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Description And Analysis Of Big Fat Wires

1309 words - 6 pages

Although you’ll never think about them consciously, you are incessantly bombarded by their low-frequency, percussive sound! Rest assured that you continually hear them on the radio, on your favorite TV shows, and in TV commercials. You hear them when you’re in restaurants and in nightclubs; you hear them in dramatic scenes in movies and at open-air concerts; you hear them when you’re shopping at your local grocery store and clothing boutique . . . and you even hear them when you’re in an elevator ascending to your hotel room on the nineteenth floor! Are you intrigued? Well, Paul McCartney, Sting, and Victor Wooten could tell you they are nothing more than those big fat wires made of nickel or stainless steel. What are they really? They are electric bass guitar strings! And for those “big fat wires” to produce their ubiquitous, low-frequency sound, they must first be attached to their instrument—the electric bass guitar. Well, the process of attaching or “stringing” a bass guitar may sound simple, but it actually involves a very arduous and time-consuming process—if indeed the bassist wants to accurately produce that sound (or tone) you hear so prevalently.

The first step a bassist takes to attach strings to his bass is determining appropriate string length. This can be critical as strings can be easily ruined if they are cut too short. To begin with, one must understand that a bass guitar string has a little ball attached to one end of the string known as the ‘ball-end,’ leaving the other end looking like the end of a simple wire. The ‘wire-end’ of the string is inserted into its designated hole or groove at the bridge—a rather large steel or brass plate attached to the bottom of the body of the bass. (Some basses are top loaded directly through the bridge and some are loaded through the body and then over the bridge.) The bridge also contains a ‘saddle’ which acts as a coupler between the string and the bridge. The saddle is composed of adjustable thumbwheels for adjusting intonation and for the correct positioning of each string when it is later tightened. The string is then pulled all the way to the headstock allowing the “ball-end” of the string to become firmly anchored at the bridge. The length of the string can then be measured from the bridge to its corresponding tuning post on the headstock. At this point, it is imperative that the bassist then add another four to five inches in length to the string before cutting it, depending on which string it is. This allows him to have extra string length to later wind around the tuning post.

Cutting the strings is a critical step due to the fact that roundwound bass guitar strings—by far the most common type of strings—are composed of core wire with a thinner wire wound around it very tightly—like a tiny, tightly-fitting ‘slinky.’ Before an individual string is cut, it is important that the bassist crimp, or slightly smash, the area that is going to be cut with wire cutters, so...

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