View Full Version : Recent baritone string adventures (too loose is a thing!)

09-02-2015, 02:05 PM
I was happily using Worth Brown BB baritone strings, which worked fine for my solo slack-key, but as I started more accompaniment strumming with others, the unwound low-D was too muddy.

So I started considering one (if not two) wound strings. Goal was, as ever, no string squeak since I do a lot of long slides when I play slack-key.

Then I read that Jake uses the same strings he uses on his tenors on his baritone, so I started experimenting with tenor strings.

My target: 19" scale bari in DGBE and DGBD tuning.

First experiment was to just take a set of Brown Worth Tenor strings BT-LG and replace the unwound 4th with a Fremont soloist. I played this configuration for a good couple of months.

Overall, the soloist makes for an excellent low-D string. Smooth and practically soundless when sliding during bass runs. Added a great new depth to the strumming as well. A keeper.

The tenor treble strings though, were thinner than I liked, and consequently a little loose for DGBE tuning. The setup worked okay, but I had to deal with some new buzzing (esp on the 3rd string) and playing melody on the 1st string I would end up bending the string off the fret-board more often than I liked.

Second experiment, I wanted two wound, but was hard-pressed to find anything that delivered being squeakless at the right gauge. As much as I wanted to, I couldn't just use two soloists.

I'd tried the Southcoast Heavy Gauge in the past, and while the smoothwound 4th was silent (as good as the Fremont at least) the round-wound 3rd still squeaked too much for me. So I decided to try the lighter set of Southcoast Heavy Medium Gauge Linear w/ flat wound basses. Never tried flat-wounds before.

The recommendation for those strings, on a 20" scale, is a whole step up in A tuning (EAC#F). And it says tension will be on the loose side.

I tried the recommended tuning, and the strings worked awesomely. No squeak on either of the flat-wounds - by far the best experience I've had with squeakless claims of any brand or set. Success! The sound was bright and rich and quite amazing. If you want to play in A tuning with two wounds on a bari (or C with two wounds on a tenor), and are worried about string noise, get this set now! (At the time of this post they're out of stock, figures.)

Unfortunately, since I'm making changes to help playing with others, moving to A when a ton of what we play is already in G, made it a no deal. I'd spent a lot of time charting out all of our songs for easy play in DGBE. Plus, playing slack-key in A didn't sound "right" to me. Too high.

So now, (and Dirk if you're reading this, brace yourself) I went off script and tuned down to G. So starting already loose, looser again cause I put them on a 19" scale, then looser a third time with a whole step to G.

At first everything seemed cool. I thought, what's the big deal? The first night, my slow slack-key playing and a little random strumming sounded just fine. Then I took it to practice.

Awful. Awful. Awful. They wouldn't keep tune at all. Anything more than the lightest touch and they would go 50 cents sharp. Too loose to keep stable, in real, actual playing, the experience and sound was miserable. I was so embarrassed. There is such a thing as too loose.

Time for the third (current) experiment. I strung up some trusty Worth Brown Baritones, with the Fremont soloist wound 4th. So good to be almost home. Trebles at the right tension, right feel, right sound. 4th with solid bass, squeak-less. Unwound third is perfectly good for slack-key, strumming is a little unbalanced (less sustain, slightly dull), but if I can't get a squeak-less wound third then net result I'm still happier than I was before I started.

So I scoured UU for string posts. Not that I haven't already read them all before, but this time focusing on baris and using classical guitar strings, especially flatwounds.

Enter Thomas-Inkfields. I'd bought some in the past (CF35 for D strings, CF30 for G) but the CF35's snapped at the post before even a full turn. So I'd thrown them in a box as not worth my time. CF30 is the same gauge as the soloist, so no luck there. Now I find the CF27 and order a couple.

Jackpot!!!!!! :D :D :D

String squeak is on-par with the Soloist. Tension is great. Stays in tune, no more buzzing, no going sharp when I press hard. Balance is great, feel and sound. Strumming sounds great with nice bass sustain. It's only been a couple of days, but it's like a whole new instrument.

So, in conclusion my setup is:
4th - Fremont Soloist (0.030" smooth-wound) D
3rd - Thomas Inkfield CF27 (0.027" flat-wound) G
2nd - Worth Brown Baritone BB (0.0291" plain fluoro) B
1st - Worth Brown Baritone BB (0.0244" plain fluoro) E

Judging by gauges and the CF27's finger noise, I imagine the ThomasInkfield CF30 would work fine as the D, and is maybe cheaper/ easier to find. (I do have a big stash of soloists though.)

09-02-2015, 04:41 PM
+1 Thanks Jon, good information.

Pirate Jim
09-03-2015, 12:10 AM
I love the Thomastik-Infeld strings. I got a full classical guitar set and put them on my baritone as octave GCEA (the EADG strings from the set - all flatwound). Lovely for finger picking, especially with the tone of all flatwound strings instead of plain nylon/flourocarbon, but I found them a bit muddy for strumming. Earlier this week I tuned them up to ADF#B and bam - perfect sound! My baritone will be staying this way for the foreseeable future, I recommend trying it!

09-05-2015, 05:34 PM
I LOVE ADF#B on a bari! :) I've tuned them like that for a few years, especially the 19 inch scale I had. I was using tenor strings.

Thanks for all the wonderful notes on the string sets and how they worked for you, I have a Martin bari in my uke closet I've been meaning to get back around to. It's a 20" scale but that's okay.