Feeling the Seduction of Flatwound Strings

flatwound bass stringIn my constant quest for the ultimate bass tone, I have come to realize that I have recently become seduced by flatwound strings.  While I have played flatwounds on fretless and upright basses in the past, I have been experimenting with them more and more on my main basses.  The band I am currently in plays a mix of rock, blues and R&B tunes spanning from the 50’s to the 90’s and I am finding that, more often than not, I am preferring flatwounds when we play. 

Recently I decided to put a set of D’Addario Chromes on my Lakland Skyline 44-01.  Initially I had put on a set of DR Sunbeams, but just felt that the D & G strings were way to bright and harsh.  I had a set of Chromes lying around so I figured I’d go to the opposite extreme just to see if I liked it.  Man, what a difference!  I was instantly smitten.  My tone sounded so fat and tight I couldn’t wait to try it out at our next rehearsal. 

After playing the Lakland for a couple of weeks I decided to re-string my Fender Deluxe Precision with a set of Thomastik Infeld Flats I had on my old Squire P Bass, which I don’t play too often anymore.  The TI Flats are much lower tension than Chromes, which was the one thing I liked about the DR Sunbeams.  Personally I think I have found the best of both worlds with the TI flats.  They seem to have more mids than the Chromes, yet still maintain the fat lows.  The highs are nice and smooth, not bright or harsh at all.

From here I started to think about what each of my basses are current strung with and realized that I seem to be trending towards flatwounds.  For now I am happy with the tones I am getting, though I am sure at some point the tide may change back toward roundwounds.  Here’s my current line up:

 

Lakland Skyline 44-01 – D’Addario Chromes

Fender Deluxe Precision – Thomastik Infeld Jazz Flats

Fender American Precision – D’Addario Tapewounds

Fender Mustang – D’Addario Chromes

Squire Precision – D’Addario EXL Coated Strings

Fender Deluxe Jazz – Elixir Nanoweb Strings

Carvin LB70 Fretless – Elixir Nanoweb Strings

Rogue VB100 – D’Addario Piccolo Strings

Fender BG29 Acoustic Bass – D’Addario Half-Round Strings


How about you?  Any love for flatwound strings?  Any string suggestions you think I need to check out?  I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

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!

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.