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Strings for Bluegrass

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by rick123, Nov 23, 2004.


  1. rick123

    rick123

    Oct 20, 2001
    Evanston, Wyoming
    I've been playing electric slab bass in bluegrass-newgrass and Celtic-pop types of groups for several years.(Sorry about those descriptions.) Recently I acquired an upright from an acquaintance.I use my Carvin R600 head and a 2x10 cab and a K&K pickup. Using the electronics, the sound is great. I've got the A & D
    from the original string in the place for the E & A and I'm using Rotosound RS4000 D & G. I've also tried Supernils. My problem is, any of these strings sound fine amplified but most of the E & A strings I've tried sound too tubby or quiet for acoustic jams. I realize I'm kind of standing behind the thing, but I'm just not satisfied. I'd like to try some more strings with a little punchier bottom end that won't destroy my fingers on fast tunes. I don't bow and don't do much slapping. A friend who lives many miles away recommends LaBella black tape-wound. I've done some searching on this site but if any of you can make a suggestion, I'd greatly appreciate it. No bluegrass jokes, please. thanks
     
  2. Years ago I ran into Tom Gray on line. He's my favorite bluegrass bassist. I asked him about strings and he recommended Spirocore A and E and Golden Spiral G and D. That's what I've used for years. It took a bit of getting used to, because there's such a difference in string tension. I can hear my E and A very well, and I can play all night without bleeding. And I can slap these strings silly.

    Now it's impossible to get the golden spirals and I'm about to try a set of RS4000's I've stored out in the barn for a couple of years. I'm watching this thread with interest. I'm curious about how people will respond.
     
  3. I tried the labellas and did not care for them. I have success with both spirocore orchs and obligatos--currently favoring obligatos. I have no problem being heard (or perhaps felt) with either string although I think the spiros actually add slightly more volume.

    As noted, you are not really in the best position to hear yourself in comparison to the rest of the group. If you want to really check on how well your sound is adding to the mix just stop playing and notice the difference.

    With regards to the destroyed fingers, the solution is not softer strings--it is calluses. I have seen guys playing with bandaids, tape, batting gloves, and other mysterious substances covering their fingers. Spend a lot of time in the shed and the fingers will take care of themselves.

    Also much of your volume is byproduct of your technique. If you are pulling the strings of the UB like the slab, you will never get enough volume to really compete with the melody boys. To repeat the TBDB mantra--consider taking a few lessons to learn the basic approach and technique.

    Lastly, beware of the big fiddle. It is devilishly addictive.
     
  4. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    After receiving input here on TBDB, I recently strung up a custom bluegrass bass with Thomastik Superflexibles. Since Spirocores are considered an acceptable bluegrass string, the goal was to use a string with comparable volume, yet still have a little darker tone closer to what folks usually associate with bluegrass and other roots music. Now that the Supers have settled, they nail what I was looking for perfectly, though not the best if you intend to do a lot of slapping.

    And Steve's right -- there's no substitution for good, hard callouses. Even seasoned slab players find that the big bass is a whole other animal...
     
  5. rick123

    rick123

    Oct 20, 2001
    Evanston, Wyoming
    Thanks very much for the speedy replies. As for the fingertips, they are coming along fine, gradually turning into leather. I made the transition from plank to upright almost overnight so the woodshedding was (is)fierce. My geographical location makes lessons nearly impossible, as I live in Wyoming; the nearest city is Salt Lake City where I could study to BUILD one easier than play one. So I've gotten some great pointers from Todd Phillips and Mark Schatz via VHS. As for the addiction to UB, I'm afraid the die is cast. Even if I wanted to go back to P-bass, my bandmates would prevent it. Thanks again...now I have some choices of strings, and some good advice.
    Rick
     
  6. Don't give up on the teacher yet. I too live in a relatively remote area (at least remote when it comes to finding double bass teachers) and it took me over a year to locate someone who would work with me. We live approximately 100 miles apart so we only meet every few months but the lessons last several hours. We also communicate regularly via email. While the arrangement might not suit everyone, it works for me.

    Spend a lot of time gleaning TB threads-especially in the technique forums. There are also some really knowledgable players (I am definitely not one of those) here who are more than willing to help out someone who is sincerely looking for help. Sometimes the advice is rather pointed but usually with good reason. This site can be a gold mine for someone in your position.

    Take a little time to fill out your profile. Chances are someone here might know someone in the area who could point you in the right direction.
     
