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Finding "The One"

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Timmah, Mar 31, 2014.

  1. Timmah

    Timmah Supporting Member

    May 19, 2011
    ... or the four, that is.
    I've been playing the same homemade bass for about five years now, and I've never been 100% happy with my tone. I love my bass to death, though- my dad and I made it together- but it's never produced that sound in my head. I've changed the pickups (a saga in itself), had it impeccably set up, played through a bunch of nice amps, and just haven't found "it" yet, possibly because of the construction of my bass.
    Those of you in the "wood doesn't matter" camp can stop reading now. :bag: My bass has a mahogany body and a five piece maple/sapele neck, with an ebony fretboard with stainless frets.
    This gives it a big if unfocused bottom end with pingy highs and quite frankly not a whole lot in between- so I guess I'm looking for a string with ultra-focused lows, strong mids, and a sort of subdued high treble response. What say ye, talkbass string senseis?
  2. Jools4001

    Jools4001 Supporting Member

    I can say I started the search for the bass tone that's in my head 40 years ago and despite having spent tens of thousands on lots of different basses and a lot of gear along the way, I'm still looking.

    Nobody can tell you where to start because nobody else can hear what is in your head, and trying to express it in words to other people is futile.

    I would say, listen to plenty of recordings to get in the right ball park, then see if there is any common theme on the equipment front, then be prepared to tweak endlessly....

    I don't want this to sound negative, you'll have a lot of fun on the journey.
  3. Timmah

    Timmah Supporting Member

    May 19, 2011
    Thanks for the honesty, Jools. I realize that I have a lot of looking and tone-searching to do yet, as sometimes the sound in my head isn't even clear to me (but that's for another thread). I think one of the first steps towards that tone, though, is to figure out how to get tight, focused lows and stronger midrange out of my bass, and work from there.
  4. PluckyThump

    PluckyThump Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2008
    The Hammer
    Hard to say without knowing what strings you have already tried. Maybe Rotosound Swing Bass 66, they have that mid-grind with clear lows and aren't too bright if you play fingerstyle. DR Sunbeams have a strong midrange with less top after they're broken-in but I wouldn't say their lows are especially focused.
  5. red_rhino

    red_rhino Gold Supporting Member

    My advice would be to try a lighter string gauge; much lighter, and see what that does for you. I'm basing this on my experience with a bass I love, but could never quite dial in the sound and feel that way I wanted. I was stuck in the rut of always using a medium gauge string (45-105) on every bass I owned, and even though I was willing to change every variable (e.g. steel vs nickel; taper core, coated, etc), it wasn't until I went with a light set of DR Sumbeams (40-95), that the bass came alive and the sound into focus the way I wanted it to.

    My point is don't ignore gauge as a component of the sound. In your case, it may be that a lighter string helps to tame the lows a bit, which allows the mids to be more prominent. Sometimes what you need is a cut, not a boost. You might need to re-setup the bass to accommodate lighter strings, but I think it's a worthy experiment. At least in my case it was.

    Also, going with a lighter gauge will change the feel of the instrument. It may be a bit awkward at first. Give it time.

  6. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he lóòks

    Dec 7, 2010
    22 ft below sea level
    You already swapped pickups, but did you try different locations along the length of the strings? Did you hear the difference between single coils and humbuckers? There are so many variables.
  7. theretheyare

    theretheyare Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2010
    Brooklyn, NY
    +1 on gauge. This really affects the tone. For example I didn't like 45-105 DR Loriders that much, but the 40-100 set on 2 of my basses was absolutely brilliant, especially in what it did to focus the tone. A somewhat tamer string than the Loriders with a very exquisite tone character that I recently tried and that seems to have the characteristics that you look for is the Fodera Compressed Round Wound Nickel Plated Steel - 4 String Set, Type: Nickel, Gauge: Light: .040 .060 .080 .100
  8. Pier_


    Dec 22, 2013
    Roma, Italia
    let me quote you, red_rhino . I used to be a 50-110 player, but one day I tried a 40-100 set, and it was pure love.
    after that, never came back, and now I'm stick to the 30-90 gauge. defined bass, crispy highs and lot of mid frequencies. in every band I hear clearly my bass line in every song, my playing is cleaner, and distortion and other effects sound perfect.

