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HELP Best short scale strings Hofner Violin Beatle Bass?

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Hi All, have just acquired a Hofner Violin bass for a song (or three). Am quite impressed with the sound and tonal flexibility of what I incorrectly thought would be a one trick pony. 

What are the best short scale light gauge strings that won't break the bank?

I am temporarily making do with an old dead set of light gauge longscale round wounds that I have unwound the round wound so that the core will pass through the tiny machine heads/tuning pegs. These tuners would look more at home on cheap acoustic 6 string!

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If you want roundwounds get in touch with Newtone strings.  They'll make you exactly what you want and they won't break the bank either.

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1 hour ago, bertbass said:

If you want roundwounds get in touch with Newtone strings.  They'll make you exactly what you want and they won't break the bank either.

This. A custom made set will cost less than La Bella's. I have a set of Newtone strings on my short scale, sound and feel superb. 😃

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I just got my first set of Newtones for my 32 scale 5 string.

I like them!

I went for some custom gauges that I might adjust a bit when I need a new set, but overall the sound is solid and they are easy to play.

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You might find that these need medium scale strings because of the extra distance between the bridge and tailpiece. I've never owned one so I dont' know for sure.

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50 minutes ago, pete.young said:

You might find that these need medium scale strings because of the extra distance between the bridge and tailpiece. I've never owned one so I dont' know for sure.

IIRC this is absolutely right.

If you buy "shortscale strings", they'll be too short.

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If you want the classic Hofner thump you need flatwounds.

Pyramid do a Hofner specific set which nail it. It does say short scale on the packaging but they will fit on the Hofner no problem

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If you want the classic Beatles sound from a Höfner there's only one set of strings that will do: Pyramid Gold.

Pyramid Gold short scale sets are slightly longer than most short scale sets. They seem to be designed for "short scale with a tail piece". Probably closer to what most string manufacturers call medium scale. I've never used the regular short scale Pyramid Golds on a Höfner but I'm 99% sure they will fit. I've used them on other basses with similar tail pieces though, like vintage Hagströms.

But Höfner also sell re-branded Pyramid Gold flats that will 100% definitely fit. Höfner branded flatwounds = Pyramid Gold with SLIGHTLY different gauges. These are considerably more expensive than regular Pyramid Golds but at least you will be 100% sure they will fit. Being designed specifically for Höfner they MIGHT improve intonation slightly too (due to slightly different gauges). Probably not a huge difference though and intonation will always be slightly off on Höfners anyway in my experience.

Most short scale strings from US manufacturers will NOT be long enough for Höfner basses, unless they are specifically branded for "Beatle" bass,  like the LaBellas. These will sound very different than the classic Höfner (Beatles) sound you get with Pyramid Golds though. Not bad, just different.

There's also the matter of how thin the tapered end of the string is. Most strings won't fit through the holes in the tuning posts on Höfners, even if the scale length is correct. Pyramid Golds and LaBella Beatle Bass sets will fit. Actually, I can't think of any other strings I'm 100% sure will fit...??? Most strings don't taper off that much.

One possible candidate could be the Thomastik short scale Jazz Flats. These are also designed for "short scale with a tail piece" so they are closer to medium scale than regular short scale. But I have a feeling they might not fit through the tuning posts on Höfners. The tapered end of the strings looks quite a bit thicker than Pyramids Golds. Probably not worth the risk.

Just for reference it might also be worth mentioning that some Höfner basses have slightly longer tail pieces than the Violin basses. At least my President (Made in China) has a considerably longer tail piece than my Violin "Cavern" 61 (made in Germany). I use a set of Höfner (re-branded Pyramid) tapewounds on my President and they are only just barely long enough. So even if a specific type of strings may fit on one Höfner model they might also be just a tiny bit too short on other Höfners.

EDIT: When I said my Höfner President has a "longer tailpiece" I obviously meant it  has a longer distance from the bridge saddles to the ball end and will require slightly longer strings than my Höfner Violin. It's the position of the tail piece that matters of course, not the size.

It's probably also worth mentioning that the first time you try Pyramid Golds you will probably think you got a faulty E-string. The E-string is very "dead" compared to the rest but it's supposed to be like that. When the strings are broken in they get a lot more balanced and sound absolutely amazing. Pyramid Golds have a very unique sound that you won't get with ANY other strings. Höfner + pick + Pyramid Golds = instant Beatles/McCartney.

