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.

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 😉