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MMD > Archives > January 2000 > 2000.01.12 > 13Prev  Next

Defective Wound Bass Strings
By Craig Brougher

I have been noticing that there are several different comments running
concurrently in regard to bass strings, and that some things I've read
might be a little misleading to some who want to understand the differ-
ences.  I realize that everybody has their own favorite company to buy
their strings from, but it really isn't fair to say that Mapes makes
strings with wild partials because of an inherent design flaw.   Sorry,
but that isn't true.

Mapes is the official US manufacturer of Boesendorfer bass strings and
other major piano manufacturers, the world over.  They wouldn't have
that endorsement if they didn't know what they were doing (not that
other string companies know less, either).

The wild partials referred to actually cannot be caused by the length
of winding or proximity of the copper windings to either the agraffes
or the bridge pins.  Wild partials could conceivably be caused by
differences in the tension of the windings along their length, which
would not be remedied by twisting.  Also, if the string mass isn't
centered closely enough, it could possibly create false beats.

It's not unusual to find a bad bass string in a set, by the way.  That
goes with any string manufacturer that I am familiar with.  I have
replaced bass strings of several companies, including "pre-twisted"
strings, and I have to say that they have all been good strings, by
and large.  I have never had a single complaint from anybody, nor have
I complained in general about anyone's string design.  I have had
complaints about defective strings, but that happens with all companies
from time to time.

Regarding the knotting of bass strings, I admit I'm a little curious.
Knotting bass strings (which usually start at about 18-1/2 gauge, or
.042") is super tough, and definitely creates false beats.  If you can
tell the difference between brand new custom bass strings, then you
certainly can tell the difference between knotted ones!

(To imagine how difficult it is to bend medium-heavy core wire, take an
old bass string, about half-way down the scale, and just try to squeeze
the snipped end of the hitch winding that stands out, down against the
wire core, with a pair of heavy vise-grip pliers without distorting and
loosening it, instead.  Now imagine what it would take to tie knots in
it and draw it up tight enough to tune.)

I am amazed at anybody who can knot bass core wire!  I do not say it
cannot be done, at all.  That isn't the point.  But when they can do so
along the speaking length, in the 1" or less between the copper and the
agraffe, then my hat's off to that kind of ability, not to mention
"stability" by pulling a knot down tight enough in 19-24 gauge wire
within an inch or less space, and from that point on, hold a stable
tune without false beats.  Cool!

In all the instruments I've worked on personally, I haven't come across
one yet with a knotted bass string that I can recall.  Now, I'm not
saying they aren't out there, but If I ever find one of 19 or higher
gauge in the speaking portion, I'll remove it intact and keep it as a
souvenir.  I wouldn't even attempt that.  But if I ever did, and it
worked, then I wouldn't remove that string either.  I would deny ever
hearing a wild partial on it, and I would also rig up a little card-
board arrow to point to it, with my name and a happy face!

Craig Brougher

(Message sent Wed 12 Jan 2000, 17:43:40 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Bass, Defective, Strings, Wound

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