Electric Upright Bass



Meanwhile, in the kitchen… brewing a new model

I am (and have been) working on a new model, check the article for more details!

Making a Neck

link to: new-model-sneak-preview
A in this article a ‘making of’ photo reportage of the new bass’ headstock. More info on the new model to follow.

Pickup placement on an Acoustic Upright Bass

Pickup placement on an Acoustic Upright BassesWhat choices have to be made when you want to record an acoustic upright bass, and what exactly makes it so difficult to record an acoustic upright bass?

Chladni Patterns

link to: Chladni patterns
In lutherie, Chladni patterns are used to visualise the -often spectacular- deformations of a resonating plate (the article contains explanatory video).

String Choice

link to: string choice
This article is meant to give you insight in string design, so you have more to go on than to judge the string by the color and lettertype of the package

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String Choice

The endpoints

The endpoints; high and low frequencies

Let’s take a close look at the string ends.

string flexibility

string length compensation
Bass guitar string length compensation (image source)

At the ends of the string, at the nut and the bridge, the stiffness of the string prevents the very end of the string to move freely, it is clamped in. This clamping introduces a momentum on the string, which makes its effective length shorter; the part of the string that can vibrate freely gets shorter as the string gets stiffer.

On electric guitars and basses, this effect is counteracted by string length compensation at the bridge.

Timbre and flexibility

The timbre of the tone is formed by the combination of the fundamental frequency /wavelength, the harmonics and all kinds of other resonances that can be inherited from playing technique or the instrument itself. Point is, short and long wavelengths travel through the string.

The problem with stiff strings is, that the stiffness of the string pulls apart the harmonics. Normally, in an ideal string, the harmonics frequency relate to each other at a ratio of 1:2:3:4:5:6: … The stiffness stretches this ratio, and the effect increases as harmonics get higher. The result makes the sound more that of a gong, a bell. A church bell of instance, often does not have pure overtones of an ideal string. You hear this best when chords are played on a carillion. The harmonics that are sharp do not match the fundamentals of other belltones in the chord.

Why does this happen?
Higher frequencies have shorter wavelengths. As illustrated above, the string’s end acts as a clamp that limits the angle to which the string can deform. Also illustrated earlier, was that superposition simply merges a smaller wave with a bigger wave. This means that with superposition, the angle has to be able to become wider for the small wave to travel untill the endpoint. But the string at the endpoint is actually stiffer because the clamping of the string limits the angle at which the string is able to deform. This increased stiffness also increases the speed of sound making the wave travel faster; it stretches the waveform. Mathematically this gets rather complex because of the matrix of interacting variables, but all in all it means, that for higher harmonics, the effective string length is shorter. And as you know, shortening the string’s length makes the pitch higher (just like with normal playing).

harmonics at string end are impeded by stiffness
Harmonics at the string end are impeded by stiffness

What you want ideally, is an effective string length that is the same for every harmonic of the wave. You want the string to have pure, clear overtones. This is also the reason why gut strings are twisted, by twisting the stiffness is reduced, which makes the sound more pure, more ‘perfect’ in terms over harmonics (like in ‘perfect fifth’).
Next to reasons mentioned earlier, this is another reason why simply scaling up a solid cylinder will not work for bass strings.

Bridge more hinging
Bridge acting as hinge (exaggerated)

At the bridge

Acoustic basses usually do not have string length compensation. But there’s a solution that reduces the effect a little; the clamping effect can be reduced by not clamping the string at the bridge -as with the integrated bridge and tailpiece of bass guitars, but to make it more of a hinge by letting the string go on behind the bridge towards the tailpiece. The effect in the picture is exaggerated (a lot), but the effect is there.

This construction also makes it easier for vibrations to ‘bleed’ into other strings, creating a ‘sympathetic string’ effect, like on the viola d’amore (see also resonator block).


I hope that the information in this article gives you an insight into strings so you can ‘read’ the general tone of a string. Like so for example: a string with a synthetic core and a silver winding…: the synthetic core will be relatively flexible and have higher damping of brilliance compared to a steel core. The silver winding; silver is heavy, but it is also not a very stiff metal; the speed of sound of silver is comparable to that of wood. So the sound of the string will probably be quite warm, but because of the high density of silver, the string will be thin and keep its tone relatively long.

Thomastik Spirocore
Thomastik Spirocore

Why I chose the Thomastik Spirocore strings

These strings have, as the name says, a core that is flexible; it is a helical core with helical winding. This makes the string flexible and compact. Next to the core being helical, there are different layers of materials (mostly metals), each layer ‘tuning’ the timbre of the tone. Maybe I’m also just a sucker for high end engineering, because this is not just a simple core string with a wiring and some polishing, this is something else, a higher level of engineering that I appreciate. And it seems I’not the only one, the Thomastik Spirocore strings are among the most populair strings for players who combine pizzicato and arco, and that makes it also an ideal choice as a ‘standard’ string on a new bass.

So that’s why.