A Little Guide on How to Choose Bass Strings by Igor Saavedra… First of all I want to apologize with my readers for the delay on this April article. As you surely know I was in a tour in Europe playing in Germany at the Musikmesse and also in Spain and I just couldn’t find some good quality time to write.
Now concerning bass strings… Going into this subject, to my surprise, people frequently ask me things about strings that I took for granted that everybody knew. In this short article I will just give you a list of the things that everyone should know before choosing their strings.
1) “Rigidness” is not the same as “Tension”… that means a string can be very rigid but not necessarily very tense, or the opposite. A good example is when you play close to the bridge. Obviously the string feels very rigid right there, but the tension is quite the same all along the string.
2) Taking a four-string Bass as an example, the “Scale” (34”, 35”, 35”, etc.) of that Bass is measured from the nut to the exact point where the string makes contact with the bridge saddle and considering that not every string has the same scale because that scale distance usually increases towards the lower strings, the string that is taken as a reference is usually the G string.
3) The reason why the gauge of the strings is different is because that’s the best way to compensate for the lower tuning. A lower tuning on a string will apply less tension to it, but if you increase the gauge that will increase the tension of the string and compensate things; the wider the gauge the higher the tension.
4) Investigate… don’t assume that the “pre cocked” combination of gauges (tensions) that the string sets have are the best option for you, not everybody has the same hands, fingers, strength, angle of attack, sound preferences, etc., You can like a very tense “heavy” G string but a very soft “light” E string or quite the opposite, and that’s something you won’t find on string sets because either all the strings are “heavy” or all the strings are “light”, so my advice is trying to find single strings on the market and experiment as much as you can… you will be surprised. In fact, the gauges on my basses are just crazy, completely unavailable on standard string sets, but they perfectly suit my needs and preferences, which I think is far away the most important thing… experiment!
5) String gauge is expressed on “thousands of an inch”. That is for example a .040 G string has 40 thousands of an inch, so that’s the reason for the point on the left of the number. People in the US usually are more familiar with this information, but that doesn’t happen in the rest of the world where the Metric System is the one who reigns…
6) Learn and study about “Twelfth root of 2”… The scale of an instrument and the fretting is strictly related with this amazing number. I don’t want to extend this list explaining to you all the details about this, but I think it is a good idea to just give you the concept so you can find out more about it. String tension is closely related to this…
7) If you are looking for a brighter sound go for Roundwound strings. Roundwound is the most brilliant winding, though is a little noisier because of the increased friction with the fingertips. If you want less bright and less friction noise go for Halfwounds. And finally if bright sound and slapping are not important for you I would suggest using Flatwounds.
8) In relation to the materials, if you are looking for a brighter sound, go for Stainless Steel, then Nickel Plated Steel, and finally Nickel, which has the less bright. There are some Bronze windings that have a very bright sound but they will usually leave a lot of dirt on your fingertips.
9) You can get even brighter if you choose ”Exposed Core”, or “Contact Core” strings, where the core of the string, which has a higher harmonic composition, is exposed on the bridge saddle area so it can make direct contact with it. My advice is that you have to consider that if you choose this option as you’ll have to move the bridge saddles a little bit up so to compensate for this gauge reduction on that area, which will make the rest of the string, “which is wounded”, to be a little closer to the frets.
10) The Bass Pickups generate an electromagnetic field around each string. That electromagnetic field is altered by the string vibration and that vibration will have a different harmonic composition so it will behave differently depending on the string tension, the string material, the string construction, the tuning, the construction and woods of that particular Bass, the technique, the finger touch, the size of your hand and your fingertips, etc. The configuration of the particles (electrons, protons, etc.) obtained by this specific alteration then will travel from your pickups through your cable and will reach the amp and finally will go out from the speaker… so that’s how an Electric Bass sounds! For an Electric Guitar, obviously is the same principle… but we don’t care too much about that over here 🙂
That’s for this month my dear friends!