Last chance for flats
Some of you might have seen some of my posts over the years where I struggle with the big flats vs. rounds thing. Spent most of my life on rounds, started toying with flats in about 98, decided to try them full-time in 2010, tried rounds again middle of last year just to shake things up and immediately went back to them due to rave reviews from band members and soundmen. Even though my band plays 50's, 60's and 70's music, anyone with an opinion preferred rounds. At the time I agreed with them, too. Had more mids, was able to hear myself better in the mix..if only they didn't go "boing boing boing," and if only I didn't HATEHATEHATE dead rounds except on my Dano Longhorn.
Last time I tried flats was about a month after I got my 09 Precision earlier this year. Dismal failure. Whereas I loved them before, was not loving them that night and off they went. Might have been partially my fault because I didn't rub anything on them to make them thuddy, but I was not digging the sound at all. Thought maybe letting them be live might make an easier transition back to flats...nope...they just sounded like neutered rounds.
But every now and then, I hear a recording that makes me think I need to give them another shot. This time it was Jimmy Smith's Root Down album with Wilton Felder on bass. And instead of putting them on my 09, I have them on my 76 PJ modded Precision. It's a less bright bass and hopefully will mask some of the clickiness of the other Precision when it had flats, plus I managed to get them pretty dead with a couple coats of Eucerin cream.
While I do take everyone in the band's opinions seriously as well as a handful of soundmen we work with, I think they work much better for our band on the whole and that they're all just used to bassists who use rounds. Every now and then I hear that springy roundwound sound while I play, and it just takes me out of the music. So this is my last ditch effort to use flats. If it doesn't work, I'm going back to rounds forever on my Fenders.
Please don't turn this thread into a commercial for your favorite flats. I like Chromes, that's what I'm using, I'm not interested in trying any more different flats. I'm just interested to see if there are any other bass players who are anal enough to torture themselves to this level about flats vs. rounds. It's the only gear thing that truly tortures me. Well, maybe "tortures" is the wrong word..."mocks" is more like it ;)
Jimmie, I'm the complete opposite. I love the sound and feel of my Chromes. But have been trying different rounds because of the mix with different groups. I just can't find a round I like. Lately I've been toying with the idea of maybe some pressure wounds as a happy compromise. I don't know...
Rafi here. No, not anymore (torture) I settled with flats on 90% of my 12 Basses, just happend over the time, and don't miss the rounds at all. Still have Rounds on my '77 Jazz Bass, but this will go anyway. to each his own.
(Chromes, Chromes, Chroomess!!!! and some LaBellas thrown in)
It took me a long time to realize what I was looking for tone-wise was held within Flatwounds. I have flats on almost everything, but it was a sloooooow process. Every once in a while I would get the urge to try flats on bass XYZ and after stringing them up found what I was looking for.
I still keep my fretted basses strung with dead, dead, dead rounds (like 15 year old ones!!) but all the fretless' have flats, for no other reason than tone.
I love your honesty. But I love dead rounds too. Oh well, can't agree on everything.
Jimmy, I feel your pain! I go through this with my two P basses, a 78 and a brighter sounding 50s classic. It's all about the tone, not the feel for me. To put a slightly different spin on this, when I first got a VT (the only effect I have) I couldn't get a sound I liked from it. A couple of gigs down the road and I used my flat strung bass - bingo!! Now what's all that about??!!
Why are you guys so black/white about flats and rounds? Different strings for different purposes, right?
But I gotta say that I've decided to stick with rounds for my main bass. Use the tone knob and you can get that mellow sound. And I also dig the sound of worn in rounds. Not dead...just worn in. But I still like experimenting with flats in a recording situation.
I have given up on flats too. It's not the sound in my head. To me, the round's boing boing disappears in a live mix and the fact that I don't play many open notes. But I can not get a flat to growl like I want. My latest attempt at flats was when I acquired an SR5. The 3 band eq was giving me fits, to bright too clicky went to flats just still not happy. Finally put rounds back on and after a month of tweaking and ignoring conviction on how the eq should be set I found that mid-low growl I was after.
I do keep an old set of flats, Rotosound I think, in a ziplock bag for the rare occasion I need to sub in some of the bluegrass bands around. Not many around here use upright and those flats turn my jazz bass into a variable tone bass drum. Thud, thud, thud.
I'm coming back around to flats. After a hot and sweaty gig my rounds were pretty dead and I sounded like crap last night at practice. I might as well eq my rig to sound good with flats because I don't enjoy the possibility that my sound won't work anymore if I sweat too much on my strings one night.
I prefer the tension of flats also. YMMV, etc.
Maybe Chromes are the problem? Might be worth taking a shot at another brand.
It took me a while to find a set that actually played well with others in most regards. I can understand you not wanting this to be a forum for people posting their favorite brand, but perhaps you're limiting yourself with your stubborn attachment to a certain brand?
I think this is part of the problem: the increased tension versus feel. For example, a set of rounds in 45-105 has an average tension of about 42 pounds per string, and are very flexible. A typical flats set 45-105 has an average tension of about 45 pounds per string, and because of the nature of ribbon wrap, may not be as flexible.
LaBella has odd gauges that are a little less than that, for example, their 43 through 104 set, to take a slight bit of tension off and be a little more flexible. When new, the LaBellas have a upper mid/lower treble edge that is a little bit lower in the bandwidth than the top end zing of new Chromes.