    i like light gauges even for flatwounds, nailing the "Tin Man" sound, and those clear and woody 60's basslines where you can clearly hear every note.
  9. red_rhino

    red_rhino Gold Supporting Member

    I want to emphasize the much lighter part, particularly on the E in your case. If you're using a 105, go to a 95. Going from a 105 to a 100 may not be a big enough leap to make a real difference. (it wasn't in my case.) Don't be timid. Note that in Pier_'s case, he said he went from a 110 to a 100, not a 105. In theretheyare's case, dropping to a medium-light gauge seems to have done the trick, but based on your description, I would suggest a going lighter at first and see what that does.

  10. Dredmahawkus


    Nov 4, 2012
    I built almost the same bass...mahogany body rosewood top rosewood neck with ebony fretboard...and kinda like you described it produced a very odd kinda muddy yet snappy focus...it was the weirdest sounding bass! I ended up getting rid of it and I kinda wish I didnt becuase it was so unique sounding....but mahogany and ebony to me sounds way different then anything else I have tried....and I tried a lot!

    there is a ton that goes into the tone though...even pickup placement....mine was active with PJ pups....listen here...it had pyramid flats on it too...everything contributes to the sound! strings are a big part of it too....but I really think its just the mahogany ebony combo that makes a weird tone

  11. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    Go read the FlexSteels thread and see if they sound like they might be for you.
    Very mid-present, IMO.
  12. jamersonburton


    Jul 22, 2011
    1) Old Rotosound roundwounds rs66ld
    2) Daddario chromes
    3) Highbeams (never tried)
    4) Fatbeams (never tried)
    5) Favour the bridge pickup, boost low mids on amp and cut lows and highs.
  13. Toptube

    Toptube Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    Dean Markley Helix Stainless Steel. My current favorite.

    Overall, they sound deeper than some other strings I have tried. Very full low mid. Complex mids. Even high mid. Even highs.
  14. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    PIX!!! Post pix!

    Hmm. The way you describe the tone is why Gibson put a maple top on the original Les Paul guitars: even out the response. Is it a bolt-on?

    Did I say pix?!
  15. Let me preface this by saying I play flats and rounds. What you described above sounds like an exact description of Flatwounds strings. I have a Jazz bass that had the exact same issue as your bass did...not enough meat on the mids...so I put D'Addario Chrome Flatwounds on it and now people literally offer me money for it on a regular basis after hearing it.

    Try some D'Addario Chromes and they might just give u what u are looking for!

  16. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    That's the missing puzzle piece. Nobody's advice is really valid until we know what's on there now.
  17. StayLow


    Mar 14, 2008
    Agreed on string gauge. Also consider distance from pickup poles to strings. That too has an effect, and it could be the effect you desire. Just experiment.
  18. Timmah

    Timmah Supporting Member

    May 19, 2011
    [Necroposting alert]
    So I had some DR Marcus Miller fat beams lying around, and I threw them onto my bass. The A, D, and G strings all sound good, but the E doesn't match their punch or volume. Is this a problem with all DR MM strings?
  19. Here's the comparison between two different sets of strings I've tried in the last year: (on Fender Jazz)

    DR Sunbeams (round-core, nickel-plated steel, 45-65-85-105) - Warm, full bottom with smooth top end with somewhat scooped mid. Flexible due to round-core.

    DR Nickel Lo-Riders (hex-core, nickel-plated steel, 40-60-80-100) - Tighter, more focused bottom, low-mid punch and subdued top end (at least in comparison to the Sunbeams). Stiffer feel due to hex-core. (Reason for the smaller gauges.)

    If you want to try a set of DR's, the Lo-Riders would be a better choice for what you're looking for.
    Timmah likes this.
  20. Timmah

    Timmah Supporting Member

    May 19, 2011
    Thanks Michael. I'll pick up a set of those once my Fat Beams die- which will be pretty quickly if experience is any indicator.