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I've never met a low B string I liked.

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by kraigo, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    I've got five basses: Two five strings (Skyline 55-01 and a Noguera fretless) and three four strings. Most of the time these days the basses I grab are the fours. I'm comfortable playing both, but the fives aren't compelling because I've never really found a B string that integrates well with the rest of the strings.

    If I fret an E string on the fifth fret it sound moderately close to the open A. I've never met a B string that can even get close to the sound of an open E and it only gets worse the further up the neck you go.

    I've been playing fives since the mid 90's. I've tried a LOT of different strings over the years. The 55-01 seems to really prefer round wounds and that's the bass I'm addressing at the moment. I guess the string I liked the best thus far on that bass is the lighter gauge Lakland branded stainless steel set (http://www.lakland.com/direct/merch...ode=LD&Product_Code=LCWS5&Category_Code=5STRS), but it's time to get a new set of strings so I thought I'd pick the brains of the collective who makes their favorite five string set/

    My test cases are:

    1) How distinct are the lowest notes on the B? Is it truly easy to hear the change from B to C? Believe it or not years ago a lot of five strings just head a really blurry response on the low end, although that may have had more to do with the bass than the strings.

    2) How does the fretted E on the B string compare to the open E string?

    3) How far up the neck on the B string can you get before it gets too wooly to be useful?

    I seem to have a preference for stainless steel in lighter gauges, For what ever it's worth.

    This is supposed to be a subjective thread. Be opinionated.

  2. Have you ever played a Peavey Cirrus USA 5?

    My experience with the low B on that bass is the polar opposite of what you described.
  3. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    Maybe the problem is the strings, it's the basses. ;) Not all basses are created equal when it comes to a B.
  4. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    Personally, I like the difference between strings. More tonal options.

    My main bass has a low F#, and believe you me, the B on that string sounds different than the open B, and the E played on the 10th fret sounds nothing like an open E. The difference in tone lets me, in a way, control the amount of bass frequencies I send out front...kind of like deciding whether I just want to play a certain note, or provide chest-thumping, foot-vibrating thump behind the note.

    For me, that difference in sound is another musical tool to be used, not something I seek to eliminate.

    Just my opinion, of course.
  5. I'm using TI flats on my jazz 5er, and D'addario XLs on my Roscoe 5er. The gauges on the D'addarios (I buy them as singles) are .040, .055, .075, .100, .130.

    Both of these string sets have nearly equal tension across all 5 strings, and IMHO, the B on both sets is very consistent with the others.

    I don't think the E at the 5th fret on the B string will ever sound quite like the open E, but it's close enough for me. I don't generally play past F# at the 7th fret; not only because of the sound but the feel is just weird.
  6. Too many strings Kraigo....just sayin' :)
  7. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Too much hip thrust
    I use a 35" scale Cirrus and have found it to be an incredibly articulate instrument.

    Steel DR Lo-Riders are my favorite string on this bass- it's a tight sounding bass on its own, these are a little stiffer and heavier gauge than most with excellent lifespan.

    Here is are two tracks (prog metal) in the B range where bass tones sound pretty clear-



    If you are using a big bass heavy EQ (which would probably sound nice and full on a 4 string for playing E-tuned songs), your B string will always sound muddy and increasingly flabby as you move up the neck. To have aggressive B clarity, I cut my lowest frequencies a good bit and focus on low mids instead.
  8. i have my MM sub 4 string currently tuned to drop a with ernie ball heavy strings on it.. sounds and plays amazing.. and without much fret noise even when i'm beating it like it owes me money
  9. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    There are only a small handful of 5-strings that I like, because I want the B string to be integrated into the sound of the bass, not stick out like sore thumb. The short list for me includes Laklands (55-94, 55-02, and my 55-01), the Peavey Cirrus, a particular Modulus I played decades ago at NAMM when 5's were very new and cutting edge, and a Pedulla Pentabuzz.

    What I found works best for me and my 55-01 is DR Hi-Beams (stainless on round cores) in the 45/65/85/105/130 gauges. That's the Medium 5 w/130 set. I love it because it's NOT tapered, which in my experience contributes greatly to the "it's from another planet" sound. I used about three sets of the Lakland stainless before I tried the DR's on her and they're very good strings, but between the tapered B, the stiffer feel (hex cores I believe), and the out-of-place sounding B, I went to the DR's.

    Can't help you though with the lighter sets, though.

  10. apener


    Jan 25, 2008
    I mainly play 5 strings and like you have never came to terms with the low B. BUT, this summer in NY I played an MTD 535 that blew me away! The B string was usable not in a comparative way to other 5's I have played up until then but REALLY usable! All the way up to the 20-something fret! I was amazed. So, I guess That there is an MTD in my future. Check them out.
  11. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    It has an awful lot to do with the bass itself. Not that Laklands are not excellent basses, but the specific character you want is actually pretty rare.

