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Favorite Bass Strings for a 4-String

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  • #16
    Originally posted by bob p View Post
    I'm a bass player who dabbles in guitars. I have been using RotoSound Swing Bass 66 roundwounds since the 70s. They're the gold standard for bright roundwound tone but they're pretty hard on frets, especially if you've got strong hands and you like to bend strings. Every now and then i'll try a new set of strings just to see what's new. IME the Ernie Ball bass strings don't sound new for very long. They don't take much time to lose their tone. Out of curiosity I just put a set of DR Low Riders on my P. I like them, but I think I'll go back to the Swing bass 66. If you like bright roundwound tone (ie: Chris Squire, Entwhistle) then the RotoSound Swing Bass 66 is the standard to which everything else is compared.
    You say they are hard on frets, Are they hard on fingers?
    The DRs seem to be a bit smoother, but still have that bright tone.
    The price of the 66s is better than the DRs.
    T


    "If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride!" Scottish Proverb 1600s
    Terry

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    • #17
      I have been playing bass for longer than i care to admit, & its rotosound swing bass 66 for me, ive tried all the others, but for me, the rotosounds are the best. It doesnt take long to build up the callouses, and i use both pick & fingers to play depending on the song.
      I know, you want a definitive recommendation, to save the $ trying several brands until you find one you like..... but strings, like amps, are a very personal choice. for me, i stick with the rotos.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by mozwell View Post
        I have been playing bass for longer than i care to admit, & its rotosound swing bass 66 for me, ive tried all the others, but for me, the rotosounds are the best. It doesnt take long to build up the callouses, and i use both pick & fingers to play depending on the song.
        I know, you want a definitive recommendation, to save the $ trying several brands until you find one you like..... but strings, like amps, are a very personal choice. for me, i stick with the rotos.
        Don't really need a definitive answer!
        This thread is way over a year old!
        I just opened the thread back up to say I liked the DRs I bought.
        A friend of mine plays the LoRiders, and nothing else.
        I've put them on his bass when I replaced the P Pickups.
        I'm retired, and just piddling around anyway.
        I work on the guitars, basses, and amps more than I play them!
        T
        Peace and Tone, and Above all, Keep Thumpin!
        Last edited by big_teee; 11-19-2013, 04:57 AM.


        "If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride!" Scottish Proverb 1600s
        Terry

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        • #19
          Originally posted by big_teee View Post
          You say they are hard on frets, Are they hard on fingers?
          Stainless roundwounds are hard on nickel steel frets. But hard on hands? Having played Swing 66 for 30 years I have to say that I don't even notice it. I do see a lot of players complain on forums about different brands of strings that are hard on their fingers and I just kind of roll my eyes and think that they must be new players. When changing string brands I do notice a difference in feel, some strings feel softer than others, some feel faster, some have less drag, etc, but I've never thought of any of them as digging into my fingers or being particularly hard to play. But then 30 years of fingerstyle on roundwounds makes you not notice the little things. I can't say that I've ever come across a string that's really bothered me.

          The D'addario roundwounds in the 2 packs are nice and cheap. I know a lot of full timers who use them just because of the price. If rounds really bother you but you want the bright tone then maybe you should try D'addario half wounds but they cost more. Or try flats. Flats will still have a bright sound if you change them often enough.

          If the strings really bother you, one option is to just gut it out and play more. That's cheaper than changing a lot of strings.
          "Stand back, I'm holding a calculator." - chinrest

          "I happen to have an original 1955 Stratocaster! The neck and body have been replaced with top quality Warmoth parts, I upgraded the hardware and put in custom, hand wound pickups. It's fabulous. There's nothing like that vintage tone or owning an original." - Chuck H

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          • #20
            Originally posted by bob p View Post
            Stnainless roundwounds are hard on nickel steel frets. But hard on hands? Having played Swing 66 for 30 years I have to say that I don't even notice it. I do see a lot of players complain on forums about different brands of strings that are hard on their fingers and I just kind of roll my eyes and think that they must be new players. When changing string brands I do notice a difference in feel, some strings feel softer than others, some feel faster, some have less drag, etc, but I've never thought of any of them as digging into my fingers or being particularly hard to play. But then 30 years of fingerstyle on roundwounds makes you not notice the little things. I can't say that I've ever come across a string that's really bothered me.

            The D'addario roundwounds in the 2 packs are nice and cheap. I know a lot of full timers who use them just because of the price. If rounds really bother you but you want the bright tone then maybe you should try D'addario half wounds but they cost more. Or try flats. Flats will still have a bright sound if you change them often enough.

