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I've changed strings 52 times, learned something along the way


Sida79

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Maybe this is a "duh" moment for some of you, but I've never done something as crazy as this nor did I expect to actually find anything concrete tbh.

Anyway, something came over me a while ago and I decided to try 13 different sets of strings on all four (at the time) of my instruments.

 

Strings used were:

-TI flats

-Harley Benton nickels

-Rotosound 66

-Chromes

-Labella white nylons

-EB slinky

-Labella Jamerson

-Fender 7250

-Fender 7150

-Warwick Red Label

-Elixir

-a couple of used rounds I got with the basses I bought

 

I recorded short clips of each bass-string combination, then shuffled them repeatedly and rated them blindly over a long period in order to make sure I can consistently tell the difference.

 

Now, before this I would buy a set of strings, get some idea of how it might sound and then look for that component every time I'd buy the same set, find it and be content.

However, I didn't consider that a bass+string combination might be a more relevant way of looking at things and, indeed,

by far the most important takeaway for me was that it doesn't seem to matter so much what strings you use, as it does how they suit the instrument.

Of the two of my favorite sets of strings (on the basis on their sound alone), one only sounded great on one bass, and the other didn't really excel on any of them.

While I love the sound that they bring to the picture, that sound really might not be what the instrument needs to shine.

I also didn't expect strings of the same type to sound as different as they did to one another.

 

Three of these sets of strings have practically covered the entire range for me, sounding awful on one instrument, fantastic on another, and meh/solid on the remaining two.

The rest of them were also all over the place. Not a single set was actually good on all the instruments and not a single set was actually bad on all of them.

And this is not strictly a matter of taste. If the strings don't match the instrument at all, they can sound completely "broken",

dead, no presence, no sustain, as if you fished them out of the trash and they have absolutely no life in them whatsoever just making some sort of dull hollow noise.

This is the absolute worst case scenario, but they can sound bad in more subtle ways as well. Strings can easily rob the bass of its character

and potential, making it sound bland or cheap.

 

P.S. This is obviously dependent on other individual factors as well, but I think it's a safe bet that whatever "good strings" are for you it has to do as much with

the interaction between the strings and your instrument as it does with your own taste in strings.

 

 

Strings can obviously change the tone of the bass, when it comes to frequencies at least. Whatever the instrument lacks can be successfully remedied with strings that have loads of it.

However, I feel it's almost impossible to influence the character of the bass in the desired direction or I just don't know how to.

(by character I mean whatever way you would use to describe the tone of the instrument other than bassy/middley/trebly, whether it's soft, hard, warm, cold, sharp, round, whatever crazy descriptions we use.)

I definitely can't classify a certain sound with such precision to the point where I would know what the "opposite" of that sound is, not even close.

And character mismatch probably plays a big role in why some strings take away from the sound of the instrument instead of add to it.

 

In any case, the only major breakthrough I've had here had to do with the positive extreme, meaning:

If you love the sound of your bass, and you've found strings that sound very similar to that (e.g. they make your bass #2 sound a lot like your bass #1), they will likely emphasize that sound and make your #1 instrument sound even better.

 

This was the case with the "best" strings I've found on 2/4 basses.

On one of them the best strings primarily remedied the lack of presence the instrument has, without going against its character.

And on another by pure luck it's both - they both remedy the purely subjective "fault" of the instrument in my ears, and emphasize the rest of its natural tone.

 

Edited by Sida79
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Strings do make a big difference to the sound of a bass.

 

I've bought many a bass where my initial impression of it, when I get to sit and play it, is underwhelming.

 

Changing the strings, to a different brand than it's fitted with, often brings it to life.

 

I used to stick to Rotosound Swing Bass strings but have experimented with DR Hi Beams, Elixirs and Dunlop Super Brights of different gauges over the last few years.

 

My favourites are the DR and Elixirs.

 

It can be an expensive business though.

 

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Not crazy at all, unless I'm crazy too :) (this may not be reassuring)

 

Anyway did you keep the recordings and are you willing to share? That would be a real public service.

 

FWIW last string change I went to change my go-to strings and was ordering four sets of Blue Steels, my hand slipped and I ordered a light set and a heavy set. Just for comparison. I'm very boring with just a P and a J. The J is very bass heavy on the E string and with the P I tend to push the bass just a little so the j got the lighweight strings and the P got the heavy's. Much better than the usual strings in both cases. The J came alive and the P just has a little more 'gravity' in it's voicing. Surprisingly (because I'm quite weedy and also have delicate hands) I really love playing the heavier strings, who knew?

 

I like the Elixirs too but find just a little more life in the Blue Steels. Just taste though, and they do sound similar. I also ran them for two years to track the deterioration both of them ran a year without any dramatic deterioration and i ended up changing the Elixirs first, though the new strings pointed up that the BS's had deteriorated significantly but just sounded nice as old strings.

