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!

My Basses

Seeing as I have already gushed about my Fender Mustang Bass in an earlier post, I thought that it was only fair to write a post about all of my basses. My wife can’t understand why I need 8 basses, but the way I look at it each has it’s own significance. 1984 Squire P-Bass: I have had many different basses over the years but this one has been with me almost the entire time. My first bass was a very cheap Cort bass. This was well before Cort was a quality brand. From there I got a HEAVY Vantage Bass, which was actually a fairly decent instrument. Finally after playing and saving for about a year purchased this Squire P-Bass. Made in Japan, it is actually a very fine bass. I have used and abused this bass and it has never let me down. I still play it today. At one point I put Alembic Pickups in it and even routed out an area under the pick guard for a 9v battery. I have since filled in the route with wood putty and installed Seymour Duncan Bass Lines, which sound great. I also put a Bad Ass bridge on it as well as replaced to pots. 1999 Fender USA P-Bass: I came across this bass online, at Musician’s Friend I believe, and could not pass it up. I’m not sure why but it was priced incredibly low. Perhaps they were blowing out the previous year’s model or just the fact that the color is Metallic Purple, I couldn’t say. Definitely a rare color, I have seen a couple of Made in Mexico Fenders that were Metallic Purple but not any other USA basses. I put a Bad Ass bridge on this one as well as that I am not a fan of the standard Fender bridge. I replaced the stock pickups with Fender Original 62 Pickup’s making this one fine bass. I love the tone and playability of this one, which is why it is main gigging bass. 2004 Lakland Skyline 55-01: I got this one in a straight trade for a Carvin Fretless I had. The Carvin was a nice bass that I had custom made to my specific’s but I just wasn’t playing it anymore. I almost passed up on this deal as that I was unfamiliar with Lakland at the time. After doing a little research I quickly jumped at the deal and could not have been happier. I love the tone and playability of this bass. I’m still not quite sure what to do with the extra string, but it sure sounds good. 2006 Lakland Skyline 44-01: I liked my 5-String Lakland so much that I went onto ebay and found a great deal on a 4-String. This is my only bass with a Maple neck. Again, the tone on this bass is amazing, although I don’t enjoy playing it as much as I do the 5-String. I go back and forth on keeping this one and am currently considering selling it to fund a Fender Jazz. Fender BG-29 Acoustic: This one I picked up in a music store on a whim just to check it out and ended up buying it. This was back in the early 90’s when “Unplugged” was all the rage. Once I started playing it I couldn’t put it down, it was one of those basses that just felt right. It has okay volume acoustically, and sounds pretty decent plugged in. Feedback is an issue when plugged in so I bought one of those sound hole covers, which works like a charm. It is a short scale bass, not much bigger than an acoustic guitar actually. A great bass to have around the house at the ready to be picked up and played. Rogue VB-100 Violin Bass: I got this one from Musician’s Friend. It was on sale at the time and I thought what the heck it’s cheap enough. First ting I did was put flat wound strings on it, which made a huge difference in sound. This bass looks beautiful. For a cheap instrument it is made fairly well and has a nice even tone. It is really a one trick pony, but does a good job at doing that one trick. I have actually recorded with this bass and was very impressed with the end results. Another short scale bass, this one is just fun to play and has the cool vintage look. Carvin Fretless LB70 Active Fretless: A friend actually gave this bass to me. He had too many instruments and felt that this one wasn’t worth selling as that he wouldn’t get what it was worth anyway. First off let me say, Carvin Basses are awesome! Highly underrated if you ask me. Anyway, this is my one Fretless bass and is a pleasure to play. It’s active electronics and pickup combination let you dal in almost any tone you want. This one has flat wounds on it as well which really helps to give it that fretless sound. Fender Mustang Bass: Instead of rehashing on this bass you can read my previous post here: Fender Mustang Bass As you can imagine I struggle with acquiring more basses all time, I mean you can only play one at a time and some of these tend to get neglected for long periods. I currently have a minor itch for an Upright Bass, but really don’t have the room to keep one and worry that my kids would knock it over anyway so I keep talking myself out of one. My major itch right now if for a Fender Jazz but I have told myself that if I want one something else has to go. I envision myself sitting in music store in the near future trying out various Jazz basses and agonizing over which bass I will need to let go to fund a new one. At least I can say that I have come a long way from saving for a year to buy a Squire P-Bass 😉