    I have played a lot of basses and have focused on this very issue almost to the point of obsession. My observations are as follows:

    Dingwalls' 37" B basses are the VERY BEST in terms of this, hands down. I've played Modulus, MTD, Roscoe, Lakland, Sadowsky, Pedulla to name some and none come close in terms of balance and clarity all over the neck.

    Everything else is a debatable second.

    The best STRING that I have found for articulation and clarity on the B, especially up the neck, is the Dean Markley SR2000. I've tried many strings. This is my favorite.
  12. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Perhaps that's the problem? Almost all sets have the B at a much lower tension than the other strings, with the result of a blurry, flubby sound. Light gauge sets will be even worse. Perhaps you could try a tight but very flexible B of at least .135, this improves it's tone and clarity. A .135 B has no more tension than a .100 E. A .135 and .100 is the correct pairing for B and E.

    D'Addario Prosteels are very flexible and sound amazing tuned to B and below in my experience.

    1) Distinguishing the notes that low is naturally difficult for the ear, not necessarily the fault of the string.
    2) The E on the B string will always sound different, but it can still sound good.
    3) I've been using a D'Addario Prosteel .145 tuned to A, it sounds good up to the 15th fret

    Having a long length of tapered section, or exposed core, in the B string can cause inharmonicity: wooliness as you play up the string. D'Addarios have a shorter, fatter tapered section which helps.
  13. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    I won't quote all of the replies, but in short I've had around a half a dozen five string basses over the years and this bass is the best I've had for B string response. It's really not the bass. There will undoubtedly be basses that have better B string response, but there are also aesthetic choices as well as financial considerations. The 55-01 will be my five string fretted bass for a long time. It's a good bass, it suits me and it's paid for.

    Thanks Kenner. That was why I wanted to get straight to what someone feels passionate about enough to hit "reply" rather than going through the trial and error phase.

    Thanks for posting the clips. I'm listening now. Over time I've gotten to the point where I'm pretty mids oriented, so it's a good suggestion, but that's not the issue.

    Hi John! We've spent years together on TBL, BTW.

    I'm thinking I may have to try DR. The reason I haven't done so in the past is that Minneapolis, despite being a fairly large metropolitan area, absolutely sucks for bass retail. I've never been able to get them without going mail and for some reason that's meant not getting them at all. Your post is the most applicable thus far.

    Another spirited recommendation. That's really what I was after: Recommendations that you guys really feel. Thx!

    Quoted in full because it's just an excellent post with a lot of thought having gone into the process.

    Please keep the suggestions coming. I don't know if it's been done to death but it's worthwhile to me.

    And thanks.

  14. puddin tame

    puddin tame

    Aug 14, 2010
    It can be quite different sounds, but i've found with subtle technique adjustments I can get them to sound close enough (or at least on my corvette std 5). I like having the different sound options though tbh, it's just more options for articulation.
  15. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I wish I didn't "need" a B string. I'd love to play a simple, passive 4 string again.
  16. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    MK - nice stuff and good tone.

  17. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    Don't you say that about every other month? And then say the opposite for the next month? Just like you do with cabs and head and even effects? Quit being a namby pamby miqutoast and stick to whatever it is, or at least learn some new lyrics because the song itself is waytired ; }
  18. SactoBass

    SactoBass A retired civil engineer who likes all-tube amps! Supporting Member

    I am strictly a 4-string player, but if I ever decided to get a 5-string bass, it would definitely be a Dingwall. Why? Because that 37" scale length on the B string makes all the difference in the world! I used to know a guy who had a Dingwall, and I played it a couple of times (not during a gig.....just messing around with the bass at his rehearsal place through his amp). That B string is da bomb.
  19. Most top players use 4 string basses. I have read many interviews where they have said they cannot get the clarity out of a low b string. I played a 5 string for a while. When you really think about it, all a low B does is give you a total of 5 lower notes than a 4 string. Is it really worth it?
  20. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    What's so compelling about the B string? My premise going into this thread is that the B string is barely usable at the fifth fret (at best), much less going up any higher. That leaves you the two or three notes below E for any given key. Hardly worth putting yourself out over.

    As far as passive, I want a good tone out of the bass with a minimal fuss and muss. I don't really want much EQ on the bass. My own needs are simply that I be able to hear myself and be content with the tone that's coming out. A P-bass works well for me because I turn up and go. If there's something wrong with the tone it's probably not the bass (if it is the bass is pretty quick to trouble shoot).

    Then again I'm almost exclusively a finger-style player, I don't have to balance my tone between pick, fingers and slap.

    You may be able to get by with just a passive four string. Active five strings don't add so much to the party that they're indispensable. At least they don't for me.


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