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B String Query


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Hi All

I have recently moved to playing five string basses after 35 years playing four strings.

I have always used Rotosound strings during that time, and have been very happy with them. However, having added a 5-string set to one of the new basses, I find that the B is really (I mean REALLY) muddy.

My question is - Is this just likely to just be a dud, or do some brands produce notoriously bad B-strings. Also could there be an issue with the bass?

Any thoughts / recommendations would be appreciated.

Cheers

 

 

 

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My first question would be is through a gigging rig or a practice amp? I find that on my practice amp using my Hipshot Extender down to low D it doesn’t have that much clarity so can only assume what a low B would be like through it.

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I agree with Lozz, but would also add that low B strings themselves are notorious for sounding muddy, especially on 34 inch basses. The longer the scale, the best the low B sounds (Dingwall's 37 inch B is majestic!).

My favourite low B flatwound, in terms of clarity, is currently the Labella Low Tension. I can't advise on roundwounds, as I don't use them.

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It may take a little time to get used to the B.

I found I was pushing it over the edge of the fret trying to get a solid note at first.  Over time you get a better feel of how to get it to stand up for itself alongside the EADG.

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1 minute ago, SpondonBassed said:

It may take a little time to get used to the B.

I found I was pushing it over the edge of the fret trying to get a solid note at first.  Over time you get a better feel of how to get it to stand up for itself alongside the EADG.

This is precisely why I tried a 5 'er for two years and gave up. Put me off totally and actually made me biased. Still can't see any use for anything lower than E. Maybe a brand over a couple of grand might work but I can't see me going back any time soon.

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What @Lozz196 said. If you're playing through a practice amp, you might hear a very different sound to that from a gigging rig. I've run into that problem, although I'm using Ernie Balls roundwounds.

My practice amp is a wee Eden EC8, and the B string sounds very muddy through the speaker - it's only a single 8" driver, after all. It's slightly better through headphones, but not much to write home about. 

Gigging backline is an Eden Metro combo with a 118 extension cab. The difference is astounding, although I have to fiddle with the crossover settings a bit.  

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Try a bit of EQ? Don't head for the fundamental,  though. Most equipment can't reproduce 31Hz adequately. Try and boost the second and third harmonic frequencies at 62Hz and 93Hz respectively- or the nearest that any preamps/amps/eq pedals etc. may allow.

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How can we say if we don't know what bass and amp you are using.

I used DR Hi Beams or Lo-Rider rounds on my 5 string basses for years and now have a set of D'Addario NYXL's on my Jazz bass. No muddiness there.

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I had issues with my Modulus (35"). I have written about this earlier.

I thought the solution to mud was to put thicker string, but found out that .120 was the best sounding B in that particular instrument. Be open and do trials.

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13 hours ago, fretmeister said:

I’ve always found Roto B strings to be awful.

Daddario steels and Dunlop flats are my choice for B strings.

 

+1 to trying another brand.  I'm reasonably sure it'll yield an improvement. 

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Thanks for all of your responses. 

To clarify - there is still an issue when playing unplugged - which is what I do a lot of the time. So not an amp/EQ matter I would say.

I am only finding this issue on my MM Sterling, which is strung with Rotosounds.

I recently bought a second 5'er (Fender Jazz) - same scale as the Sterling - and there is no such issue with the Fender strings.

I have ordered some more Fender strings for the Sterling, which I hope will resolve the issue - particularly as it's a much easier bass to play.

 

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19 hours ago, Silvia Bluejay said:

I agree with Lozz, but would also add that low B strings themselves are notorious for sounding muddy, especially on 34 inch basses. The longer the scale, the best the low B sounds (Dingwall's 37 inch B is majestic!).

My favourite low B flatwound, in terms of clarity, is currently the Labella Low Tension. I can't advise on roundwounds, as I don't use them.

+1 for La Bella LTs. I do use roundwounds as well and currently have d’Addario  on and low B is fine. 

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I had a set of Dunlop Roundwound Steels, 40s, and the B string was good - better than the previous set of La Bella flats.

The B needs to be played more carefully - a gentler touch than I would use for the G string.

As for the isolated recording, it does sound a bit clanky, and random - but in the mix, it sounds just right.           

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IME Rotosound are very good at making round-wound 4-string sets in 34" scale length and 40/45 to 100/105 gauges and very poor at all other strings. 

Also IME for 5-string basses getting a decent sounding a feeling low B string depends on both the player and the bass. What works for one person on a particular bass won't necessarily work for another player and might not even work for the same player on a different bass. Case in point, when I owned lots of 5-strings basses I had different strings on nearly all of them because those were the strings that worked best for me for each bass.

Having said that I would try Warwick Red Labels as a first choice and if they aren't doing it for you then have a look at Warwick Black Label or LaBella Steels. If none of those are what you are after then try some DRs.

Edited by BigRedX
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@BigRedX is right that there are a lot of factors at play here, not just the set of strings

Gauge, pickups, set up (you might try dropping the pickup height or raising the action under the B string if it is overpowering the rest of the strings) and playing technique all have a role in how the low B sounds in comparison to the rest of the set, and it took me years to get an even sound across the fretboard.  Probably the biggest change for me was developing my technique, and while I can recognise that this has developed over the years, I'd be hard pressed to explain exactly what i have changed - it really comes down to being more used to playing on the low B.

For what it's worth, I like a bright, zingy tone, and use D'Addario Pro Steels, EPS300-5s. The low B is quite light at 127, which is against the conventional wisdom that thicker is better, but it works brilliantly for me.  Depending on your wallet you might try a few different gauges

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I think there is an amount of physics at play here too as has said above.  For any scale length you can pick a gauge of string that works and it's not a linear relationship which I guess is why to me 45/65/85/105 strings give very uneven tension across the bass.

I've bought 5-string sets from Newtone as you can pick pretty much exactly what you want in terms of construction and gauge.  The last 5-string set I acquired had the following gauges (35" scale):  42/56/76/102/138T.  This gave me excellent uniform tension, absence of mud and the tapered B made it a doddle to fit even for a relatively heavy gauge.

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Just fitted D'Addario EXL170BT  balanced tension 45 - 107 set plus a D'Addario 145 B string (which gives the same tension as the others) to my 34" G&L L1505.  This has considerably improved the B string feel / response. Using flats on just about every other bass I find the 145 B  quite responsive and easy to play. The string tension calculators show why many B strings are 'floppy', they have significantly lower tension due to insufficient mass per unit length for the given scale length.  Although the calculated tensions will not be exact you can't beat the underlying Physics (spoken as a now retired Physicist :laugh1:).

Edited by 3below
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I agree the D'Addarios mentioned above are a good choice. I like Ernie Ball Cobalts on my 5, which have similar gauges and are quite bright/clean. What rig do you use? To reproduce a low B cleanly at volume does take some doing.

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