Ask the Expert – Recommendations on bass guitar strings
Adrian Eley from Derby in the UK asks:
“I have been playing bass guitar for about a year and I am now starting to look a little deeper into the sound I can get from the guitar. I have been told there are four different types of bass guitar strings. What are the pro’s and con’s of these strings, what are the differences and what do the professionals generally prefer?”
Andy Chamberlain and Matt Weeks reply:
The different types of bass strings usually refer to the string’s windings. There are two main types of windings, roundwound and flatwound. There are also a couple of others that are a hybrid of those main two.
A roundwound string has a round shaped string wound along the core a bit like a rope. Roundwound strings are the brightest sounding of the two windings. These are the most commonly used type of string. They feel a little rougher because they have more grooves. There is also more finger noise because of all those grooves. Roundwound strings are used in almost all styles of bass playing. And they are essential for slapping, popping and tapping where you want a nice bright tone. When you first put them on you may find they are too bright, but they will soften up after a little playing time.
Flatwound strings have a ribbon-like winding wound along the core string, have a mellower tone and feel smooth and silky. They have very little finger noise since they have fewer grooves up and down the string. Flats also have a long playing life since there are fewer cracks where dirt and oil can build up. You may find flatwound strings to be a little too mellow for rock, r&b, funk and any playing situation where the room acoustics or PA system don’t easily allow the definition of the notes to cut through. E.g. Church! But you might like flatwounds for jazz and reggae where you might need a more mellow sound.