Really? Another String Post?

Ok, Ok, I have a string problem. As I have posted many times. I am never satisfied. And new strings can be such a radical change… it’s on par with a guitarist buying a new guitar…. and they can be about the same price as a guitar.

For the last year, I have been playing mainly Velvet Garbo. I love the Velvets, but I have have had issues with the E and A strings unwinding. {A} strings at the bridge and {E} strings around the G, it’s just kinda random. Additionally, as seen from my post about 2 years ago, I switched the D and G to a couple of old, plain gut strings that I had in my “big box of old strings”. It was great for a little over a year. But when my Velvets {E} and {A} started unraveling strings, I decided to try Blast Cult Lowlifes. Lowlifes are steel strings with SUPER-LOW tension and very light and easy to slap (I don’t slap that much these days, but when I need to, I want my bass to be ready.) I fell in love with these strings (the way I admittedly fall in love with every new string I get) but when I started recording with them, the {D} and {G} sounded weak and “tinny” to me. Plus, they buzzed on every imperfection of my fingerboard. So, I put the old gut {D} and {G} back on with the Lowlife {E} and {A}. Wow! it felt and sounded pretty great.

But this is 2020, the time of pandemic and almost no gigs and rehearsals. I had only been playing them at low volume, at home, without a drummer. When I finally got a socially distanced gig. UGH, the Lowlifes’ E did not have much attack and the guts where uneven and starting to unravel in parts (a big bump on the D string and sanding/oiling didn’t seem to help.)

Enter EVAH!

I’ve been a big fan of Geoff Chalmers (Discover Double Bass) and his tone is great, he’s always praising the Evah’s, but I just didn’t want to go back to a steel string as I’ve had such bad luck with them over the years… yes, they are synthetic core, chrome wrapped… but to me, that’s a steel string. If my fingers are touching steel, I think of it as a steel string. I started reading the reviews and talking with other bass players about the new Evah Slap strings. They are lower tension , polished chrome over synthetic {E } and {A} and a pure gut {D} and {G}. But you know… expensive. Well, I was recording at home and my {E} was weak, my {A} was metallic, my {D} was bumpy and hard to hold the intonation, (hitting an open {D} with a tuner I watched it fluctuate over 1 semitone as it decayed. Out of frustration, I went to Gollihur Music and order a set of Evah Pirazzi Slap… not realizing that I purchased the all synthetic set!!! When they showed up at the door around 8:00pm, I opened the {G} to see a thick aluminum string?!?! What!? I realized that I had order the wrong set. I immediately sent an email to Mark at Gollihur and explained my mistake. They are great about returns and exchanges so I knew it would not be an issue.

But then my impulse control took over…. I had to put these on my bass! I figured I’d just do the {E} and {A} and exchange the {D} and {G} later.

The re-stringing

I first took off my old {E} string and cleaned the fingerboard. Got my sanding block and addressed that one high spot, then did a quick pass with steel wool and lemon oil. Then the fun part. I took the Evah {E} string out of the package. It was a bit floppy for a metal wrapped string, that’s a good sign in my book. It held tune quickly and sounded; dark, round, loud and a little aggressive for a string that has zero growl (I’m sure if I drop my action I could get some growl).

Excited, I had to add the {A} string… same process of cleaning, sanding and oiling. The {A} was amazing too. The strings had a bit more tension than the LowLifes that I had just removed and they were much thicker! Thicker is good for me. I love a big string under the hand. Tone wise, they were a good match for the two remaining gut strings. They seemed to almost sound more “Gut-like” than the actual gut strings still on the bass. After a few min of playing, I couldn’t resist… Off with the gut D.

Again, cleaning, sanding, and oiling… and on with this home chrome, polished {D} string. DAMN! the Evah {D} was so unexpected. All of the qualities that I look for in a gut string…dark, soft tones… a “thwuump” attack from the right hand as I play. Now the test, time to slap…. OMG!!! No metallic clack, no harsh click. It soft and woody, but It has an actual tone! The pizz attack is clean and strong… Absolutely no growl ( I was hoping for a little, it can sing a bit with your vibrato which my gut did not do). Playing in thumb position, there was actual notes, not just thumps. WOW…I ‘ve gotta try the {G} string!

Before putting on the {G}. I played quite a bit to really get the tone of what I love about gut strings burned into my ears. My {G} gut string is in pretty fair shape, so if I hate the Evah, I could get buy with the old gut for a while… I played without an amp, then with an amp to see how my rig actually reacted… Then, cleaned, sanded and oiled (the {G} string side of my fingerboard is in really bad shape, I have planed and sanded and still feel ripples and divots and have learned to kinda play around the bad spots). Moment of truth, I stated tuning up the {G} string…

The {G} is aluminum wrapped and as such, there was a lot of what felt like dirt on it. I slide my fingers up and down the string, then I use a paper towel, there was a lot of metallic silver “goo” that came off of this string. It felt like sticky dirt, like after a long outdoor gig, but it was silver? I’m used to new string leaving a little residue but this was a lot. But the paper towel polished the string to look just like the other chrome coated strings. OK, tune it up…SHOCKED!!!! SHOCKED!!!! SHOCKED!!!! It sounded like a slightly better sounding gut string! No lie! within 10 min of playing it was holding tune very well. I still had my action pretty high for my guts, but playing was easy and fast as you would expect from a metal wrapped string. The tone was super even from string to string as was the tension (I’m very sensitive to the even tension string after playing Velvets for so long).

Summary:
These days, as a bassist, I play more styles and cover more ground than I did in my younger days. I’m no longer a rock-a-billy player trying to slap every note into submission. Sure, I still do some of that, and some traditional country and bluegrass. But I now play more straight up rock and jazz. I do singer-songwriter stuff that just needs some bottom. Surf, bossanova, New Orleans jazz and cajon… I need to be able to cover it all. And that’s part of why I am always on a string quest. As of right now, I feel the Evah Pirazzi Slap/Goldens are the freaking holy grail! As a slap player, I have never been happy with a steel core or a steel wrap… As a jazz player, I have never been happy with the poor articulation and intonation of pure gut strings. As a rock player I like the sustain of a steel string, but I want the fuller attack of a gut string. I think the Evah’s are all of that. Playing in thumb position I feel like I’m playing a Spiro with less tension. Slapping, I hear NO DIFFERENCE between an unwrapped gut and the aluminum wrapped synthetic string… in fact, better.

P.S. why this post?
I have done a crap-job of keeping up this website and trying to create a blog of my life as a bassist. But everyone I know is SICK TO DEATH of hearing me talk about strings. So, I thought I’d ramble here for a while.