A Thomastik Spirocore Story

Seems that there are a lot of newbies that know to ask for Spirocores, but don’t know why. I still love Spirocores, even though I’ve moved away from them in recent year.

I’ve been a long time Thomastik Spirocore user when it came to strings for most jazz work. These  are considered THE STANDARD, for jazz players, and have been for decades. A vast number of jazz bassists as well as known names such as Ray Brown, Dave Holland, and Christian McBride use Spirocores. If you are a jazz bassist, at some point you’d have used Spirocores. They are bright, loud and have a ringing that people associate with a bass sound in jazz. There are many reasons to love them. They aren’t expensive, they sound good on almost any bass, they don’t get washed out by other instruments in ensembles, they are durable; among other reasons. You’ll hear complaints about the G string being to twangy, the set being too high in tension, or some other complaints; remember it’s not a perfect string but it’s a highly regarded and respected string.

We at Thomastik have created a revolutionary orchestral jazz bass string.

Spirocores were not designed with the intent of making the best Jazz string; their intention was to create a better orchestral string. Some bassist would say that it was fate or divine intervention that Thomastik-Infeld created an orchestral string that worked so well for Jazz; a string that jazz bassists still highly regard and love to this day. It is not as if Thomastik surveyed jazz bassists and set out to design a string based on that criteria, the truth was that Thomastik created a new line of strings which Jazz bassists ended up liking and gravitated towards because it had characteristics that worked great for jazz.

How I Ended Up Wanting Spirocores

As most young bassists, I started out with a pretty lousy plywood bass for several years before college. What strings the bass came with were the ones that you played. You were lucky to have matching strings, and even luckier if yours had Spirocores, but you were clueless that it was a Spirocore since the local music store was clueless in identifying bass strings. Actually it was a curse because you’d spend years hoping to find that great sounding string via happenstance that you didn’t know was a Spirocore. Gut strings?… No one ever brought them up. If you were savvy enough to ask for a gut string, you’d either get a response that no one uses gut anymore and/or find out that gut strings cost more than what your bass was worth. Gut was the boogieman, we’ve heard about it, but never seen it and we were to forget that we heard about it. So we spent years getting very familiar with steel strings.

When you broke a string and had the money to replace that one string (what kid had the money to get a whole set?), you went and asked for a bass string. They’d point at the various packages on the wall, until you clarified that you need a double bass string. At that point they’d dig in their drawer and try to find are replacement for the string that you broke. After displacing dozens of violin strings, voila! “oh oops, this is an A you need a D”… voila! they get you your shiny new string. You might get whatever brand they happen to have in that drawer. It might be a Spirocore by chance, but it usually was some cheap string such as Super Sensitive or the like. Most of the time you’d end up with some other orchestral string until …. one day you were handed the string that looked like the one that you remembered sounding so good with the words “Spirocore …Thomastik-Infeld”

Parting Ways in College

Things between me and the Spirocores were good until college and the bass curriculum required technically difficult orchestral pieces in addition to jazz.  At this point, I started learning about the existence of other brands and types of strings, ones that bowed a lot easier. I bounced back and forth between the Flexocores which were great in orchestral and the Helicore Hybrids: the-worst-of -both-worlds orchestra and jazz string, but they worked for both.  After college I couldn’t get a hold of a second bass fast enough so that I could have a dedicated jazz upright bass with Spirocores.

Other companies have tried to create strings that “improve” on what people like about the Spirocores, but most players seem to inevitably return to the Spirocores. I’ve moved away from steel core strings, so they no longer are on my basses, but I still recommend them to beginners who want to play mostly pizz because you can’t go wrong with them. Competitors of Thomastik have tried to improve on the Spirocore with their own steel core “jazz string” and have failed to upstage them, because it’s hard to beat the tried and true set of Spirocores.


Dave Holland – Album $1 This Week

Dave Holland has just released his redesigned website. They are offering a live CD titled “Archive Series Volume 1” this week for the price of $1 as an MP3  download or $3 as a “HiDef” (lossless) download.