Edited by S.F.Sorrow
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I've used Rotosound on Beatle bass copies & liked them, £30. Not suitable for Hofners, too thick for the tuners.

image.png.81b326050638b8fca7f05971ee7baf58.png

When I eventually got a Hofner HCT I looked at Labella and fitted these, £42.

image.png.3565ab5092fd720045fcccaa882575e5.png

Another option is, £48.

image.thumb.png.985c9b42e1ffe4896086ea1968902abc.png

I would be interested to hear any opinions about the 2 Labella gauges.

You will only need to buy flats once so I'd say spend the cash.

I've never used Pyramid.

 

Edited by grandad
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17 hours ago, grandad said:

I've used Rotosound on Beatle bass copies & liked them, £30. Not suitable for Hofners, too thick for the tuners.

image.png.81b326050638b8fca7f05971ee7baf58.png

When I eventually got a Hofner HCT I looked at Labella and fitted these, £42.

image.png.3565ab5092fd720045fcccaa882575e5.png

Another option is, £48.

image.thumb.png.985c9b42e1ffe4896086ea1968902abc.png

I would be interested to hear any opinions about the 2 Labella gauges.

You will only need to buy flats once so I'd say spend the cash.

I've never used Pyramid.

 

The Höfner branded Pyramid Golds for "Beatles Bass" are 045 055 075 095.

The 039-096 LaBellas will probably feel closer to Höfner's own strings. The 050-100 LaBellas seem a bit extreme for a Höfner IMO but I'm sure they are great strings if you prefer heavier gauges.

I'm actually surprised that you liked the Rotosounds. I've never liked short scale Rotos (but I love their long scale strings). I've always found the E-string on Roto short scale sets far too floppy. I could never get a stable pitch out of it. It always went booooaaaaing. Impossible to tune or get a steady pitch for sustained notes. I realize you're talking about the medium scale set but they're the same gauge as the short scale set. Or maybe I'm thinking about the roundwound "Swing Bass 66"? It's been a long time since I tested any Roto short scale sets. I gave up on them after finding them completely useless. The short scale Roto 88 tapewounds are probably the worst bass strings I've ever tested.

Of course it's possible to install roundwounds on a Höfner too. It won't give you the classic "Beatle" sound though. Höfner sell roundwounds for these basses too but they are surprisingly bright! They wouldn't be my first choice, I much prefer flats on Höfners, but I guess roundwounds could make a Höfner Violin a bit more versatile. I'm not sure if ANY other roundwounds than the Höfner branded ones will fit though. The Höfner roundwounds are made by Pyramid but they are specifically designed for Höfner basses. I don't think even Pyramid's own regular short scale sets will fit. They don't taper off as much and I suspect they may also be too short.

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I just realized that I've got the Thomastik-Infeld short scale Jazz Flats on my Danelectro. Danelectros have similar tuning posts to Höfner so I guess the Jazz Flats could actually work for a Höfner too... I'm not 100% sure though and the TI Jazz Flats would also sound VERY different to the Pyramid Golds. The Jazz Flats have a leaner, brighter, more "modern" flatwound sound. The Pyramid Golds are a lot fatter sounding. Much darker sounding and a lot more old school thump.

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8 hours ago, S.F.Sorrow said:

I just realized that I've got the Thomastik-Infeld short scale Jazz Flats on my Danelectro. Danelectros have similar tuning posts to Höfner so I guess the Jazz Flats could actually work for a Höfner too... I'm not 100% sure though and the TI Jazz Flats would also sound VERY different to the Pyramid Golds. The Jazz Flats have a leaner, brighter, more "modern" flatwound sound. The Pyramid Golds are a lot fatter sounding. Much darker sounding and a lot more old school thump.

Many thanks, very helpful. I have ordered the lighter gauge La Bella flats.760FHB2s. I wouldn't be that confident putting 50s on such a thin neck, unless I was planning on taking up archery!  

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On 09/09/2020 at 16:08, grandad said:

I've used Rotosound on Beatle bass copies & liked them, £30. Not suitable for Hofners, too thick for the tuners.

image.png.81b326050638b8fca7f05971ee7baf58.png

When I eventually got a Hofner HCT I looked at Labella and fitted these, £42.

image.png.3565ab5092fd720045fcccaa882575e5.png

Another option is, £48.

image.thumb.png.985c9b42e1ffe4896086ea1968902abc.png

I would be interested to hear any opinions about the 2 Labella gauges.

You will only need to buy flats once so I'd say spend the cash.

I've never used Pyramid.

 

Many thanks I'll order a set of these.  

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On 09/09/2020 at 10:58, bertbass said:

If you want roundwounds get in touch with Newtone strings.  They'll make you exactly what you want and they won't break the bank either.

Think I will try Nutone roundwounds. I have them on my Chris Larkin bass. Great strings I will get some flats and compare!  

