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Those Same Old String Frustrations

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Bobby King, May 12, 2005.


  1. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Hello folks!

    I'm a gut string lover and I've experimented with all sorts of different strings. A few years ago, I started playing some arco and that's when my troubles multiplied :) I'm never happy playing pizz on steel or synthetic core strings but they always bow much better than gut. Since most of my gigs are primarily pizz, I usually go for the gut. Lately though, I'm trying to bring out the bow on gigs a little bit. I bought an expensive mixed set of Eudoxa/Olive and have been using them for around a month, and while I think that they're very nice strings that pizz and bow well, they just don't seem to pop and move air the way my last set did. The last set was mixed Pirastro Pizzicato on E&A with Kaplan Golden Spirals on th D&G. I put them back on today and there was that lively, popping sound that I've been missing. I did some recording with that setup for a vocal jazz CD and it was the best recorded upright sound I've ever gotten. They get a great sound going direct with my Full Circle pickup, and the miked sound was good too. Something about the Eudoxa/Olive sound and feel is -- the word that comes to mind is: constricted. They just don't vibrate as freely and produce as wide a tone. In some ways they produce deeper, more accurate tones, but it's just somehow more restricted. Does anyone know what I mean? The DI sound is also not nearly as good, less bottom and more "clanky".

    So, back to the arco dilemma. The Golden Spirals simply suck for arco. Despite a lot of the opinions I've heard on this forum, I don't find the Pizzicatos that terrible to bow on. At least not the E&A. They have a slightly rougher winding, but for me they're no harder to start than the Eudoxas and the tone isn't that different either. I currently don't have any plain D and G's lying around but I'm going to order some Efranos from Lemur and revisit bowing on plain gut. I'm bracing for those pizzicato pitch problems going up the neck on the D string. :scowl: Aaargh!

    Can I get a witness out there?

    Bobby
     
  2. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Fear not, Jason, though we carry our basses through the Valley Of The Loading Dock into the Catering Hall of Low Wages, we and our Gut-worshipping bretheren are not alone. We shall be rewarded with the goodness of Fat Tone if we endure the persecutions of the Evil Plain D String. But "above thumb position" you say? Hell, (blasphemy!) I'd feel most blessed if I achieved the coveted Clear Pitch above a humble Bb on the Dreaded D!
     
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Is it too much to ask for a string manufacturer to make a string that bows easily, has a great pizz tone with no thud like guts and no clank like steels, and has low tension so that slappers don't have to wipe blood off the tops of their basses at the end of the night? I'm smelling a conspiracy between bass makers and string makers to make everyone who wants to do arco, pizz and slap buy basses and strings set up for each. It's evil...evil, I tell you!
     
  4. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    Seriously I am very happy with the Gamut Lyon guts I'm using and find them far better than either the Efranos or Chordas for clarity of pitch. In light gauge and combined with the heavy gauge of the Helicore Hybrids, I feel like I have a setup that I can live with for the long-term. At least on my current bass anyway. What's great is that I'm getting the sound I want but I can intonate so much better and cut through the mix so much better than when I was using the various Chorda, Oliv, and Eudoxa combinations. And I don't have any concerns about windings coming undone. What really made me realise that I'm happy with this setup is that I never think about the sound production at all when I'm playing these strings. I just simply play and the sound is great. Clarity of pitch on the D above Bb is just fine. Both around B and C and then up in thumb position up to F and F#.
     
  5. Nuno A.

    Nuno A. Velvet Strings Customer Service

    Jul 9, 2001
    SWITZERLAND
    I've been playing guts for years, thats my sound, pizzicato or bowed, thats the sound i hear in my brain.
    I use plain G and D, A and E Olives... same problems as you guys, thumb position arco, low definition E, etc... but i just decided to play and live with that, i was spending way too much $ and time trying strings, just to come back always to the same set up... now i use my time playing , and trying to sound my best with these strings, i keep thinking about those bass players in the 30's and 40's that i love so much, they only had gut strings, and no much amplifying solutions... still they kicked... ;)
    im a gut player, for the good and for the bad...

    NUNO
     
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Adrian, what exactly is your string setup? Helicores on E and A with Gamuts on D and G? I saw those Gamut strings but I decided that over $400 is too much to spend for a set of strings so I got a set of Clef plains. Actually, as these Clefs settle in, the tone has improved and now I can actually get a reasonable sound out of the E and A strings, though it's a far cry from the D and G. I thought about trying an Oliv for an E, but I'm going to just leave these on here for six months before I make any more sweeping changes. Unless I can get a good deal on a used Oliv E or A (hint hint!).
     
  7. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    Gamut Lyon light gauge on G and D and Helicore Hybrid heavy gauge on A and E. A few thoughts - not all gut strings are the same. Generally you get what you pay for. Note that I also got varnished gut - they are less hassle to maintain and don't wear down as quickly where you pizz and they are easier to bow. Also, although they are expensive gut strings, because I only got G and D and the Helicores are dirt cheap, it didn't work out so bad. I spent years on the Olivs and Eudoxas and they are wonderful strings but in the end I realised their limitations. For pizz especially they just don't have the clarity of pitch. It's easy to get sucked into that wonderful warm sound but it also has a tendency to be muddy especially on the lower strings. Also, I had endless troubles with the windings coming undone. I don't have that problem on my new setup. Most of the gut sound comes from the G and D in my opinion.
     
