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Rotosound Strings

Article from Sound International, May 1978



James How has been making strings for a great many years, first experimenting with a set for the zither, and now producing a large variety of bass and guitar strings of which the 'Swingbass' roundwound sets are probably the most popular and largest selling strings of their kind in the world. Their popularity lies in the fact that they are of a high standard and relatively inexpensive (rrp £6.28/$12.08). They were also the first roundwound string to be made widely available, as every bass string prior to them had been either flatwound or of the black nylon type which didn't give the sustain or treble response that a lot of bass players wanted. I had a set of Fender round-wound on my bass around that time (1968) but they were very heavy and very expensive (about £11.00 a set in Britain which was a fortune!) so I tried a set of Swingbass and liked them so much that I didn't use anything else until 1974 when James How introduced the Gauge Selection strings.

To a lot of bass players this was great news; it at last gave them the same choice of string widths that guitarists had enjoyed for some time. To give you an example; the string sizes of the Swingbass set until that time had been G: 1.14mm. D: 1.65mm. A: 2.03mm. and E: 2.54mm. Gauge Selection extended this from an incredibly light 0.64mm. right down to a massive 3.04mm. (which could double nicely as a clothes line!). For myself, it meant that I could have what I'd always needed personally: heavy E and A strings and a light D and G. I was playing a lot of chords and lead lines at the time with Backdoor and it gave my sound so much more flexibility; I could bend notes and achieve the same sustain as a guitarist could. I was also using a fretless bass, and because one can achieve the same effect as bending a note by sliding it on this instrument, I used a set of really heavy strings which sounded superb.

Generally speaking, bass players, unlike guitarists, tend not to think in terms of gauges, so to help all of you who are confused, Rotosound do have a recommended list of string lengths and gauges for your particular needs (see Table).

Rotosound also make the Jazz Bass range of strings in custom gauges for those of you who prefer a flatwound string. Prices for all the Gauge Selection strings vary from £6.38/$12.25 to £6.81/$13.07. Other strings available include the Trubass range, the original black nylon on magnetic wire developed by James How in 1963; the Multicore, which has a seven strand core and special electro-magnetic wire (these are used and recommended by Stanley Clarke); and finally a totally new concept in bass strings, the Superbass, which is like the string on a piano, where only the actual centre strand of the string (round which the winding is spun) passes over the bridge piece. This gives a great deal more sustain than a normal string and sets of Superbass come complete with instructions on how to set them up properly, two Allen keys and a set of ball-ends.

Finally a quick tip of my own. When your bass strings start to sound dead and need changing, take them off the instrument and coil them up (the way they arrived when new). Next, drop them into a saucepan of boiling water for about ten minutes (enough water to cover the strings). To all of you who are probably beginning to question my sanity, let me just say that the main reason a string goes dead apart from normal wear and the fact that it is under tension, is that sweat and dirt and all sorts of little nasties collect in the winding of the string. By boiling them you get rid of all the aforementioned muck, and for two or three gigs the strings will sound like new. This is especially useful to the hard-up musician who can't afford a new set or to the busy player who hasn't always got the time to blow a new set in. Don't do this more than a couple of times. After this, the string binding which passes around the machine head will become frayed and useless; also, harmonically the string will probably become inaccurate. Do use an old saucepan for this, not your Mother's latest gold-plated Teflon-coated showpiece; the adventurous among you can add a couple of bay leaves and a pinch of black pepper for improved flavour!! Always wipe underneath the strings after playing with a lint-free cloth, and change your strings regularly but not on the day of a gig if you can help it, unless you have plenty of time to play them in.

MEDIUM LENGTH 30"-32" (760-810mm)
1st G 2nd D 3rd A 4th E
EXTRA LIGHT 0.64mm 0.89mm 1.52mm 1.90mm
LIGHT 0.76mm 1.01mm 1.65mm 2.03mm
MEDIUM 0.89mm 1.14mm 1.77mm 2.16mm
MEDIUM/HEAVY 1.01mm 1.27mm 1.90mm 2.28mm
HEAVY 1.14mm 1.40mm 2.03mm 2.41mm

LONG SCALE LENGTH 32"-34" (810-860mm)
1st G 2nd D 3rd A 4th E
EXTRA LIGHT 0.76mm 1.27mm 1.65mm 2.16mm
LIGHT 0.89mm 1.40mm 1.77mm 2.28mm
MEDIUM 1.01mm 1.52mm 1.90mm 2.41mm
MEDIUM/HEAVY 1.14mm 1.65mm 2.03mm 2.54mm
HEAVY 1.27mm 1.77mm 2.16mm 2.67mm



Previous Article in this issue

Music Man Stingray 1

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Sonor - Phonic Sound Machine XK9409


Publisher: Sound International - Link House Publications

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Sound International - May 1978

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Previous article in this issue:

> Music Man Stingray 1

Next article in this issue:

> Sonor - Phonic Sound Machine...


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