 

Anyway this is really interesting and i'd love to see more details and hear the recordings. Pretty please :)

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I don’t think it’s crazy at all, I only use flatwounds so I change my strings about every 15 years 😁, but about 5 years ago I went on a string quest , to try as many flats as I could to see the differences, which was expensive and time consuming, but totally worth it, unless you experiment with different ones you’ll never find the ones you like, after all ,it’s a big part of your sound , I’ve spent many a night trawling through BC strings for sale 😁

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What would be very interesting too is the basses these strings were fitted to.

 

I've also tried almost every strings on the market and have noticed that excellent strings simply reveal the real character of a bass, so a dull bass will sound dull and a dynamic bass will sound dynamic, and so on.

 

There's also another relationship that your tests seem to confirm, but that many refuse to admit, but let's wait for your basses list.

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I’ve tried many, my faves for years were Rotosound steel rounds but they just died too quickly. Moved to Warwick Red Label steel rounds, similar sound to Rotos but lasted nearly 3 times as long. When I left my punk band I didn’t need such abrasive highs so tried Elixirs out and I love them. I get the slightly used/worn in steel roundwound sound and it lasts for ages, I get nearly a year from one set. They’re also very comfortable to play so it’s a winner all round. This all relates to Precisions.

 

For Jazzes & Stingrays I found that I prefer nickel rounds, and that Ernie Ball Super Slinky’s and Elixirs tie on this.

 

Just wish I could get on with flats 😠
 

 

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For rounds, I used DR Lo-Riders for many years, and sometimes Hi-Beams. After hearing D'Addario NYXL's about 4 years ago I've used those ever since.

 

For flats, I've been on a set of TI's for about 5 years. I had a listen to some La Bella's but couldn't hear enough of a difference to make me change.

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one day..in the not too far distant future..someone will actually do a demo in a band scenario with all the different strings rather than a completely pointless bedroom demo. Not saying that's the case here BTW...

Edited by skidder652003
foolish drunken rant
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7 minutes ago, skidder652003 said:

one day..in the not too far distant future..someone will actually do a demo in a band scenario with all the different strings rather than a completely pointless bedroom demo

Nice name for an 80's tribute band. You should suggest it. 😉 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm kidding.

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9 minutes ago, skidder652003 said:

one day..in the not too far distant future..someone will actually do a demo in a band scenario with all the different strings rather than a completely pointless bedroom demo

Well volunteered 😄

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13 hours ago, chris_b said:

For rounds, I used DR Lo-Riders for many years, and sometimes Hi-Beams. After hearing D'Addario NYXL's about 4 years ago I've used those ever since.

Interested...long time Lo Rider user here too but was thinking of trying out NYXLs on my next string change.

 

Why did you opt to change? I heard the tensions are similar?

 

I'm a J or P Bass player here and play nickels only fyi.

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On 07/10/2021 at 11:27, gjones said:

I've bought many a bass where my initial impression of it, when I get to sit and play it, is underwhelming.

 

Changing the strings, to a different brand than it's fitted with, often brings it to life.

 

I even had it the other way around a few times. I'd buy a bass because it sounded great, but when it came time to change the strings I would discover it only sounds great with the strings it came with, and I couldn't find out what the strings were.

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On 07/10/2021 at 11:58, Phil Starr said:

Anyway did you keep the recordings and are you willing to share? That would be a real public service.

...

Anyway this is really interesting and i'd love to see more details and hear the recordings. Pretty please :)

 

Honestly, the thought of potentially sharing this only came to me halfway through and I didn't expect the topic to garner too much interest so I just didn't bother doing it properly.

This is also why I didn't name the basses (they're not that common) or the string details (I threw away the boxes).

 

While I feel this is useful in principle, the nature of it is so individual you'd really have to apply the principles yourself as everything from the instruments themselves to your own taste and playing technique would affect the conclusion.

 

As for the details, roughly:

 

Fender Adam Clayton

-Sounded great with Fender 7250/7150 as they have a similar character, and it made it just a tad warmer. 7150 sounds better at home, 7250 sounds better in a band setting.

I'm not sure if this is a deliberate move by Fender or just a coincidence.

-Sounded bad with any kind of older/less defined strings and flatwounds, except TI. In those combinations it tends to sound muddy or cheap.

 

Limelight Jazz

-Sounded great with La Bella White Nylon/dead rounds as those are the strings most similar to its somewhat unique sound.

-Doesn't work too well with warm or mild sounding strings. It just starts sounding too polite and unnoticeable.

 

Custom /w Bartolinis

-Sounded great with Warwick Red Label/Chromes as the former give him the brightness it lacks and the second match the character perfectly so it growls like crazy.

-It has a very deep sound so any string that is not bright or aggressive enough to overcome that just fails to shine despite its tonal capabilities.

