Founded in 1798, Pirastro is a German string company focused primarily on the violin family, with a healthy selection of double bass sets for all styles of playing. The creamy sustain and great bow response of Pirastro’s synthetic-core Evah Pirazzi series has earned popularity with classical and jazz players, but the new “EP” Slap set is focused on satisfying the particular needs of slap-happy rockabilly, trad jazz, and bluegrass players.
Gut strings have long been the traditional choice for slap upright, and many players swear by a full set of plain-gut strings to achieve the old-school tone. However, a plain-gut E string can be as thick as .182", which usually requires refiling the bridge and nut slots, and note definition is disappointing at best. But all the hardcore cats and kitties know that the slack feel and big playing surface make a plain-gut E crazy-good for slapping. Another type of set uses wire-wound A and E strings with a gut core; pitch definition is greatly improved, though far from ideal, and the winding is a soft wire that feels more like a roundwound string. Another approach uses a flat metal ribbon wrap over a gut core. This type of string gives the best pitch accuracy and makes arco playing easier. Keeping the overall string tension low is a big priority for slappers. The playing style requires high action to grab the string for the pluck, and to create bounce for the slap without too much resistance. While gut strings are a clear favorite, they can be problematic in certain climates, are expensive, and present an ethical dilemma for vegetarians. As a result, several synthetic alternatives have come along.
When steel-core strings were first introduced, many players didn’t want to give up the sound of gut strings, so they ran steel for the E and A, and plain gut for the D and G. While this combo may be the best of both worlds for some, it can be a challenge to find a good match for tone, sustain, diameter, and tension. Pirastro took a slightly different approach with the new Evah Pirazzi Slap set by pairing plain-gut D and G strings with synthetic-core, flat chrome-steel-wrapped E and A strings. Pirastro also makes Evah Pirazzi sets in weich and medium gauges, but the Slap set uses a different formula. Pirastro says the gut strings have also been engineered to reduce “playing-in” time, and for better tuning stability. To dial in this very purpose- specific set, Pirastro relied on the help of Nicolas Dubouchet, a highly regarded French bassist specializing in slap bass applied to rockabilly, Gypsy, swing, and blues. After checking out Pirastro’s gut Chorda set, Dubouchet asked the company to develop a set specifically for slap. He played several types of wound E and A string, and decided the Evahs came closest to the tone of gut with increased stability, and less expense. Dubouchet suggested lower tension, a darker tone, and larger diameter to better match the plain-gut half.
I installed the Evah Pirazzi Slap set on my Blast Cult one4five bass and found they settled in a bit faster than my customary set of Lenzners. After two days, they were holding pitch well, and by the second gig, they were as stable as any gut string could be in the ever-changing Texas climate. Initially, I heard an overtone on the D string in the A–B zone, but it went away as the string broke in. After many gigs and several long practice sessions, the tone has become thick and buttery, and I’ve come to enjoy the lower-tension feel. The Evahs feel more relaxed than my usual half/ half set (which consists of Lenzner D and G and Blast Cult Low Life E and A), and there is less of a jump in gauge between the wound A and plain gut D strings. While the steel-core Low Lifes have more sustain and immediacy, I found the wound Evahs were a much closer match to gut in those regards. I took advantage of the lower tension and raised the string height to a respectable w" at the end of the fingerboard, and my right hand enjoyed the increased trampoline-like bounce—a critical element for slap. The tone of the pluck was organic, with a twig-like snap to the highs supported by a rich, dark fundamental.
Much of my work on this bass is pizzicato-style, and I found the Evah Pirazzi Slap set fit those requirements just as well. The top strings have the classic “gut whine” that you hear when players such as Paul Chambers or Charles Mingus climb up the G string, and the bottom half gives you plenty of articulate growl when you mash the string down to the board. The higher action made left-hand pyrotechnics more challenging, but for the 90 percent of the time when I’m playing quarter-notes, they felt fine. Lowering the action let the string relax, and the bass developed a sweeter pizzicato character reminiscent of Charlie Haden. My Blast Cult is set up with a flatter bridge radius that many slappers prefer, but it makes arco playing virtually impossible. While physically awkward to play for this reason, the E and A submitted nicely to the bow and produced a warm, singing tone. I have found that bowing a plain-gut string produces a sound not dissimilar to the animal of origin, and the Evah D and G were no better or worse than any other plain-gut string in that regard. But if you dig the bowed work of Major Holley, Slam Stewart, or Paul Chambers, the Evahs will give you that rough-hewn bite that only works when you’re swinging your ass off.
The Evah Pirazzi Slap set is a great addition to the well-rounded Pirastro lineup, and a serious choice for slappers, or anyone who craves natural gut tone, and needs reliable pitch production from the lower strings.
Evah Pirazzi Slap Strings
Pros True gut tone, low-tension feel
Cons Sticker shock
Bottom Line A great string for slappers, or anyone looking for vintage upright tone.
Construction Plain-gut D and G, synthetic-core E and A with flat chrome steel wrap
String length e-size, 41–42" scale
Made in Germany