This Album contains about an hour of material with four tunes, which means some incredible solos.  This album contains:

  1. Looking Up
  2. Easy Did It
  3. Secret Garden
  4. Claressence

I highly recommend going with the $3 download which is larger in filesize, but also superior in quality. The Mp3 comes with the HiDef download and has a high bitrate for decent sound, but if you are appreciate subtle nuances in music, you will notice the benefits of lossless audio.

Acoustic Image Ten2 Ex

Remember back when I said that the Acoustic Image Coda+ was a godsend and that I have all that I needed in amplification? Remember how I said that it was everything that an upright bass amplifier should be and that there was no need to do anything else.

I was wrong.

This past weekend, I was running the Czech-Ease bass and ran into a problem at a large venue. I had the BassBalsereit pickup plugged into the Acoustic Image Coda+ and the DI to the PA board. During my own sound check, everything was good. As usual, the amp was so transparent that the only way I knew that it was doing its job was the fact that I knew the bass couldn’t get that loud on its own. All seemed well until the ensemble was just really loud. I could barely hear myself so I started turning up the master volume knob. Cranked up really high, I could finally hear myself, but at the cost of tone out of the amp. The sound produced was no longer flat and certain bands of frequencies were more pronounced than others. The sound coming out was better than the days of bass guitar amps, Polytones, and GK MB, but it wasn’t what I’ve become spoiled with accustomed to.

Everyone knows that if you want more volume, you need more speakers, not more watts. The 800 watt Coda+ amp is plenty for what I do, but I just wasn’t moving enough air. So here is the solution and latest addition; the Acoustic Image Ten2 EX extension speaker. Pictured is the Acoustic Image Coda stacked on top of the Ten2Ex. I’m confident that this should do the trick.

The theory is normally the Coda is great for most moderate level situations. It doesn’t make itself known since it’s sonically invisible with its flat reproduction and downward facing woofer. The bassy punch (presence) come from the bass itself and the speakers just reinforced the bass. When the set gets LOUD, the forward facing 10″ is needed to reinforce the punch from the bass since the natural punch gets lost in the wash on stage.

For the mere cost of two packs of Velvet Anima Strings, I could buy the Contra Ten2 EX ($629) More on this when I get a chance to put the speaker and combination in real situations.

Black Dahlia – Recording Session Footage

This is what I consider to be one of the GOOD albums in my music collection. We are fortunate that Bob Belden (the composer) had posed footage of the recording session for the first track of the album. Even better, Ira Coleman, the bassist was sitting behind the soloists so we get a good deal of footage of him in the shot.

If you are an aspiring recording musician, take notes. You have to be on your ‘A’ game because you don’t want to be the cause of a second take. Your reading and playing needs to be spot on.

“Technicolor Nightmare” – Christian McBride

Upright Bass Strings

Strings are the biggest factor on how a bass sounds and plays. With a properly set up bass and good set of strings, you’re all set to start your journey on the upright bass.

Strings come in a wide variety of materials and design. These difference greatly affect the overall sound that you will get. For beginners on a starting budget, the choices are more limited, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get good strings at that price levels. It’s always best to start out with a good set of strings and then move from there.


It would take a book to cover the topic of strings, but there are some general knowledge that would be useful for any bassist to know.

Strings are basically comprised of two components, the core and the windings.  Cores and windings vary depending on what the string manufacturer is trying to achieve in sound and feel. The core runs along the inside of the string, while the windings is wound around the outside of the string.

The way the two interact with each other is more than the sum of each part. This an oversimplification of the roles of the core and winding, but here are some generalities just to get your feet wet on how they work. The core has greater effect the flexibility, sustain, and tension of the string while the windings affect the sound (especially how bright or dark it sounds), thickness, and feel of the string. To give you an appreciation of the complexity of creating a string, consider that it generally takes a string company an average of 5-10 years of experimentation to design a string. String makers have said that award winning winemakers have it easy, that’s how painstakingly difficult it is to design a good string.

