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Re: Fingerboard but not arco friendly strings

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Posted by Rich Laird on April 30, 2001 at 15:56:09:

In Reply to: Re: Fingerboard but not arco friendly strings posted by Bob Gollihur on April 26, 2001 at 07:18:47:

: : Hi All (attention Rich Laird, Bob Gollihur)

Hi Tony...Hope things are going well for you. I don't know exactly what to tell you about strings, especially since I have NO experience with electric uprights. What I do know is that strings that seem to work really well on one ax can be really horrible on another. Unfortunatly, it often just comes down to some experimentation, which can be expensive. Maybe you can find someone in your local area who can give the bass a try and suggest somtehing that might be good on it.

And trying different rosin might help, too...especially now that the weather is getting warmer. If you can, it's best to stick with the same brand and just go to a softer grade. Getting different kinds of rosin mixed on the bow hair can be a little dicey.

It's interesting that you mentioned looking at horsehair under a microscope. Once, I ran accross an article on the Internet that actually had pictures of horsehairs from different parts of the world shown under a microscope. The difference between them - even though they were all supposed to be good-quality bow hair - was fairly astonishing. It was hard to draw any really meaningful conclusions as far as what one would really want to use. (I usually just ask the repair guy for the best he's got in the way of a coarser hair that might be good for bass and leave the science to the scientists).

As you may know, horsehair has these microscopic scale-like formations on the surface that hold the rosin. What you could see from the article was that the shape of these formations are really different on Siberian hair as opposed to Mongolian hair, etc. I couldn't re-locate that article - if I have any luck, I'll let you know.

And the consensus seems to be that there is no substitute...Bob's right. I really don't know of anyone who likes synthetic hair at all. Myself, I haven't seen nylon hair in years, but my recollection is that in isn't too hard to spot. It just doesn't have the look and feel of horsehair at all (unless it's changed over the years, which is possible). I think you can leave the microscope at won't need it to tell that it's nylon.

Keep on keeping on,

: : From previous postings I've learned about flatwound vs roundwound strings. My Zeta upright electric appears to be be strung with flatwound strings. They're smooth and appear like solid wires, such as those used for soldering. However, although fingerboard friendly, these flatwound strings are not arco friendly, compared to the roundwound strings on my acoustic upright. Since they're smooth, the bow tends to skid. I am presently using a medium soft rosin, still have to try extra soft and see if it's any better. In the meantime, does anybody out there have any suggestions?

: Some strings are simply not arco-friendly, but I would recommend you try different rosins anyway -- I use different ones depending on the weather/humidity. A stickier rosin may be in order; the less "bow-friendly" strings I've played have been scratchy and hard to start, but not so that you skid off them. Corelli and Obligato strings currently on my basses are both quite smooth but still bow-friendly, so the finish isn't a factor there.

: : I've been wondering about the horsehair used for the bow. Although there may be other material (nylon?), nothing apparently can replace horsehair. I'd love to be able one of these days to put a strand under a microscope to see what is it that can cause all the sound-producing friction. I've seen guys in the Philippines improvise and use bamboo fibers to bow as there was nothing else.
: : Without using a microscope how can you tell whether the bow is horsehair or something else?

: That's something I can't help you with, but I will say that the artificial substitutes for horsehair, well, how shall I put it? They suck. Yeah, that's it. IME there is no substitute for real horsehair.

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