Fender Mustang Bass – Experimenting With Strings

Fender Mustang Bass

Fender Mustang BassRecently I have rediscovered my love for my Fender Mustang Bass.  You may remember a while back that I was having some minor shoulder issues and as a results I was tending to play my lighter weight basses, one of which is my Mustang.  I seem to flip-flop a lot with this bass, either loving the playability of the 30″ scale and how effortless it feels to play, or feeling cramped and somewhat dissatisfied with the tone.  As I am currently in a “The Mustang Bass is the best bass ever” sort of mood I have been trying out different sets of strings, paying close attention to my tone.

All of the sets I tried were D’Addario’s as that they are my string brand of choice and relatively inexpensive.  One thing to keep in mind is that even though the Fender Mustang Bass is a short scale bass, short scale string sets typically are not long enough for it as that it has a string through bridge.  Medium Scale strings seems to work the best, though I suppose a Long Scale set would work.  Also, I put Nordstrand pickups in this bass which I find to be a little hotter and clearer than the stock pickups.

Super Light Round Wound

The first set of strings I tried was a set of EXL220M Nickel Super Light’s (.40-.95).  I had never tried strings this light before and for some reason thought that they might work well with the Mustang.  Right off the bat they just didn’t feel right to me.  They sounded fine, although they have a bit more treble than I prefer, but I just could not get used to how light they were.  I felt like I was playing a guitar.

Light Round Wound

From here I took the logical step and tried a set of EXL170M (.45-.100) Light strings.  I have these on my Jazz bass and am happy with them there so figured these would be the ones.  Indeed they do feel and sound good, but I felt the tone was just not as deep as I would like it to be.

Chrome Flat Wound

Naturally, at this point, as I was still seeking a deeper tone, I switched gears and put on a set of ECB81M Chrome Flat Wounds (.45-.100).  Wow!  What a difference.  All the lows you could ever want with these.  Running the Mustang through my headphone amp and when recording these sound deep and fat.  I truly thought these were the strings for me.  I started taking the bass out to band practice, running it through my GK MB200/115MBE rig and was quickly overwhelmed with the boominess of my bass.  For the first time I actually turned down the Low’s on my amp and turned up the Hi’s.  I was able to get a fairly decent tone but some of the boominess was still there.  Not to be deterred I used this setup for a couple more rehearsals but in the end found that it just wasn’t for me.IMG_1388

Medium Round Wound

At this point I wasn’t sure where to go, so I decided to go with my old stand by, what I use on my P Bass.  D’Addario EXL160M (.50-.105) Medium strings.  I am well acquainted with these strings so of course they feel great to me.  I also enjoy the fact that they have a slightly lower tension due to the short scale.  These strings sound Fat and Strong and provide the Growl I was missing with the Chromes.   When recording my bass sits nicely in the mix and at band rehearsal I find that I can get a nice deep fat tone out of them or a more aggressive growl just by adjusting my plucking technique.  The EQ controls on my GK are mostly set back to the flat position and the boominess is gone.  I suppose I should have just gone with these strings to start but for some reason thought that Mustang would require something different.

Giddy Up!

As I’ve mentioned before, the Fender Mustang is a fun little bass to play.  I love playing it around the house, due to it’s smaller size it is a great little couch bass.  Some people seem to think that short scale basses are more toy than bass but I can tell you that this bass is no toy.  The build quality is just as good as my Fender American P Bass and it sounds great, especially with the upgraded Nordstrand pickups.  I tend to be fickle with which bass I play at any given moment, switching instruments far to often, but for now I plan on riding out this Mustang phase for a while.


Gear Review: D’Addario Nylon Tapewound Strings

I’m always amazed with the difference a new set of strings can make on your bass.  From the bright zing of a new set of Steel Wounds to the thump of a set of Flats, strings allow us to dramatically change our tone in a quick, easy way.  My preference has mainly been Nickel Round Wounds, though I have always felt they are just a tad bit brighter than I like, especially when brand new.  While I do enjoy playing flats from time to time, I often find them lacking the tone I desire as well.  For these reason’s I decided to give D’Addario’s new Nylon Tapewounds a try.

