if you are targeting rockabilly, you may also want a double bass that can be played outside in different weather conditions, and one that can be amped to high volume very well. This can mean having a very different build of double bass for this purpose.

    With all this in mind, I'd suggest starting by deciding about how you want to approach the new genre you want to play... Do you want to change your existing bass to play bluegrass/rockabilly slap/pizz, possibly at the expense of optimal tone and touch for orchestral work, or do you want to acquire an additional bass that is better suited for these other genre?

    Once you know that answer, your string choices, and eventually your electronics choices, will be much easier to make.
     
  4. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Tallahassee
    I love slapped guts, also loved the sound of innovation Super Silvers and Silver Slaps.
     
  5. casualmadness

    casualmadness Man About Town Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2005
    VA
    Thanks for the very detailed reply. I do appreciate it. I should have been more clear. I have one bass and have been strictly arco but want to move away from that and try the rockabilly/bluegrass style. So my current bass (Shen SB80) would be set up for that style of playing.
     
    dhergert likes this.
  6. Reiska

    Reiska Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    You can totally bow on guts, that`s what bassists did exclusively until 50`s - 60`s anyway. Lower tension of strings like downtuned solo strings or Velvets would work for all bass playing, be that arco, pizz or slap. If you wanna keep on playing with the bow too I`d advice against anything nylon wound. Some examples of downtuned solos that work well for pizz too ( strings for arco in the orchestra are generally too dead and dampened for pizz playing ) would be Spirocores, Dominants, Superflexibles and Evah Pirazzis. More slap oriented strings that also bow and pizz well are Evah Pirazzi slaps, full synthetic set. These slap really well.
     
    dhergert likes this.
  7. ERIC A

    ERIC A Supporting Member

    As has been said so many times Nothing Compares to or sounds like gut strings. If nothing else invest in both a D&G.
     
    Sam Dingle likes this.
  8. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Excellent, so moving to "try the rockabilly/bluegrass style"...

    A number of other strings have been suggested that would work well for rockabilly... Bluegrass can also use rockabilly strings (and also do some slapping). Bluegrass is typically more subtle with the slapping, but it's making strong inroads at least out here in the west. There is also a history of a number of early jazz and swing bassists slapping too.

    Since you're a "convert from electric", I'm wondering if you will be playing other instruments too; if so some consideration about low tension strings being easier on your hands might be appropriate (to keep them usable for those other instruments).

    Re: strings and me, I'm sort of in a minority among bluegrass bassists as far as my strings are concerned... I started out with SBW Deluxe "dirty gut" synthetics, which are basically a spiral-cut wacker (actually gator line). I found the medium D and G sufficient for my playing, but the E and A were too quiet and unclear, so I switched the E and A out with Innovation SilverSlaps E and A. I have been extremely happy with this string mix for my ~45% / ~45% / 10% slap / pizz / arco playing. I play a ca. 1930 Alcoa DB, so that may also be why this mixed set of strings is working out so well... Tone is very important to me, but touch is also key, since I do play other instruments and want to keep my hands working well for them too.

    Regarding bowing with these strings, the SBW Deluxe strings are excellent for arco because of the spiral-cut process; the nylon wrapped SilverSlaps took me a week or two of serious arco, a tight bow and generous rosin to start sounding good under the bow. As I only play about 10% arco, I'm probably not as demanding with strings under the bow as someone who plays arco more seriously.

    And yes, I do have my eyes on gut sometime in the future. It will probably at least start as a mixed set of SilverSlap EA under gut DG.
     
  9. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Tallahassee
    People are pushing guts and I have to agree they are fun. And they probably will sound great on a plywood like your shen. If you want a set send me a note, I have some for sale on here.
     
  10. casualmadness

    casualmadness Man About Town Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2005
    VA
    JLubinsky-Mast likes this.
  11. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Tallahassee
    Those are very nice strings. might be a great option for you.
     
  12. Just to clarify:
    Pirastro Gold were (mainly wound) gut strings that are discontinued now (even the Violone strings).
    Rebranding the EP Slaps Gold is not a good idea because this might confuse players. But this is not Pirastro‘s failure it the resellers doing so.
    At least Gollihur explains that other resellers rebrand the EP Slap strings „Gold“. Mayr they ca give a hint that the original Pirastro Gold strings were real gut strings, higher tension than EP Slaps and therefor not ideal for slapping or mixing with EP Slaps.
     
    dhergert likes this.
  13. casualmadness

    casualmadness Man About Town Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2005
    VA
    So doing some research this morning...I am reading that certain gut strings require the nut to be resized. Is this common? I assume I would have to find a luthier to do this. Also, I was reading that gut strings need a silver jacket to stay tuned. I honestly don't know what this even means. If I bought a set, would I need to do something else? Please forgive my ignorance. This is a brand new world. Thanks for all replies.
     
