We wrapped up the favorite strings submission month last week, and I thought I’d take a moment and summarize what folks have been trying and what they prefer. I always find these discussions useful, and I hope that you do as well. There’s no “right answer” to the question of what strings work best, but you can see from the following submissions what different bassists have been using.
Here, in no particular order, are comments about some of the most popular brands of strings:
I have been using Bel Cantos for the past year and man do they sound great. I’m a high school student, so I can’t afford too great of an instrument. I’m currently using a cheap plywood bass from Sam-Ash. The bass originally was strung with generic strings, but I immediately put helicores on it. Those strings were just fine, until my teacher told me it was time to change strings.I decided to invest in a set of Bel Cantos, after hearing great reviews about them. After I strung my bass with Bel Cantos, it sounded like a completely different bass. The arco in the higher register really sounds like “beautiful singing.” These strings are truly remarkable. I am extremely pleased with them. I don’t think I will be changing from Bel Cantos any time soon
I got my first bass about a year ago from “musicians friend”. I ordered it online, it was about $700. Once it came in the mail I was so excited to play it. I opened up the huge box and pulled out my new bass. Turns out they sent me the wrong bass!!!!. But it was cool because I’m pretty sure it was a lot better than what I payed for. The feel was nice it sounded great with pizz. About 9 months later I was really getting into classical and I decided to study the bow. The strings that came with my bass were most likely some unknown brand.(I couldn’t find out the brand,nor could any of my teachers) And they sounded like nails on a chalk board whenever I played with a bow. After a while I couldn’t stand it and decided to invest in some good “classical” strings. I ended up getting Bel Cantos. Right after I put them on I bowed my first note with my new set of strings and I feel in love! They sounded awesome! So dark and smooth, I couldn’t believe it. Everyday they sound better and better.
In the past I have used Helicores, Obligatos, Spirocores, and scores of other strings. I am currently using Bel Cantos. Now I wont say that these strings will work perfect on every bass because I have heard some real nice basses sound bad with these strings, but for my bass and the playing I do they are the best option available. The Obligatos were my favorite pizz string but they do not bow well hence the nickname used in some shops of “oble gobbles.” I switched to a better bowing string two years ago and I was really really worried about how the pizz sound was going to be since I was then playing Jazz and Classical. Bel Cantos had just become popular and my luthier encouraged me to try them. I had played them on other basses and sometimes certain strings wouldn’t match the others and I had heard that they break easily. I have found none of those things to be the case. Bel Cantos all though not the best choice for pizz or the best choice for arco are the best string if you do both. There is a nice warm sound to the pizz and they dont take forever to react to the bow. The higher tension originally made me wary but once you get used to it they are no harder to play jazz on than any other string and when it comes to playing a bowed jazz solo they are perfect. So many guys try to bow their jazz strings and it just sounds like mud, the Bel Cantos allow you to walk a solid line with a dark tone and then pick up your bow and have a clear tone for the solo.
I’ve been using Bel Cantos on my Shen for about a year. I really like them. They have a nice dark sound without becoming muddy. They bow like a dream. They’re quick to start and have a very distinctive sound that is easy to shape dynamics with. As far as pizz goes, I play about 20% jazz right now. If I was a pure jazzer I would look elsewhere, but for my purposes they sound rather good I think. I think they are a good compromise string if you have one bass that needs to do it all.
I’ve been using Evah Weich D and G and Evah Solo E and A for a couple of months now, and the combination is pretty nice, keeping the tension down for a loose feel. I found the Evah Solo G and D to be too “floppy” when tuned at orchestra pitch, and intonation was harder to nail. These strings are dark and full sounding, in contrast to the bright Spirocores and Obligato G currently on my other bass. Two very different sounds, but each good in their own right.
I am currently using Evah Pirazzi Weichs and I have been very happy with them. They are very responsive and they have a consistent tone through all registers. I exclusively play classical music, so I can’t speak for how well they do with heavy pizzicato work, but I’ve been told they hold their own in that arena as well.
I use Evah Pirazzi Medium gauge strings. I’ve tried some strings in the past for instance, I’ve used: D’ Addario helicore orchestra strings and Eurosonic simulated gut strings. The D’ Addario’s were way to stiff and wasn’t able to play much on them, they were hard for pizzicato they were hard to bow, no good for me. So I took them off and sold them. At the time I was really into ragtime jazz so I of course, wanted to buy some gut bass strings…then I looked at the price tag…then I looked for something else ha. So I found the Eurosonic strings and hoping that they would be a good gut simulate. Well I ordered them from Gollihur music and they arrived promptly, two days before a performance :O They were perfect, or as perfect as I could afford. Those strings lasted me a year and they still sounded good but I started listening to more classical so I was torn between pizz strings and arco strings…aghhhhhhhhh…you know the situation. So then I heard about these Evah Pirazzi strings, “the best strings out there” “awesome for pizz and arco” “etc” So I was thinking of buying them but I put the thought out of my head. I went to a bass lesson a couple weeks after and my teacher started playing the Eccles sonata, and the heavens parted, and symphonious (spelling?) tone resonated out of the bass. I asked what strings he used, ironically they were Evah Pirazzi’s. So I went home and ordered a set. I’ve now had them on for about three months. I’m beyond happy with them, they have an amazing pizz sound the little ping before every note is my favorite part. The arco sounds great also (i just suck at it) (but I’ll get better, eventually) so these are my perfect strings for the moment and I couldn’t be happier with them.