Likewise, if it is mid grind or growl a player is after, the Fender flats have that mid grind that is similar in its bandwidth to Roto Swingbass, but in a subdued voice. The problem is that they are in the typical sets that end in "0's" and "5's," so the 40-100 set may feel a little light, and the 50-105 set a little heavy; the 45-60-80-105 set is a good compromise, but not necessarily for everyone, although they are my favorite.
Ernie Ball strings have a similar characteristic as the Fender, but not as pronounced.
And so it goes; others can elaborate further on some of the other flats sets' characteristics.
Have you tried the new LaBella "White" Tapewounds? I have been told they are very smooth, like Chromes, but have more of a round wound sonic character.
Have you tried Nylon Tape Wounds in place of the flats? They have similar tone characteristics as you probably know and not as many other issues. After attempting - struggling - to get "the sound" from two different brands of flats, I tried the tapes and have not used flats since - 2 years maybe? I do have rounds on my rock basses for the sound as they match the basses quite well, a BTB and a Schecter with an OPB3. Not to preach, but string matching with active or passive basses can take a while and cost some green as you also know - from your post. I love it when guitarist change strings every week because they cost about $5 per set and screw up their faces when we change ours every 6-12 months. IMHO, etc.
Jimmy, you say these 2 things about your dilemma with flats vs rounds.............
"Might have been partially my fault because I didn't rub anything on them to make them thuddy, but I was not digging the sound at all."
and then you said.................
"It's a less bright bass and hopefully will mask some of the clickiness of the other Precision when it had flats, plus I managed to get them pretty dead with a couple coats of Eucerin cream."
I'm guessing that maybe you're having a problem with your flats not being "thuddy" enough? I'm not sure what you're not getting out of your flats.
I feel like a fool to offer you any suggestions because you're a very active professional bassist and I am not. And, your thread is not asking for any suggestions but you are asking..................."I'm just interested to see if there are any other bass players who are anal enough to torture themselves to this level about flats vs. rounds. It's the only gear thing that truly tortures me. Well, maybe "tortures" is the wrong word..."mocks" is more like it."
But I will mention 2 things that might be of help with the sound of flats.
First off, I have the James Jamerson book titled, Standing in the Shadows of Motown and it comes with 2 CDs with many top name bassists doing Jamerson bass lines from various songs.
IMHO, the bassist with the best sound is Kenny Aaronson who is playing a Fender P with flats with a big hunk of foam under the strings about 2 or less inches from the bridge saddles. His sound is fantastic! (pg. 164 of the book) If you get a chance, listen to his track. (off hand, I don't know the track)
If you don't have the book or CDs, I'll send you a copy of the CDs as a gift. Just PM me.
Second, most of the time I play my bass and I use only flats and never rounds, it sounds only average or even mediocre to my ears and I get very discouraged with my sound. But then, my son, who is actually a guitarist, will occassionally pick up my bass and start playing around on it. And, when I am off in another room of the house, I can hear my bass and I am totally blown away at how EXCELLENT it sounds.
I am trying to say that our basses sound different to our ears when we play the bass then rather when someone else plays it. It's kind of like the way our own voice sounds when we hear ourselves speak but then when we hear a recording of our voice it sounds totally different.
So, our basses might be sounding very excellent but we just can't appreciate it while we are playing.
So, maybe the sound of your bass with flats is indeed a very good sound, Jimmy! Try letting someone else play your bass while you stand a distance way and listen. Turn your head and do not watch them play your bass. Just listen and don't look. It might sound much better than you think.
Finally, since you have several basses, have some strung with flats and some with rounds at all times and use whatever bass sounds best with whatever string.
I always enjoy reading your TalkBass comments!
Flats on all ten of my basses: Chromes, TI's & LaBella DTB
I gave up on Flats. Tried them many times but they don't work for me.
Even half-round wounds don't make it.
There's enough EQ on my axes & amp to dial in what i need.
I respect you as a valued member of talkbass, you have even helped me out over the years in my quests.
Your being stubborn and self defeating by saying you will not try other flats in order to change to using them.
Its like going to mcdonalds and eating a hamburger and saying you dont like hamburgers and refusing to eat one anywhere else.
I get not wanting to introduce another variable in the eternal flatwound debate but I have played many flats that I like better than Chromes. Just food for thought.
My favorite flats (in terms of sound) are TIs but they are very loose and floppy and I have to raise my action or they'll bang on the frets.
I recently tried a set of Pyramid Flats and they are really, really nice! "Dud and thud" right out of the pack! They sound like they are 10 years old the day they are first strung!
LaBella Flats MLs have great balance in tension but are a little bit too bright, at least to begin with.
The older style Fender flats (before they changed them) were a very good over all flat wound string.
Lakland's Joe Osborn flats are really, really nice in that they have a traditional flat wound sound without brightness.
GHS black taped strings are pretty nice.
Never tried DiAddario Chromes.
IMO, I don't care for bright sounding flats because they sound like a dead set of rounds.
Interesting bassdude51 out of all the topics ive read regarding "sound of.." I've never heard anyone suggesting hearing someone else playing your bass..definitely worth a try...
Thanks for an interesting post which outlines how personal the string choice is.
I have gone the other way and stopped using rounds. All my bass are equipped with different flats (Thomastik, Ernie Ball, DR Legends, D'Addario Chromes) and that gives me different feels and flavors within a small field of tones.
Likewise all my basses except one are variations around the theme of P basses.
I think we ultimately have to use what works for us and what we love. The rest does not really matter. If you love your round wounds, just play them!
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