  14. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Tallahassee
    Yes if you put gut strings on your bass, or really any of the strings listed (Evah slaps, innovations) you will need to get the slots widened. The gut G is about the size of your typical D string or bigger.
     
  15. casualmadness

    casualmadness Man About Town Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2005
    VA
    Wow...so once I set it up for these strings, then there's no going back?
     
  16. Weedwackers are great for learning the style. It will take time, and weedwackers makes it easier. There are lots of better alternatives, at higher prices. Gut is very expensive. Gut-A-Like are fine, and the price is reasonable.
     
    dhergert likes this.
  17. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Tallahassee
    Yes and no. There are different opinions on this so don’t take my answer as the “right” one. I’ve had my D and G string slots opened for gut strings and then went back to Spiro dg. Used them for a year and then brought my bass to a luthier for a checkup. He said it was fine but asked if I wanted it going back. I recut the bridge but not the nut. As long as it doesn’t buzz you’re good.

    But if you open it up that means you should stick with it. You can always bring it to a luthier and have the bridge re cut (if you have enough wood)
     
    dhergert likes this.
  18. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    (scratches head...) Guess I just went at it the other way.. :laugh:
     
    210superair likes this.
  19. 210superair

    210superair

    Sep 10, 2019
    Probably depends how much of a string guru you are too. I have my Eastman strung with Gamut Red Diamonds. The wound E and A get a lot of hate on here, but I love the whole set, and find they bow pretty well and slap good too. They're also cheap compared to most guts, and require no oiling, which I really like. I've had those on for a year or two and they're holding up great.

    My Kay is strung with Lezners, also with the wound E and A, and I'm still getting used to them, but I dig those too. I didn't have to modify the bridge or nut for either instrument due to the winding. If you get normal guts without the winding, the E and A are quite robust and will need setup, or else you'll risk damaging strings...let alone how they'll play. IMHO anyway.

    I'll say this, you'll never find metal strings on my basses again. I really dig the guts, but I'm not an orchestra or jazz guy, so....
     
    Fredrik E. Nilsen likes this.
  20. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    @casualmadness , just so you can get a feel for it, the wackers you tried were similar to the thickness of guts and if you had stayed with the wackers you would probably have needed to widen your nut and bridge slots at least for the E and A strings. But to compare the feel, guts are more like the tension and stiffness of some of the other nylon wrapped synthetics that have been discussed... It varies depending on the maker and style of the gut strings.

    I've played unwound guts on other peoples' basses and do like their unique sound. I do prefer the SilverSlaps for my E and A, but the main reason I haven't put gut D and G on my bass yet is that the strings I have are lasting so well, playing and sounding really very good as a mixed set, with no maintenance, and while I don't mind making long-term changes on my bass I tend to not like switching around a lot...

    I do think where I live (So. Calif., mostly dry, arid) there would be little difference in maintenance or tuning with guts, but in more humid areas (ie., Pacific Northwest) maintenance and tuning of gut strings can be a major consideration; because of the expense, it may be worth it to talk with some gut users in your area. I have at times been very close to moving to gut, especially the D and G, mostly based on the stellar reviews they get among players of them here.

    For me, because I do play other instruments and I don't want to hurt my hands, string thickness, tension and stiffness is a real consideration. I can and have played my bass with the string mix I have, fairly aggressively, for 4 to 6 hours daily for a week (on a cruise) and have had no hand injuries (including even blisters).

    I have never had metal strings on my bass, but have also been tempted by them, in particular the Thomastik SuperFlexible Solo set, but I do know that I like the feel of thicker strings.

    Keep in mind that double basses are not identical from one to the next and your bass may sound, feel and play better with some strings than with others. In my case, part of staying with strings for a long time is because I do like them in most ways, but also, part of staying with strings for a long time is purely for convenience and stability.

    Lastly, regarding arco and slap and walks, while I slip in as much as I can for bluegrass, at least in my area the pockets of strict traditional bluegrass are not very tolerant of arco, heavy duty slapping or walks; the more traditional bluegrass at least in my area tends to prefer the old 1-4-5 approach with rare-if-ever breaks or even walks. So you may find some resistance to these techniques in bluegrass; but in contrast, I do find that the more common less strict bluegrass environments do tend to really enjoy the variety of a more active bass.
     

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