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basses (and many other instruments) have too much tension

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Wiremessiah, Feb 10, 2019.

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  1. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    I can’t agree with some of your contentions.

    If you’re fingering properly you’re not so much pushing down on the strings with your fingers. You’re using the natural weight of the hand to do most of the heavy lifting. That’s ine reason why electric bass players don’t arch their fingers so much at the second joint like a violinist would. The fingers stay relatively flat.

    As far as lower tension allowing more speed goes I’d have to disagree as well. Looser tension provides more “grab” on the plucking hand because of the greater degree of excursion. If you want to be blazingly fast, invest in a ramp. That, coupled with a stiffer string, minimizes the amount of string and finger excursion and generally will speed up most people’s runs significantly.

    Minor point…string stiffness and string tension are two different things. Most players have definite preferences when it comes to how stiff a string feels. Flatwound, hex core, and round core strings can vary greatly in how stiff they feel regardless of the tension in pounds pull they’re exerting. String tension is less of a concern for the average player. It’s only really an issue when the combined string tension exceeds the ability of a truss rod to counterbalance it.

    As far as leaving the truss rod completely loosened goes, that’s all well and good as long as the neck doesn’t develop a front or back bow - or (even worse!) a twist. This can happen even without strings on it as the wood ages, or when the environmental conditions surrounding it change with the seasons. The truss rod doesn’t just counteract the pull of strings. It helps stabilize the neck itself.

    I will agree on acoustic instruments with a sound board being driven by the motion of metal strings over a bridge that it’s important to take the downward and lateral tension into consideration. But proper bracing and construction methods go a long way towards making sure that's not a problem on acoustic instruments as long as you’re using the type of strings the instrument was designed for. For example, you might get away with using nylon strings on a guitar designed for steel strings. But you probably couldn’t safely use steel strings on most classical guitars without risk of damage.

    That said, electric basses are designed with metal strings in mind - if for no other reason than they mostly use magnetic pickups. So metal strings are a given. And electric basses are not cellos or string basses. So the same construction techniques and design criteria don’t really apply.

    Electric basses are usually built to withstand a pretty fair amount of stress and punishment. The only realistic limit on their design is their size and weight relative to the human body since someone needs to be able to hold and play them.

    But this is running long so I’ll wrap it up for now. Suffice to say you ask some interesting questions. However, I don’t think the issues you raise are the problems you seem to be saying they are.

    But maybe that’s just me. And as you pointed out earlier, a lot of how we see it is merely a reflection of our personal preferences. :)
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
  2. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2013
    Lost Wages, Nevada
    Don't know about the short scales, but TI prints each string's tension on the back of the long scale string's packaging...:whistle: And if I remember correctly, the total is about 142 lbs. Yes, that is very low, compared to other flatwound strings - and even some rounds - but that's simply the result of how they're made. Which is very different from other bass strings. I like them too, but they require a very different playing technique than some of the strings on my other basses do. If I could get the sound I wanted from those other basses with the TIs? they'd be on there. But, I can't; so they aren't. And, the way I want to play some of my basses can't be done - very well, anyway - with low tension strings like TIs. So, they aren't on those basses, either. If your Holy Grail of bass strings is low tension, and the limits that it imposes on playing style is acceptable to you? Well then.. welcome to Nirvana. For me? As I said; I like the way they sound on one or 2 of my basses. I can live with the playing style restriction that they impose, on those basses. But, on other basses I play? Big, nasty, high tension bridge cable strings work much better. So, that's what they wear...:cool:
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
    soulman969, retslock and mikewalker like this.
  3. It is also about tone. I usually play with low, light tension.

    Just here lately, I strung up one of my P basses with the Labella James Jamerson flat wound string set 52-110 and maybe not as high of action as James would have. I set the neck pretty flat but with no fret buzz in 1st position and set string height so I would not get any fret buzz between the 12th to 20th fret.

    Is it stiff? Yep, you bet but, I would not be able to get "that sound" out of it any other way. Believe me, I 've tried every other low tension way to get "that sound". Of course, I have my foam mute under my bridge cover also. You know what though, right now it's my favorite bass to play for the last 2 months.

    Can I play fast riffs on it? Not really but, It's not for that. It's for funky pocket playing, like James.

