When to use another string?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Mike Crumpton, Jan 7, 2006.

  1. Rob Hunter inpried this when he said said in the thread on dominants "I think it's important to keep trying different strings". I keep being tempted and have tried a few but from a personal development point of view, not least my pocket, I'm trying to get the best out of what I find OK with my bass (superfexibles at the moment) and get imporvement through technique. The problem with bass string IS one of expense. If you have the oportunity to have a load of diffferent strings - all played in - (and an string winder attachment for an drill or screwdriver) then you could try a range in simmilar circumstances in the same room and conditions. Very few people get to do this. Hell you have to wait a through a fortnight's playing before you can say too much about how a new string is, after which you ear has become reaclimatised to the new strings qualities further dulling the memory. I realise i'm exagerating a little.

    On this board there are noticable fads - there was the obligato fan club, there is the velvet appreciation society, the aren't dominant's a forgotton great club and now it seems the stark flexocor '92 ravers. The strings that were raved about in the past haven't changed and the one's raved about now (velvets being an exception) are mostly strings that have also been in production for some time. It strikes me people are going round in circles.

    However, technique and preferrences change over time whilst as mentioned, the strings have not - and the case for flex '92s does seem to be one of their fans developing/changing. This makes advice and comment on a board even more tricky. Different people with the same bass (and bow) will sound different and have different abilities at extracting qualities of sound both piz and arco and this will affect views of strings.

    So the answer to the problem seems to me not so much to be the development of more ojective criteria and descriptions of strings, but being able to understand when it is that a string will deliver what you want as oposed to developing technique or a shortcoming in the bass itself.

    Any thoughts on when and why you (and me of course) would want/need a differnt string would be welcome.
  2. jmpiwonka


    Jun 11, 2002
    this is a good subject. there are really two huge factors in how a string will be viewed by a player. the bass actual bass and the players tastes.

    take me for example, i played an old miesel laminated bass with a nice setup and an old set of original flexocor strings that were probable as old as me. i played that same bass (at my college) for almost four years and it had the same strings the whole time....and they were old when i started playing it. i was getting back into playing for fun and was taking short weekly private lessons with the bass instructor there (for free :D ....well i payed tuition). my teacher played that bass when we were finding one for me and said "well, that's a hercules bass right there, that'll be good for you to play" after he played some scales from fourth position up to thumb position on the A,D, and G strings.
    so my tastes are probably different than most as far as what a high string tension is, a low string height, and a "dark sounding string".

    i got a shen SB200 shortly after i graduated. so i have a nice bass and i was thinking i'll go with a string that is slightly brighter. thought i had dominants when i actually had pirastro orginal flatchromes... :p so i'm thinking i have a real dark sounding bass based on peoples comments here....which is my mistake (the strings i thought i had, not listening to people here).
    i have since had spirocore mittels, they were nice as far as volume but i have some problem with thinking every string had too much metallic sound......
    tried superflexibles, now it has pizzicato's on it and they are pretty ok sounding except the arco'ability gets a little old which i thought wouldn't bother me......remember what strings i played for three years......even the Eudoxa g string sounds real bright, and it has much sustain, not too bad though.
    every g string on my bass has been overly bright sounding even after a new setup.
    i have an unadjustable bridge and i had my soundpost moved down a little after the setup and i think MAYBE the bass reacted a little and i lost a little more string height on the g string....might be the problem....

    so anyway, since i must have tastes for real dark strings i'm about to just put on some flexocor '92's and keep them on there for a while.......oh yeah i have a set of obligatos but i probably won't even put them on.....i like the E and A strings to be pretty stiff.....which is one reason i kind of decided not to go with some animas.

    anyone wanna buy some strings....... :D just kidding

    disclaimer, i'm in a rush so if this makes no sense i'll edit later.
  3. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    Nice thread, Mike!
    The first comment quoted above is very important I think!
    I've been playing on dark strings since years.
    Since I switched to (solid-body) EUB in fact, as these instruments do emphasize the brightness and sustain.
    But lately I went two times in the studio, and realized the tone was too boomy. The sound engineer had to work hard on my tone; adding a compressor, EQing, etc.
    Our guitarist, who is also our musical director and main arranger, and whom worked in the studios for years, told me about my tone.
    He said I needed to get less lows, more mids, even if the bass can sound somewhat nasal if you listen to it alone, but blended with the band, I'd come through better.
    So I opened my two strings boxes again and dug into.
    At first, when your ears are accustomed to a dark tone, the tone can seem very bright and metallic, but as your ears and strings are breaking in, it's different.
    In fact, I played for a short while on very bright strings, then changed them for darker ones, although quite bright too, but since my ears were used to the bright tone, they seemed warm!
    More to come in the next weeks...
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I think that you perhaps shouldn't take it all so seriously. Or at least let it affect you differently.

