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Best string tension for resonant bass?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by stefaniw80401, Nov 25, 2016.

  1. stefaniw80401

    stefaniw80401 Supporting Member

    May 18, 2004
    Evergreen, Colorado
    Can any generalizations be made regarding how string tension (light-medium-heavy) affect a bass's resonance characteristics?

    My big Romanian flatback, is 42" string length, and is a challenge to record pizzicato (jazz) since it seems very unfocused and overly resonant/wolfy. Currently, I have a tennis ball wedged between the top and tail piece, which seems to help.
  2. Just guessing, but it might be more the soundpost position (more away from the bridge foot is gentle but can get also less focused). Closer to the bridge gets more attack, but you might need two element pickups because of underrepresented higher strings on E wing/leg/foot pickups.

    For string tension you can tune the bass down a halftone and play and listen for a few days (if this is possible). A halftone down is like switching from medium to light strings (from the same string family). Or you can go twice as far by using solo tuning strings at orchestra pitch.

    I don't recommend tuning strings higher than intended but a lot of steel core strings don't break if it's not more than a halftone. But since they will be stretched more, they might not sound exactly the same after you do that.
  3. Ortsom

    Ortsom Banned

    Mar 23, 2016
    Heavier strings give a higher pre-load on the construction, which tends to stiffen-up things; definitely worth a try. But I'd first try moving the SP closer to the G-foot. 'Best for arco' is not necessarily 'best for pizz'.

    First optimise the acoustic performance of the instrument, then optimise the recording.

    Experiment with the placement of the microphone; it might be the blow resonance that's haunting you (in that case neither string tension nor SP location will help you much); then avoid placement in front of the f-holes (go down). Or it might be the room (try closer). Of course that presumes you're using a microphone; if you use something else, try something else.

    In a recording the character & quality can be improved by judiciously attenuating resonance frequencies using narrow parametric EQ's. The frequencies & levels can be seen in the spectrum.
  4. I'm with Double Midi on this for starters. I don't know what strings you have on now but try detuning slowly...half a step at a time. Let it settle in for a few hours and see if that solves your problem. Then check out other string tensions that(at pitch) will match where your de-tuning sounds the best. If that doesn't work try tuning up a bit and see if there is a point where your bass responds the way you like. If neither of these experiments work the maybe sound post adjustment or a thicker bridge might help.
    I had the same problem as you. I found a drop in string tension (Spiro 3/4 Weichs to 4/4 Weichs) made a big difference. And so did my new hollow carbon fibre endpin rod. I have used aircraft cable for my tailpiece for many years. The sum of all these changes resulted in no more overtones, easier to play and more of a full, solid sound.
    It has been a slow process getting to where I am now so you may find there is more than one issue causing your problem.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2016
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I was going to reply with almost exactly the same answer. If your bass sounds unfocused, my suspicion is that more tension will bring in more focus, and that less will exacerbate the problem. But you have a free experiment waiting for you with the strings you already have on the bass, as described above. You can also get a taste of possible solutions by simply tuning up or down one string and seeing how it sounds and feels. In addition, if you have adjusters, you can raise the string height and see if this helps your current problem.

    On my double basses, it took a long time and a lot of money to discover that I (and by extension, by basses) like a higher tension string set at 7-10mm. But each person has their own sweet spot for sound and feel. Good luck!
  6. Little zombie thread revival...

    Question for the TL;DR crowd:
    I'm going to try tuning the FDs up tonight, just a quarter tone at a time-- How far up do you think I can get away to get some sense of how the bass handles the tension? Also, would it be worth tuning up just one or two strings ( D A) or should I move the whole set together?

    I have a new (end of 2017) Golia double bass. I am a college student, nearly all classical -orchestra and solo rep at orchestra tuning ATM.

    Originally came with Flex Deluxe on it... After playing it for a month or two, I had it set up by my luthier, had a larger bridge installed and put some Original Flat Chrome G D A and a Perm E (Went to Spiro E, and then back to Perm later...). Bass is very resonant and lively, and overtones from A and D seem to ring out well...

    Love the G string. All the way up it sings so well, while having a deep voice and not thinning out. The issue is that the A has a pretty "Thick" sound and feels resistant occasionally wolfs out even. Sounds a little diffuse, the D is similiar, though pretty okay until you get past the heel and then it is very cloudy/diffused and unfocused sound...

