1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Heavy strings (.110-.50) = tighter sound?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by jamerson_fan, Oct 4, 2008.

  1. jamerson_fan


    Feb 17, 2008

    First post! (I think) :)

    I'm a big fan of the sound and playing of the bass player in Elvis Costello's backing-band, The Attractions (Bruce Thomas).
    It's really tight and full (hear the albums "this year's model" or "armed forces" for examples)

    He used a P-bass through a Traynor SS-head into a bass cab with one 18" and two 12"s.
    I recently read in an interview that he used heavy strings (.55 on the G!)

    What do you think is the reason for the tight sound? The heavy strings or the 12"s (or both, or something else?)

  2. Deacon_Blues


    Feb 11, 2007
    I have a set of Rotosound SH 77 Steve Harris flats (.050 - .110) on my jazz. I use them mainly because I wanted to try a set of really high tension flats. Not so much because of the sound higher tension strings gives (they do sound nice though) but because of the playability. Lower tension strings are too soft for my right hand.

    A higher tension usually gives a "tighter" sound (longer sustain, "thicker" tone), but it's IMO more obvious and "a truer rule" on guitars than on bass.

    Another aspect in the "sound tightness" is how you pluck the notes on your bass, and where. If I keep the fingertips stiff, I get a tighter and stronger sound than if I let them be a bit looser. Same if I move closer to the bridge.

    Don't know if this helps anything, but anyway....

    Another Magnus
  3. bassplayertom77


    Sep 24, 2008
    I've found that lighter strings tend to "sing more" and have more "air". Heavier strings do have a more focused fundamental and punch a little more. I've never used flats, so I can only talk about rounds.

    This Year's Model has awesome tone. I think the heavier strings contributed to that sound IMO.

    For some reason, I broke a lot of G strings when I used the heavy guage.
  4. jamerson_fan


    Feb 17, 2008
    Thanks for the replies!

    bassplayertom77: I've seen a TV-recording with Mr. Thomas where he didn't have a G-string on (his bass that is! :p), so he probably broke 'em often too.

    Would you say 105s are closer to 110s or 100s, when it comes to "tightness"?
    (I'm currently using .100-strings, and I don't think my hands (or bass-neck, for that matter) will manage 110s too well...

  5. GeneralElectric


    Dec 26, 2007
    NY, NY
    I like heavy gauge strings (with high tension) for the sheer fact that it alters your playing style and you seem to bounce off the strings more changing your tone. Thats where many get the tighter sound? in my opinion.
  6. Audiophage


    Jan 9, 2005
    I would say that they are pretty much in the middle ground there between .100 and .110. Not to sound sarcastic. I suppose though, considering the ratios, that you might feel more of a difference between a .105 and a .100 than a .110 and a .105.
  7. songwriter21

    songwriter21 I have an obsession for wood. The musical kind. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2005
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Sponsored by Hipshot
    I like my .40-.100's, as I've had medium to extra heavy strings in the past. The lighter ones let me have much more energy in reserve since I don't have to play as hard, and they sing better. Just turn your amp up and you're golden. I like the twangier sound, too. I tap, slap and pop occasionally, and I always like to have low action, so it's nice not to have to fight your bass...you shouldn't have to for good playability and projection.

    Bassplayertom77, the reason you broke a lot of heavy G-strings (I gotta laugh at that one), is because heavier strings aren't nearly as pliable as light strings.

    Victor Wooten ANNIHILATES his strings, but because so, he uses a very light gauge: .30-.90!

    It's all dependent on how hard you play and what kind of voice you want from your strings. I like mine really growly but very cutting and singing all at the same time.

    Steve Harris is strictly a fingerstyle guy and he has the lowest action ever, next to what John Entwistle had. So, Harris has awesome playability on his Fender (I'm guessing custom mods to the neck), plus a lot of boom and beef because of the thick flats.

    You can get the best of both worlds, but numerous basses need custom mods for easy playability with heavy strings. When I say easy playability, I mean a flat neck and low action with minimal to no buzzing. It can be acheived on many high-end and just well-built basses, but cheaper ones need work, either by your own setup process or extensive luthier steps.
  8. jamerson_fan


    Feb 17, 2008
    Hehe.. OK.
    Thanks for the replies, I think I'll try to "move up" to 105's soon and see how it goes!

  9. Joel S.

    Joel S. Reserved for future witty use...

