Strings – Part 2: Flatwounds

I’ve noticed that flatwound strings seem to be coming back into vogue lately which is kind of interesting to me.  When I first started playing I had no idea what flatwound strings were.  I recall thinking that they were “Old School” and only used on vintage instruments.  For me I guess all of that changed when I got an upright bass, which was of course strung with flats.  At first the strings felt so weird, uncomfortable even, but in time I got used to them.  Funny thing is that before the upright, I had owned two fretless basses and never once thought to put flats on them.  Well, my upright has come and gone but my appreciation for flatwound strings has stayed strong.

I put flats on my Rogue Violin bass as soon as I bought it and wouldn’t dream of changing them.  When I bought it I bought a set of flats along with it.  I did plug it in and play it for a little while with the crappy stock roundwonds on it and seriously had to wonder if I had made a mistake buying the bass, it sounded that bad.  As soon as I put flatwounds on it, I knew it was a keeper.  Wow!  What a difference. I could not believe how much better it sounded.  At this point I have even recorded with it, not bad for a bass that cost me less than $200.

My Carvin Fretless is currently strung with D’Addario Chromes and I couldn’t be more happy with the tone.  I actually tried a set of Fender Nylon Tapewound’s on it when I first got it, but didn’t like the tone or feel of them and went back to flats.  As I mentioned in Part 1 I have been thinking about strings alot recently.  The other night I was playing my P-Bass and just could not get a tone I liked out it and started thinking, why not try a set of flats.  I ended up doing some research online and discovered that Thomastik Infeld Flatwound strings seem to be all the rage now days.  I soon realized that they are bit pricey, but are touted as lasting for 10 years.  I decided what the heck, why not, and ordered a set.  I have always used .105 gauge strings on my P-Bass, currently D’Addario 160’s, but decided to try a set of the Thomastik Infeld JF344’s, which are .100 gauge.  I have made the switch to the lighter gauge strings on my Jazz Bass and Laklands and thought I would do it on the P as well.  Man, let me tell you, these Thomastik Infeld strings do not disappoint!  They sound incredible and feel great.  The tension on the TI’s is a bit lower than any other flat I have used, which to me makes the strings feel like butter.  I had felt that the roundwounds I had on my P where to bright and the flats definitely mellowed out the tone considerably.  Interestingly enough, the TI’s actually still have a little zing to them, which is typically not the case with flats.  I have read that this will mellow in time, but in a good way.  I guess time will tell.

In my opinion some basses just sound better with flats.  I suppose it all depends on the tone you are going for and the style of music you play.  Unfortunately as bassists strings aren’t that cheap, but if you have the means I would encourage you to play around with different gauges and types of strings. It has really been an eye opening experience for me to realize all of the different tones I can get out of one bass just by changing the strings.  It seems to me that when it comes to flatwounds some people either love them or hate them, but I figure why not use all of the tools available to get the specific sound you want.  Sure they may feel weird at first, but you’ll get used to them.

Up next will be strings for an Acoustic Bass Guitar.

To start this series from the beginning click here.

2 Replies to “Strings – Part 2: Flatwounds”

  1. I’ve just rediscovered flats myself. I used to use them when I first started to play (almost thirty years!) I recently reacquired an old Squier Jazz and strung it with Status Hotwire flats, sounds stunning now.

  2. Right on! I’ve been playing the heck out of my P-Bass since I put the TI flats on it, I just love tones I’m getting. I had actually thought I would tire of them and switch back to roundwounds by now, but it’s been almost 6 months and I don’t see me changing them anytime soon. Thanks for comment!

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