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Gollihur Music
August 2014 Bass Notes


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Trees Vs. Forests
So, I just got back from a retailers' roundtable event with a diverse group of retail business-people. In talking to them, one thing really stuck out for me: the stuff we (meaning Gollihur Music) sell can be complicated. I mean, you've got a rather large number of pickups to choose from, right? And then you've got tons of options for preamps, amps... heck, we even briefly talked about the complexity of choosing strings in our newsletter back in February.

A few times I looked across the table at someone selling (for instance) laser printer toner, and how easy it might be -- with such a black and white (no pun intended) item -- to direct customers to exactly what they need; "You have a Laserjet 5? HERE'S your toner!" But, with a deeper look, I'd probably find that have their own crosses to bear. And given my choice to spend the day talking about bass - over pretty much everything else the other folks deal with - I think you know which side of the fence I'm coming down on.

In any case, a recent posting on an online message board got me thinking about how complex choosing strings can be; and how it's easy (and deceptive) to hone in on just one piece of the puzzle - in this case, string gauge. So I wrote a new FAQ (reprinted below) to cover the subject of gauge. And I made a mental note to continue to try to focus on building the sort of resource-heavy website that is (hopefully) providing answers to your questions... even some of the ones you didn't even know you had!
-- Mark

Special Deal!
NS Design CR-4 Basses are $500 OFF with FREE ConUS SHIPPING!

These basses almost never go on sale; NS Design is a well-known company with highly-regarded products. To be frank, they don't HAVE to slash their prices, as most players know that their instruments are worth the money.

But check this out: NS Design gave me a great deal on a small quantity of their CR-4 basses - all first quality, A-stock, brand new basses under full warranty - and has given me their blessing to sell them at a big discount. I'm not talking about a piddly $50 off... that's child's play. I'm telling you that the discount is 10 TIMES that amount. Yeah, that's right - $500 OFF. With free shipping to the lower 48 States.

I've only got a handful of them to sell at this special price, and that's it. Once they're gone, they're gone. But if they are still showing on our website, at least one is still available.

So if you've been thinking about getting an NXT or CR model bass, this deal is worth your serious consideration. (See the sidebar on the product page for why you would want to spend a little extra money to get this bass over the NXT.)

Visit our NS DESIGN 4 String CR4 page to get this bass, quick, before it's gone.

From the FAQ File
Don't Focus TOO Much on the Gauge of Your Strings

I often get calls from customers who are all caught up in knowing the relative gauges of the strings they are considering. But most of the time, gauge ain't nothin' but a number.

This focus on gauge may be because some of my customers come from an electric bass/guitar background, where gauge is the most common determinant of how "hard" or "easy" a string is to play. Unusual materials, radically different windings, etc - that sort of thing is less prevalent in the "slab bass" world.

