Strings lend a lot to the sound of your instrument. Learn some basics about how to pick the right one for you.
What kind of strings do you use? What brand and gauge?
- Generally, nickel round-wounds. But I am a fan of exploring the under $30 collection. Oh, and I also like stainless steel:)
- Today I am using D’Addario Medium Tension 50-120, but before that, RotoSound 55 (Pressure wound steel), DR Black Beauty (Coated Steel), and Elixir (Coated Nickel plated Steel). Even Roto 77 (nickel flats)
What are the differences between string materials?
- Stainless steel
- Generally the brightest strings, so if you need a lot of emphasis on twang, grind, or that sort of gleam, these are what you want
- Steel strings tend to last for quite a while, and then the tone drops off a cliff — you’ll know when they’re dead
- They are basically made out of what your frets are… so they can chew them up over time!
- Nickel plated
- Although not as bright as steel, they are very close initially
- Nickel strings seem to last longer, diminish in brightness more slowly… may need to compare to new strings to keep your head calibrated!
- Softer on your frets and your fingers
- Typically nylon tape wrapped around the metal string
- Reduced noise from your fingers on the strings
- Warmer, boomier sound
- Usually a polymer coating over a nickel string
- Polymer maintains a longer life for the nickel underneath, retains brightness longer, but not as bright as steel
- Coating can “shred” over time, have to decide whether this bugs you
- Newer alloy blends… Copper plated, cobalt, and others
- Tried any?
What are the differences between string construction?
- Tend to have more of a “clang” or chime, more aggressive sounding
- Rougher to the touch, and again on the frets
- A must for slap funk or harder music
- More mellow, less aggressive
- Sound great on a P bass for that vintage sound
- Dave: Comments I’ve heard from Flatwound lovers…
- Round — more flexible and have a deeper, more resonant sound
- Hex — stiffer and have a more mid-rangey sound
- These differences are more subtle than the material, so a lot of players may not need to sweat them
- Lighter strings are good for more delicate touch, more crispiness and overtones
- Heavier strings are good for digging in since they will feel tighter, pronounced fundamental
- You have to use your ears and decide for yourself what’s right for you!
- What is your favorite kind, brand?