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Guitar Strings on A Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Nickayl, May 28, 2018.

  1. Nickayl


    Mar 21, 2017
    Virginia, U.S
    So I've been playing bass for a little while now and wanted to learn a new song for solo bass. I went to give it another listen before beginning and came to the conclusion that it would sound better if I learned and played it on guitar as it is originally. But here's the problem: the guitar I have access to is ancient, I mean it had been around for about 15 years and had never been serviced correctly (truss rod adjustment, bridge, nut etc...) so its intonation is terrible and play-ability is pretty shoddy.

    Earlier today, I was pondering getting an acoustic guitar to fiddle with but then had the thought: I have a 6 string acoustic bass that I don't play because the strings are way to close for my liking (11mm or something like that). Then I had the idea of putting some guitar strings on it and trying to play it like a guitar. Anyone ever done this? Does it work out well?

  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Before we even go any further, are there any even long enough? What's the scale length of the bass? How about from the bridge to the furthest tuner?

    Pics of the bass might help.
    gebass6 and TolerancEJ like this.
  3. FingerDub

    FingerDub Inactive

    Jan 8, 2016
    My thoughts exactly. /EOT.
    gebass6 and TolerancEJ like this.
  4. HaphAsSard


    Dec 1, 2013
    Yeah, pics please, as the replies above said.
    Is it like the one in this thread?

    Anyway. As regards length, some string manufacturers (including but not limited to D'Addario and GHS) make their electric guitar strings 38" long, which may be enough for a bass (it usually requires it having a not-inline tuner arrangement at the headstock, which a 6-string bass usually has, and a top-loading bridge; depending on the string anchoring slots you may have to thread the strings into old bass string ball-ends before installation). If they're not, I've seen loop-end plain strings recommended (apparently they make them even longer, up to 40+"; of course you need to add ball-ends in that case, and complete the set with single bass strings of the same diameter of the guitar ones you'd use).

    Scale length is your main problem in another sense: if your bass is standard, long scale (34") you could only get a high E ("E4" in scientific pitch notation, i.e. 329.628Hz) if you picked a .007" plain steel string, and resigned to having it break from time to time.
    With a medium-scale bass (32"), instead, you could try going one or two gauges up (.008" or .009").
    Finally, if it were a short-scaler (30") you could use up to a 010 E because that's what 12-string guitar heavy gauge sets have for their octave-up G (having it on a 30" bass tuned to E and fretted at the 3rd fret you'd get the same high G at the same distance from the bridge, namely ~25.5": that's why I bring up 12-string guitars).

    Is the above scenario inescapable? Pretty much unless
    1) you try contacting Garry Goodman at Octave4Plus (they make very thin strings, like a .006" IIRC, from special steel which is said to hold up very well even at high piches/tensions);
    2) you adopt a workaround strategy, e.g. (if your bass is a 34") sticking to a .008~.01" for your highest string, tuning it to D and either playing the instrument in D standard or finding a large capo (a pencil and rubber band would work too) to permanently place at the 2nd fret.

    Good luck with your experiments, and again, please post pics of the bass. :)
    Oh, and: in any case, I'd forget being able to do bluesy-style string bending on the first string, for reasons outlined above...
  5. Nickayl


    Mar 21, 2017
    Virginia, U.S
    HaphAsSard likes this.
  6. el jeffe bass

    el jeffe bass

    Nov 22, 2013
    New Mexico
    You might want to sell the bass and buy a actual acoustic guitar or fix the one that you have. BTW, 15 years isn't ancient, not even VERY old. Good luck and have a ball making music.
  7. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    The cheapest solution is to just maintain your guitar. Much of a good setup is not hard to do on your own, although you do need some basic tools and patience (just like anything new you take on).
    I second selling your 6 string ABG as you indicate you really have no use for it.
    walldaja likes this.
  8. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Apr 20, 2021

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