Episode 016: Strung Out on Strings

Strings lend a lot to the sound of your instrument. Learn some basics about how to pick the right one for you.

Music: JahzzarPlease Listen CarefullyspinningmerkabaUrbana-Metronica (wooh-yeah mix).

Show notes

What kind of strings do you use? What brand and gauge?

  • Dave
    • 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)  
  • Paul
    • Played stainless steel roundwound for two decades
    • Switched to nickel a few years back and now that’s mainly what I use
    • Medium gauge, 45-130, specifically I’m a DR guy — Sunbeams and Hi-Beams

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
  • Tapewound
    • Typically nylon tape wrapped around the metal string
    • Reduced noise from your fingers on the strings
    • Warmer, boomier sound
  • Coated
    • 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
  • Other
    • Newer alloy blends… Copper plated, cobalt, and others
    • Tried any?

What are the differences between string construction?

  • Roundwound
    • 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
  • Flatwound
    • More mellow, less aggressive
    • Sound great on a P bass for that vintage sound
    • Dave: Comments I’ve heard from Flatwound lovers…
  • Cores
    • 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

Gauges

  • 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

Listeners…

  • You have to use your ears and decide for yourself what’s right for you!
  • What is your favorite kind, brand?

 

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