    Jul 9, 2008
    I've used .45s-.105s almost exclusively since I've started playing. I had .40 - .130 on my 5er and hated them, to flabby for my tastes. 105s are a nice step up without going to crazy. You WILL have to set your bass's action and intonation after you put them on.
  10. markdavid


    Jun 29, 2007
    Back when I started playing bass (and before common sense kicked in) I used to use Rotosound strings in gauges 130-60 (a five string set with the G discarded) on my Musicmaster bass and I used to tune them EADG , the tension was unreal but the tone , OMG , people always used to compliment me on my tone , something about the extra tension just seemed to make the strings sound zingier. I would never use such heavy gauge strings now as I cannot afford to replace the neck on my bass should it warp but the tone was awesome
  11. jasper383


    Dec 5, 2004
    Durham NC
    Was he playing rounds? A lot of British players at that time played tapewound strings, and heavy gauges are the norm for tapes.
  12. I use 50 / 70 / 90 / 110 (SIT Powerwounds) for CGCF, and is the perfect tension IMO for that tuning, but would consider that too tight for a standard EADG setup. There I would use 45 / 65 / 85 / 105.
  13. jamerson_fan


    Feb 17, 2008
    He used rounds, yes.

    Check out this interview with him that Fender did recently:


    By the way, do you think he used stainless steel rounds? Did they have nickel-plated rounds in the late '70s?
  14. Fender32


    Jun 23, 2005
    Kent, England
    Magnus, Bruce Thomas is my favourite bass player of all time :)! If you haven't already got it, you must buy the EC&tA album, "Get Happy!". It has the finest and most complex bass work I've ever heard from Bruce. The mix is totally bass friendly on that album too - every note pokes through and astounds :eek:!

    As for his choice of strings (heavy gauge, s/s roundwounds), I have to say that I tried it and it didn't really work for me :meh:. Why? Well, because I'm not Bruce Thomas, quite simply :p. It took a lot of right hand force to pluck very quick phrases that alternate between strings, as I simply wasn't used to playing on strings with that kind of tension and all the extra tension in my muscles just made me cramp up and make more mistakes. Just something else to consider ;). That said, the basic tone did seem to get a little closer to his.

    I think that his amp/cab combo has a lot to answer for though, as I saw him playing a very subdued version of "Ship Building" (on his pink P Bass) on a live UK TV music programme called, "The Tube" and even when he was playing quite gently, the tone was very powerful and his bass "barked" as soon as he began to dig in.

    As for the recordings he made with his Wal :eek::eek::eek::eek: - that's just sick (in a good way ;)). Listen to "Every Day I Write the Book" (that must have been done on his Wal) - my favourite (fretted) Wal tone ever.

    Good luck with the strings!
  15. Deacon_Blues


    Feb 11, 2007
    When I put these SH flats on, I was afraid that the tension would be too much for the neck on my bass. I kept it downtuned a whole step for a couple of weeks because of that, until I decided to try to tighten the trussrod a bit and tune up to E. It worked out well, and I have a medium/low action as I want.
  16. jamerson_fan


    Feb 17, 2008
    Hehe! :) Fender32: Seems like we have the exact same taste when it comes to bass playing/sounds. Bruce Thomas is the man! (I hope EC takes to his senses soon and brings him back in the band)

    Of course I have "Get Happy!", amazing record, amazing bass-playing.
    Bass-sound-wise, though I think I prefer the "This year's model"-type sound as it a bit more "zing" to it.

    I hope you're right about the amp/cab meaning more to the sound than the heavy strings. I don't think I neither will play my best with .110s.
    Amp-wise he used (live at least) in the late '70s, a Traynor Monoblock SS-amp (canadian brand), which I haven't found anywhere... Have you seen any around?

    He did use a Wal-bass on the "Punch the clock"-album ('83) and "Everyday I write the book"-single (says "Wal bass" on the cover, actually). Great sound, but that's the only time he hasn't used a P on a EC-recording.

    Regarding our other discussion about P-basses. I'm pretty sure Thomas only used alder/rosewood-editions (never seen him with an ash/maple in pictures or videos). One has to wonder what an ash/maple would have done to his sound. Hmmm.... :)

  17. troll


    Aug 31, 2000
    Chicago area
    I'm using .145 .125 .90 .70 .50 but that's for a G#,C#,G#,C#,F# tuning. Which yes, is basically dropped, down half step.

    On occasion I've tuned it back up that half step, and it sounds and plays fine. But I've got a long scale and stiff resilient neck (cirrus). as usual YMMV.

    It's kind of got me wanting to go a little thicker on some of my other basses. But I seem to like my jazz with thinner twangy strings on it. I tend to slap 80% of the time on it anyways so.
  18. Roland777


    Jun 1, 2006
    Science of practical experiences:

    Given otherwise identical factors, thicker strings will result in higher tension - which will mean more harmonic frequencies, and less emphasis on the fundamental frequency (i.e richer high-end, less bass) - but only up to a certain point, where the weight of the string is so high that it starts muting the harmonics. Lighter strings equal less tension, and opposite effect (less treble and harmonics, more bass).

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.