But for Double Bass strings, however, there are many characteristics that affect playability. In fact, the gauge (diameter) of a string might actually the least important factor, IMHO. Here are a few things that are more important, not necessarily in descending order:
  1. Core Materials (macro) - the core of the string may be solid steel (for example, SuperSensitive Red Label), stranded steel (Corelli 370), synthetic (Evah Pirazzi), real gut (Oliv) or even some combination or other material. As you can imagine, this has a big effect on the tone, feel, playability, and tension of the string. A gut string sounds very different than a solid-core string, and it plays differently too - gut is more flexible and soft, while the solid core would feel more taut and stiff. So even at the same tension weight measurements, strings with different cores could feel "harder" or "softer" to play in direct comparison. And you can bet that they will have a big difference in gauge. But the gauge doesn't tell us much; in the case of a gut E versus a Spirocore E, for instance, the gut string would have a much larger gauge, but probably have a lighter tension and softer, more flexible feel.
  2. Core Materials (micro) - even within similar construction, there can be differences; for instance, if you compare Thomastik Superflexible strings to Corelli 370's, you'll find that they have very similar construction (flatwound, rope-core) - however, the Corellis have a considerably thinner gauge measurement. This is because Corelli strings use a special blend of steel that has more mass than the more "conventional" steel used by Thomastik; this allows a string that responds like a "heavier" string because it has equal mass (more or less) despite its smaller diameter.
  3. Additional layers - some strings add layers of silk, thread, or other materials as an intermediate winding - this may be to "dampen" the response, shorten the sustain, darken the tone, etc. This adds "bulk" without necessarily adding tension.
  4. Outer winding - Windings can vary in material (silver, nickel, alloy, steel, nylon, perlon, etc.) and profile (wire, tapewound, flatwound, etc.) The varying materials, their thickness, as well as their winding design, can affect the playability/stiffness. For instance, a nylon tapewound string is not as "flexible" (imagine bending it like Superman bends a steel rod) as a wire-wound string. This, again, means that a string with nylon tape winding could be more "difficult" (stiff) to play than a wire wound string, even at the same tension (and gauge!)
All of that said... gauge can still be a factor in playability; the size of the string under the fingers can certainly affect how you approach playing the string. Some people prefer a big, beefy string that they can grab with their meathook fingers, others prefer a smaller gauged string and play with a more delicate, deft touch.

And certainly, tension is a very useful statistic to know - all else equal, a higher-tension string will be more physical to play than a lower tension string.

But as it pertains to the "feel" of a string, I just gently caution anyone against getting too focused on any one factor; as someone who pretty much talks about strings, all day, every day - I can tell you that it's a complex combination of factors that make the string "perfect" for a certain player (and hey, we didn't even get into timbre/tonal preferences here - that's the subject of a whole other conversation).

Some new items in our stable of bass products...

D'Orazio Psychobilly Spyrachrome Upright Bass Strings - Some Rockabilly players like the more metallic "click" that a metal-based string provides; the nylon and other synthetics just don't provide the satisfying level of percussive goodness for their aggressive playing style. D'Orazio - a string maker from Italy with centuries (no lie!) of string-making under its belt - brings you a chrome-steel flat wound string that is specifically engineered for rockabilly and other slap styles. And they work with a magnetic pickup, too!

D'Orazio Rockabilly Ropecore Chrome-Steel Upright Bass Strings - Not quite as light as the Psychobilly strings (above) these new strings are flexible and "soft" enough for long sets of high-energy slap, but with high magnetic response for use with magnetic pickups like the Krivo or Schaller. Their metal core also provides a longevity of tone and durability that you might not get with synthetic strings. Great for bluegrass, or other styles where you might use slap as an "ornament" rather than the center of your style.

Gollihur Music Kit Beanie Hat (aka Skullcap) - We just brought back a new version of our popular Baseball Cap ("BASSball?") - but thought that some of our customers might like something a little more "rock and roll." So now we have this great new knit cap; the logo is embroidered with pale gray thread (so it's not as obnoxiously "bright" as a white logo would have been) and people are loving it so far! Affordable fun with FREE US Shipping!

GHS Precision Flatwound String Set for NS Design OMNI Bass - It always bummed me out that there is only one factory-provided string option for the NS Design Omni Bass; if you don't like those strings, what do you get? I mean, the bass should be compatible with most long-scale electric bass guitar strings, but there are HUNDREDS of options, and who wants to go through all of them? I liked the sound of these GHS strings, though. As it turns out, the sound isn't that far off the stock, pizz-wize - but they actually bow a lot better (in my experience) and they're cheaper, too!

New Bargains All the Time! - Everyone loves a deal, and we're always adding new stuff to our "Bob's Bargain Basement" Clearance Section. One-offs, discontinued items, open box items, demo products, and more - recent additions include blowout Acoustic Image amps, a Kala SUB Solid-Body Bass Guitar, discounted H-Clamp Mic Holders, and AMT Wireless setup for their awesome mics, and more... All items are subject to prior sale, so act quickly!

