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Punkviking

String gauges and how they can affect playing style and tone

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I'm a fairly new to playing bass, I've played guitar for years and really enjoy playing guitar however I've always enjoyed heavy tones, in my current band there is me on bass/vocals someone else on vocals a drummer and another guitarist (so 4 members total).

I bought some new strigs a couple of weeks ago I went for a good brand (D'Addario EXL230 Bass Guitar Strings, Heavy 55-110, Long Scale) but being a dope and not really knowing my terminology well I went for a very heavy gauge thinking that that would give a heavier tone which to an extent it has but I'm unsure that's because of the strings or my playing style/tuning (drop D) and I feel the strings may be causing the bass to be more difficult to play at quick speeds.

The guitar itself is a Stagg BC300 3/4 BK 4-String Fusion 3/4 Model Electric Bass Guitar - Black

My question is if I lowered the gauge of the strings could I still maintain a heavy sound but also improve the playability of the guitar, close to the level of a standard 6 string.

Thanks, 

And as always have a great day!

 

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I know this sounds whack but I used to have really light gauge strings (don’t know the exact sizes but they were the lightest they had in stock at The Bass Centre when I bought the bass) on a Jaydee Supernatural. I used this inappropriate bass with it’s inappropriately light gauge strings to play in a heavy goth band and subsequently a really heavy and fast thrash metal band. It sounded great though, drop D in the thrash band, real clarity but still plenty of depth. I find the lighter gauges easier to play (small fingers here). Latterly I was convinced to use a different bass with heavier strings but I was never really happy, that initial setup was ideal for me. No doubt my experience is a freaky outlier but there you go.  

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All I’m going to say is everything affects the tone. Try some lighter strings and see how you get on. Your playing will have the biggest influence on your sound (ruling out effects and extreme eq settings) 

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Posted (edited)

Interesting to hear, I searched through a few articles on my favourite bass players  (ie Cliff Burton, Jerry only and Lemmy) and the guages they use and they're all lower then mine, although my hands are fairly large being 6-3 and delivering furniture for a living.

I'm guessing I'm looking to find something that would give me the fluidity of a normal guitar but I expect that comes with time and practice.

Edited by Punkviking

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3 minutes ago, Punkviking said:

Interesting to hear, I searched through a few articles on my favourite bass players  (ie Cliff Burton, Jerry only and Lemmy) and the guages they use and they're all lower then mine, although my hands are fairly large being 6-3 and delivering furniture for a living.

I'm guessing I'm looking to find something that would give me the fluidity of a normal guitar but I expect that comes with time and practice.

I think most (not all) people, like me, just assume certain gauges are for certain styles of music but as @Dazed absolutely correctly suggests your playing style in combination with the string gauge will ultimately define the final sound. Only way to really find out is to try ‘em.

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Posted (edited)

I would probably go with 45-105, because I've played everything from heavy Rock to pop and soul on them. It's important that the instrument is set up properly and also that you know how to get the best out of your amp/cab.

Edited by gary mac
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Alrighty I'm going to give the Rotosound RS66LD Swing Bass 66, Long Scale, Standard, 45-105 a try and see how I get on

 

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I've played a range of styles, and 45-105 have never let me down.   But like the other guys said... technique!

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I am currently using either 45-105 or 40-100 gauge strings, I prefer the lighter gauge on my Stingray and on the Precision with the Jazz Bas neck....other than that they are all running 45-105. Some of the Saving Amy songs require a Precision dropped to D the 45-105's are perfectly happy tuned down.

I think your amp / speaker combination and your playing style will have more effect on how heavy you sound than string gauges ever will

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Lots of things will define your tone ie , the bass, your amp , your speaker, your settings , etc,    but a heavier gauge string won’t necessarily give you a heavier tone , (by heavier tone I’m assuming you mean a deeper sound ).   I play some pretty heavy reggae and dub and I get a perfect tone from 45-105 flatwound and 45-105 tapes .  I’ve probably tried most strings over the years and I think a lot of it is just trying different ones until you find the ones you like, I’ve spent many nights trawling through BC marketplace and eBay at 2 o clock in the morning looking for strings 😁 I found mine in the end 🙂

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Personally, I don't think you'd detect the difference in a blind listening test, if played normally (but you would feel the difference when playing). However if you ever use drop D tuning (DADG) then I've found a .100 string goes a little bit "floppy" so its worth having a .105 there. So that means, buy a set of 45-105, or go 40-60-80-105 (which I think would need to be a custom set or buying an extra string and throwing the 100 away). Don't forget, any significant change would need a truss rod and possibly other tweaks.

On the electric guitar I've found no difference except playing resistance, hence I've gone for 009s rather than anything thicker.

