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FDP Forum / Fender Bass Guitars and Bass Amps / A technical question to bassists

Contributing Member

New Jersey

I'm back with the otters again
May 30th, 2017 11:27 AM   Edit   Profile  

As I tiptoe quietly into the bass guitar forum trying hard to not disturb anybody with the presence of a guitar maker or anger any bass playing Vogons, I would respectfully like to ask a question about bass strings from the thunderous creatures who inhabit the deep end of the lake and be allowed to depart your forum with my fingers still attached. I apologize for my interruption.

Are there any tonal values to using lighter gauge bass strings? Technique values? When setting up a bass, I tend to believe that medium and heavier is always better but I know that there is more to it.

I'd just like to lessen my ignorance.

Advantages to lighter strings on a bass guitar?



Bass is the place . . .
May 30th, 2017 11:55 AM   Edit   Profile  

Hmmmmmm . . . you know, deep in my heart I think/believe/feel that heavier gauge bass strings generate a tone that is somehow fuller and deeper.

But I have no objective data whatsoever to back that up, and I am not convinced that I could actually hear the difference in a blind test.

(This message was last edited by rockdoc11 at 12:31 AM, May 31st, 2017)

Contributing Member

Wichita, Kansas

Drums = pulse, Bass = heartbeat
May 30th, 2017 12:49 PM   Edit   Profile  

Don't worry, wrnchbndr, our bite is not too dangerous-- really. Especially if you want us to pontificate on our favorite subject.

Picking a string gauge depends somewhat on your technique. Do you play with a light touch or do you dig in and thrash away? Just like on guitar, your technique can overpower your strings.

Light strings can have an ugly attack sound if you pluck them to hard. Their vibration excursion is further than heavy strings, and may require a higher action if you play them hard. They can have intonation/tuning problems if you mash them too hard against the frets. Heavier strings can somewhat mitigate these problems.

I think heavier strings have a tighter attack and less pitch wandering.

However, string gauge is not the only indicator of string stiffness. Generally, round core strings feel "softer" than hex core strings.

The are also flatwound and roundwound strings. I like flatwounds best-- a strong fundamental and full low mids, less clank and less finger noise. If you are a slapper, flat will work, but don't sound give the ubiquitously known slap tone.
Flatwounds are generally a little stiffer than roundwounds, but with the latest string science, the basic differences between flats and rounds are blurring. My favorite string are TI (Thomastik Infeld) Jazz Flats, which are actually fairly flexible. When I first started using them, I had to work at lightening my technique a little bit.

Contributing Member

Suburban MD.

Are your prayer beads maple or rosewood?
May 30th, 2017 12:52 PM   Edit   Profile  

What rocdock said.
I just sorta fell into 'regular' gauge as that was what was on my first brand new Fender MIJ Bass. I've been in the "45 to 105 round wound" club ever since on my P's and J's. I've ventured to Billy Sheehan's '43 to 110' for a while, and didn't notice a ton of difference sonically. And after landing on the Roto Solo bass Regular gauge, I've not seen any need to change.
I did back down when I was playing a shorter scale headless bass in my 80's band. "40 to 95", and flatwounds were the only choice. It may have sounded a 'little' thinner, but I think that may have been the pickups, not the strings.
I play with a pick, and I'm not a 'slapper', so I don't know what those guys are using.

Contributing Member

New Jersey

I'm back with the otters again
May 30th, 2017 01:10 PM   Edit   Profile  

45-105 is my choice for a string replacement and set up if the client doesn't have a preference and these would usually be entry or intermediate level players. I find that a setup can become a little bit more temperamental with lighter strings owing to the excursion that was mentioned above -- same relief and string height and I'll get a bit of fret rattle earlier with lighter strings. Experienced players generally know what they want in strings. I'm just looking for more insight into the heads of bass players and maybe a little more knowledge that could apply when I build basses. I fake it on bass compared to some of my clients but really enjoy it. I'm actually the bass player for the folks I jam with. The learning never stops.

Danny Nader


You should have been there!
May 30th, 2017 01:23 PM   Edit   Profile  

Good answers all around. The easiest & simplest answer is this: Heavier strings, higher action and heavy pick, if you use one, will equal best tone. But there's a lot of variables.