Christopher's Corner
The Most Important Piece of Gear

In today's world of mass-produced musical instruments, it is quite easy to get caught up in the concept of the latest greatest fad; whether it be a new string set, pickup or preamplifier, or even something as simple as rosin. Certainly the entire signal chain contributes to the final product, but what will always remain most important is the first link in that chain: You.

The inimitable Rufus Reid once played my bass and it was a humbling experience. Back then, my only bass was a pretty terrible German Plywood from the 80s. The string height alone would have made most people cry, and quite frankly it sounded terrible. After I stumbled through my etude at a master class, Rufus played a few notes on my bass. Wouldn't you know it? That bass actually didn't sound half bad! In fact, it sounded like... Rufus.

I had spent countless hours agonizing over strings, pickups, and all that jazz, and soon realized that it was all for nothing. Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, Milt Hinton... these guys, and many others, came up in a time before all these fancy amps, pickups and other toys were available. This necessitated technique that would be able to drive an 8 piece horn section acoustically. So they used what they had, and they made it happen.

We get a lot of questions about pickups and preamps. Sometimes people ask "what is the best pickup for jazz?" (or bluegrass, or... etc.) Or, "what pickup will make me sound like (insert name of bass hero here)?" My first question is always, "How do you feel about the acoustic sound of your bass?" This is the most important question. Because if you don't dig the sound coming out of your bass, you need to address the issue at the source: with you, and your technique. All of that fancy, expensive gear is only going to reproduce what you put in to it. So, take a step back and head to the woodshed. It's a hard truth, but you might like what you hear.

-- Christopher

In Other News...
We're Always Looking for Additions to our FREE Teacher and Luthier Directories

You may or may not know that we offer a FREE directory of upright bass teachers, sorted by state/country. If you teach upright bass (legitimately, of course), and are looking for new students, please email us and provide us with the information you'd like posted. Instructions for your free, no-strings-attached submission are on the top of the Teachers' Page.)

So is our long-running Luthier's Directory; we have, for many years, hosted a list of stringed-instrument repairpersons who specialize on the double bass. Is your listing (or that of your favorite luthier) there? Is it up-to-date? We would love to send some work your way... and, as always, it's FREE!

Reading to the End Can Be Rewarding
20% OFF Standard Czech-Ease Basses!


It's a moving sale at David Gage String Instrument Company, and their popular David Gage Czech-Ease "Standard" Basses are 20% Off for a special moving sale! Prices start under $2800 for this amazing instrument!

The Czech-EaseTM is a real upright bass with an downsized body. What you get is a bass that is easier to travel with than a traditionally-sized URB, but without losing the true sound and feel - and without a huge tradeoff in volume. The bass is currently a touring bass of choice for lots of top players, including Dave Holland, Esperanza Spalding, and Chris Wood.

It has a short body, but maintains a "standard" string length (41.25"). Fully set up with a custom-made David Gage adjustable bridge, which will work with any acoustic bass pick-up, so that you don't have to relearn how to set up your amp to get "your sound." (But it does come with the David Gage Realist Pickup installed!) And you don't have to settle for a small selection of proprietary strings, either; since the setup is practically identical to a standard bass, you can also use your favorite strings! Any type of string one might use on an upright (of common ¾ size proportion) is suitable for the Czech-Ease, from gut and orchestral strings to the brightest pizzicato strings.

The Czech-Ease bass was designed to differ as little as possible from the standard upright which players spend years learning to play. Wherever you contact the instrument - the upper bout against your body, the feel of the neck, the plucking and bowing areas of the strings, the arch of the fingerboard - nothing is compromised. To reduce the size of the bass, the bottom bout is made smaller, the endpin is longer, and the saddle is raised to allow for the appropriate "break angle" of the strings over the bridge.

Now get 20% Off the Standard CE model, which features quality laminated spruce and maple construction. For a LIMITED TIME ONLY!

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