Frustration

It’s that time again…

Time to buy new strings! Yay…….?!

No. I’m not the happy camper I usually am when I get to buy bass gear. Could someone please tell me why the price of double bass strings is mimicking what the price of gas is doing?

For the past 3 years, I’ve been playing exclusively on Pirastro Permanents. They’re great strings for a number of reasons:

-You don’t really have to ‘play them in’ like other strings. In my experience, they sound great from the moment you put them on.

-They tend to feel nice under the fingers. They’re not as twisty as Obligatos or as tight as Flatchromes.

-They have a nice blend of warmth and clarity.

-They last! My two sets of Permanents have lasted me a year a piece, and they could probably last as long as 15 months.

I know my teacher, Andy Anderson, used a set of Permanents for this past season at Lyric Opera, and I remember Jeff Turner, who is principle of the Pittsburgh symphony, saying in an interview with Jason Heath (who also uses Permanents!) that he uses them on his orchestra bass.

So, clearly, I’m not the only one that feels reasonably satisfied with these strings.

You might, then, be a little surprised to hear that I want to try something new? Let’s say you buy yourself a nice Volkswagon Jetta. It works great! You haven’t had hardly any problems with it in the 7 years you’ve owned it. The time comes for you to buy another car…do you just go out and buy a Jetta again? Maybe. But maybe you want to try something new? See if you don’t like a different type of car better. That’s where I’m at with Permanents.

I was shocked, though, to see the price of strings at Lemur’s website! Here were the 3 options I was looking at:

Pirastro Obligato (with a long E)-$186.22

Pirastro Flatchrome (G, D, A), and Thomastik Spirocore (long E)-$233.00

Bel Canto (long E)-$226.40

What!! I don’t have that much money. I’ll just go with Permanents again. Let’s see how much those are.

$199?!! I think I paid $160 tops last summer! What happened?!

It looks like the inflation that is taking place everywhere else in the economy has finally reached the bass community. Or maybe it’s been that way for a while and I’m just now noticing the effects.

I know that I’m still going to try one of the three options listed above, I’m just not sure which one yet. The difference between the three is roughly $30, which isn’t that big of a gap; it’s just the price itself that is outrageous. I basically know the pros and cons for each string, so here’s a bit of what I do know:

Pirastro Obligatos: Lyric Opera of Chicago bassist Greg Sarchet (check out his site, Bass Club Chicago) uses these strings, and he seems to like them a lot. I also remember Chicago Symphony bassist Michael Hovnanian (check out his blog here) saying he liked them a lot the first month or so, but he noticed that they seem to ‘go dead’ too quickly.

On a personal note, I remember the basses at my high school were all strung with Obligatos. I loved playing those basses because the strings had a looseness and an ease about their playability which felt great under the fingers.

Pirastro Flatchromes: These were the strings that my teacher recommended to me. He’s got a set of these on one of his basses right now, and the thing that struck me about them was clarity with just enough warmth. These strings are fairly popular with orchestral bass players, and I know Michael Hovnanian has said he keeps coming back to these. Brad Opland, who is another CSO bassist, also uses these strings.

The only thing that worries me about these strings is how they’ll actually sound once on my bass. I’m a frequent Contabass Converations listener, and I remember Jason Heath (check out Jason’s blog here) saying in regard to these strings,

“They either sound great or they sound terrible.

Not much of a gray area there–which is what worries me! $233 bucks is quite a gamble for something that might make my bass sound like a foghorn!

Thomastik Bel Canto: Although I haven’t actually seen that many players with these strings, I’ve heard tell of their popularity. Ian Hallas (check him out here), who is a great bassist and is headed to the Colburn school in the fall, had a set of these on his bass the last time I saw him. My teacher played a little on his bass, and, to my ears, the sound was incredible! Warmth, intensity and power all in one!

In a recent conversation with my teacher about these strings, he said they tend to have a rubbery sound in the upper register, and as a result have a somewhat less powerful tone than one would expect.

So, there you have it. I don’t know if anyone cares to advise me on strings, but any advice or bits of information from someone who’s played on any of the above strings would be appreciated.

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~ by benjamin86 on July 1, 2008.

3 Responses to “Frustration”

  1. Great post! Try the Brasswind and Woodwind catalogue store, South Bend, IN, for prices.

  2. Hey, I totally dig you post – its been really rough with strings’ prices and all the rest of music equipment prices as well. However, I would suggest you taking a look at Gollihur Bass site at: http://www.gollihurmusic.com/index.cfm They have some of the lowest prices, compared to most online outlets – and, they’re specializing in basses only, or mostly. I, personally, use Pirastro Evah Pirazzi, a new string launched roughly a year ago and so far, I’m in heaven – I play both Jazz and Classical professionally and can’t tell what a perfect balance they have both Pizz and Bow. Warm tone, powerful projection, an amazing, close to gut string sound, with the regular steel string tension – amazing!!!!! If you want to be in touch, my name is Eddy and my email is edinjazz@gmail.com Have a good one!

  3. If you’re a student and need to play anything above an octave G on the G string Evahs aren’t for you. They’re the finest sounding string on the market but they’re also the heaviest tension string that Pirastro makes. That being said, you can’t solo on them at all, or play comfortably/get a good tone in thumb position. The Evah “weichs” are a much better string in my opinion. They have MORE growl for pizz, they’re easier to play and they have the sound projection but more clarity.

    I’ve experimented with a ton of strings, send me an e-mail and we can chat. Tell me your needs. Also head to the Ken Smith forums and ask Ken himself…He’s used every string available on the market.

    Cheers.

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