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The Heavy/Stark E and bass health

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Scott Lynch, May 18, 2017.

  1. Scott Lynch

    Scott Lynch Supporting Member

    I'm looking for clarification on a topic that seems to have varying opinions in the realm of string mixing: the use of a heavier E string with a mittel - or even weich - tensioned set.

    There seem to be three general schools of thought on the topic that I've discovered so far.

    1) For - A heavier E string is good to experiment with if one is looking for more 'oomph' or power in the low end. I've seen many examples of this on here in my reading, be it (but certainly not limited to):
    • a Stark Spiro E with mittel A-D-G
    • a Mittle Spiro E with weich A-D-G
    • a Stark Spiro E with dominant A-D-G.
    • Swapping the E in a set of flexocors for the next gauge up.
    • One recent poster on the Evah megathread indicated that he was using Evah Weichs with a Spiro Stark E. Now that's a big tension difference.
    2) Against - I hear opinions of "Bass string sets are matched for a reason and as a result shouldn't be messed with." Many have reported on here that they've experimented with swapping Es on a set they didn't quite jibe with, only to return to the original E of that set for various reasons.

    3) Against - the uneven tension of a heavy E with mittel or weich upper strings is dangerous for the health of the bass.

    Points one or two are well into the realm of personal opinion. As much as I appreciate the wise disclaimer of 'YMMV' when it comes to the tonal properties of strings on different basses, I am hoping for a little bit more of a scientific perspective in regards to point number 3.

    Take just about any well constructed bass. What are the inherent dangers of throwing a Spiro Stark E under mittels or dominants, or strings of equivalent tensions? I'm really hoping to hear some comments or stories from those with some experience with these matters.
  2. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    New Orleans
    I don't think there are any real dangers to having a heavy E string. I've not heard of a case where that would break someones top.

    I tried the spiro stark with mediums and while the E string was really powerful I just found the tension was high and it REALLY over powered the other 3 strings.
  3. It really depends in the strings you want to use. Some have strong E strings (like Spiro Mittel 4/4), others have a strong A and a bit weaker E (some Pirastros and most Presto) others are equal tension (most Velvets, at least by design) and some get weaker towards the lower strings (most Corelli and some Solo tuning sets).
    Player feeling is often different from tension numbers. I like a slightly growing tension from G to E like with Spiro Mittel 4/4.
    The E of Spiro Weich 4/4 feels weaker than the A but tension is not much different. But it does not grow compared to the A.
    And Stark is not Stark Mittel not Mittel and Weich not Weich. The tension can vary a lot over different string types of the "same" tension description.

    I doubt that a Stark E with a Weich ADG would feel good. Stark E with Mittel A and Mittel or Weich D and a Weich G might work and feel a lot better, but the tension difference between E and G might still be too large.

    I think you should download my Excel file with published string data and integrated recalculation to your string scale from my Talkbass Dropbox. Look up the strings you might want to play and check the tension they would have on your bass. Since the manufacturers data is for different string scales, don't just use their data but my Excel file which will recalculate the tensions for one (user spicifiable) scale.

    Dropbox - Talkbass

    It also depends on your instrument if a high tension E can work or choke the top. The only thing you can do is trying. It won't break your top immediately unless there is something wrong with it, but be careful and remove or tune down the string if you hear that the instrument gets choked.
    If your instrument is rather old and built for lower tension gut strings, better stay away from Stark strings.
    Scott Lynch likes this.
  4. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Its seems to me it's the total string pressure on the top that could affect bass health. A lightly constructed bass with thin top may have problems with too much pressure.
    lrhbass and Scott Lynch like this.
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    None that I know of. I've used the above two types of setups for the past 15 years, and before that had a full set of spiro starks on my long-replaced Czech bass. I feel that most sets are mismatched between the E and A-D-G, and as a pizz player I like to be able to lay into each string more or less equally in terms of arm weight. When the E string is too light, the excursion created causes all sorts of extraneous noise; a heavier "one gauge up" string is an easy solution to this quandary. As always, EEMMV.
    Scott Lynch likes this.
  6. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Also consider side bending forces on the neck which a big tension mismatch could cause.. This is unlikely an issue with a proper carved bass with a proper ebony board, but with a Kay or Engelhardt it might cause a problem. Bill Merchant once told me that he saw a lot of slab basses with twisted necks, and he observed a pattern that they were all strung with a certain Rotosound set, whose "E" was way too light. Once he swapped out the E string, the warping often corrected itself.
    Eric Hochberg likes this.
  7. Scott Lynch

