Solo Strings v. Tuning Up Light Gauge Strings

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Steve Freides, Apr 22, 2016.

  1. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    A purely theoretical question (because I will die of old age before my playing warrants solo strings):

    What's the difference between a purpose-made solo string and just using a lighter gauge string and tuning it up the whole step?

    dewolfe03 likes this.
  2. Tension. The difference in feel between light-gauge strings meant for orch tuning and solo-gauge strings is significant.
    Steve Freides likes this.
  3. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Nashville TN
    I think I assumed that solo strings would feel like medium tension strings when tuned to solo pitch. Am I correct? So;

    Spiro solos turned to solo pitch should have the same tension as spiro mediums at orchestral pitch?
  4. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Anything of the same stated gauge should have the same tension when tune to its stated pitch, e.g., a Sprio light G should be the same tension as a Spiro light A if they're tuned to G and A, respectively. (At least this seems logical to me.)

    My question was about the tension of a Spiro light G tuned up to A as compared to a Spiro medium solo A.

  5. -ish. The gauges are different, and it feels like the strings' innards are not exactly the same.
  6. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    The "-ish" is wherein lies my question. When, e.g., flamenco guitar players want a higher key, they just use a capo. For bass, I'm just looking to educate myself as to why a manufacturer would have to keep so many different gauges of strings around - I guess is would be useful to compare diameter, tension spec, etc., of string xxx in medium gauge and standard tuning, light gauge and standard tuning, and solo gauge and solo tuning.

    I just tried on the Pirastro site but don't find this level of detail.

    Alright, here from the Gollihur site for Evah Pirazzi: A string is .057, G light is .058, G medium is .059. D's are 63, 68, and 71.

  7. Different strings for different applications. Car companies make more than one car, ya know? We've come a long way since the Ford Model T.

    Taking Kaplans as an example, because I have direct experiences with that string in orch and solo variants, the orchs deliver a broad, room-filling cushion that a section player might want. They make the whole instrument vibrate.

    The solo variant projects like a laser beam. You don't even feel much vibration in the neck as you play, because most of the energy being dumped into the top seems to stay within the corpus and projects directly out. A lot of the low-frequency information is simply not present, and high-end response is enhanced. I'm not a soloist either, by any means, but could really see these cutting through an ensemble and bouncing sound off the back wall of the hall, as a featured soloist would both want and require.

    The diameters of the strings themselves are misleading. With gut, you can tune up and down as needed without much effect on the string itself. My understanding is that the inner structure of steel and synthetic strings are simply not designed to work that way. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but my instinct is this is the reason why I detest strings that are "bumped over" (i.e. moved over one spot and tuned down a fourth to achieve lower tension).
    robobass likes this.
  8. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Very interesting - I am glad I asked.

    KUNGfuSHERIFF likes this.
  9. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    No. The Spiro Solo I (A) is actually a bit tighter than the Orchestra "Weich" G tuned up a step. I don't know that it is true generally, but a lot of solo sets have higher tension than the corresponding orchestra set. It seems logical that you'd want a bit more edge when standing in front of an orchestra than when sitting in the section.
    bskts247 likes this.
  10. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Nashville TN
    Oh cool!
  11. Usually the Light or Weich strings are in the middle between Solo strings downtuned by a wholetone and Medium/Mittel strings at orchestra pitch.
    BUT, the lower strings of Solo string sets often have less relative tension (which is approximately the same tension as the high strings) than orchestra string sets (where the lower strings often have more tension than the higher ones).

    Otherwise I second Kungfusheriffs answer. Solo strings should project and stay in front, orchestra strings should more blend in the background. Of course you find all kinds of sets, even projecting orchestra strings which stay in front. But the Solo sets from the same string family might do this even more. (Doesn't need to be the case, but Solo strings are for solo only, at least usually.)
  12. Usually indeed. I know a bunch of people who play solo strings at orch pitch because they're easier on their aging hands and tendons, or they play roots music but don't want to deal with gut, or their bass likes low tension, or...
    bskts247 likes this.
  13. I meant Solo strings are designed for solo playing only but somehow didn't put in the word 'designed'.
  14. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    i played a recital years ago where i needed solo tuning and plain and simple diddn't have money or time to change strings. the bass was strung with superflexibles, and my teacher at the time said it was okay to do.

    i was a lot less knowledgeable at the time and probably diddn't realise how much more tension that put on the bass. if i was to tune up regular strings again i'd want to detune my E string just to counter all that extra tension if i could.

    also, though i have no experiene with this, i'd make a note that steel strings are inherintly higher in tension and will only get exponentioally worse- i'd immagine it could damage the top of the bass if one was to solo-tune something like spiro mittels. on the flip side, synthetic, or even worse real gut, will get all sorts of stretched/damaged by that higher tension.

    just some thoughts... if i had to i'd tune up my zyex lights and i would expect decent results. it worked and sounded good with superflexibles.
  15. JeffKissell

    JeffKissell Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Soquel, CA
    My experience with gut (and most strings FTM) was that a whole step in one direction or the other wasn't a big deal. Sometimes during wild humidity changes they would fluctuate by almost that much just from day to day. I think, in general, most strings are more forgiving with regards to tension. I also assume this is more of an issue with certain basses and leaving a bass tuned with excessive tension is probably not great. The bass will let you know in a hurry if the tension isn't right. There is/was definitely a different sweet spot, tension wise, for every bass I've played or owned.
    groooooove likes this.
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