A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Strap locks and flatwounds

The Schecter Stiletto Studio-5 is an amazing bass. Its easily my favorite, out of the ones I own. As much as I love how it feels and plays, there were two things I wanted to change as well – (1) the bottom of my strap kept coming loose from the bass, so I needed to find a way to keep it secured and (2) I wanted strings that were smoother to the touch so that I can practice more easily, and I also don’t prefer how most roundwound strings sound – they tend to have twang that I don’t like in a bass.

A few weeks ago, I looked to Sweetwater and ordered two items to correct the issues I had with the bass. The first was a set of Dunlop strap locks. I’ve never used them before, but what I learned of them online made it seem like they were the solution to the problem of the bass slipping and taking my kneecap with it. The 2nd was a new set of bass strings: La Bella Gold Flats (they come in 4, 5 & 6 string packs). Both arrived yesterday – there was a delay because Sweetwater had received a bad batch of strings, and so was out of the La Bellas that I ordered.

20181102_101732

Ready for surgery

[Dunlop Strap Locks]

The strap locks were a snap to install. The only tool I needed was a small Phillips-head screwdriver. Basically, it has a part that goes onto the strap, secured on both sides of the hole that normally slips over the strap button. The other part replaces the existing strap button on the body of the bass itself. These two parts (on the strap and on the bass) connect. There’s a little button on the strap piece that can be pushed to attach or remove the strap from the piece on the body – and I believe its rated to hold up to 800 lbs.

Here are some pictures from the installation – it was my first!

To install the strap locks, we have to disassemble them – which is as easy as pushing a button, since they’re just linked together using the halves that go on the strap and on the body. Once disassembled, we put together and install the part that goes on the strap, and then we install the part that goes on the body of the bass. I kept a little felt washer from the old strap button, to buffer against friction from the strap lock.

With the strap part installed, we finally remove the old strap button and replace it with the new strap lock part that goes on the body of the bass. Removing the old button was simply a matter of unscrewing the small Phillips-head screw holding it in place. Installing the new one was the reverse process. The directions suggest lubricating the screw by rubbing it into a bar of soap or wax. I didn’t need to do that for it to fit into the hole snugly.

The strap lock works well. It holds the strap in place and is very easy to remove and reinsert. If you install one in another bass (or guitar, I suppose) the same strap can then be used on all of the instruments. My one criticism is that its a bit large. I like the look of the old strap button more, but the color and utility make this a good purchase for instruments with straps that like to sneak away at inopportune moments. Also – the strap locks come in several colors. I chose gold, to match the existing hardware on my bass. Moving a strap between instruments doesn’t account for different-colored strap locks, for those of you who are picky about aesthetics.

[La Bella Gold Flats]

The other alteration that I made to the bass was replacing the existing Ernie Ball roundwound strings with La Bella Gold flatwounds. Unfortunately, I did this in the same room as the baby, while she was sleeping, so it was done largely in the dark, with me trying not to wake her when strings rubbed against other strings. I might have cut one or two of the strings a little short as well.

I really like the look, feel and sound of the La Bellas. They’re smooth and silky to the touch – they don’t feel grippy at all, so they’re easy to slide on as well as simply easier on the fingers. The gold color meshes well with the Schecter, as its hardware is also gold. The strings are also each differentiated with a little numbered cube that shows what string it goes on, by number. I removed these during install, as they didn’t match the colors on the bass, but they’re fun to have.

Tonally, you can hear the mids very clearly. They don’t have quite the same “boom” as the rounds, or the “chime” sound that I often hear from steel rounds. They’re a little more subdued, but I like that characteristic. I’m sure that fiddling with the knobs on the bass, amp and any effects pedals (or software) would also shape the sound so that it can emulate anything a bassist wants to produce too.

Here are two sound samples that I made by plugging into the Focusrite Scarlet 6i6 and recording with Reaper. The first shows how the bass sounded with the Ernie Ball strings on. The second shows the La Bella Golds. The “boominess” is much more pronounced with the Ernie Balls, but the La Bellas provide more clarity, at the cost of body. Flats also compel me to fret differently, making me slide more than I normally would, although its probably not easily discernible from the audio.

Ernie Ball roundwounds:

La Bella Gold flatwounds:

2 responses

  1. Vish
    Must be some quality control issues with Labella. It took a month for my music shop to swap out a flatwound string pack because the D string was too long for my Rogue Beatle bass.
    That said, installed and setup they do sound nicely thick and thuddy-if that is a word-as a Beatle bass should.
    I tend to drop basses too so I bought those Fender red or black rubber gasket strap keepers to help secure my (very wide) leather straps to the strap buttons. Not so secure as your fix but cheaper.
    I went back and re-read your music theory post on scales and chords. Seems I’ve been playing too many even numbered scale degree notes-I need mostly the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and the octave. Good post.
    Good looking and sounding bass you have there.

    November 3, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    • vishalicious

      The guy at Sweetwater said that there had been a bad batch of strings from La Bella, and I remember reading comments on Reddit, Talkbass and YouTube about people needing to return their B strings (for those with 5/6-string basses) because there were problems with the sound. I suspect it might be related to that. It made me wait a little longer, but I think it was worth it. I’m really happy with how they feel and I like how they sound.

      I’ve managed to not drop a bass yet, but I wanted to get ahead of it with the Schecter, because its my baby! 😉 I saw cheaper options, but for this bass, I wanted something that was close to the color of the original hardware, if I could find it, and the Dunlops fit the bill.

      Regarding playing – play whatever sounds good, but in general, you want to LAND on chord tones and use the non-chord tones to basically “walk up” to them. Its almost like connect-the-dots with the chord tones being the dots and the other notes (whether in the scale but not chord tones, or not in the scale at all) acting like the dashes you have to follow to connect them. I’m glad the posts are helping you… but on a worrisome note, it might mean that in some way, the insides of your head are configured like mine… 😉

      I have to get into fiddling with knobs on the bass and the amp, and on the computer, but so far I love how the bass sounds – but I want to eventually learn how to make it take on other types of sounds too. I’ve been looking at effects pedals from Darkglass recently, and saw that they just released VST’s as well (software versions of their pedals that work in DAWs like Reaper, which I have). I’m really curious about them.

      November 4, 2018 at 4:55 pm

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