Tony Franklin Fretless - LaBella Flats
I will soon be the owner of a Tony Franklin fretless and am planning to string it with flats. My current bass is a fretted EBMM Sterling Classic with DR Hi Beams (rounds) and I'm looking for a contrasting sound to that. Everything I've read and heard suggests the LaBellas would take me there, and it seems folks love the P Bass/LaBella combo, but I'm open to anything. I prefer medium tension in a string; any advice would be appreciated!
LaBella flats are really nice strings. If you want to go that route with a fretless, you may want to try the very light gauge ones. The heavy gauge will feel stiff and may not work well with the fretless.
Labella tapewounds might be a better choice but it really is subjective as to what you want to hear from it.
Another option is the TI flats. Low tension but they sound really good with fretless.
I think Tony uses DR Sunbeams for what it's worth he gets a really great mwah/growl sound.
I love the sound of the Franklin with rounds, I am simply interested in exploring a more traditional flatwound sound with it.
TI jazz flats have more attack and upper-midrange attitude than traditional flats, you can get to that traditional place with a light touch and stroking up above the edge of the fretboard, but won't be able to do old-school and dig in. They are very low tension.
You also might want to consider DR Flats and Sadowsky Flats. I have experience with both, and particularly like the DR Flats on fretless for getting close to old-school while still having some attitude, and think the Sadowskys are perhaps the best-balanced of all flats - tremendous tonal flexibility and mid-range tension...but I've only used them on fretted basses.
Generally, I would recommend the Fender 9050CL flats. But since you already have as much growl as two tigers over a gazelle with the combination of the Sterling and the Hi-Beams, then as a contrast, something dark like GHS Precision Flats may be in order. Give them a couple of gigs of hard playing to settle in to their signature tone. Another option would be tapewounds to get a completely different tone and feel as a contrast. Jason has an article about the different tapewounds on his website.
FWIW, here's a youtube clip of a Tony Franklin with Labella flats.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydrVwPDf3o0
I have Rotosound tapewounds on my TF fretless after trying round and flats. Tapewounds give it a dark, woody, upright tone if played gently near the neck. But if you attack them hard or play near the bridge they have a "boing" and a quick decay that really pops in a band context. The roundwounds and flatwounds sound the same as on my TF fretted, just a different flavor when they're being pushed down on the fretless ebony. It's like there's an added upper mid frequency. Then again technique really matters on fretless and it could vary depending on the player.
I have D'Addario Chromes ECB84 (custom light) on mine and like them very much. They sing very nice for a flatwound and they are the most balanced set of the Chrome family (compared to the 81 and 82 sets).
Here's a link that shows the tension:
Click on "Family Tension Chart" to see all the Chrome sets for comparison.
Thanks for the advice, I had Chromes on and off of my fretted Sterling for a year and loved the sound and feel but hated the "click" I got from my right hand. Of course the Sterling is treble-heavy which probably had something to do with it.
I'm also considering the TI Jazz Flats, with the low tension being the only thing that might keep me away. I have .45 - .105 DR Hi Beam rounds on the Sterling at the moment and I'm getting the impression the TI Jazz Flats are similar to those in tension. It does seem like the TIs would be a good fit for the Tony Franklin as far as keeping that aggressive TF sound intact, should I abandon the quest for a more traditional sound haha.
The day i got my TF Fretless I put a set of TFlats on it.
They have not come off since. Sound wonderful.
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