Best Bass Strings
Most bassists find themselves taking part in an on-going quest to find the best tone they can get out of their instrument. And while there’s a variety of factors playing a part in shaping the sound of a bass guitar, there’s nothing more crucial than choosing the right bass strings. Because certain players and styles of music call for different attributes, there are many options to choose from when shopping for bass strings, and sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming. We’ve outlined considerations you should take into account when purchasing new bass strings in our buyer’s guide listed below.
Best Flatwound Bass Strings:
Flatwound bass strings have a smooth, more mellow sound to them. Because the strings themselves have fewer grooves, they produce much less finger noise than their roundwound counterparts. These strings typically are best suited for musical genres such as jazz or reggae. We've chosen the best flatwound bass strings out there, with each set listed here designed to last a minimum of three months of regular use without needing to be changed, they all bring out a deep-sounding low-end due to the build of the strings, and they're designed to feel smooth and easy on the hands, which is definitely a plus for those who spend excessive amounts of time maneuvering up and down fretboards.
Smooth feel and excellent tone is what you can expect from Rotosound’s Jazz Bass 77 flatwound strings. These stainless steel strings have been praised by the likes of Bass Player Magazine and utilized by some star players over the years. Read Full Review
Thomastik-Infeld has made high-standard strings for a variety of instruments, including electric bass guitars, violins, and upright basses. With their Jazz flatwound strings, they’re able to properly navigate that tiny space between mellow and dull (and in case you’re wondering, they never land on the latter side of the fence). Read Full Review
Get ready for a blast from the past when you string up your bass guitar with the La Bella Original 1954 flatwound strings. Their heavy gauge provides a soulful, low grooving thump. Read Full Review
The Ernie Ball 2806s are flatwound bass strings that are not just built to last, they’re also designed to conjure a sound that immediately transports listeners back to the old school. These strings also feel very smooth to the fingers while you're playing. Read Full Review
Flatwound strings are most often used for styles of music that require a warm, mellow tone and deep low end. So it’s not wonder that jazz, R&B, and pop players have all favored D’Addario’s ECB80 strings to help them achieve the sound they’re looking for. Read Full Review
Best Round Wound Bass Guitar Strings:
Roundwound bass guitar strings are ideal for players who want to pull a more bright sound out of their instrument. They go well with all genres of music, but particularly excel for techniques such as slapping and popping. The most common of bass string types, roundwounds have more grooves in them than flatwound strings. This results in more finger noise, as well as a typically “rougher” feel. Here are the best types of roundwound bass guitar strings, with each one listed here constructed to last a long amount of time without needing to be changed, they're manufactured with steel to provide durable yet powerful tone, and offer up a bright high-end which makes them ideal for bassists who want to solo or shine through in the mix.
Rotosound’s Swing Bass 66 strings provide a vibrant tone that is sure to appeal to any players looking for a great-sounding roundwound experience. Many highly regarded musicians have chosen to make Rotosound their go-to string of choice, and after playing them yourself, it won’t be difficult to understand why. Read Full Review
D’Addario has been in the string making business for quite some time, and have earned a reputation as one of the leaders in their industry. Their EXP160 roundwound bass guitar strings are ideal for bassists playing long scale instruments who want to harness a great sound that will last a long time. Read Full Review
Bassists who know a thing or two about strings are aware of the fact that sometimes, you just have to get slinky with it. Enter Ernie Ball’s 2831 Power Slinky bass strings, roundwound nickel-plated steel strings that offer solid tone and comfortable playability. Read Full Review
GHS has become a standard for bassists across all genres over the years. Their Bassics roundwound bass guitar strings provide excellent tone and playability at an affordable price. Read Full Review
When you’ve already gone slinky and want to push the envelope even further, where else can you go? Super Slinky and Ernie Ball have the solution on deck for players who want an even lighter gauge to play with while still maintaining excellent tone. Read Full Review
Bass String Buyer's Guide
Much like guitar strings, bass strings come in many different configurations. There truly aren’t any bad choices one can make when selecting a set, but what’s most important is to determine what type of sound and style you’re going for. Being aware of your playing style as well as what genre you are primarily going to play as it can make a huge difference in narrowing down the best options.
Of course, there’s no greater test one can do than actually trying strings out for yourself and experiencing what they feel and sound like firsthand. However, here are a few basic concepts you should be familiar with before taking the plunge into the deep end of bass strings.
The diameter/thickness of a string is what we call a string gauge. The heavier the gauge of a string, the lower and richer the tone. Conversely, because these strings are thicker and heavier, they also require more physical exertion from a bassist’s fingers. For this reason, it’s often better for beginners to start off with a lighter gauge.
String gauges are messed in thousandths of an inch. Ultra/extra light string sets run between .090 and .030, whereas extra heavy sets are between .115 and .055. If you’re unsure about where you personally stand in the range of options, it’s advisable to start out with the standard medium gauge, which runs in between .105 and .045. Also be advised that changing bass string gauges will alter the tension in the neck of your bass guitar, so you may need to have your instrument adjusted when making the switch.
Like guitar strings, most bass strings are made from either steel or nickel/steel hybrids. However, the way in which bass strings are wound can make a significant difference in the sound that they produce.
The most common type of windings, and they offer a brighter and louder sound that is more ideal for bassists who play lead lines or utilize pop/slap techniques that are most frequently used in funk music. This type of string is also prevalent in rock music and also usually produces more finger noise as players shift around the frets on their instrument.
These produce far less finger noise and are typically favored by jazz and soul bassists. They have a warmer and more mellow sound, and favored for fretless bass guitars due to their smooth finish which causes less wear-and-tear on the fretboard. This type of string winding is also prevalent in other genres such as blues and country.
Other String Windings
Tapewound bass strings offer a nylon wrap around the steel strings, producing a more muted tune with a shorter decay. Groundwound strings are also referred to as half-round, and are pressed to create a more flattened surface that reduces finger noise and fret wear while still maintaining the louder, brighter sound of the roundwound string.
A bass string’s scale length refers to the distance between the bridge and the nut on a bass guitar. This distance can determine both the tone and pitch of an instrument. But more importantly than that, certain models of bass guitars are set up for specific scale lengths, so it’s important to make sure that you’re picking up the right one for your particular axe.
Bass string scale length is typically divided into four different categories: short (30-31 inches), medium (32-33 inches), long (34-35 inches), and extra long scale (35-36+ inches). The most common scale length for electric bass guitars is long-scale – models such as the Fender Jazz Bass would fall into this category. Gibson EB basses, which are visibly smaller than the aforementioned type of brand, utilize a short scale. Basses with five or six strings usually have extra long scales.
There isn’t a set standard as to how often you should be changing your bass strings. How often you play (and in what sort of environment) can make a huge impact on how often it’s necessary to restring. For instance, bassists who typically only play in studio sessions and other more controlled environments are less likely to sweat as much (and consequently provide wear and tear to their strings) as bassists who play on stage in hot clubs or venues every night. To that end, some bassists change their strings every night while other bassists go years without changing their strings.
It’s also worth noting that making the decision to change strings is also dependent upon what kind of tone you’re looking for. Some bassists like the clean and “popping” tone best produced by freshly changed strings, whereas others prefer a deadened, deep sound which is accumulated after months (or years) of playing with the same strings. It really all depends on what you are looking for.
Keep in mind that when you do change your strings, the sound may be uncharacteristically bright to the point where it may come across as undesirable. Before you throw your instrument out the window, allow for a few playing sessions to work the strings in as the tone will shift after being used consistently.