 

Limelight Precision

-Sounds great with TI flats, as they have a musical sound like the instrument itself, yet fill out the middle frequencies perfectly and give it that bit of presence it lacks in a band setting.

-Cold/aggressive strings almost go against its character, making it sound cheap.

 

 

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23 hours ago, chris_b said:

For flats, I've been on a set of TI's for about 5 years. I had a listen to some La Bella's but couldn't hear enough of a difference to make me change.

 

It's funny, because La Bellas sound completely different to me and I often had both and changed them around since I like them both.

TI is kinda... low tension, but great attack, no thump but very strong mids, a smidge harsh (for a flat, at least) yet strangely musical with a sound of their own, even better with a pick and thumb muting.

La Bellas I found much different: less dry sounding, huge thump, strong tension, a big, round, woolly sound. I just stick to fingers with that one.

 

 

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13 hours ago, skidder652003 said:

one day..in the not too far distant future..someone will actually do a demo in a band scenario with all the different strings rather than a completely pointless bedroom demo

 

I used to wonder why someone who's into all things bass doesn't actually do that, but ever since I started going to bass meetings and trying out my fellow players' instruments, and the other way around,

I realized that the way we play changes the sound so much that it wouldn't be nearly as informative as I once thought, if at all.

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22 hours ago, acidbass said:

Interested...long time Lo Rider user here too but was thinking of trying out NYXLs on my next string change.

 

Why did you opt to change? I heard the tensions are similar?

 

I'm a J or P Bass player here and play nickels only fyi.

 

The NYXL's are brighter and last longer. They are also cheaper. I put them on my active Jazz bass.

 

I know nothing about string tension, all strings feel the same to me, I skate over the top of them, so I buy based on the sound and life.

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18 hours ago, Sida79 said:

Honestly, the thought of potentially sharing this only came to me halfway through and I didn't expect the topic to garner too much interest so I just didn't bother doing it properly.

This is also why I didn't name the basses (they're not that common) or the string details (I threw away the boxes).

Well sir! I think you start over and see if the results are the same 😂🤣

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  • 2 months later...

My OCD and other delightful obsession based issues have made me spend far too much on strings over the years but I think I've found a string that I like on all my basses - the Dunlop Stainless Flatwounds.

 

They are currently installed on all my basses except my Sandberg. That has EB Group 4 flats which I like very much so they are almost there as a control while I confirm my thoughts.

 

So I've got the Dunlops on a Fender Precision, Ibby EHB Medium / Short scale, Ibby Mezzo (5 and 4), and a Fender Urge 2.

 

I'm really liking them. Very smooth under the fingers so no noise from that, bright enough for a bit of slap when needed, lovely and low / full when the tone control is down.

 

I am really hoping that these are "the ones" so I don't have to obsess about them anymore!

 

For the first hour after installing they feel a bit crap as they still have some manufacturing residue on them. But an hour playing or getting the fast fret out solves that quickly.

 

 

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18 hours ago, fretmeister said:

My OCD and other delightful obsession based issues have made me spend far too much on strings over the years but I think I've found a string that I like on all my basses - the Dunlop Stainless Flatwounds.

 

They are currently installed on all my basses except my Sandberg. That has EB Group 4 flats which I like very much so they are almost there as a control while I confirm my thoughts.

 

So I've got the Dunlops on a Fender Precision, Ibby EHB Medium / Short scale, Ibby Mezzo (5 and 4), and a Fender Urge 2.

 

I'm really liking them. Very smooth under the fingers so no noise from that, bright enough for a bit of slap when needed, lovely and low / full when the tone control is down.

 

I am really hoping that these are "the ones" so I don't have to obsess about them anymore!

 

For the first hour after installing they feel a bit crap as they still have some manufacturing residue on them. But an hour playing or getting the fast fret out solves that quickly.

 

 


What sort of band do you play in? I want to give flats another go on my Jazz but have no idea how they would cope with rock/hard rock. Think Biffy, Muse, Soundgarden. 

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52 minutes ago, Supernaut said:


What sort of band do you play in? I want to give flats another go on my Jazz but have no idea how they would cope with rock/hard rock. Think Biffy, Muse, Soundgarden. 

 

I play in a big band and have to cur through 20 trumpets / bones / sax / piano / drums etc and it works great with that

But at home I write and record rock and metal and I'm very happy with that use too.

 

They are flats so they don't have that super high zing of rounds, but I've never liked that anyway. Gets in the way of the guitars and everything needs it's place, but there's certainly enough treble for a good rock tone I reckon.

 

 

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1 hour ago, fretmeister said:

If I get a chance I'll do a clip or 2 of some rock tones with those strings.

 

Will have to be on a PJ though as I haven't put them on my Sandberg jazz yet!

 

Much appreciated. 😀

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