Bass Strings

As a teacher, I often get asked by students about what strings they should use. Of course, this is a very personal issue, and the pursuit of the “perfect string” can become a huge distraction. Also, it can be very frustrating if the strings you are using aren’t within acceptable parameters (either too bright or too dark or too stiff or too floppy, etc etc….. ) Nowadays there are many options available for double bassists, and numerous articles are available online where a student can easily get distracted for hours. I am not going to join in to the endless discussion here, but will instead simply state my personal preference and why.

I have recently recovered from about 18 months of string angst and restlessness, partly due to some hand issues I was having, and partly due to a fascination with the sound of gut, which I had to get off my chest….I tried many different types of strings from several different manufacturers, and have now come back to the same basic setup I eventually always come back to.

I am currently playing all Pirastro strings:

  • Olive G – because I love the way it sounds and feels. It is a chrome-wrapped gut string that sings and sizzles and sustains, much like a steel string, all the way up the fingerboard, but has a warmth and “bump” that only gut can provide, it seems. It also stays pretty well in tune nearly all of the time!
  • Evah Pirazzi D – because I like how it blends so well with the Olive G above and the Obligatos below. I also like the Olive D, but I have found the Evah Pirazzi D string blends perfectly with the Olive, while providing even more sustain and stability. (actually, the whole set of Evah Pirazzi strings are great. I prefer the “weich” option).
  • Obligato E & A – because they are fairly bright steel strings, with a synthetic core which gives them some of the bounce of gut. They growl nicely down low, and speak quite clearly up into thumb position, which allows me to play across the fingerboard the way I like to. The Obligatos also make a good jazz string as a complete set.

All of those strings work well together and feel natural and balanced from string to string, partly because they all come from the same manufacturer. They sound great for jazz, and are a dream to bow as well.

Incidentally, for anyone who is dreaming of that old school sound like Paul Chambers and co., I would highly recommend Pirastro Pizzicato strings. They are a really great string! I tried the nylon wrapped D & G and I loved them. If you want the closest thing to the strings many players were using in the 1950s, this is it!

By kenlister

I have been a professional Jazz bassist for 30+ years. I also teach music