I use a lighter set & have never had a complaint about my tone or volume. (40 - 100)

Your personal technique will be the final arbiter.


Contributing Member


"toxic masculinity personified"
May 30th, 2017 02:14 PM   Edit   Profile  

I like D'Addario Chrome 45-100 (flats). They feel stiffer than some other flat wounds like TIs, which I like since all my basses are short-scale, which means that they have lower string tension (all else being equal) than basses with a 34" scale length.

Because of the in-general lower string tension of short-scale basses, the E string can sometimes sound and feel "floppy" on some SS basses strung with some string sets. In my experience (which is probably more limited than many others here) Chromes suffer less from this shortcoming than some other SS strings because of their higher tension.

Flats have a more "vintage" sound, are easier on your frets and fingers and also don't generate the "finger noise" that rounds do.

I switched from guitar to bass only 2 or 3 years ago, which is partly the reason I started out with lighter-gauge strings. They still sound and feel good to me, so I've stuck with them.

Due to painful arthritis in my thumbs, I don't slap or play with a flat pick, sticking strictly to "finger-style" right-hand technique with higher amp volume and a percussive but light touch.

(This message was last edited by Taildragger at 04:29 PM, May 30th, 2017)



May 30th, 2017 07:34 PM   Edit   Profile  

As a guy who has started using 35-90 in the last 3 years, I would say one disadvantage is that the strings seem to die faster. Outside of this, I wish I had switched down earlier. I have no loss of bottom end and can still get low action.

Strangely, I used to break strings with 45-105 and have only had it happen once since I dropped down (that was on a 40-95 set).



May 30th, 2017 07:45 PM   Edit   Profile  

I like TI Jazz Flats as they are easier on my old fingers, very good balanced tone and incredible longevity and have them on one of my Fender Jazz Basses. Some think they are too lite on tension but I have gotten passed that. The E requires a little more distance from the fretboard but it is not noticeable.

Best classic 60's tone ,
Labella Deep Talkin Bass Flatwoulds 760FL .043-.104's . Medium tension , classic 60's tone, nice lows without being muddy. My favorites unless I have an Arthritis flare up

(This message was last edited by Bubbalou at 05:45 AM, May 31st, 2017)

Jeff Scott

On a spinning rock

May 30th, 2017 08:06 PM   Edit   Profile  

"Advantages to lighter strings on a bass guitar?"

Yes. That is why I prefer them to bridge cables.

Contributing Member

North Florida

A Friend of Bill W.
May 30th, 2017 09:14 PM   Edit   Profile  

Most of mine fall into the 45 to105 or a bit less range, I get no complaints. I have to use my hands lightly, I've been very hard on them throughout my life. I mostly play fretless and short scale.


New York City

May 31st, 2017 10:07 AM   Edit   Profile  

Good question but you'll probably get a different answer from every bass player.

Another TI Jazz Flats user here. Others will tell you they require a light touch but I like to play pretty hard on occasion and I often get compliments on my tone. (Compliments come mostly from other bass players. You rarely get offered any judgement on bass tone from a non bassist)

It's too bad that bass strings are so expensive. Puts a limit on how much experimenting you can do with different types. Probably good to take every opportunity that arises to try out other basses with different strings.

There are so many variables. With all the the good answers here, you will still need to decide what's best for you without any real solid rules to go by.

Contributing Member

So. Cal. USA

May 31st, 2017 10:24 AM   Edit   Profile  

I set up a lot of basses. Some local guys and a couple of touring pros. 45-105 seems to be the most popular and what I keep on my personal P-bass.

I have found that with bass even more than guitar, I have to watch the player play his or her bass. See how they pluck, pick, slap etc. How much sting movement to the create? Do they tend to pull the string upward or play parallel to the PUs? Not so critical with beginners but imperative with the better players.

Amp settings seem to have a much greater effect of what I get out of my basses than what brand and gauge strings I have on them.



