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How do flats die?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Nihilistic Milk, May 3, 2021 at 12:23 AM.

  1. Nihilistic Milk

    Nihilistic Milk

    Mar 8, 2021
    I understand rounds (arguably) die when the brightness is gone, typically after a few months of use. But how do flats die as in when or at one point do you know it’s time to change them?
    Last edited: May 3, 2021 at 12:27 AM

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    They die when they break I guess.. To me, they're dead from the beginning.
  3. It's a long, slow, wonderful death for flats.
    strawz, C Stone, red_rhino and 17 others like this.
  4. Petethebassman


    Mar 7, 2008
    At least when they won't intonate or stay in tune. I have changed flats after a couple of years when they lose definition on the pitches, usually it happens on the E string.
  5. dalkowski

    dalkowski Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    Wait, what?!? Flats DIE?
    I'm not ready for this on a Monday morning. :crying:
  6. Exactly. By uneven strain, the string loses its ability to vibrate evenly, hence the higher harmonics start to mismatch with the basic frequency of the string.

    If you start to ask yourself questions like 'I play a single note and it sounds out of tune, have I gone nuts?'
    or even 'I play a single note and it sounds out of tune, have I developed absolute pitch?' - the answer is 'No, it's time to change my flats.'
    Bassology, gzarruk, Sorado71 and 6 others like this.
  7. DrMole

    DrMole Supporting Member

    By fire.
  8. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    They might break but they never die!

    I read an article about Keith Ferguson. One day, one of his flat wound strings broke and he freaked out and drove all around Austin, Tx looking for a used flat wound G replacement. He didn't want to replace his old flats with a new set.

    Jamerson was another who NEVER replaced his flats! Carol Kaye, 6 and more years per set.

    upload_2021-5-3_9-2-37.jpeg A-447397-1577433407-9117.jpeg.jpg
    Last edited: May 3, 2021 at 8:04 AM
  9. I've never hit an instance where I've felt they had expired as I only change them when I want to try a different set of flats for a while. I've got 3-4 sets of flats in the closet with the youngsters being ~3 years old and the old-timers pushing ~8-10 years. I had one break a few years ago but that's about it.
    Hop Jam and thabassmon like this.
  10. drumvsbass


    Aug 20, 2011
    A luthier friend of mine had a set of Thomastiks that were 12 years old. He changed them when the G string wouldn't hold pitch anymore. I have a set of D'addario slow wounds on a fretless that are at least 17 years old. I change my main fretted every 3 months for that fresh bright tone.
  11. Jeff Hughes

    Jeff Hughes

    May 3, 2020
    I have a friend that has a set of rounds that have evolved into flats because they are about 15 years old.
    skycruiser, gzarruk, Phaidrus and 3 others like this.
  12. jmlee

    jmlee Catgut? Not funny. Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2005
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    How do flats die? Peacefully, surrounded by friends and family. :bawl:
  13. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Over time flats will decay with a 9 month half life if kept in a tort free environment.
  14. Kukulkan61

    Kukulkan61 Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2011
    Northern Arizona
    Didn’t know Flats died until you broke one? Pressure Wounds die just as fast as rounds in my experience...
    Winslow, Ric Vice and Low8 like this.
  15. On EB, they can be there for a while 10 years maybe for the typical TB weekend warrior, 5 for the pro.

    Over on the DB string classifieds, old Thomastik Spirocores are fought over like the last piece of pie. I did not change since I got my upright in 1992 until 2005, And it was already old when I got it. Going to this site now I have bought 8 sets probably but I have now calmed down
    mikewalker likes this.
  16. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    Like DB strings, when they really warp and tear apart on the inside, they lose their ability to produce definitive pitch, and start to sound more like a tin drum than a string. It's pretty obvious, and I don't think I've come across it in the wild more than once or twice. If the string has a steel core, that deterioration basically takes a decade of hard playing to happen.

    More often, they just gradually lose brightness and responsiveness until the player decides they want to try something new. Then you put the new strings on and you say "hmm, I guess those old strings were getting a little dull after all." On DB, with a bow, it's a little more obvious because a dullish string won't respond to certain techniques, but when you are only thumping with fingers the note is always going to sound as long as the string is physically holding together.
    Phaidrus and TomB like this.
  17. Thumpin6string

    Thumpin6string Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2013
    Shoals Indiana
    They die when they are manufactured.
  18. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    The most common cause of death is from being removed then reinstalled too often when TB members want to sample different brands.
    RocknRay, randini, DC in ATX and 13 others like this.
  19. Low8

    Low8 Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2014
    +1 on Pressurewounds (GHS) dying as quickly as rounds, maybe even quicker. Regardless, never again... it's rounds or flats for me.

    And my flats are on until they break. :cool:

    Last edited: May 3, 2021 at 5:55 PM
  20. 9Thumbs


    Jul 3, 2013
    Near Boston
    I had a G string with at least ten years on it break at the tuner when I was putting them on my SCPB. I retired the set out of respect. The new ones have started to calm down after about a year, but I don't play that bass as often as I should. My guess is that the new set will live longer than I will, Not sure though, because that particular bass has a white pickguard instead of tortoise, just might change things
    mikewalker and Phaidrus like this.
  21. 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.

    May 9, 2021

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