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How bad is fret wear with stainless strings?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by madbassplaya, Jul 14, 2012.

  1. madbassplaya


    Dec 28, 2007
    I hear horror stories all the time and I know many people will run flats over any other string to prevent it. I believe I've used stainless strings 3 times in my bass playing life.

    1. On a Fender Jazz V. It was DR High Beams. I remember loving the feel of those strings and the sound was pretty good as well. That was around the time I got on TB and realized stainless strings destroy your frets, so I stopped using them.

    2. I got a Peavey Millennium 4 banger off of Ebay once. I literally unpacked it, tuned it, and put it in a case for a gig that night. There was no doubt the strings were stainless because they were very "grabby." Had a great tone to them. They were well worn in but still had brightness. I changed them for nickels the next morning and took the bass to a gig that night. Same gig, band, venue just different strings. Still had a good tone, but different.

    3. I bought a Warwick Corvette 6er. It came with DR Long Necks. That bass killed! Kinda regret selling it but the Vette's have such an odd body shape. Strings had a great tone to them and didn't feel overly coarse.

    So, I feel I've had some success with stainless. I don't care for the grabby feel, but the tone I have liked. I'm noticing that there are a lot of stainless sets that come in gauges I like and offer tapered strings on the B & E where nickels do not. I'm thinking about grabbing some stainless strings but I don't wanna destroy my frets. I'm not one of those that worries about this constantly, but if I can prevent major damage I will.

    So, who has real life experience with this and not just something they read in a thread by somebody who was told that stainless wears frets out super fast? :p
  2. Double G

    Double G

    Jan 27, 2012
    Jersey Shore
    Endorsing Artist: Euphonic Audio
    Rotosounds are the chief offender. I have used DR Hi-beams for years with little fret wear. In 3 months I saw wear with Rotosounds. I don't like having to have fret work done so have completely switched to nickel.
  3. madbassplaya


    Dec 28, 2007
    Rotosounds aren't really on my list to try anyway. I've heard they are pretty rough. I like a smoother stainless. I dig DR and I would like to try Dean Markley as well? I've heard good things about Pro Steels too.

    With regular play, I'm just curious at how often they will need to be dressed and at worst refretted? What's normal fret life? lol
  4. It also depends on your technique, not just strings. Slapping is hard on frets, especially the high ones. Also, bending notes can wear them down faster. I like SS strings for their hotness and brightness but have since switched to Sadowsky Bright Nickels. They're just as bright but softer material.
  5. MarTONEbass


    Jun 19, 2009
    Norton, MA
    I've used DR stainless strings for a long time. My technique is not overly aggressive, nor do I play with a light touch. I have not noticed a huge amount of fretwear. I bought my Lull about 14 months ago, I have played it as my main instrument, and at times my only instrument. It had almost zero fretwear when I bought it and it still doesn't have much. I do slap at times and I've gigged the bass 20-30 times in the last year.

    Technique, string material and fret material are all factors.
  6. pocketgroove


    Jun 28, 2010
    I only play stainless steel strings because I like the sound and feel better. Also, I have a nickel sensitivity that causes my fingers to break out in itchy bumps, which is how I got started with SS strings. My main bass has had the same neck for a few years, and it only has light wear; not even enough to pose a problem. As mentioned, I only use SS strings, and roundwounds at that. I've run Rotos, EB slinkies (not recommended), and Dean Markley Super Rounds and SR2000s on it, so according to the popular view, I should have needed fretwork by now.

    Realistically, your attack and fretting hand technique make more of a difference. How hard do you fret? How low do you set your action? I generally play with a light, controlled touch, and I haven't had any problems. If you like the sound of stainless steel strings, then by all means play them. However, if you play with a heavy touch or set your action very low, be aware that fret wear may become an issue.
  7. BassPlayer900


    Oct 19, 2011
    DR Lo Riders didn't wear my frets bad at all. But Rotosounds were starting to freak me out in a few weeks of playing them. (BTW, my bass is a MIM Fender J with stock frets)
  8. klaus486