    If you're completely happy with your setup, then I dont think that you really have to mess around with strings at all. If there is something about the sound or playablility of your bass that bugs you, strings are one place to look -- right after a good setup/adjustment and a quick check of your technique, etc.

    In my case, I've been on a long hunt that has been inspired by the Stick 'O Pain -- needing a string that does both pizz an arco to my taste. To add complicity to this, most of my work in NYC is ampless, making projection and volume important, I do a lot of solo work and (believe this **** or not) get hired for a lot of work because of this (I make a duo and trio gig a lot less of a load for the other guys...), I play a huge amount of different styles, from bop to Zeppelin, spanning bluegrass, modern/acoustic jazz, blues, singer/songwriter stuff,....,.....,.....

    I've also found that something that has been causing a slight bit of tail-chasing on my part is that my taste in sound has been changing at the same time. But this is, in large part, due to bow becoming more and more of an integral part of my sound.

    I guess I'm rambling a bit, but maybe I offered some positive input along the way...:)
  5. Andy Allen

    Andy Allen "Working Bassist"

    Aug 31, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Ramble On, Ray...


    ...you did say:-
  6. jmpiwonka


    Jun 11, 2002
    summarization of my above rambling.......
    there are so many variables that effect string choice the best thing to do is put some on your bass.

    i know once i find the strings i like i'm keeping them on my bass for a long time.

    it's very tough choosing what strings to even try....i've spent so much time searching these forums just to narrow the choice down to a few....then i try a set out and they turn out to not be totally what i expected......
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it is broke, do.

  8. Hard to argue with that!

    When I wrote "I think it's important to keep trying different strings," I meant that for ME, not everyone else. As discussed, there are many, many reasons why a player would want to change strings. In six years of playing (and three basses) I don't feel that I've tried enough of a variety of strings to offer any serious comparable analysis. And I'm always grateful there are TBers who'll offer guidance in this area. Just thought I'd clear that up, if any clearing was needed!
  9. I'm trying to do more pizz. work and have to find a string that will work well with my bass. I think I'll try Rubys, a little less tension than what I have now but I'm not sure how they'll sound.
  10. The "when and why" undoubtedly vary from person to person. I imagine the more experienced pro's out there change strings when they want a different kind of sound, or different projection volume, etc. or maybe lots of other reasons.

    For a relative newbie like me -- I've been playing for just over three years -- I try different strings to learn about them, trying different ones to see which I like best. It's all a learning experience. So far I've tried four types of strings and I imagine in another six months to a year from now I'll try another kind.

    But you're sure right about the impact of strings on the pocketbook . . . they're not cheap.
  11. Andy Allen

    Andy Allen "Working Bassist"

    Aug 31, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Where I come from they say, "If it ain't broke, fix it 'till it is." :p
  12. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    Great thread. This is a very worthy conversation.
    Yes the internet can be a fertile ground for groupthink. We need to continue to be vigilant about keeping each other in line about this phenomenon. Despite this it remains the best source of collective experience I can imagine. The use of string discussions for me is to compare my observations about strings with those opinions of others and see how they line up. In that way making future decisions can be streamlined as I filter others experiences through my impression of how their insights relate to mine. This has given me options I hadn't considered before.
    Ultimately the sound is in ones hands.

    Regardless, it's my failing to point to my tools when I want my sound to be different rather than to put in the time in the woodshed. There is no doubt that great tools make the woodshed time easier and more effective, however changing my tools is no substitute for doing the time. When I do the time I always get superior results.

    Having said that I am a tweaker. I am constantly trying to move little variables here and there to approach some "ideal". Funny thing is that "ideal" is in constant flux. My conception of what I want in my tone has morphed greatly each year and I suspect will constantly be in a state of change.

    As such it is a journey of constant searching and experimentation. Each change yields results both towards and away from my "ideal". By being aware of how these changes affect my process and my sound I can make more on target choices in the future. When I compare my process with all of yours it makes my explorations that much richer.

    My work as a craftsman was born out of these explorations. My business as a repairman is fueled by this kind of observation.

    Ultimately I change strings when I am driven internally to do so. I have developed a laundry list of strings I'd like to try on my bass and over the years as my pocket will allow I will do so. Some experiments will be great and others will suck. Ultimately I may spin round full circle and end up with the Spiro Mittels I'm using now. But I think as my experience is added to your collective experience we will all be the better for it.