I was using Helicore orchestra strings. What I appreciate about Helicore strings have a very clear, and bright sound.
Now I am using Pirastro Original Flat-Chrome. This was recommended to me by my tutor. The sound is beautiful, more rounded, and refined when I stringed it to a Italian bass.
I’ve found that for my bass, Spirocores (middle tension) work very well. I’m a college student at Eastman double majoring in Music Education/Jazz Performance, so for my bass I needed something that could give me pizz growl and sustain while also being relatively easy to bow. I also needed a pair of strings that wouldn’t go false on me quickly, considering the price of strings anyways.
I’ve tried D’addarios (helicore I believe), Velvet strings, Flexicors, and Kolstein strings, yet the winner always seems to be the Spirocores for both styles of music.
The pizzicato sound is obviously one of it’s most attractive qualities, and it works perfectly on my bass. I get a very nice growl and sustain, while also being able to pull a very “woody” sound out of my bass. With the bow, the sound is still focused and clear while not being scratchy (as some people complain about).
While I do really like the spirocores and their sound, the one thing that I don’t always care for is how they respond to the weather. Some days they are really quite stiff, and other days they are incredibly loose. The tension is hard to deal with sometimes, despite the great sound they get. I’ve been really looking into Helicore Pizzicato strings lately because they offer that bright steel sound, but (to me at least) they feel the slightest bit softer on the hands.
If anyone has any input on the helicores, I’d love to hear it. I can’t afford a pair but if enough people convince me it’s worth I’ll see what I can do!
I alway find myself coming back to Thomastik Spirocore Weichs. They sound pretty grawly at first, but once they mellow out, they seem to be a great compromise for both jazz and classical playing. Sometime the G and D can be a little to intense so I like to switch them out with Dominants which seem to blend well with the Spirocores. This really depends on each bass though.
It is expensive, but I do love having a Gut setup as well. I have tried solid gut, but I tend to prefer the gut wrapped with steel or silver. I like the Pirastro Olivs and the G and D and then a Eudoxa on the A and a Evah Piravi on the E. This keeps the thickness consistent as you move down which is important to me. The sound is punchy and warm and absolutely wonderful for jazz.
I just purchased an instrument and have since been trying to findtge best strings for a mix of solo and orchestral playing. Bel Canto’s have a sweet sound but I believe that they don’t have the bite needed for most orchestral playing.
I picked up a set of Permanents and started working with them. After a long break in period they really started working well. I could never fond a great sound on my low C though. I think they might need a little more break in. I recently played the original flat chromes and I think they might be the string for me. They have a good punchiness with a mellow sound during more legato passages. I think I’ll either keep the Permanent C or go back to my Bel Canto C.
Raymond takes a mix-and-match approach to strings and has tried many combinations, writing:
A “one size fits all” approach definitely doesn’t work for strings. Since I am a bassist married to a bassist, I have tried just about every combination of strings (Obligato, Helicore, Flex Originals, etc.) on each of our three basses. Our “third” bass is strung top to bottom with Evah Pirazzis. We find the sound very consistent throughout the range, and they bow very well. The pizz sound is easy and full, and they sound awesome through the amp. I’ve used this bass for jazz gigs in the afternoon, and orchestra at night, and these strings have served me well.
My orchestra bass (with extension) has Evahs on the top three, with a Spiro on the bottom. The Evah extension string sounds great, but I needed a bit more tension. The Spiro takes some time to break in for the bow, but works well in combination with the Evahs.
My wife has a nice old French bass she tunes in fifths (C G D A). After much experimenting, here’s her current set-up:
Spiro 5th string C
Spiro solo F# (up a half step to G)
Permanent orchestra D
Permanent solo A
Again, the Spiros take some time to settle in, but the warmth and power make them a nice fit for this bass. The Permanents are easy to bow, and have a nice warm pizz sound as well. As an added bonus, the solo A has just a touch of added brightness. All in all, a great combination.
(A side note: tuning in fifths opened up the sound of this bass, and increased the resonance immeasurably. Perhaps the subject of tunings could start a side discussion?)