Double Bass String Guide Part 1

There are countless options of double bass strings available and navigating these choices can be a taunting task for even professional bassists.  In this post we will look at the basic category's of strings available as well as the DOUBLE BASS strings I have had experience with.  The one thing to always remember is my bass, hands and ears are different than yours or anyone else's so results may vary.

Synthetic vs Metal vs Gut Core

The main difference between various types of upright bass strings are the core material of the string.  The core is the strand of the string that everything else is wrapped around.  

The most common is the Metal Rope Core string.  The various metals and winding patterns  give each string its unique character. Some are geared towards bowing while others geared towards pizzicato . For the outer layer of the string Stainless steel is considered to be brighter sounding then Nickel.  Nickel also oxidize with age and "warms up" and is considered to be gentler on the hands.  You find bassists of every genre playing these types of double bass  strings and is what is currently on my 5 string double bass.

Synthetic Core strings are becoming increasingly popular.  They offer a more "gut" like experience for the performer ie. a more pliable string under the finger tips.   Typically they still have an outer wrap of various metal alloy I use this type of string on Azola Electric Upright Bass(EUB) as well as my Kay.  

Gut Core strings have a sweet, punchy sound and an irresistible feel for pizz however they are pricey, short lived, extremely temperamental and go wildly out of tune, especially in hot, humid weather. Yet some people love them.  The G&D string are typically plain gut and the E&A string are wrapped in metal to provide extra mass to the strings.  You will also often find bass players using Gut Core G&D strings paired with Metal Core E&A strings.

Tensions or Gauge

Strings come in a “light”, “medium” and “heavy” tensions or gauge.  These  gauges have a direct effect on the tone: A light, thin string vibrates more strongly and longer because of its low mass but transmits less energy to the instrument.  Thicker strings with a higher tension often produce a louder sound. It is critical to find  the right tension for your double bass.  A string with too much tension can choke your basses sound . You can find out how the gauge of a string alters the tone by tuning your current strings up or down. If your double bass sounds better after having lowered the pitch, you should try lighter gauged strings and if it sounds better after having raised the pitch, try higher tension ones. 

Keep in mind as well that sometimes the lighter gauge strings are not necessarily easier on the hands to play it really all depends on the instrument and the user.


Pirastro Obligatos 

People either love or hate these strings.  They are a synthetic core string with a very thing metal wrapping. They do a heck of a job as an alternative to gut strings.  The have very warm sound and are fantastic to bow, as well as being easy on the hands.  Their only draw backs are that some people feel they have a "roll" to them when plucked I personally do not have that experience with them. They also seem to only have life span of about a year.  I have been using these strings on my EUB for years and they work great for playing bass in my Americana band The Spikedrivers.  Where we play blues, bluegrass, country, swing and Rock and Roll.  They were also on my 7/8 Double Bass as well and I enjoy them on that as well but found that when it came to play pieces from the solo repertoire they did not speak as easily in the upper register.

That is all I have time for now look for more info in Part 2 of this series.


1373 Grandview Ave Suite 213 Columbus, OH 43212 (614)262-9586

Leave a comment