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On 09/09/2020 at 15:42, S.F.Sorrow said:

It's probably also worth mentioning that the first time you try Pyramid Golds you will probably think you got a faulty E-string. The E-string is very "dead" compared to the rest but it's supposed to be like that. When the strings are broken in they get a lot more balanced [...]

Aha, this is an interesting opinion! Could this apply to other string brands/types too?

I recently bought a set of La Bella nylon tapewounds for my Harley Benton violin bass. Overall I really like the sound, but dithered over whether I should request a replacement set, as the E string seemed to be a bit dead compared to the others, as you describe.

In the end uncertainty (and inertia!) won out and I just kept the strings and didn't contact the seller, but have continued to wonder whether I should have. Your comment makes me wonder whether this is a thing with some types of strings...? I'll be interested to see whether they balance up as the strings get broken in...

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8 hours ago, paulbuzz said:

Aha, this is an interesting opinion! Could this apply to other string brands/types too?

I recently bought a set of La Bella nylon tapewounds for my Harley Benton violin bass. Overall I really like the sound, but dithered over whether I should request a replacement set, as the E string seemed to be a bit dead compared to the others, as you describe.

In the end uncertainty (and inertia!) won out and I just kept the strings and didn't contact the seller, but have continued to wonder whether I should have. Your comment makes me wonder whether this is a thing with some types of strings...? I'll be interested to see whether they balance up as the strings get broken in...

I haven't tried the LaBella tapewounds but generally: Yes, this is a definitely a thing with some types of strings. Mainly certain types of flatwounds in my experience. Roundwounds tend to break in more evenly (and faster).

But it's important to understand that it's not really about a "dead" E-string but rather that the other strings break in slower and need some time to catch up with the E. Sometimes weeks or even months. So the "dead" sounding E-string is often pretty close to how the entire set will sound when all the strings are broken in. I'm not sure if this applies to the LaBella tapewounds but it wouldn't surprise me.

The Pyramid Golds are probably the most extreme example of this (which is why I mentioned it) and the E will always be a bit more thumpy and "dead" than A-D-G. The other strings will mellow out and get closer to the E over time but the E will always seem a bit weird when you hear the bass soloed. It works really great in the mix though. The Pyramid Gold E-string is probably the fattest sounding E-string out there! The Pyramid Gold A-string will break in pretty fast too but D+G will take a LOT longer. The first couple of weeks (or even months) E-A-D-G will sound like THUMP-thump-zing-ZING. Pyramid Golds need a LOT of time/playing before they sound the way they're supposed to.

GHS Precision Flats are a bit like this too: The higher strings will take considerably longer to break in so the E-string will sound "dead" by comparison when they're new (although not quite as extreme as the Pyramid Golds). But that "dead" E-string is actually close to how all the strings are supposed to sound like when broken in.

LaBella flatwounds are usually a bit like this too but they can be a bit inconsistent. Sometimes they sound fairly well balanced and almost broken in out of the box but most often they need a couple of weeks to mellow out from E to G. But like I said, I haven't tried the LaBella tapewounds (which I think are actually roundwounds with a nylon covering). Still, I wouldn't be surprised if the "dead" E-string is close to how the entire set will sound in a couple of weeks/months. Or maybe the E is supposed to be a bit thumpier than the rest, like the Pyramid Golds.

There are exceptions to this of course. The Rotosound 77 flats behave in the exact opposite way to most flats. The E-string (and to some extent the A-string) stays a LOT brighter than the D+G for a very long time. The D+G-strings go "dead" almost immediately. The Roto 77s can be very frustrating during this break in period. They sound great (but bright) when new, then they go through this EXTREMELY unbalanced break in period and then they finally settle into a more typical flatwound sound across all strings.

Just to be clear: When I say "dead" I mean this in a good way. I like mellow/warm sounding strings. I guess "fully broken in" would be a better description. A set of quality flatwounds never really go DEAD. They just get better and better over the years IMO. Many roundwounds DO go dead in a bad way though (but there are exceptions, like the Pyramid Pure Nickel roundwounds that need weeks/months before they show their full potential and just gets better and better with age).

But there is a always a chance you've got a bad set too of course. Or that the E-string got twisted during installation or something. But most likely everything is ok and that's how they are supposed to sound like. I don't think I ever got a bad set of LaBellas but like I said, I've never tried their tapewounds.

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On 09/09/2020 at 16:23, rasher80 said:

Pyramid do a Hofner specific set which nail it. It does say short scale on the packaging but they will fit on the Hofner no problem

And the apparently "dead" E string is a characteristic of these strings, not a manufacturing fault.

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