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Flatwound and nickelwound and whatnot - what is it?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by XtreO, Mar 9, 2008.

  1. XtreO


    Jan 2, 2008
    There are many different kinds of wounds on strings (wrongly phrased perhaps as I don't really know what wound is) - some that I've seen are nickel wound, flatwound and something like roundwound. Now what is really the difference between these kinds of strings? Does it make much of a difference to sound? Their lasting perhaps? Price? Please enlighten me!

    Oh and I also came over some strings named Olympia. They're extremely cheap compared to what I use now (Olympia 130 NOK, D'addario 450NOK). This brand, is it any good?
  2. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    You would say "different kinds of windings" :)

    Basically, a string has a core which is a wire or group of wires that are twisted together. This makes the core or center of the string. The winding is another wire or group of wires that is wound around the core.

    So when you say roundwound strings, that means the winding wire is round wire and will have ridges and is not completely smooth under the fingers. If you say flatwound strings, then the winding wire is flat and smooth to the fingers.

    The core wire on most strings is steel, but the winding wire may be nickel or steel, or sometimes nylon tape.

    In general, roundwound strings are brighter and have more sustain. Steel wound is brighter than nickel wound. Flatwound strings usually are less bright and produce more bass and have less sustain.

    There are exceptions to these generalizations. There are some flatwounds that are brighter and some roundwounds that are bassier, but it is usually as I have described it.

    I don't know about the Olympia strings, but I will say that there can be a lot of difference in the quality and sound of strings. But more expensive doesn't always mean better.

    I hope this helps!
  3. XtreO


    Jan 2, 2008
    It does! Thanks a lot.
  4. I don't know... I'm sort of tempted to try Optima strings...
  5. lmfreeman9

    lmfreeman9 Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2007
    Also flatwound strings last MUCH longer and almost don't need to be changed. Nickelwounds are easier on the frets then steel.
  6. flats are smoother to feel than nickel rounds and the steels are the roughest to feel
  7. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I was talking about string cores in my post above. I'm also an upright player and so I was mentioning how the core can be more than one wire. For upright you can have solid core -- one solid wire, rope core -- where it's woven wires like a rope construction, helicore -- like a helix, spirocore -- a spiral, etc. Different cores produce different flexiblity, tension and tone.

    Are all electric bass strings one solid wire core or are any made of multiple threads like this?

    Also for upright, there are plain gut strings and gut core strings with both roundwound and flatwound steel. The "gut" is a spun or twisted leather-like substance, usually made from the intestines of sheep! Then there are many new strings with synthetic cores made of nylon, perlon, silk; and there are some with nylon, tynex or polymide windings. Some electric strings have synthetic cores, usually for use with acoustic/electric basses. Also there are copper, bronze and chrome wound electric bass strings. Some strings may have a layer of silk thread between the core and the windings. This acts as a "dampening" agent, often found on orchestra arco (bowing) strings where the bassists want a darker sound. But some flatwound electric strings are made this way too.

    All of these factors produce different tone, tension and stiffness. There seems to be a lot of experimention with string construction these days.

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