  7. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    I use old (i mean dead) Velvets when I play Bluegrass. My wife the dobro player prefers the "thud" they make
     
  8. I`ve gone to Eurosonic lights on the E and A, and plain gut D and G. The Eurosonics balance a little better with the gut than Spirocores and give plenty of volume. Easier on your fingers too. For a real soft setup try the Eurosonic ultralights.
    Don`t try to bow them.
     
  9. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    AL/GA
    Something that I've found out lately while recording bluegrass...if you use strings that will have lots of sustain and are more lively-sounding, you'll end up having to work harder to mute with your left hand at fast tempos (which is about 90% of the time...).

    I don't particularly care for an outright dead thud when I play, but I'm gradually moving towards a less-sustained tone and will be taking that into account when I buy strings again.
     
  10. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    What are you currently using, Mike?
     
  11. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    AL/GA
    On my current bass, I've tried Spiros and Helicore Pizz Meds. Obligatos seem to bridge the gap pretty well on my Azola, so I'll probably try a set on my New Standard when I get it back from Arnold.
     
  12. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I strung my bass with Flexocors about a year ago. They are a great sounding arco string, but a nice aside is that they have a decent deep, thuddy sort of sound pizz.

    I have played BG plenty of times with them and get a good response every time.
     
  13. Basfidl

    Basfidl

    Dec 2, 2004
    Hope Mills NC
    Wow. I've never used any type of forum before and man, the info here is incredible. I currently use Thomastik Spriro's steel on steel and have used them for about 8 years. I tried the LaBella black tape wound and really didn't care for them. I've just received in the mail a set of plain guts and am anxiuos to try them. My bass had a set of plain guts on when i rescued her from the tortures of being a high school rental. I played them for about two years until they finally got to the point that they were so worn and starting to ravel (sp) i had to change and when i did i switched to steel on the recommendation of a buddy. Been wanting something with the same depth, tone and volume but a wee bit more slappable. Now that i have them i'm looking for someone to fill me in on how to take care of them. Anyone know of any type of conditioner or cleaner that can be applied to them for upkeep? I would like them to last as long as possible but gotta know how to take care of them. Thank -- Buzz
     
  14. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    A periodic light wipe with mineral oil (baby oil) and occasionally clipping or lightly sanding off the "hairs" that form will keep plain gut strings lasting almost indefinitely.
     
  15. Basfidl

    Basfidl

    Dec 2, 2004
    Hope Mills NC
    Norton -- Thanks for the reply. I would be under the assumption that the application of baby (mineral) oil wouldn't create an "overslick" condition and soak on in right? One would think anyway. Thanks again -- Buzz
     
  16. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    You don't need to drench 'em with oil - just a light application once in a while to keep them "hydrated."
     
  17. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    I drench mine and then deep-fry them...

    BTW, my string supplier tells me that she has sold more sets of Superflexibles in the last month than she has all year; is there an article out on them or something ?
     
  18. jimclark68

    jimclark68

    Dec 16, 2000
    Morganton, NC
    I don't know about the bass world at large, but Superflexibles have gotten some press at TB lately. As I've mentioned in other posts, I find them to be a nice compromise between Spiro weichs and mediums that are darker and more forgiving for arco. I play mostly folk/bluegrass and I like them a lot. I have had the same set on for a year and they have darkened nicely. They are a good alternative for a person looking for a darker pizz string but perhaps has a ply bass that does not repsond well to lighter sythetic strings such as Obligatos. This is the case with my Engelhardt, which needs a higher-tension string. Superflexibles are also a bargain, making them a good starting point when looking at 'hybrid' strings.
     
  19. basss

    basss

    Aug 27, 2001
    NYC
    jim,
    Are the superflex strings in the same ballpark as the spiros tonewise esp. in their attack? I'm looking for something with a rounder attack than spiros for my EUB. The spiros have a really hard metallic attack that sounds too BG like.
     
  20. jimclark68

    jimclark68

    Dec 16, 2000
    Morganton, NC
    The Supers are considerably darker than the Spiros, although the difference does not appear as great when they are new; they tend to sound twangy like the Spiros when you first put them on. The difference becomes greater the more they age. My Engelhardt is so tight that I think it really brought out that mid-range bite of Spiros, which I used before the Supers. The Supers area really a nice compromise for Spiro fans who want a darker or more arco-friendly string. With their tension falling between the weich and medium Spiros, I would suspect that they would be a nice string for EUB because you can still have relatively lower string height without things feeling too floppy.