Blast from the Past
By Jim Roberts
Yearn for that big, fat sound Paul McCartney got from his Hofner back in the 60s? The answer just might be a set of Pyramid Gold Flatwound strings. Manufactured in Germany by a company better known for its orchestra strings, Pyramid Gold electric bass strings are chrome-steel flatwounds that offer a unique sound and feel. Take the E string out of its vintage envelope, grab it in the middle, and right away you know it's different - despite its size, the string is unusually flexible. Put it on and pluck it, and the sound you hear is incredibly thick and rich, without the "twang" of most conventional flatwounds. And the smooth surface feels like polished glass under your fingers.
In the early '70s, Alembic installed Pyramid Gold strings on the modified Guild Starfire basses used by Jack Cassady of the Jefferson Airplane and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead. "They had this amazing, supple feel," recalls Rick Turner, "and we loved the sound - very different from any other flatwound strings. Those strings were a big part of the 'San Francisco bass sound.'" Inspired by my memory of the killer tones produced by Cassady and Lesh, I recently tried a short-scale set of Pyramid Golds on my '67 Starfire. Unfortunately, the strings are made expressly for Hofner basses, which have a 30" scale length, so they were just a bit too short for the 30 ˝" Starfire - on all but the D string, the silk wrapped portion ran across the nut slot. (They were like that back in the 70s, too" notes Turner. "We used a razor to cut off some of the silk.") Even so, they sounded great, producing a powerful tone with lots of "thud" on the attack and a smooth, even decay. (If you used a bass with these strings to double the bright, crisp tone of a modern electric bass on a recording, you'd get a sound about a mile wide.) Played high on the G string, where the short-scale basses usually sound anemic, the Pyramid Golds produced notes that still had lots of "heft." Cool!