Re: Flatwound? Roundwound? Help!/Thanks Bob & Rich

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Posted by Tony Baluga on January 28, 2001 at 00:29:08:

In Reply to: Re: Flatwound? Roundwound? Help! posted by Rich Laird on January 26, 2001 at 15:19:44:

: : Hi all,

: : What are you guys talking about? How many kinds of strings are there anyway?

: : What would be the best kind for plucking and what would be best for bowing?

: : TONY

: Tony...

: If I remember correctly, your bass is an upright electric. I'm almost sure you don't want gut strings. I mean - assuming the pickup(s) on that thing are magnetic - you need steel!

: Maybe I'm just getting to be an out-of-touch old fart...but the terms "flatwound" and "roundwound" conjur up bass guitars to me. Yes, gut A-strings and E-strings typically have metal windings that bear a certain similarity to Rotosounds or something like that. But - to the best of my knowledge - steel double bass strings have a flat winding - different types of chromium or stainless steel might be used. The guage, tension, and core varies among different brands. I would think (kind of guessing here 'cause I have no personal experience with electric uprights) that you want to stay away from anything with a non-metal core. And there are a variety of kinds of metal cores...some are solid...some are stranded...and rope cores (the term pretty much means what it sounds like) are somthing else again (I think!).

: So, yes....there's a myriad of different strings made by different manufacturers for different purposes. I don't know if you looked at my response to your 1/5 posting - where you were asking about videos. (If not, you may want to do that 'cause I gave you some details on a video you may want to get.) I gave you the web address for Shar Musical Products. The section on strings in the Shar catalog has some (IMHO) useful and clear info. on what different strings are all about - and some delightfully simple and basic info. on how they play etc. No big deal - but I found it helpful.

: As to your questions as to which kinds of strings are best for plucking and which are best for bowing - this is another one of those things where the answer begins with "It depends". IMHO, the big thing it depends on is the individual instrument you're talking about. Generally, I would say that for bowing, most people prefer a darker string - but with a certain amount of tension. "Pluckers", especially jazz players, usually want a brighter string with less tension and therefore more sustain. That's how you get that sexy "growl".

: Haven't tried them yet myself....but Corellis seem to be getting very popular with people who use one bass for both kinds of playing.

: Hope that helps to clear things up - rather than confuse.

: Rich

Thanks Rich and Bob. It's nice to have you guys out there helping double bass beginners like me.

You guys have been very helpful. From Bob's description, I have roundwound strings on my plywood student model Carlo Robelli bass ($700), and flatwound strings on the Zeta upright electric ($1000). I have also obtained a Shar catalog (Thanks Rich) and managed to improve my bowing sound, using the right kind or rosin. The video on bowing is on back order and can't wait to learn more. I was using a dry violin type rosin before and was getting discouraged with the scratching sound I started to make in the beginning. I am presently using medium rosin but I'd like to experiment with soft rosin.

I also happen to be the (electric) bass player for a medical glee club. It's a bunch of M.D.'s, who once a year, get together wear costumes and pretend to be entertainers, sing and dance, for fundraising. We've done just about everything in the past from "Bohemian Rhapsody" to "Spider Woman". They've even got me to play slap bass (not my favorite) for a number last year. I learn something new everytime. The funds raised are used for medical missions in rural areas in the Philippines, so poor folks for example, who can't afford cataract (eye) surgery can have it done for free during the 2 or so weeks that they're there.

Believe it or not, next month I am going to play my plywood double bass in public for the first time (these folks have never seen me before with anything but an electric bass), bowing the first few bars the intro of "On The Street Where You Live". It's no big deal to play a low F arco, for 8 bars. How could I possibly screw up on this one! Then I'll put down the bow and play the rest pizz. all with a poker face and pretend all the time I knew what I was doing!
Having to make a living with my hands in the operating room, I'm not about to build calluses on my fingers just to get more volume on the upright, so I have installed Fishman pickups with a pre-amp (worn on my belt), on this "piece of shit". How much better sound improvement would I get if I switched to Correlli 370 strings Bob? I intend to spend more time with the Zeta upright electric after this show, but would continue to practice with my plywood bass.

Bob mentioned in one of his correspondence, laminated basses have a quick sound decay. I agree but I have never played a carved bass to make a comparison. After playing the electric bass (since 1985) and spoiled by all that volume and sustain, with very little work, one has to work so hard on the upright for very little.

I also own a gitaron. It's the Mexican Mariachi bass which has to be played facing heaven because it is pregnant, the other way (tuned A D G C E A referred to by in Guitar Player as baritone tuning). Same problem, a whole lot of work for very little sound, at least for beginners. However, you'll be surprised what big booming unamplified sound those Mariachi guys can produce, over those trumpets. Since it has such a short scale, the trick is to play 2 strings at a time with the same note, and because of the high action, you can pluck upwards. It's the only portable bass with a decent sound that I know of. I have never seen a balalaila bass in person, so for portability, I don't think any there's anything that would beat the gitaron. Acoustic electrics are useless. The gitaron has 6 strings, built like a classical acoustic, just a bridge, (I'm amazed how it can take the tension) with no endpiece, with 3 metal roundwound and 3 nylon roundwound strings. Also am not about to build calluses for this one. However, do you guys have any idea what kind of pickups I should install on this one? The Seymour Duncan pickups, made for guitar isn't doing it. The one I got works like a stethoscope, but you have to put some sticky stuff on it and place it near the bridge. The red light clip signal on my Carvin cyclops says, I'm feeding it a lot of signal.

There's a current PBS series on JAZZ. How did those double bass players(1930's & 40's) ever managed to be heard over those woodwinds and brass? It seems that they're playing there to be felt and not necessarily heard!

Thanks again.


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