Do'in the 5 string thing!
May 31st, 2017 11:35 AM   Edit   Profile  

I guess I fall mainly into the "medium gauge" club when it comes to bass strings, whether for a four or five string bass. The exception is my P-Bass, which is strung with heavy gauge (DR DDT 50 - 110)
due to drop tuning in one band. The heavier gauge results in somewhat higher tension, but I barely notice it.

Unlike many on this forum, I'm strictly a roundwound string guy. Have tried but never really bonded with flatwound strings.


Robbinsville, NJ

what do you mean the bass is too loud?
May 31st, 2017 12:34 PM   Edit   Profile  

I rely on the callouses on my finger tips to give me the correct attack to bring out whatever the sound required for a given passage.

So I need a little 'fight back' from the string,
to optimally do this- and I find lighter gauge strings just don't give me the resistance I need for my style of playing. I'm sure there is some sort of interaction with the magnetic pickup field that a heavier string may provide a more pleasing tone, IMHO.

Plus I don't do pops and snaps or whatever some funky bass players have in their skill sets, so don't need that kind of responsiveness that a light gauge will give you.

oldFartBassPlayer Walt

Contributing Member

Vacaville CA

Runs with scissors !!
Jun 14th, 2017 10:24 PM   Edit   Profile  

I've used TI Flats JF-344 for years on my P-Bass. I also use a 1mm nylon pic. I was born a guitar player back in the 50's. I've only played bass since '93.

Steve Dallman
Contributing Member

Merrill, Wisconsin

Age is just a number...mine is big
Jun 16th, 2017 07:47 AM   Edit   Profile  

I recently went down a gauge in my strings. I've used stainless D'Addarios on my Line 6 Variax 5 for years and on a whim decided to try lighter strings.

I really like them. They are bendable compared to the heavier strings and tone wise, not really different. I was able to keep the action where I had it. (Low but without buzzing.) They are more fun when I dig into them. They are easier on my arthritic hands (which are not giving me as much trouble as they did a year ago.)

I used to experiment with gauges back in the 70's and 80' but not so much after I switched to 5 strings. I gigged a lot more back then, and changed strings more often.

Contributing Member

North of Philly

Solid state = solid sound+light weight
Jun 21st, 2017 11:09 PM   Edit   Profile  

Hey Wrench,

As you have found everyone has a different comfort zone stringwise, and some are taking a journey through sound.

About 50 years ago I tried nylon tape wound strings and hated them. Got into the Hifi stainless round wound thing for many tears. Went through a coated roundwound string phase, then tried a different tack with a flatwound string from a major string maker I had stuck with through the previous phases.

When I bought an Acoustic Electric bass I knew I would need something something other than what came on the bass from the factory. I really don't know why they insist on bronze rounds on AE basses.

I looked around and found LaBella was doing something different in the world of tapewound strings. I tried their white nylon tapewound strings and found what I was looking for soundwise.

The four basses I play most often have these strings on them. A bit more flexible than the rounds I used for years, great highs, without the sizzle. And they are a fairly heavy gauge set by the numbers play like lights.

Contributing Member

Philly/NL, CT

Jul 21st, 2017 03:33 PM   Edit   Profile  

Back in the early to mid '70s I stuck with heavy strings--either flatwounds (Gibson or LaBellas) or coarse roundwounds (LaBella Benders). I got the maximum whomp and volume that I could get out of 150-200 watts of tube amps.

The heavies did not do well for the brighter Ric-type sounds of the mid to late '70s and I started setting my basses with regular round wounds.

Using those heavy strings for so many gigs resulted in me developing a heavy left hand grip--a negative for bass and guitar playing

Nowadays I have a P with Labella Jamersons and a Tele bass equipped with a mudbucker set up with medium-light roundwounds. I can get some decent highs out of both basses by adjusting settings and varying my technique. Wish I had experimented more with attack back in the day.


Detroit Rock Ave.

Embrace the space.
Jul 25th, 2017 04:48 PM   Edit   Profile  

Lighter strings and lower tension both require an adjustment in your technique. Not a bad thing, just different. It can help those with wrist issues, or just be easier to play.

FDP Forum / Fender Bass Guitars and Bass Amps / A technical question to bassists

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