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Re: Fingerboard but not arco friendly strings

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Posted by Tony Baluga on May 01, 2001 at 07:50:33:

In Reply to: Re: Fingerboard but not arco friendly strings posted by Rich Laird on April 30, 2001 at 15:56:09:

: : : 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.
Thanks Bob and Rich,

I knew you both had some answers. By the way, I got that video that Rich recommened by J. Blagetich. It helped some. I wish it covered very basic topics such as what rosin to use, how much is enough, too much etc., but it didn't. However, here's no way I can ever play like the guy in the video. That's for people who plan to play for the Chicago Symphony. I have to develop my own unorthodox technique, for my own purpose.

I'm doing o.k. as far as what intended to do with learning (self taught) the arco technique. Last February 10th, The Thomasian Medical Alumni Society of IL, a medical glee club - a bunch of doctors who get together and sing in public a least once a year, thought I was good enough to play the arco string bass for a public presentation (at least 500 guests). Being a bass player in a dance band I know there's all kinds of ways one can screw up playing in public, but I didn't. Folks actually thought I knew what I was doing! Well, they're used to seeing me play the electric bass for years, and just assumed I already knew something about the upright too! Anybody, who knows anything about the string bass would have quickly spotted my unusual fingering technique. But of course, I have to do a lot of damping. It's the only way for me to get any sounds out of the instrument!

This Easter, I played the electric upright for church services. I did o.k. too.
Actually, there's probably more bowable church music than that played piz. although I've been playing the electric bass for guitar mass for at least 7 years now. There's enough sustain on an electric to compensate for those long notes. The Zeta upright electric is even more difficult to play than the acoustic. This is the one where I still have to figure out the right combination to get a better purchase on the strings. The strings are closer to each other. There's less of an arc (flatter) bridge, and one has to deal with the small size (supported by an extension peg), which has a tendency to twist and bounce, despite the provided body brace.

The bottom line for me is, learning how to use the bow, although very frustrating at first, has just added more fun playing the bass. Although I play other instruments - guitar, keyboard, alto and tenor sax, some drums, and even an accordion, I have the most fun playing the bass.

It's good to know you guys are there helping beginners like me.

Thanks again.


: 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,
: Rich

: : : 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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