What Bass Strings Should I Use

What Bass Strings Should I Use

The sound and feel of your bass can be changed quite dramatically depending on your bass string choice - from light gauge to heavy, roundwound to flats. Lets us help you choose a set to suit your playing requirements.

What bass guitar strings should I use? What bass strings are best? Roundwound vs flatwound? These are common questions for bass players. Whether you have a 4, 5 or 6 string bass guitar, the type of strings fitted can make a real difference to the tone it produces and how it feels.

The two main material options for bass strings are stainless steel and nickel wound. In essence, steel strings deliver a slightly brighter tone than nickel strings, a great option for modern rock and slap tones. Nickel strings on the other hand, deliver a warmer tone, less bright with more mids. They are great for fingerstyle players, pick players and slap players alike, wanting a more vintage vibe.

Steel strings, such as the very popular roundwound Rotosound Swing Bass RS66LD (in a standard 45-105 gauge) or 5 string equivalent, Swing Bass RS665LD offer a big, loud tone with bags of sustain and a good amount of ‘zing’. They are also very durable and long lasting.

Roundwound nickel wound strings such as Ernie Ball Super Slinky Bass and D’Addario EXL170 (both in the popular 45-100 gauge) offer a warmer tone than stainless steel and are favoured by many bass players for their fat, punchy sound. Nickel wound strings also ‘age’ more quickly than stainless strings, developing the characteristic ‘thuddy’ bass tone favoured my many players seeking a more 'vintage' sound.

A relative newcomer that has certainly been picked up by many leading players is the Dunlop Super Bright series. They are a great feeling string thanks to their lower tension and tonally deliver fat lows, crisp highs with good definition in the mids.

Another bass string of note has to be the DR Sunbeams. Sunbeam bass strings are nickel wound on a round core (as opposed to usual hexagonal core) delivering a string with superb feel and flexibility (tension).  They are a little more expensive than most strings but string life with Sunbeams is great and their tone is legendary in the bass world…just check some forums!

The above strings are all roundwound, there are other alternatives like flatwound strings. As a basic guide, roundwound bass strings are more versatile than flatwounds, delivering a brighter tone, with less tension and are by far and away the more popular choice. Flatwounds differ by having have a smooth outer surface, have less high end zing and also have a higher tension than equivalent gauge roundwounds. The tone from flatwounds is legendary, they have superb warmth and deliver solid low end tones...think Motown bass (erm google James Jamerson!)

Rotosound flatwound strings are a great choice, their Rotosound Jazz Bass RS77LD and  Rotosound Tru Bass RS88LD sets are ideal choices for some old school thump!...the latter being famously used by Paul McCartney to give The Beatles their classic bass sound. The D’Addario ECB81 Chromes are another great flatwound alternative.

There are other options like ground wound/half round strings (D’Addario ENR71). These strings deliver a combination of the two, roundwound tension but the smooth playing texture of flatwounds.

As a final note, remember your bass tone is the sum of its parts – what bass, what pickups, what amp and what strings you use, all combine to deliver your end sound...but if you want a quick and cheap 'refresh' to your bass, why not treat it to a new set of strings and bring it back to life!

This guide covers the most popular and most widely used options regarding string choices. There are, however, many other options and variations available. Pop down to our Harlow Superstore to see our massive range for yourself, or give us a call (01279 432900) and one of our friendly, knowledgeable staff will be happy to discuss your requirements with you.


Posted on 16th September 2012 by Rob Evans


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16th September 2012


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