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Flats tension vs left hand technique advice asked

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by KidFunky, Jun 6, 2007.

  1. KidFunky


    Jul 15, 2005
    Guys/gals, elements of this question have been asked many times but I would like to get some specific advice nonetheless.

    Some background:
    I am an intermediate player who has been on bassplaying hiatus for too long. So recently I decided to serioously try to get back on the horse and improve. (One of the reasons I stopped was that I just could not get to feel comfortable with my left hand)

    So the first thing I noticed when I picked up my bass (4 string Dearmond Pilot Pro Deluxe) was that the action actually seemed REALLY high. So with a combination of bridge adjustments and truss rod adjustments I try to set it up so i can play it with very little pressure from my left hand. In the end, although it got better (much better), I still feel that I have to exert too much pressure while fretting. It actually hurts my anchor thumb at times.

    So I had a look at my strings and felt like a fool within seconds. I am using very heavy flats (Labella) and I am starting to suspect that I have painted myself in a corner without realising. Too high action + extremely heavy flats = little progress for beginner/intermediate player.

    So my question is with that background in mind, what advice can you give me on strings? I like all good music but most important to me are Funk/Disco, Soul, Jazz(funk) and Rock.
    My aim is now that my muscle memory is weak anyway to make sure I don't develop the same old bad habits with my fretting hand.

    I have contemplated groundwounds but am wondering if they are they also very stiff/tight? Or should I just go for roundwounds? If so, are there longlasting rounds? Because one good thing about flats is their endurance :-D

    All help appreciated.
  2. I am no expert, but unless the instrument is really outta whack, you should be able to get the action to a reasonable level regardless of string type. So I would see what can be done, if anything, re: proper setup. I have a junker bass at home with a set (glued) neck and amazingly high, high action...


    ...so I can relate and agree that having action like this is not a great place to start if you don't want to feel like you have been arm-wrestling after playing. I plan to see what I can do about this particular instruments action - I have not given up on it yet, but as it is today, this thing is good for a song or two then I can't play it any more and I have been playing for almost a quarter century.

    If you can get the action down to a more reasonable place, your string options are limitless. My instincts way that a lighter gauge of string would probably be a little less 'tense'.

    For funk, disco, soul, jazz and rock - some flats-like strings would probably be the call for all. Flats or half-wound, maybe. I am stringing one of my basses with flats so that I can more easily grab onto that old-school funk thing.

    As for rounds staying good for a while - keep them wiped down after playing. Keep a nice rag in your case and when you finish playing, give them a thorough wipe-down to get all that finger grime off of them and you will help to prolong their life. How long that last for you is up to how often you play, how greasy your hands are and how fastidious you are with keeping them wiped down.
  3. BassLand


    Mar 20, 2000
    Lost Angeles
    This is interesting to me in that I have gone thru some of what you are going thru but from a slightly different prospective... I was initially a finess player, I had the light touch and could play fairly fast. Then I was introduced to the upright bass which blew all rh and lh sensitiviity out of the water. Learning about the upright had a profound effect on my electric playing and I resented it for a while.

    Labella does not only make heavy guage flats. They make a set designated 760 and i believe they are mediums. If you are currently using the 760 set and they are the ones that are to stiff for you then you might try Thomastic flats which I consider as being very light (for me) and almost too flexible.

  4. KidFunky


    Jul 15, 2005
    Thanks for the feedback!

    Maybe it is just a matter of string tension and setup then. I had Thomastics on my fretless and they were indeed much better. The thing that really gets me on my 4 string is playing chords (Simultaneously) quick string bending, trills etc. Anything that requires some serious string manipulation with the left hand really. I am also not helped that I have a strange join syndrome/affliction, my fingers bend too far at the joints.

    I also wouldn't mind more growl :-D

    Another thing that surprised me was Paul Jackson railiing against the stiffness of flats. And he has hands like the incredible hulk!!
  5. zombywoof5050


    Dec 20, 2001
    LaBella makes five different gauged sets of flats, all containing the number 760. It's the letters within the model number that differentiate them.

    760FX (extra light)
    760FL (light)
    760FS (standard)
    760FM (medium)
    0760M (the "Jamerson" set)

    For those wanting a lighter tension, try the 760FL (my favorites) or 760FX. These lighter gauged sets may also have a little more high-end clarity to the tone than the heavier gauged sets, while still retaining that great old-school low end.
  6. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    +1 on the 760FL. Even though there seems to be little difference in size between the FL (43-60-82-104) and the FS (45-65-85-105), I have both and the difference in tension is large.

    Yikes! I would consider that a high action :eek:
  7. bertbassplayer

    bertbassplayer Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2000
    Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX
    +2.... defiantly high action with really high tension flats I could see being a big problem. I had a P bass one time that for the life of me I couldn't seem to get the action as low as I like it (which is pretty low), I ended up just getting rid of it becuase I never wanted to play it.

    Anyway about the top post, defiantly get a setup done... and possibly switch to some light or extra light flats or some TI flats.
  8. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    I love flats and use a bunch of different sets, but from these comments I would recommend you experiment with rounds a bit.
  9. KidFunky


    Jul 15, 2005
    How about groundwounds? Are they the best of both worlds considering the music I like or are they neither fish nor fles?

    Also, I have spent a bit of time setting up my bass properly, now with very low action, and I still find the strings too tense. This may well go away though with lighter gauge strings. At least my playing is improving already :-D
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