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Gut vs. Steel?

tzadiktzadik New
edited November 2013 in Bass
What kinds of strings are people using? Which ones do you like best for the genre?
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  • CampusfiveCampusfive Los Angeles, CA✭✭✭✭
    GUT!!!!!

    The sound of pre-bop bass playing is all about the gut strings. They have the right staccato thump because they don't sustain, which is exactly how the bass players before bop sounded. Steel strings were part of what allowed bebop bass players to play so legato, and lay back rhythmically. Don't lay back, drive like freight train --> play gut strings.

    Here are two posts on my blog that might be useful in reading if you have no idea what I'm talking about:
    http://swingguitar.blogspot.com/2005/07 ... d-old.html
    http://swingguitar.blogspot.com/2005/08 ... oblem.html
  • badjazzbadjazz Maui, Hawaii USA✭✭✭ Rodrigo Shopis, YL Cholet
    When I played bass (for several years until I graduated to guitar) it was quite a dilemma. Gut strings where problematic to me for several reasons. First, the E & A strings sound and play different than the D & G because of the winding on most gut sets' lower strings. Second, the windings came loose from the gut quickly, leading to the winding not giving you a real grip on the string. It screwed up my timing and made it difficult to get good volume. Steel strings, however, were not 'thumpy' enough, if you know what I mean. The sound of the gut strings naturally gets you to play more rhythmically, which is really essential to drive swing, gypsy, bluegrass, or rockabilly. Steel also was hard for me at the end of the night (bleeding fingers, cramped forearm and shoulder), and very difficult if you do any slapping, which I did often in rockabilly bands.

    I tried a number of different compromise strings, and the best ones I found were Eurosonics, which have a silk and steel woven core wound with nylon. They aren't perfect, but to me they were the best compromise. They sound gut-like, were low tension and thumpy like gut, yet didn't have the problems. Also there isn't a huge difference in the tone when going from high to low strings like there is on wound gut. Lastly, the steel in the core allows them to be used with magnetic pickups, if that is your preference. If I ever go back to playing bass regularly, I'm going back to the Eurosonics. Hope that helps!
  • +1 for Eurosonics, they are as close to gut strings without the headaches associated with Gut strings, if i recall correctly the Eurosonic range still come in the following sets-
    medium (massive)
    Light
    Ultra Light

    I had a set of 'Lights' on my bass but i bet the 'Ultra Lights' are even easier and more gut like in tension. I have to say these strings are absolutely wonderful to the touch on your hands and give a very warm full sound.

    HOWEVER

    The down side with these strings (please ignore anyone who says the contrary) YOU CAN NOT BOW THESE STRINGS.

    I'll say that again-

    YOU CAN NOT BOW THESE STRINGS!!!

    If you intend to play purely pizzicato they are pretty much perfect.

    However I'm a gut freak, i use gut strings on my classical guitar and when i had an upright bass i also installed a set of unwound gut strings on my bass. Well the guitar sounded fantastic but the bass found the gut strings to rich and just would not work with them. In the end i chose a compromise and went with thomastik 'Super Flexibles' because i also needed to do some bowing at the time but i got to say if i was playing purely pizz i would have stuck with the Eurosonics. They are 10/10 IMHO.
    Currently-Gitane 250M
    Previously-Gitane 255
    Previously- Gitane D500
  • Hey Tzadik, nice to see you on another site... I'm always right on the the edge of going all gut, because it sounds and feels like heaven to me. I wish I could chuck it all and just put a full set of Gamut guts on my one and only bass. But I gig with a lot of different types of musicians, and I'm frankly just a bit scared to mess with my sole source of income to that degree. Also, I live just two islands away from "Badjazz" (above), so I'm a bit concerned that my investment may unravel beneath my hands in the middle of a gig.

    The other thing is that I love to play arco solos, and the plain guts are beyond my capabilities in that regard. So my solution is to do one of two things; ideally, Pirastro Olivs on the D&G strings, probably the best sounding string I've ever played, paired with something on the bottom... I'm hoping that Pirastro will start shipping the Evah Pirazzis soon, since they've been advertising them for like six months. Then, when they fall apart, the fallback position is an extremely well worn set of Spirocores, which sound good after about 25 years.
  • That said... I'm still just a hair away from ordering a set of Gamuts. :wink:
  • A.K. KibbenA.K. Kibben Tucson AZ USANew
    Spirocores are all I have ever used on my Bass...
    A.K.
  • badjazzbadjazz Maui, Hawaii USA✭✭✭ Rodrigo Shopis, YL Cholet
    Marcus, are you guys still playing every Monday at the place on the golf course? Last time I was over there I came and there was a decidedly non-gypsy jazz band playing. I was really looking forward to checking you guys out!
  • Long time no post... yes, we're still at Mulligan's every Monday night. We just recorded an album with jazz drummer Les DeMerle, and before that, we did an album with Willie Nelson, who's a lifelong Django fan. It should be out sometime this summer.
  • If anyone else wants to chime in on this further with updates or new thoughts, I'll be reading. :)


    Thanks.
  • I've been using guts for years but decided to try steel some time ago. I can't say it's better or worse, it's just different
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