Cores are the most common differentiators between strings. They can be categorized as steel, gut, or synthetic. Steel cores are usually stranded wire rope, gut are made of animal guts and synthetic is a general category for any core that is non-metallic.

Windings vary a lot. They can be alloys (mixture of different mentals), nickle, silver, copper. chrome, nylon, tungsten, gold, or pretty much anything under the sun.

Thickness and Tension

Some strings only come in one thickness and tension, while others come in light, medium, heavy (Respectively called weich, mittle, stark for German strings). Thickness and tension is usually used synonymously when it comes to string gauge. Between two gauges of the same string: the thicker the string, the higher the tension. There is no immediate correlation between tensions between different brands and types of strings. In other words, a medium gauge Helicore is lighter in tension than a medium Spirocore.

Medium gauge is the most common choice for beginners. Light gauge is also good for those who want strings that are easier to bow and finger. The problem is that it’s a give and take; lighter strings will not sound as full and deep as mediums. They also are quieter than mediums. Sometimes a bass will actually sound more open and respond better with lights than mediums, others might respond better to mediums and heavy strings.

At this point as a beginner, the middle ground medium gauge is ideal. You can adjust from there if you feel the need to try a different gauge in the future. This is the way most bassist experiment with strings anyhow. If they find a string that they like, they’ll usually try other gauges to see how it feels and how their bass responds.

Bass String Suggestion for Beginners

Strings can vary widely in price depending on brand and materials used. Buying $500 gut strings is a waste of money if there’s no specific reason that you need them. More expensive doesn’t equate to better strings in terms of quality, sound or longevity. When you are a beginner, you’re just getting started with intonation, consistency of sound, and form. Since you will be working on the basics; decent, consistent, reliable strings are what’s needed.

There’s plenty of time to try strings. Most bassists constantly try different strings to find that string that they love. Don’t spend too much time, money or brain power obsessing over it at this point, a reliable and easy to play string is what you need to get you started.

For students that want are studying jazz and orchestral. If you have a choice of strings, I recommend that beginners start with D’Addario Helicore Hybrids, which are steel strings. I generally recommend them because they are affordable, good quality and last long, so I consider them the best entry level string by far. They aren’t the best strings in the world, by far, but they are a great strings to start with and a great value. They are easy to bow with (arco) and for pizz. If you’re on this site, you probably aren’t considering playing with a bow, but it’s a facet of bass playing that everyone should consider as not to limit themselves on the instrument. Your bass instructor will likely want you to spend time using the bow to help you work on your intonation and to make sure it’s part of your arsenal. I’ve had many students who wanted to learn pizz only who quickly grow fond of using the bow also.

Sometimes a bass already comes with strings. You’ve probably already spent a good deal of money on buying a bass so at this point; if it can stay in tune, you can start your first year on them. If you’re renting, a store should not object to your request that they put D’Addario Helicore Hybrids because they are very reasonable in price. Many of you have heard of a popular string; the Thomastik Spirocores. I like them a lot, but they are very difficult for beginners to do any bowing on. A beginner will not play or sound any better on Spirocores than Helicore Hybrids, plus Spirocores cost more. If you’re curious about other strings, just wait for now, your money can go towards better things such as lessons, books, and maintenance.

Strings for Magnetic Pickups

Most people use piezo pickups. If you are using Fishmans, Underwoods, The Realist, Balsereit or any other similar pickups, then they are piezo pickups. Any string will work with these pickups. If you are using magnetic pickups such as the String Charger or Biesele, then you can only use steel core strings. Magnetic pickups will not work with gut or synthetic core strings.

Miles Mosley

One of the recent highly talented upright bassists that I’ve stumbled across that’s doing something spectacular and outside cliche arrangements is Miles Mosley. Keep and eye out for him, I believe that his talents and abilities will take him much further in music.

Also take note for those of you putting together promotional videos. It’s clear visually and in audio, with effective camera angles. Well done Miles

Contrast that with a nice arco solo that he does here: