In Praise Of Old Strings

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by slam dunk, Jun 24, 2022.

  1. slam dunk

    slam dunk

    Feb 19, 2020
    I've been playing bass for over four decades and have conservatively spent thousands of dollars on new sets of bass strings. Most strings were purchased when I traveled and played bass full time. These days, I play a few jobs every month and try to practice every day.
    Although I love the sound and feel of a great set of brand new round wound strings, (I can't stand flatwounds), it's hard to justify the expense. Especially since I perform on five, and sometimes six string basses. It has also begun to strike me as environmentally wasteful to change strings very often.
    Consequently, I leave strings on as long as I can get by with it. I've tried boiling strings a few times to revive them but for me, boiled strings are weird, uneven, and unpredictable. I've learned to compensate for normal, gradual string decay with tone controls, various effects, right-hand technique, playing styles, setup, and sometimes my note choices. It actually provides another interesting challenge and level of enjoyment for me. To top it off, I often receive compliments on my tone from bandmates and people in the audience.
    Eventually, I treat myself and order a couple new sets starting the whole process over again.
    I'm interested to hear other players views on the subject.
  2. stigbeve


    Sep 24, 2014
    I have some 12 year old roundwound DR Hi-Beams on one of my 4 strings. Hardly any sustain but they sound
    good for certain types of music.
    slam dunk likes this.
  3. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I'm a flats player who has never changed a set of flatwound strings except to go to a lighter gauge. Been playing electric bass since 1967.

    My '63 P has flats that date to at least 1972. That's 50 years on those strings, and they still sound good.

    I have a couple of basses I got in the late 90's that have the flats I installed on them. The other 8 or so were acquired between 2-10 years ago, all with the flats I installed on them when I got them.

    Most have Labella Deep Talking flats. The old P may have Pyramid flats on it - I forgot which brand long ago, if I ever knew. I have one or two with flat Chromes, which I installed before I settled on Labellas as my favorites.

    I do have one fretless which has Fender tapewounds (I think) and those strings have been on it 20 years.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2022
  4. slam dunk

    slam dunk

    Feb 19, 2020
    I don’t keep precise tabs on how long I leave strings on, it varies. I also switch between three or four main basses that I play on gigs. I’m sure a couple basses have had the same strings on for a year and a half or more. I’m also not afraid to try various cheaper brands of strings found on Amazon. I’ve had decent results.
  5. slam dunk

    slam dunk

    Feb 19, 2020
    That’s what I’m talk in’ ‘bout!
    Dust2Dust and stigbeve like this.
  6. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    Older than I am lol. “Good” is subjective. But, if it ain’t broke…
    Pilgrim, Dust2Dust and slam dunk like this.
  7. slam dunk

    slam dunk

    Feb 19, 2020
    My hat’s off to you. I know it’s a different game with flats. For most of the live jobs I’ve worked, when I have tried flats, I just couldn’t get them to work for me. They certainly have their place in the studio though.
  8. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I've lived with old rounds (2+ years old) for a while on a couple of basses before changing to flats. I've never liked the abrasive texture of rounds, and especially dislike the "zing" I get from moving my left hand fingers on the string.
  9. I gotta chime in on this one - I LOVE dead strings. Generally, bass guitars have more sustain than I need, and I like the faster decay and thudding thump. I pretty much only play fretless: roundwounds chew up the fingerboard, have too much finger squeak that can be heard at very low volume, and they are much harder on my fingers than my beloved LaBella tapes.

    However, I'm traditionally an upright player and uprights I believe need string changes more often to sound the best to my ear. The trouble is, you can change guitar strings at least 5 times for the same cost...
    Justinian, Dust2Dust and Shooz like this.
  10. slam dunk

    slam dunk

    Feb 19, 2020
    I have had better luck with the ground round, or half round strings when I’ve tried them. Their sound still offers some of the qualities I prefer for a bit more modern sound.
  11. Shooz


    Jun 2, 2013
    I am maybe one of the few who absolutely love a nice set of well used “forget the age” strings. I see some folks say they switch constantly and man that’s just not for me. That super bright zing of new strings is nails on a chalkboard to me. Like you, I can EQ a lot of life into those old strings and the feel of the strings is so sweet to the fingers.
    It’s really about personal preference and honestly, the 99% of people listening will never tell the difference or care.
    Ok, now waiting for the “new string guys” to beat me down LOL
  12. GodsLove66


    Sep 15, 2013
    ON THAT NOTE!!! How do you clean them??? Cuz strings can get SMELLY !!
    smogg likes this.
  13. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    I’m very much in the same camp with you. I changed my tone in the mid 00’s to a fatter, punchier sound with less top end. I no longer need to change my strings about every three weeks, and the people that I sit-in with all seem to like my tone.
    slam dunk likes this.
  14. I've never changed strings on my Bass. It's 11 years old and I reckon they've got a few more years in 'em yet. Of course I might spend a few bucks on some flats, or tape wounds one day, but that day has yet to come.
    sergeykuimov, aus_bass and slam dunk like this.
  15. BassFalcon

    BassFalcon Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2020
    Smelly? Wash your hands more, that’s not normal. If you already only pick up your bass with clean hands it may be a body chemistry thing. Had a buddy, with his particular body chemistry his plain strings on his guitar turned to rusty barbed wire in about a week. Maybe explore stainless or coated strings. Maybe tapewound.
    Justinian, smeet, ColdEye and 2 others like this.
  16. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I have 1 MusicMan that I always like to have relatively bright strings. But I do also like flats and those are mostly going to last for a long time. My main guitar I change strings every couple weeks or so but they are a lot less than bass strings.
    And boiling strings is weird, more weird than mere words can describe.
    slam dunk likes this.
  17. GodsLove66


    Sep 15, 2013
    Gotta have me them NYXL Roundwounds!!! But yeah, primarily from sweat from wiping my forehead off with my left hand. Usually have a rag nearby, but if it gets in my eyes too much, I usually can't help myself.
    BassFalcon likes this.
  18. dbsfgyd1


    Jun 11, 2012
    Mascoutah, IL
    Strings are made from materials that can be recycled. So I don’t feel so bad about buying new ones. One thing about strings, they do wear from rubbing on the frets which can lead to strange artifacts like buzzing tuning issues.

    I’m not sure if you record, but I know and have known a couple sound engineers that have told bass players to replace their strings before they would record them. Mostly these bassists are the ones that show up for sessions well loved flats, but well loved rounds can sound just as bad.

    Depending on how many gigs or sessions I get on the average of 75 hours of playing time on a set of strings. Less gigs, may be up to 100 hours. @ $24 a set for Dr Lo Riders, or a little less for GHS Bass Boomers, most folks spend that much on pizza a month, and playing bass is much better for your health than eating Pizza…
    smogg likes this.
  19. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Not in my experience. Even the 50-year old strings are smell-free and clean. And I've never wiped them down.

    But I don't eat dinner while playing.

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