            If the strings really bother you, one option is to just gut it out and play more. That's cheaper than changing a lot of strings.
            Yes I guess I'm just a Sissy!
            Like I said, I found the strings I like, so I will stay with the DRs.
            I may be getting a cheap P-bass copy, I may try the Lo riders, with it.
            T
            Last edited by big_teee; 11-19-2013, 06:24 AM.


            "If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride!" Scottish Proverb 1600s
            Terry

            Comment


            • #21
              It depends on what you want out of the bass in terms of tone. First I'd decide on that.

              Some broad categories with examples:

              Roundwound - bright, twangier, but rougher and noisier to play. Rotosound Swingbass is the classic example.
              Pressurewound - basically a RW that has been pressed a bit flat; closest in sound to RW but not totally smooth. GHS Pressurewound is an example.
              Groundwound - basically a RW that has material ground off for a smoother/flatter surface. D'Addario Half Rounds are pretty popular here.
              Flatwound - traditional, duller sounding with a distinctive attack; smooth surface. Many examples with varying preferences, tensions and cost (!).
              Nylon Tape wound - very smooth black nylon surface wrap with a clean predictable tone, but perhaps less versatility. Rotosound Tru Bass.

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              • #22
                I'd split that list into two categories If you're trying to sort through the choices based on tone:
                Sound like Roundwounds:

                Roundwound - bright, twangier, but rougher and noisier to play. Rotosound Swingbass is the classic example.
                Pressurewound - basically a RW that has been pressed a bit flat; closest in sound to RW but not totally smooth. GHS Pressurewound is an example.
                Groundwound - basically a RW that has material ground off for a smoother/flatter surface. D'Addario Half Rounds are pretty popular here.


                Sound like Flatwounds:

                Flatwound - traditional, duller sounding with a distinctive attack; smooth surface. Many examples with varying preferences, tensions and cost (!).
                Nylon Tape wound - very smooth black nylon surface wrap with a clean predictable tone, but perhaps less versatility. Rotosound Tru Bass.



                Regarding Rounds:

                IMO when they are new, all roundwounds sound more alike than they sound different. That is to say, roundwounds, groundwounds and edgewounds all sound like roundwounds in that they are all derivatives of a string that was invented to not sound like flatwounds. It's no surprise then, that all roundwounds are going to sound different from flats, and more alike in being different from flats than being different from one another -- at least when they're new. If you want bright roundwound tone, then pick any roundwound derivative and start differentiating within that group.

                IMO the biggest difference between these types of strings isn't the way that they sound when new, (they all sound bright and edgy when new), it's how quickly they age to become dead sounding. Between brands there are some pretty significant differences in how long it takes the tone to change. That becomes less significant if you're someone who changes strings a lot, but more significant if you don't change strings often. To ensure consistent tone, you either have to change strings a lot (like a guitar) or you have to find a string that holds it's tone well. Some are much better than others in this regard.



                Regarding Flats:

                Flatwound strings are the original bass string. I wouldn't describe them as flat and thumpy though, even though this is a really popular characterization. When new, flatwounds sound bright, although they don't have as much clank as roundwounds. It's not uncommon for roundwound users to switch to flats and ask why the strings still sound so bright. What makes flatwound sound flat and thumpy is age. Flatwounds won't sound dull and lifeless if you change them as often as you change guitar strings, but for some reason people are reluctant to change bass strings as often as they should. I guess some people are cheap. Unlike roundwounds that get changed fairly often, flats tend not to get changed as often. There are people who will leave flatwounds on their bass for years, sometimes decades, without changing them. That results in a specific tone that some people look for, the sound of a P-bass with dead strings. That has become sort of a stereotypical flatwound tone, though it's not at all easy to get unless your strings are pretty old.

                Nylon tape strings have a plastic wrap around the strings that decrease fret noise. They're popular among players who want to emulate the tone of a string bass. I tend to think of them as flatter than flats.


                Personally, I just use Swing Bass 66 and I use EQ when needed to change the tone. Just my $0.02.

                PS - haven't checked the mail yet.
                "Stand back, I'm holding a calculator." - chinrest

                "I happen to have an original 1955 Stratocaster! The neck and body have been replaced with top quality Warmoth parts, I upgraded the hardware and put in custom, hand wound pickups. It's fabulous. There's nothing like that vintage tone or owning an original." - Chuck H

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