    Scott Lynch Supporting Member

    DOUBLEMIDI, your reformulation of that chart has truly been a godsend and I've looked at it many times when sizing up possible combos to mix.
  8. Scott Lynch

    Scott Lynch Supporting Member

    Thanks Chris. I have found the Es to be light sounding on my bass as well, both with the Evah Weichs it wore for the last few months and now with the Mittels I just put back on, hence my quandary. This was the catalyst for this post.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  9. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    A student of mine bought a new bass and it came strung with stark E and the rest mittels. The E did not speak very well pizz. We tried a mittel E and it was weak, too. Then we tried a weich E and it sounded much better, adding needed center to the sound. Go figure.
  10. Scott Lynch

    Scott Lynch Supporting Member

    Torsion related (right?) problems with the neck were my main concern. I have recently started using balanced tension strings on my BGs, mostly because I like the even feel and beefiness on the lower strings. The even pull of the strings on the neck also brings peace of mind from a structural standpoint. But I digress.

    My bass is a maple-backed Shen Rogeri. I imagine it would be beefy enough to handle the extra tension. Going to mitts from the EP weichs brought quite an increase in volume. I wouldn't say that the bass sounds choked. Switching the mitt E for a stark looks like around an 8 lb increase in force on the top.

    Is there such thing as a standard top thickness? Or a may to predict if the string might work other than just stringing it up and listening (and crossing my fingers)?
  11. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    My story shows you can't accurately predict what is going to work for you on your bass. Just gotta try. The seller of my students bass thought the stark E would bring out the low end more than the mittel he probably tried first. It didn't work for jazz pizz but sounded great with the bow.

    The Shen should be fine with a stark E structurally, but you'll have try it to see how it works for you.
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  12. Scott Lynch

    Scott Lynch Supporting Member

    So - to revive this thread....

    I finally got around to trying a Spiro Stark E on my bass. Coming from a mix of Dom D/G and Spiro Mitt E/A I decided this evening to install a Dom A with the Stark.

    The Dom A is breaking in, but is still bright. If it settles in like the D and G did, it's gonna be nice.

    But the Stark. Wow. One pull of the low E was all it took. I get it now. That thing is a monster.

    No, my bass doesn't sound choked. If anything, it's all louder. Really projecting. Especially the E. It really sounds more even to the other three strings.

    I know I need time to truly make a verdict and I'll report back after the top has time to resettle and I've got some gig time with the new strings.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  13. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    New Orleans
    Its interesting this came up. I advise you keep an eye on your top for a few days.

    Yesterday I was board and thinking about my bass. I tired a stark E once and liked it but thought it was too much tension for me. I have a full set of mediums on and an old stark E lying around, so I threw it on. Whats the worst that could happen?

    As I put it on I heard a creak as the string tuned up. I looked and my bridge moved slightly. Normal, happens when I change strings. I re-set it the way my luiter told me (it's not a huge fix) and assumed I was all good. I played the string and it sounded awesome with the rest of the mittles. After 20 minuets of practice I noticed something was off with my low side F hole. It was A LOT lower than the high side. It looked like the bridge was pushing down too much on the Low side. I was wondering if my mind was playing tricks on me so I analyzed it a bit, decided it was too low, and threw the medium E back on. It did sound nice but that makes me uncomfortable. Oh well. The medium E is fine.
  14. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings

    I'm more inclined to move a soundpost toward the f hole to help the E string. Just a few mm can do it but never with any part of it outside of the bridge foot.
  15. the_Ryan


    Jul 10, 2015
    Yeah, my bass is the same. I use weichs but I use the solo F#/D string tuned down because it matches tension with the 4/4 weich set better and the E string doesn't sound as choked and is easier to play. Granted I probably should have my luthier lower the E string on my bridge as well.
  16. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    The Spiro Stark E is wonderful when you tune it down a whole step to D. All that mass and the lower tension make for a huge sound.

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