    Or then again as Ray says "if it ain't broke..."

    I should just go practice.
  13. Ray - a guy who plays Led Zep and admits it to a world of jazz fogey's gets my admiration! I like the point you made in another thread when talking about '92s that what sold you on the string was getting someone else to play you bass and walking round the room. It ressonates with Francious comment that he wasn't particularly aware that his love of a dark strings compromised how his bass interacted with other musicians.

    In fact, it does kinda lead me to the conclusion that perhaps we don't know quite how we sound - just like playing in a band/orchestra, the day you can't play coz your bass is bust and you sit out front can be a revelation.

    I like the - if it ain't broke don't fix it - and I'm quite happyish but take Mike's point about craftsmanship. Personally, I don't particularly worry about being an artist, but hope artistry comes through, but I do aspire to be a craftsman in all that I play and that has to apply to how I play.

    So I guess the first thing to find out is do I sound like I think I do or want to? Can I address this through technique? Will strings help?

    Now, other thatn finding another bass player who plays your bass in such a way he sounds like you and follows you around all day, anyone got any thoughts? IMHO Ray's comment elsewhere about being too close to the bass to ever hear quite how it is (KSB has said the same thing) also applies to the amp.

    One other thing - Francious colleagues obviously know what they want, but in my limited experience, a lot of players are very ignorant about good bass sound and sometimes don't seem to care as much as they should as long as they can hear it clearly and it's not too loud. Very good players usually know what they like though but I don't get to play with them very often.

    So, the battle is to hear ourselves as others do and appreciate its qualities as a non-bass player? Have I gone off at a tangent? I was an inveterate reed twiddler in another life but I'm not sure many poeple noticed the difference I thought I heard. I'm always doing this with the bass - saying listen - if I do it like this and then this it sounds different to someone who gives me a blank look and walks away shaking their head.

    A world of total personal honesty with no psychological crutches, drugs or placebos would indeed be a trial and the path to enlightenment no doubt. Just typing that brings on a rush of GAS - where did I put that credit card? After all - what would we talk about? :)

    Talking of GAS does anyone record their gigs and if so with what placed where in the room and does it tell them what they sound like?
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    For me, finally getting to DB was the opportunity to stop worrying about things like this!! ;)

    So I was quite happy to accept something I read on Bob Gollihur's website about Sprirocores having been used by the vast majority of DB players on the Jazz CDs I love - so if they were good enough for them, why should I look at anything else?
  15. Hmmm - so is that the wiechs, the mitels, the starks, the solo set tuned down or the fifths tuning set Bruce, and how do they compare? :D :D

    Just go and have a look at the bows and rosin thread and weep.

    FWIW wiechs were too fretless like for my tastes on my bass - liked mitels a lot - good front end for driving a band, no buzziness - different sounding string entirely for me but wanted a darker more bowable string as the bass was bright and I ain't got Gary Karrs technique quite. There is always soemthing to worry about but to a lesser degree I hope :hyper: .
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I suppose I'm only really interested in Jazz pizz - this is enough of a challenge for me, given how old I am and how little time I have!! ;)

    So as I know that most of the people I'm listening to, used Spirocores, then any deficiencies are more likely to be down to me, than the string!!
  17. I feel the same way :-( - yeah I empathise deeply with htat sentiment.

    Whilst we exhausted the subject of whether you need to pick up a bow some time ago IMHO it helps me a lot and enables me to do piz what I wasn't acheiving through only practising piz.

    Funny - have you heard Dankworth? - his tone is as 'woody' s it gets and I could swear those were spiros I saw on his bass. Wish mine sounded like that.
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes I've seen him play at close quarters on a number of occasions at my local Jazz club - great sound!!

    I always try to chat to the DB players when I'm there - maybe buy them a drink - that's one of the reasons I know most of them use Spirocore...although I remember talking to Arnie Somgyi who was obsessed with strings and wanted a Gut sound but hated Guts - he used Innovations and sounded very different to most of the other UK players - very good though!! :)
  19. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    The best answer I can think of for this is to record yourself often and listen to the results whether you like 'em or not - it's the closest you'll ever get to having a spare set of ears available "x" feet away to listen while you play. Record yourself solo, then in a group setting. Use different mic distances and ensembles. If the sound is there, you'll know it - likewise if it isn't.

    And I'd also like to thank the TB community for bringing the Spiro Starks and Dominants to my attention. I'm still digging the Dominants, but if my tastes change eventually, I'll know where to come to find opinions on where to look next. :)