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Well the G and D definitely sound the best in a gut set. But all this sweating over what type of strings to use makes my brain hurt and my wife angry. So for now I'm just going to stick with the plain guts, and now and then buy a used string or two to try out. If you have any Olivs or Eudoxa A's or E's left over, though, and you ever want to sell them, let me know. Since I'm playing mostly slap with occasional jazz gigs, they might be exactly what I need, and for the broken windings, there's always Superglue :)
     
  9. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I've never really liked mixing steel core strings with guts. The timbres never seem balanced and this becomes even more apparent when amplified. I actually really like the Pirastro Pizzicato E&A and they seem to balance well with gut upper strings. For me, they are a great improvement over the standard roundwound traditional gut E&A, and certainly no harder to bow. Also, because they are gut-core, the timbre seems more consistant when amplified.

    For more serious orchestral arco work, however, I really think steel strings are a necessity. Not that I do serious orchestral work :) , but I was playing some with a community orchestra and doing things like a Mendelsohn symphony that had some really rapid bass passages. And rapid staccato. Gut just doesn't start fast enough like a string like Flexicor or Superflexible or Helicore Orchestra. I guess the old pros could make it work. Arco on gut can sound nice on more legato stuff though.

    I have two basses but my 16 year old son is playing bass now and he uses the 2nd bass. That one has Superflexibles and I still practice arco on it some. But what are you going to do, bring 2 frigging basses to gigs and sessions?!

    An interesting note: Nashville session ace Bob Moore, strictly a gut player, said that at his prime, he had 5 uprights and kept a different one at the various studios where he worked frequently. He said that this was mostly so the basses would remain acclimated to the environment and stay in tune as he was rushing from session to session. It was probably nice not to have to lug them either.


    I'm playing piccolo in my next life.
     
  10. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I tried for a long time to stay away from mixing steel and gut but in the end I went to it for many reasons. One is stability of tuning - at least I have two strings that I can use as a reference for tuning from. Another is being able to cut-through the mix given modern music. Another is cost - gut A and E is hugely expensive and C extension gut strings are even more so (and even more flabby). The other is the problems I had with the windings on the Pirastro wound guts. And although I love the old school sound and play a lot of that music for jazz repertory, I also have to play every day gigs where the gut on the bottom is just a little too thumpy. The other thing for me is that I only have one bass and I use it for everything including chamber music and jazz. The only thing my current setup would not work for is orchestral playing where the unwound guts would stick out in the section.
     
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I tried mixing Obligatos with plain guts and it sounded like a complete mismatch. That's why I thought wound guts would be better. But since Obligatos are nylon core with steel windings, you'd think they would work. Nope.
     
  12. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I personally think Obligatos are grossly over-rated. They sound so SYNTHETIC to me. All I hear is MWAH, MWAH. People think they are a good match to gut because they have a warm tone but what they are missing is the attack - the snap of gut - obviously I'm talking about pizz playing. That's why I think they are not a good match.
     
  13. Pardon me if you posted this already, but what are the guages of the Lyon light guage D & G? Also, any difference in tone between varnished and not?
     
  14. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I just bought a LaBella wound gut E off Ebay. But until I get it, I'm going to go bananas listening to this plain gut E. There is nothing there except a fundamental when you first pluck the string, then it's gone. I really hope this string works. I don't think I will like roundwound gut in the long term, but in the short term I will give it a shot. What do I care? My bass has an ebony fb ;)
     
  15. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I maintain this information in this table.

    I've never tried the unvarnished Lyon guts so I can't comment on any difference in tone.
     
  16. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I've never tried plain gut E but I couldn't imagine ever using one and I would expect it to be totally thumpy. As for roundwound, I used Animas for a while which a machined-flat on the outside and they really chewed up my ebony fingerboard (and my fingertips).
     
  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Yep, it's totally thumpy. It's the only string out of the set I don't like. If all I was doing was playing slap bass it would be fine, though.
     
  18. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Well, I just received the Efrano D&G plain gut strings that I ordered and put them on my bass. I have a pretty positive first impression. They seem superior to Labella, Gotz and other available brands (other than the custom stringmakers) and they were reasonably priced, too. I've got Pirastro Pizzicatos on the E&A and the whole setup is well balanced in terms of tone and tension. The pizz sound is great! The arco :) will take a little getting used to! They're plenty bowable, and the arco tone of the Pizzicatos is fairly well matched, but the whole thing sounds a bit like The Baritone Killer Bees. Does the arco tone of the plain gut get any mellower over time? It's going to take some work to learn how to get a nice arco sound on this setup. Nevertheless, I so much prefer the pizz sound and feel of this setup over the whole Eudoxa/Olive thing.
     
  19. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I found the Pizzicatos (not surprisingly) hard to bow and the arco tone of the Efranos to be pretty rough. The difference in arco tone between the (unvarnished) Efrano G and the Chorda G were what made me realise that I didn't want to have anything to do with unvarnished gut. In contrast to the Efrano G, I think the arco tone of the Chorda G and Gamut Lyon G is very pleasant and I've had steel string players make the same comment.
     
  20. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Also remember to clip the little hairs that form on the strings. The Efranos shed a lot especially with a lot of hard playing. You can use abrasive paper to smooth them once you clip the hairs. Like Adrian said, it is MUCH easier to bow varnished gut than unvarnished. When the Efranos wear out it may be a consideration....