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.
[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: