Sunday, August 10, 2008

Back to the beginning...

The more things I try, the more I find the old things were better. Considering strings, it's Rotosound.

Back in the day, I remember the first roundwound strings I used were Rotos. Chris Squire and Stanley Clarke used them, so who was I to argue? Light gauge and stainless steel, they were bright, durable, and the tone lasted a long time. But they were also, at the time, a little pricey.

In the forthcoming years, a lot of developments took place in the string market: fret-friendly nickel wound; sci-fi inspired cryogenically-treated strings (will they still be alive after I die?); pressed; ground; hex-core; round-core; chopped, sliced and diced, whew! The choices have come a long way since nylon tape wound.

I was a pro, was playing a lot, like 6 nights a week, and I like a really bright tone. Even Rotos couldn't stand up to what I needed; the boiling trick didn't work so well on them, because, being steel, they rusted. I went through a lot of different brands, and settled into a departure from the old standby Rotos, Ernie Ball nickel-wound in medium gauge. I used these because they were bright, cheap, and stood up to repeated boilings very well (I boiled them every day).

These days, I've got this new bass, the Yamaha RBX375 (still going strong). It came with GHS nickel strings which sounded very nice, but no man ever left anything successful alone, so I wanted to try some new strings on the RBX. After initially overlooking Rotos (I had forgotten about them, actually), I went to juststrings.com and bought a set of Roto Swing Bass in light gauge (RS 66LC), like I used long ago. In short, they smoke.

I had put a set of Dunlop Light gauge steel roundwounds on the RBX (they were laying around), and they were OK, but when I got on the gig, I had mucho problems with weird overtones and a general lack of articulation. I wrote this off to the room acoustics (I was playing on a concrete floor after all).

I played the same room with the same setup a week later, but this time with Rotos. The bass sounded like a different instrument. Articulate, no boom, controllable overtones, all with the simple change to Rotos. And they feel good, too, just like they always did.

So for the RBX, it'll see Rotosound strings for awhile yet.

As they say, the more things change...

Zebron and James


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