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Weak E -- strings? Setup? Bass? Fingers?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by junglebike, Mar 23, 2004.

  1. junglebike


    Feb 14, 2003
    San Diego, CA
    I have a nice (for me) carved Anton Scherter bass, made "In West Germany", presumably sometime between 1945 and 1988 :p

    I'm working my ass off to become a competent jazz musician, but I play original tunes too with various groups. 95% pizz, though my teacher is trying to change that!

    I had it set up at Lemur Music (i live in SD, an hour away). They breathed new life into what was a pretty neglected instrument, giving it a new bridge, soundpost, strings, repairing a seam, and planing the fingerboard. Repair guy thought it was a good bass, with a decent top (not too thick) and decent quality wood. I paid only $1k for it, plus $600 for Lemur, so I feel like I made out like a bandit.

    It's strung with Spirocore Weichs. Here's the problem:

    The E-string just doesn't ring out with the authority that the other strings do. It sounds almost muted, or choked. The G is a bit tinny sounding, too, particularly open. But the D and A are fantastic -- rich and full, with great sustain.

    I'm sure I can't get an absolute answer here, but perhaps some ideas as to how to proceed...

    Is this just an inherant problem to having a middle-of-the-road bass?

    Could different strings help? I think it's an inherantly bright bass, and the Spirocores are certainly bright. A more bottom heavy string, perhaps?

    Should I just expend my energy practicing and quit whining... yeah, probably :crying:

    Any help appreciated... hope this is in the right forum.


    (P.S. Thanks for all your help prior to this! You guys helped me find my bass, and my teacher -- the fabulous Bob Magnusson. Had my first lesson a week ago, and I can't say enough about him. Very lucky to have such a top-notch teacher so soon! Thanks!)
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    "...between 1945 and 1988 "I almost blew snot out of me nose on that one :)

    My two guesses are strings and sound post placement/fit.

    I personally haven't had a lot of luck with Weichs, althoug I've heard people get a great sound with them. My ill experiences were a variation on your theme. Try either Orch gauge or Solos at Orch pitch on your next set. The best thing you could do is get a hold of a used set of about anything and see if the problem goes away. This is all done most easily at your local luthier's place where you could mess with the post at the same time.
  3. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Hi Pete,

    I have a similar problem (attributed to the beech back by my luthier) and I am wondering if a compensated TP (à la Pecanic) would help...

    Another point that I would investigate is the bass bar (luthiers please tell us if I'm wrong), although you don't really want to think about it since there is not much that can be done about it without spending big bucks.
  4. Ray said it all, but I suggest replacing the E string with just about anything, too.

    I had a similar problem with a hybrid bass years ago, it was a bit strange. I broke the E string, and when I replaced it with a Spiro Weich E, it sounded dead. A little sound post fiddling helped, but not too much. Tried an orch gauge Spiro E and the problem was gone. Never thought about it after that.
    I just wonder if the new string was bad in the beginning.

  5. I had a similar problem on my Gliga flatback, I had Kolsteins, the a,d,g were great but the e was anemic. Replaced it with a Pirastro Jazzer and that made all the difference, both for pizz and arco.

  6. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    I had weichs on my Engelhardt. The E was always flabby and lifeless. I replaced just the E with a spiro mittel and it helped a great deal.

    As for the G, spirocores are very twangy played open anyway, especially when new. To borrow a phrase from our dearest Durryl, they are like "a giant banjo" when new. Give it some time to play in. It will settle down.

    You may want to try having a luthier move the sound post off the foot a little bit. It may be somewhat less focused but the E may have a little more boom.

  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    My first reaction is to try changing your sentence structure. Try going from:


    There...all fixed!

    Seriously, go with a Spiro Mittle E, or if you're feeling really masochistic, a Stark. I doubt you'll have any problem with an anemic E then. :)

    But if so, there's something that worked on my bass like magic, although my Lluthier bitches about it - if I shift my bridge over just a bit to the bass side, the bass jumps out like crazy. It's still over the bar, but with perhaps a bit more "hanging off the edge" on that side. It makes the bass have a little more "Freeboard" on the treble side than on the bass side, but I can live with that. DON'T TRY THIS UNTIL YOU'VE EXHAUSTED THE OTHER POSSIBILITIES...every luthier I've talked to about this says it's not an entirely healthy thing for the bass - but my bass has a thick top, and it works for me.

    No kidding! I've only heard Bob on a few records, but he sounded great on those few. I LOVE the sound he gets. You are indeed a lucky man.
  8. I agree with Chris completely....I do think the Spiro Orchestra E will do the trick and the bridge movement or sound post re-set will help if you're comfortable doing it.
    Please say hi to Mag and give him my best. A great player and a really good person.
  9. mpm


    May 10, 2001
    Los Angeles
    Great bass player! I used to check out Bob at a little club in Sierra Madre, CA about 25 years ago... Reminded me of Albert Stinson in a way....killer sound, killer technique...
  10. Mike, you ain't gonna believe this....I had a dream the other night about Albert Stinson! Of course only a bass player can have a dream about another bass player.
    Albert sat in one night at the Jazz Workshop when I was working with Bill Evans. He sounded like he owned my bass! That really pissed me off! He was working with Chico Hamilton at this time. We were talking on another thread not too long ago about Chico and those bands he had with Fred Katz on cello...do you remember the personell, instrument-wise, when he had Albert in the band? Anybody?
  11. mpm


    May 10, 2001
    Los Angeles
    Paul, I really don't remember the personnel from then. Heck, I can't remember who I was playing with then...there was a happening coffee-house scene in Pasadena back then (when "Old Town" was decrepit, not trendy). We all lived close by and we would hang at his place often. Albert used to collect hand-written piano scores, the more outside, the better. Also, he had that famous portrait of Albert Einstein, bushy gray hair, mustache, and soul patch, hanging over the mantle and right next to it was his portrait, bushy black hair, moustache, and soul patch. What a hoot. What a shame we lost him.
  12. Hopefully this comes ou respectfully, as I am just passing along what I have heard from my luthier, and have obviously never seen or heard you play. He says a lot of bass players ask him to do something about their weak E string. After watching them play, he very often determines the problem to be user error. Since there is no string below to stop your plucking finger, you have to use care to pluck with the same strength and control you do on the other strings.
  13. junglebike


    Feb 14, 2003
    San Diego, CA
    Thanks again for all the help, guys!

    My spirocores are about 3months old, so I doubt they'll "settle in" any more than they already have. I've played a *lot* in those 3 monts, too.

    Anyway, based on all this, I decided to go for a new set of strings -- I grabbed a set of Corelli 370TX Extra Fortes for $95 from Juststrings.com.

    What a difference! Twanginess is gone (well, after a couple hours anyway). The entire bass is noticably louder, and easier to play. Action is much softer now, and the tone is more warm and mellow. The E-string is much stronger (though still not thunderous -- I think that's the bass).

    I played arco for about 3hrs today. First time I've really enjoyed it! So much easier to get an even tone, without scratches.

    So it doesn't sound like the $10k Pollman once played, but it's well past the $3k bass mark now, IMHO. Nothin' left to do but practice, practice, practice...

    'nother lesson with Bob on Tuesday; I can't wait! I'll post something about it (and my first lesson) in the appropriate forum (technique?) soon.

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