Low tension thicker guage/high tension thinner guage

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by keatz, Jul 12, 2020.

  1. keatz


    Jan 19, 2011
    As the title suggests, I'm interested in your description of a higher tension lower guage string vs a lower tension thicker guage and why you would pick one over the other. What do you think each brings to the table.

    DR Lo Rider 80 vs DR Hi Beam 85
    Roto66 80 vs Dunlop SuperBright 85
    RudyTardy likes this.
  2. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    It's stiffness and tension. The shape and size of the core wire. Me? I like very light gauge round core strings.
    maxschrek and keatz like this.
  3. keatz


    Jan 19, 2011
    I will just clarify here to you lovely people that I'm not asking what each is, just your opinion/description on why you would go one way over the other. I'm very interested.
  4. I prefer light-gauge hex-core strings that are comfortable for the fretting hand but still firm enough for the plucking fingers. For example, GHS Pressurewound 40-96 are more to my liking than DR Sunbeams 45-105.
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  5. ixlramp

    ixlramp Guest

    Jan 25, 2005
    Both are generally impossible, as mass determines tension and mass is primarily determined by gauge.
    I think you are confusing tension with stiffness, 2 different things.
    It is possible to have lower gauge - lower tension - higher stiffness, and higher gauge - higher tension - lower stiffness.
    TrevorG likes this.
  6. keatz


    Jan 19, 2011
    Yes you are correct, I mean stiffness. I thought stiffness and tension were the same.
  7. The word "tension" is used interchangeably around here to mean two different things; 1) pulling weight (= tension), and 2) playing feel (= stiffness/flexibility). It's important to distinguish the two in order to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.

    That said, I knew what you meant by "tension" in your original post. ;)
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  8. Referring back to my earlier post...

    When I tried the Sunbeams 45-105, my left hand loved the fretting comfort, thanks to their round-core flexibility. But they were a little too loose-feeling under my plucking fingers and tended to get too bouncy.

    The Pressurewounds, on the other hand, provide a degree of firmness under my plucking fingers, thanks to their hex-core stiffness. By choosing the light gauges (40-96), I can have something that's comfortable for the left hand, but still firm enough for the right hand. It's all about the balance.
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  9. keatz


    Jan 19, 2011
    Yeah this is what I'm talking about.
    So you decided to choose the stiffer strings in a lighter guage. Why not heavier guage in the more flexible sunbeams? Too much "tension"?
  10. I prefer lighter gauges for their general feel under my fingers. I don't like the idea of going to heavier gauges with more tension (= pulling weight) for the sake of stiffer feel. Going from a round core to a hex core can provide the extra stiffness without increasing the actual tension (= pulling weight).
  11. keatz


    Jan 19, 2011
    I think I'd prefer to go your way feel-wise too but afraid the lower guage would induce more fret buzz.
    My G&L is a hard one to set up without buzz as it is.
    Which means I'm probably better to go flexible strings with a thicker guage......I think.........wow this overthinking is getting all too much. I do it to myself all the time haha
  12. Fret buzz is largely a result of too much flexibility of the string and/or a poor setup of the bass.

    I find a stiffer hex-core string, properly set up, would allow a relatively low action without the fret buzz issue even with lighter gauges. I had more buzzing issue with the Sunbeams 45-105, which required a higher action, than the Pressurewound 40-96 with a nice, comfortable medium-low action.
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  13. keatz


    Jan 19, 2011
    Great feedback. Exactly what I'm wanting to know. Thankyou.
    e-flat likes this.
  14. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Lower tension strings are easier to "twang" - when you hit 'em hard, strings gain a bit in tension; the start of the note is pitched a bit higher than the rest of it. With lower tension strings, there's more "twang" - more pitch shift. I like that effect, some don't.

    Lower tension strings are also easier to bounce off the frets, and/or get a good grind going. Again, some like this, some don't.

    I have had wrist issues, and since I like both these effects, lower tension strings let me get them with less stress on my wrist.

    Lower tension strings are also much easier to bend notes with - not something I do a a lot of, but if you like bending notes, lower tension strings make that easier to do.
  15. Tim Skaggs

    Tim Skaggs

    Sep 28, 2002
    I have much better luck getting low action without fret buzz by using stiffer strings. I don’t like the very stiffest string that exists, but a string toward the stiff end of the spectrum.

    If I know a string is very flexible, but I want to try it for specific tone, I go with a larger gauge. I don’t much care for light gauge & extremely flexible strings. I have to set the action high to avoid fret buzz; too high to take advantage of the light gauge & flexibility.
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  16. darwin-bass


    Mar 29, 2013
    Salem OR
    MANY here think this as well. Don't feel bad, you're in good company.

    I really don't notice the difference in playing resistance between light/heavy gauge, round/hex core. I really don't. I just play. I guess if the string feels floppy, I naturally pluck closer to the bridge?
  17. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    This is kind of hard for me to answer, for a number of reasons;
    1. I've never used any of the strings that you mention. In fact, I much prefer flats and tapes; I very seldom use round wound strings at all. My experience with them is limited to EB Hybrid/Regular Slinkys; short/long scale GHS Bass Boomers; short scale DR Sunbeams; Rickenbacker Light Nickel Rounds; factory Gibson long scale rounds; factory installed D'Addario EXL 170s; and, cheap n' nasty Chinese factory strings. And, my experience with the latter two is very limited; they tend to meet Mr. Trashcan as soon as the preliminary function check is over...
    2. I'm not a person who's very concerned with actual string tension. Since I mostly play with a pick, I am concerned with string stiffness. So, most of my round wound strings - long and short scale - tended to be at least 45-105s, and with the exception of the Ricks and the DRs, hex core as well...
    3. I do like low action on my basses, and, honestly? I don't recall ever having a problem in that regard with any round wound strings that I've put on a bass. Even with the Rick Light Gauge Nickel Rounds on my 4001, I get the classic super low action and "on demand" fret buzz. Thinking about it; they must be pretty high tension strings. They certainly don't feel stiff (like hex cores) off the bass, and they work great with a pick, too.
    Currently, I only have 3 basses with rounds on them; and one - the Rick 4001 - will get flats in the near future, since It's wearing my last set of the Light Nickels - and they haven't made those for several years now.. The other 2 wear short scale GHS Boomers, and "short scale" TI Jazz Rounds. But, of the rounds I have used? What they brought to my table was heavy gauge, (mostly) hex core strings that were stiff; gave me the low action that I prefer; and that worked very well with a pick...:cool:
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2020
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  18. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I think you know what's right. We all learn this lesson in due time.

    You need 4 basses by my count. Do the right thing. Post pics when you get them.
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  19. foothilla


    Aug 21, 2016
    Los Angeles
    Low tension strings are essentially useless to people with an aggressive right hand attack. Even if you can live with the fret noise and the fret-outs, you'll send all your notes sharp.

    Thick, high tension strings are the only way to get vintage Fender bass tones - regardless of right hand attack.

    Low tension strings are ideal for fast, light right hand attacks,...and slapping.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2020
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  20. foothilla


    Aug 21, 2016
    Los Angeles
    This is completely relative to your right hand attack. People with light right hand attacks can get away with MUCH lower action, regardless of string gauge. People with a heavy right hand attack need considerably higher action, regardless of string gauge.

    You won't get anyone with a heavy right hand attack to sound good with a low tension string, setup with a low action.
    Vinny_G likes this.

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