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Super Heavy Gauge Gut

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by jneuman, Aug 13, 2005.

  1. As an experiment I strung my stunt bass with the plain gut A (Goetz) as the D string, the D (Efrano) as the G string, and the wound Efrano E as the A string. The E string is steel. This results in gut strings with high tension about the same as spirocores. This is closer to what gut strings were like from the Romantic period up until WWII based on what I gather from reading old gut string specs in books, looking at old pictures, etc.

    The sound is different from what we know gut to be. It is much more "serious" and less "toylike". The strings are stiff but not at all unplayable. They're actually more comfortable than steel strings 'cause they're fat. They are very loud and thumpy played pizz, with more fundemental than you could imagine but also more body in the low-mid range and more pointed sounding with the attack but darker. With arco they are absolutely huge sounding. They sound darker but maintain the gut sound. They respond better for me with orchestral pizz than for jazz pizzA. bass strung this way would work well in an orchestral setting or unamplified big band. The higher tension of the strings solve some of the false harmonic issues with plain gut too. They are not much harder to bow than steel strings and respond better than the usual thin gut strings since you can use more bow weight.

    I think I will keep this setup until I findout if I can deal with the extra strength required to play it. BTW this doesn't hurt the plain strings from what I can tell since plain gut strings can operate at a very wide tension range. I don't know however if they will work in the old arrangement anymore since they will be so stretched. The wound string seems fine so far. I'm hoping the windings stay intact, but.....

    Disclaimer: I woudn't suggest trying this with Damien's or Dan Larsens since we can't be sure what will happen to the strings in the long run (my gut feeling NPI is that they will be fine), but if you got some old strings lying around It may worth trying it for the experience IMO. I could see the Clef strings from Upton as a good source for the plain strings since the set comes with plain A and E.
  2. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    You absolute maniac. No I don't think you would want to do this to Dan or Damian's strings. However you could order Dan's strings in the heaviest gauge he has.
  3. Adrian

    I don't think either of those guys offers strings this big. We're talking about a 3.6mm D and a 2.75mm G. Interestingly, NRI in england offer double bass strings this size. Their website is very informative if you haven't checked it out. As a status report, I'm thinking that selecting strings that provide the same tension as solo orchestral strings tuned down may be the best compromise between volume and prescence. That would be like a 2.5 G and 3.2 D. The ones I have on now are very taxing on both hands, and may be too dark w/pizz. People used to deal with this setup apparently, but It must have taken them awhile to develop the necessary strength, and technique must have suffered some. Paul Brun makes reference to French basses in the 1910's having G strings as big as 2.95mm! Yikes! But it seems like by the late 1940's they had shrunk down to the smaller size (2.1mm G) we know today in England and America at least, although it's not clear if those smaller sizes were intended for solo tuning or orchestral tuning since they would work for both. I'm not sure of the reason for the downward trend in size. One guess is that when good steel string were available, there wasn't as much need for the really heavy gut strings anymore, or maybe it was a cost saving measure when trade went dead with Italy and Germany during the war. I don't know. If anybody who was playing during the middle part of the Century could offer some personal insight I would be very happy.
  4. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    NRI in England? I'm not familiar with them. What's the website?
  5. Adrian, here is the URL. They have a very exhaustive and informative site. http://www.nrinstruments.demon.co.uk
  6. dfp

    dfp Supporting Member

    Sep 28, 2004
    i gotta get a stunt bass... :smug:
  7. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I would think the last thing you'd want to do to a stunt bass is increase the tension of the strings. If you're having to work harder to pull the strings, it takes too much energy away from your stunts.

    BTW, I'd be real interested to know how long your strings last this way, and whether or not you could fit a bigger diameter E than the normal ones in the peg hole.
  8. Stunt bass is the what one of my teachers called it one time (as opposed to my real bass) since it's plywood and I use it for certain dangerous playing situations. There is no actual bass stunting going on.

    I predict the plain strings will last a long time. The wound string is several years old and at the higher tension, the windings seem secure. It doesn't really matter with that one anyway since it was dead and in need of replacement. There is still plenty of room in the peg hole for the E string. I replaced the steel E with an old 4.00mm Pirastro Gold Label E, which may be bigger than the Chorda E, I don't know.

    The whole experiment is largely academic since I won't be gigging with these strings in this arrangement. I really just wanted to get a perspective on what players experienced in the era when modern 4-string bass was setup at its most robust. I think I need to stop geeking out so much and practice more. The strings will remain as it until I need the stunt bass for something else.