In truth, I have tried Tapewounds before, Fender I believe.  I once put a set on my acoustic bass but did not much care for them.  To me they felt like strings wrapped in electrical tape, and had an overly “thumpy” sound.  I had heard that D’Addario (generally my string manufacturer of choice) was now making a set and after enquiring about them to one of their reps, decided to give them a try.

The first thing I notice when taking them out of the package was how cool they looked.  These weren’t the shiny Tapewounds I had tried in the past.  In fact, the tape wrap seems more like a coating than tape.  Perhaps they are wrapped tighter than other manufacturers Tapewounds or have thinner wrap, whatever D’Addario did, they did right.  To the fingers they feel somewhere between rounds and flats.  I love the way they feel, smooth and silky on the fingers, not the plastic, sticky feeling like others I have tried.  Add to that a sweet low tension that makes playing feel effortless and you’ve got a nice set of strings.

But how do they sound you ask?  “Fat” and “mellow”, with little to no string noise.  As expected they sound somewhere between Rounds and Flats.  The “zing” typical of Rounds is all but gone, yet the Tapewounds maintain more “mids” than Flats.  To me they sound a bit “hollow” or even “nasally”, but in a good way.  With a few tweaks of your EQ you can go from an almost upright tone to a fat, smooth tone with a whole lot of thump.

The more I play these strings the more I like them.  I feel that I may have finally found the tone I’ve been looking for on my P-Bass.  Additionally, their black color adds a certain coolness factor to your bass.  If you’re looking to change things up a bit with a new set of strings I recommend picking up a set.



Strings – Part 3: Acoustic Bass Guitar

Fender BG 29 Acoustic Bass

The Acoustic Bass Guitar is an odd animal.  Not quite the same as an electric bass nor an upright.  It has a sound all it own which some people love and some people hate.  I acquired my Fender BG-29 acoustic back in the mid-90’s when playing “Unplugged” was all the rage.  I had been thinking about getting one as that I had alot of friends who played guitar and was tired of being left out of many an impromptu acoustic jam session.  I saw the Fender in a local music store in Sacramento, CA and decided to check it out.  I loved the feel and sound of the bass so much I had to buy it.  This is the instrument that led me to string experimentation.

The BG-29 came stock with Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Bass 7060 strings in gauges .045, .055, .075, .095.  These are roundwound strings, which I left on this bass for quite a while.  The phosphor bronze strings have good volume but tended to be a bit to clackity for my liking.  I next tried Ernie Ball Earthwood strings which had a similar tone to the bronzes, so my quest continued.  At one point I shelled out the extra dough and put a set of Elixir strings on, they had a mellower tone than the bronze’s and the Ernie Ball’s, but I still wasn’t satisfied.  At this point I was done with the noisy, squeaky, finger noise prevalent with roundwounds and decided to try a set of Fender Nylon Tapewound strings.  These got rid of most of the unwanted noises but left me with a thuddy sounding tone that I was not at all happy with.  Flatwounds would be the next obvious choice but I wondered if flatwounds would have enough acoustic volume?  While searching for the perfect strings online I came upon D’Addario Half Rounds.  I have been very pleased with these strings.  They have a fine balance of tone and volume while the string noises associated with roundwounds are greatly reduced.  I may still give flatwounds a shot someday, but for now I am very satisfied.

To me the Acoustic Bass is a great instrument to have around the house for when inspiration hits.  I almost never play it amplified, as to me that would almost defeat it’s purpose.  Plugged in it has a completely different sound. Feedback is an issue when plugged in, a lesson I learned that the hard way at a coffe house gig.  After that I bought a Sound Hole cover like you would use on an acoustic guitar which is great at fighting feedback.  Amplified the acoustic bass almost sounds like an electric, leaving one to wonder what the point is.

That about does it for my mini series on strings.  As I have said, strings have been on my mind recently as I have been experimenting with my Jazz and P Basses, so I thought I would write about it and share my experiences.  Of course all of this is subjective to my tastes in tone and feel so I would encourage you to experiment for yourself and decide what works best for you.

To start this series from the beginning click here.

Any topics you all would like to see me write about?  Leave a comment or drop me email and I’d be happy to consider it.  Thanks for reading!