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I’m using .060, .052, .042, .032, .020, but I’m weird 😁. A set of .105 to .045 is a pretty good all round gauge.

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Posted (edited)

I use .045 to .130 on most of my basses (apart from the 4 strings), and that seems to cover everything. Except the stick obv.. that has .008 to .118s :)

 

Edited by Woodinblack

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Some of those gauges are heavy!

40-100 is all I ever use.  A heavier gauge = higher tension.  If you pick or finger at super-fast speeds then a higher tension might make sense.  However, if I want to play super quick I just move my right hand nearer to the bridge where there is less lateral movement of the string.  I like to bend strings and play with a light touch to preserve my wrist, which is why I play 40-100.  

Peace

Davo

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Posted (edited)

I used to use 50 - 110s but switched to the pretty much standard 45 - 105. I noticed instantly that the sound was less low and had more attack and topiness to it. I should add it was the same brand/range.

Edited by Lozz196

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It all depends on the bass in question - some strings will work with some basses and not others - your technique, setup, tuning, eq, all sorts of things. The only way to really know is to experiment. I used to play in a metal band (standard tuning) on a Westone Quantum medium scale with 35-85 strings. Sounded great, way better than my P bass with 45-105 in the same context. Also way better than my first Ric with the same 35-85. Obviously when changing gauges - and bear in mind the tension can differ for the same gauges from make to make -  the setup is crucial.

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From a guitar perspective, it's often a bit of a surprise to people to learn that a lot of notable guitar tones over the decades were created by players with relatively light strings. Stevie Ray Vaughan is one of the few notable soloists to have routinely used .12s (and possibly .13s?) on his Strat; Pete Townshend and Malcolm Young have tended to favour .11s and .12s, but then they're both better known as rhythm players.

By contrast, Dave Gilmour has always favoured .10s, while I believe Carlos Santana, BB King, and Billy Gibbons are all in the ".09s or lighter" club. The other notable member of this group is Tony Iommi, who was using the lightest strings he could get to ease the pain on his severed fingertips, but still created an absolutely genre-defining guitar tone.

The moral of the above is that you can go lighter without sacrificing your tone. Yes, your tone will change with string gauge, but it won't necessarily make it "better" or "worse," and perhaps crucially for you, lighter strings needn't necessarily mean a lighter sound. The main difference will be in how they fare under your fingers: heavier strings will cope with the abuse better if you're quite a physical player. I've used RS66 45-105s myself for 20-odd years and found they handle my second-rate John Entwistle impersonation admirably well, and they have enough tension to handle drop D quite happily.

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58 minutes ago, Lozz196 said:

I used to use 50 - 110s but switched to the pretty much standard 45 - 105. I noticed instantly that the sound was less low and had more attack and topiness to it. I should add it was the same brand/range.

I found the same thing and the fatter strings sound better to me, but then I'm not after as much attack or top in my sound.

My current set is 45, 65, 80, 100, 130. I was toying with the idea of going even heavier.

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Posted (edited)

Billy uses 7s I believe. Yngwie Malmsteen uses 8s. Hendrix apparently used 10-38. Think Page was originally 8-38. 

In terms of bass strings, I’ve gone from 40-95 to 40-100, with a recent pit stop at 35-95.

Edited by 4000

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I only ever use 40-100 or 40-095. Or as near to that as possible. For the same reason @Davo-London says and also becuase I like to play very lightly and occasionally dig in for some clank. my slap tecnique also uses very little physical effort when using light strings. I usually have my 4 string basses in drop D and have no problems tuning down even a 0.095 string with a super low action, too.

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I'm guessing the OP uses a pick, coming from a guitar background. Simple solution is to use a heavier pick. 

I use standard gauge 45-105 strings, with 1.14 gauge pick (purple Dunlop) and like a heavy sound.

The short scale will give a deeper tone than full scale, so really heavy gauge strings makes things more flabby.

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On 07/07/2019 at 14:06, Punkviking said:

I bought some new strigs a couple of weeks ago I went for a good brand (D'Addario EXL230 Bass Guitar Strings, Heavy 55-110, Long Scale) ...

The guitar itself is a Stagg BC300 3/4 BK 4-String Fusion 3/4 Model Electric Bass Guitar - Black ...

As mentioned above you've got a short scale bass but you bought longscale strings.  Take a look at the link in the post from Ricky 4000 and take your pick from the stings mentioned there.

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Like so many others here before, I could tell you which strings I like and use. But I suggest you to try very different gauges. If that 30-90 is your thing (or twang), go for it. It may be some strange combination of super light top and very heavy bottom or whatever. You may want to try special tunings.

Do not take our word, go your own way. It is just trial and error for some time but it sure gets you there, where you want to be.

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