    Jun 27, 2009
    portland or
    sales geek Portland Music co.
    The #1 technique fail I see working in a music store is strangling the crap out of the neck with the left hand. White knuckles and all....... If you have good technique and a well set up bass there should be nothing but normal wear. I have used Rotosound my whole (ok most) of my career and can recall no abnormal wear. Some guys kill their basses in short order regardless of string type. It's a myth that flats cause "no wear" it just takes longer!
  9. Agree, hard bends and heavy handed technique is the real culprit.
  10. intheory


    Nov 17, 2009
    SW Florida
    I have used d'addario pro steel strings exclusively for 5 years and play 100+ shows a year without any fret wear issues. Loooove stainless strings!! I'm sure that left hand technique, as previously stated, has a hug beating on fret wear.
  11. godofthunder59

    godofthunder59 God of Thunder and Rock and Roll Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2006
    Rochester NY USA
    Endorsing Cataldo Basses, Whirlwind products, Thunderbucker pickups
    Frets are like tires I don't really worry about it sooner or later your going to need a fret job if you keep a bass for any period of time.
    Hi-End Basses likes this.
  12. mdogs

    mdogs Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2010
    Constant state of flux
    I think this is the MOST overblown myth in the bass world. Plus, if you like and need the stainless sound why would you worry or care about fret wear? Seriously, I have heard people say, "I use flats because I don't want to wear my frets." This is absolutely ridiculous...
    Hi-End Basses likes this.
  13. droskobass


    Oct 8, 2007
    Montreal, Canada
    Former Part-Time, Non-Commission Employee MOOG Audio
    I actually asked Mike Lull about this at NAMM in January. I was a life long nickel user. But checking out other bass players that swear by Stainless I was curious so I asked Mike His opinion. He has been putting stainless on all his basses for years:

    He said (in his opinion): Pros: "Stainless last longer and don't go dead in the case when you're not playing the bass". About fret wear, he said, "it'll take years for you to wear out the frets..." Now he does use custom German fret wire which is "the hardest nickel you can get" so wear on his basses may be less, but I have since switched from Nickel on all my basses to the following: Stainless or flats on all of my passive basses, nickel on my musicmans (for now...)

    My favorite so far are DR High beams (round core stainless ) they last a lot longer than the D'addario XL's I used to use...
  14. droskobass


    Oct 8, 2007
    Montreal, Canada
    Former Part-Time, Non-Commission Employee MOOG Audio
    On fret wear:

    I think the GIG BAGS are the biggest culprit. When you walk around with your bass in a gig bag the strings can get pushed against the frets with a lot of pressure and they can grind on nearly every fret with every step you take. I nearly always use gig bags because i take the bus a taxis to my gigs. I noticed huge wear marks on the pickups of my basses and I thought that there was no way that those could come from playing. I'm guessing it happens in the gig bag. (In fact I'm certain)

    these days i put a few cloths or even a sock between the strings and fingerboard before i put it in the gig bag. I've noticed that nearly all fret wear has stopped (my newer basses have no noticeable fret wear) and my strings last much longer.
  15. madbassplaya


    Dec 28, 2007
    And that's what I was wondering.
  16. +1

    Yes I also use D'Add Prosteels with out any wear, but I also have a fairly light touch. They are easier on fret wire/fingers than Roto's (foremost) or HB's plus the price is right.
  17. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    Seems legit. The only rapid noticeable wear I've had was from roto SS 66's . . . . I was playing pretty aggressively at the time :D
  18. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    I've only used SS Lo-Riders on my Modulus of 19 years and have never had a fret dressing. Do I need one? Sure, they're pretty worn but with careful technique it still plays fairly well.
  19. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    A modulus is a pretty special instrument. I'd say very worn frets = bad intonation on anything, but a great instrument will sound better very slightly off than a crummy one.
    Unless of course you wear the frets down to nothing. Then intonation is done manually :D.

    I'd say get a good set of fretwork for the instruments birthday. It's worth it as it saves the frets from concentrated wear (up to a point) esp. due to string bends and such that will tend to deepen the little striations the rounds leave in the frets. AFAIK.
  20. MarTONEbass


    Jun 19, 2009
    Norton, MA
    No disrespect intended, but this does not seem reasonable. I am a gig bag devotee, have been for years. Never noticed any abnormal amount of fretwear. Moreover the amount if pressure exerted by a gig bag is no where near necessary to wear down metal.

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