    It is an each to his/her own thing though. Just as I wouldn't say what you are trying to achieve is wrong, for you.
    soulman969, retslock, hintz and 2 others like this.
  4. rashrader


    Mar 4, 2004
    Baltimore, MD
    I enjoy lighter gauge strings due to the decreased tension... It’s just so much easier on my fretting hand.
    40Hz likes this.
  5. Allan Allan

    Allan Allan

    Mar 25, 2018
    Is this a sarcasm thread? Am I in bass humor?
  6. Wiremessiah


    Mar 4, 2017
    nah, not you. I don't usually post videos just because as an engineer, i am a perfectionist. But here's a quick and dirty demo (because you wanted a video)using iphoto with the camera/mic on my mac, so it's crude, with some acoustic noise coming through. Playing with a frame drum with tamarind seeds (so like a rain drum almost but tuned to pitch) drone. Not sure if it comes through, but I am digging in a lot, much more than usual just to demo.

    cue the negative comments.
    Uncle K likes this.
  7. Allan Allan

    Allan Allan

    Mar 25, 2018
    Plenty of fret buzz here. Everybody move along, don't feed the troll.
    soulman969, lz4005, jd56hawk and 3 others like this.
  8. Ekulati

    Ekulati Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2016
    Richmond, VA
    I spent years playing stringed instruments in early music ensembles, and I have and enjoy a Hofner, but I disagree with your main point. To each their own.
    DJ Bebop likes this.
  9. My read of that is, that's a Hofner bass with low action, low tension strings.

    That's a sound/technic but, it's just one way to skin a cat.

    I can see me with ONE bass set like that but, that being the be all and end all to playing bass? No not for me. For you, that's cool and I would defend your right to do it, for you.
    retslock likes this.
  10. Wiremessiah


    Mar 4, 2017
    that is acoustic, and it's the way I play. You want me to post another video going through each note to show you there is no buzz? And there is zero buzz in the amplified signal. But you are right, i shouldn't feed the troll. You win.
  11. Wiremessiah


    Mar 4, 2017
    well once you get a taste for the effortless playability, it's hard to go back.
  12. Bruiser Stone

    Bruiser Stone Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2017
    Uncle K and DJ Bebop like this.
  13. Nope, I have a bass already set up like that. It's a stunt/novelty bass I play sometimes. It's a thing but, not the only arrow in my quiver.

    As I said I just set up a bass with Labella 52-110 strings and that's a thing too.

    Just because something is effortless doesn't mean it's the best or the only.
    soulman969 and retslock like this.
  14. Wiremessiah


    Mar 4, 2017
    damn you are right. i just dug up the ten year old TI label and it has the tension on there. haha, I searched on all of the several internets and couldn't find it, but there it is. 121.95 lbs, at EADG, so probably around 100lbs down a half step
  15. Wiremessiah


    Mar 4, 2017
    of course, but for many musicians of all stripes, effortlessness is quite an ideal as it allows you to execute technique with minimal impediment and for longer without fatigue.
  16. Many musicians but, not all and you are assuming that your touch on the instrument is the same as mine or others.

    Maybe the way my bass is set up allows ME to execute technique with a minimal impediment and for longer without fatigue and is effortless for ME whereas it would be a struggle for you.

    I might struggle with you deal because I would not get the feel I need to execute well on your instrument but actually play faster with a little more resistance.

    Ever play an upright bass violin?
    soulman969 likes this.
  17. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Interesting thing about lighter gauge flats is that they’ll often give you more thump and punch than heavier strings because a pickup doesn’t care about the mass if the string in the magnetic field so much as it does the degree of excursion when a string is plucked. The greater the excursion the more the pickups respond to the oscillating motion.

    A few years ago there was a thread where someone suggested using a .95 set of flats if you wanted more punch. That got me interested enough to give it a shot. And I found it was true on my basses.

    These days I use light gauges whenever possible if I’m using flats. They sound just as punchy and solid has the heavier sets, and they’re easier to bend. I try not to get anything heavier than a .100 for the E.

    Works for me at any rate. YMMV.
    soulman969 and DJ Bebop like this.
  18. n1as


    Mar 29, 2013
    Tension and stiffness are not the same thing (as has been mentioned). Tension depends only on string gauge, pitch and scale length. The stiffness the player senses depends on tension and the inherent flexibility of the string.

    As you shorten the scale and lower the pitch, you reduce tension. Yes, it makes notes easier to fret but also makes the strings much more floppy and will change the feel for the plucking hand. I think most of us would be slowed down by a string that deflects too easily when plucked.

    Also these changes will affect the timbre. I'm totally OK with the benefits going from 34" to 32" scale. By the time I've hit 30" scale, I'm not as thrilled with the erosion in tone. Detuning at 30"? Sorry, not interested for tone reasons.

    Flats on a detuned short scale? Sounds like you want only low mud-thump to me. The good news is you'll get that tone plus the benefits of the very flexible strings.
    DJ Bebop likes this.
  19. If I wanted effortless I'd play the Ukulele!
    Hey wait, I do play the Ukulele...
  20. I like zero tension. I wear thimbles on my fingers and just wiggle my fingers over the pickups at the frequencies I want to play. I can play so much faster this way and have no intonation problems anywhere on the neck. Everyone should get rid of their strings and start doing it my way. It really is so much better.
    soulman969, Ukko, AB Nate and 3 others like this.

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