    Wolfish A has always made me think less tension might be the way to go, but for shiggles I put on the FD set that I had sitting around and the D string seemed to improve considerably, as did the A to some degree-- Unsure if this is a result of the increased tension, or just differences in the strings. The FD G isn't offensive really, but I feel like going to it, the sound loses a bit of that fundamental/low end bass response and the little bit of sparkle up top in favor for meaty/chewy mids- which sound rich in their own right...
  7. stefaniw80401

    stefaniw80401 Supporting Member

    May 18, 2004
    Evergreen, Colorado
    What's TL;DR crowd?
    WRT flexocore deluxe (FD), I love those strings for orchestra/solo work. They sound okay for jazz and Bluegrass pizzicato. I think they are a little higher tension than my current setup of D'Addario Zyex mediums over helicore hybrids. I remember the FDs being less wolfy on my bass, similar to your experience. My soundpost is half it's diameter below the bridge foot. I tried Kaplan heavies and they muted my bass.
  8. “Too long; didn’t read” ha

    On a previous Bass I had tried Evahs and Kaplans and bel canto... they all blend well, but felt like I was playing under a blanket. Just didn’t have quite the presence I’d like to hear...

    I uptuned the FDs a quarter tone and played some long tones before letting it settle a few hours. Coming back to it, the D is DEFINIETELY clearer up through the octave now.... The G is pretty taught and loading the string with the bow is a little funny and sounds a bit tighter than I’d like perhaps... A string is improved in focus, but also a little more taught than I find immediately playable, it also wolfs out a little easier I think... E is quick, though perhaps not as big. Going to keep it here a bit longer. Perhaps go another quarter tone.

    Is there some means of calculating tension past or lower? (As in FDs at a half step up = N lbs?)

    Edit: Found it!
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2018
    DoubleMIDI likes this.
  9. Well... for what is it worth.. about 24 hours since going up, the bass is massive... So much volume, projection, and low end.... very resonant, but with focus and clarity... And considerably more even across the whole instrument, all the way up...

    Question at this point is, do I look for strings with tensions that seem to fit these, or am I merely covering up a different issue? (Maybe a question for the Setup forum?)

    Am I killing some of the over resonance in the instrument that I could remove through other means? Or are Flex Starks my future...

    I find it interesting that my 'wolfy' A string, is now a wolfy Bb string... more clarity and focus to the open string, less spread/diffused/unfocused, but still wants to fight the bow and drop the fundamental if I'm not careful...
  10. 12tone


    Jun 14, 2018
    I just started playing the bass a few months ago, but I've been a cellist for most of my life and my experience is that strings with higher tension create greater resonance, I suspect that this is because of how high tension strings hold the instrument tightly together. As someone else suggested, tune your strings a halftone up or down to get an idea of what higher or lower tension strings will feel like.
  11. Yes, I went ahead and did this with a set of Flexocore Deluxe.

    After some of the math quoted above from DoubleMIDI, adjusted tensions for my scale length (~104cm) and then then adjusted for the half step uptuning, my estimated tensions are about -
    G = 67.9 (Super punchy and even through all registers)
    D = 71.5 (Vastly improved clarity and play-ability/bow response)
    A = 77.2 (Cleared up significantly, though perhaps a smidge too tight to respond well to the bow)
    E = 76.5 (Similiar to the A)

    The focus brought to the D string is phenomenal. Notes up the A have also improved... G string, is SUPER punchy and the bass throughout all registers is considerably more balanced... E string sounds great, but doesn't bow so easily because of the tension...

    Bass is also a canon right now... screaming loud ha...

    With these tensions though, I feel like my options have shrunk considerably as far as string choices go... Flexocor 92 Starks or Spirocor Starks ha...

    Which, while I'm luckily in a position to probably keep my chops up enough to handle the Starks, doing as much thumb position and working on some Bottesini harmonic land things, unsure how well either Stark string fares that far up the neck...

    Which is why I'm curious if there are other things to be done to increase top tension that might open up some string options...
  12. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    New Orleans
    Based on those tensions you want something like Spiro mediums in tension. The E and A are less tension than your tuned up flex deluxe but the D and G are similar tension to your tuned up D and G
  13. You are right!

    The 3/4 Mittels are about 67.2, 68.3, 70.5 and 72.8. Thank you for pointing this out...

    Guess it is time to test the arco skills!
    Sam Dingle likes this.
  14. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    New Orleans
    They make you work that’s for sure. If you’re just an arco player I would sugguest something different but if you pizz too they are very nice. If you’re an arco player only Evah mediums would fit the bill I believe.
  15. Did you check out the Excel file too? You can enter your scale length at the top right and get all the tensions recalculated to this scale. And there are a lot of strings in that file (but not all).
    If you didn't get the formula from my formulas.html file check out my Dropbox. The link is in my signature.
    luisraulmunoz likes this.
  16. I had seen a PDF with some info, I built an excel sheet to calculate things from your formulas. Thank you so much!
  17. You didn't need to do that. If you enable JavaScript, formulas.html does the calculation for you. The formulas are only there if you want to reuse them in your own projects.
    The Excel file in my Dropbox folder contains tension data from the manufacturers and recalculates them for pitch and scale length that you can enter on top.
    You can even add more strings below the contained string data by copying the formulas and enter the new manufacturers data.
    Worth a look...
    iamthebassplayr likes this.

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