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Opinions regarding string tension for use with fretless bass

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by 40Hz, Nov 9, 2018.

  1. Stiffer

  2. Looser

  3. Carrots

Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Got hit with a question from a fellow bassist yesterday. She’s on the brink of taking the plunge into fretless playing and was wondering about what strings to use.

    The question was: is a more high tension string (like Chromes et al) - or - looser tension string (like TIs) a better choice for fretless playing.

    I told her I thought a lot depended on the bass (she’s getting a standard scale 4-string mag pup/no piezo solidbody) the player’s technique (she’s been playing for a little over seven years and has good ears, technique, and touch due to a couple of fine instructors the first few years she was playing) and the style of music you play (she plays everything.)

    So she asked: “Then what’s the general consensus?”

    I said I didn’t know. So now I’m asking TB: What’s your opinion - and what do you use on your fretless bass?
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Edit: What I meant to say, was:

    I think you need to choose the type (roundwound, groundwound, flats, tapes, etc.) before talking about gauges. But in general, I almost always vote for heavier gauges and stiffer tensions. I just like that fat bottom I guess. :woot:
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
  3. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i voted "looser" only because that's what i like in the strings. to each his/her own = makes no difference. intonation never quits. i wish her luck with the fretless! ;)
    40Hz likes this.
  4. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    I use Rotosound RS66s or whatever their standard roundwound is being called these days. I am frankly not a big fan of flats on my fretless stable.

    That being said, I've gotten acceptable results with TI Jazz flats. I think the higher tension strings kind of take out a lot of the magic you can conjure up by using precision fingering pressure with the left hand. Not to say it can't be done, but especially for a rookie fretless player I'd start 'em with either rounds or something very low tension, like the TIs. Otherwise they just may never learn the neat stuff you can do with the left hand.
    MonetBass and trothwell like this.
  5. Wisebass


    Jan 12, 2017
    Lost in Space
    Hi 40Hz :)

    I think the general consensus is: "Depends" :D

    I play Rounds (Rotos Swingbass SS) they are not "stiff" (I played them on my fretted basses too)

    I would tell her to experiment a lot with her right hand position,

    as well as high and low action on her bass. Playing hard and playing soft.

    A fretless is much more sensitive to that, than a fretted bass!

    Strings? Tell her to play what feels right for her!

    I am not a Looser! :laugh: (I voted "carrots")


    saabfender and JRA like this.
  6. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    I did. She told me she already knew that and would. But she would still appreciate some imput from other fretless players about what they were using, hence this thread. :)
    Wisebass likes this.
  7. Wisebass


    Jan 12, 2017
    Lost in Space
    Clever girl! :D


  8. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Clever among other things. I keep trying to get her to join TB. :laugh:
    Wisebass, saabfender and pellomoco14 like this.
  9. A bad idea if she wants to invest her time in actually playing bass instead of just talking bass. ;):D
    4dog and bass nitro like this.
  10. MasterMonkeyMan

    MasterMonkeyMan Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2009
    I seem to recall hearing that lighter, looser strings can help with that growly fretless sound that most fretless players aspire to. Dare I say "mwahhhhhh"
    I just put a 45. 65. 85 105. NYXL set on my Corvette Fretless and think they sound great.
    -Asdfgh-, pellomoco14 and jamro217 like this.
  11. Gully Foyle

    Gully Foyle Supporting Member

    Sep 28, 2014
    Near Boston
    I voted stiffer - mine carries the fender 9050ml, love love love them for fretless, both tone and feel
  12. Yahboy


    May 21, 2008
    Hi, 40Hz,

    I am ok with the set of 760C(bought after read your review and personal msg) on my fretless bass. Tension is lower than Ti, but she sound nice along with superb comfort playing feel.
    I set my fretless bass close to zero neck relief along with 2.4mm on E to 2.0mm on G string action. Mwah tone could create when play close to neck side; meanwhile clean tone on above pickup to bridge side.

    Been try lower the action to 2.0mm on E and 1.5mm on G string, toooo much Mwah to me.
    40Hz likes this.
  13. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Probably why she’s declined to do much more than swing by and skim the site every so often. She’s a very focused individual.
  14. 9Thumbs


    Jul 3, 2013
    Near Boston
    GHS Precision Flats 45 or 50-105. smooth, expressive and won't groove the fingerboard
  15. Spirit of Ox

    Spirit of Ox Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2012
    Chelsea Mass
    First off is the fingerboard epoxy coated or ebanol? If not she's going to want to use flat or half wound strings. Tapewound would work too. Go with a medium tension string.
    pellomoco14 likes this.
  16. xnewyorka

    xnewyorka Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2006
    NYC Area
    I don't know whether they are considered stiff or loose, but I just put a set of Sadowsky Blue Label Flats on my Marleaux Diva, and h-o-l-y c-r-a-p they are delicious sounding! Bright enough for a fretless, plenty of mwah and punch, yet smooth as silk for slides and portamento. Are they expensive? Yeah, a little. But I predict this same set of strings will be on the bass long after I am gone from this world, to the total delight of its next owner! So the cost is not a concern.
    I did also buy some Swing Bass 66's to try on there, but I'm not going to bother. I'll try those on a different bass. No need to experiment and mark up the beautiful fingerboard when these flats are the cat's meow.
  17. MasterMonkeyMan

    MasterMonkeyMan Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2009
    Really? I'm gonna have to look into these. I like flats on my FL but have always found them a little, well, flat sounding.
    I like a good mwah when I want it and find flats not quite up to the task. You say these are huh?
    (I am a x new yorker myself)
  18. xnewyorka

    xnewyorka Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2006
    NYC Area
    Yeah, they have enough mwah for me. It's slightly less than roundwounds, but not drastically less.
    I find the main key to getting mwah is the setup. It's very easy to completely remove all mwah from a fretless by simply loosening the truss rod a turn. Conversely, if you want lots of mwah, you need to tighten the truss rod until the neck is just about flat, just so that it just barely starts buzzing annoyingly below the 5th fret, then loosen it up a hair (like 1/32 of a turn) at a time until the buzzing stops. Then lower all the saddles until it just starts buzzing around the 15th fret, then raise the saddles a hair (like 1/4 of a turn) at a time until that buzzing stops. And if you are really brave, you can file the nut slots too, but you'd better know what you're doing there.

    UPDATE: Here are a couple of recordings just noodling, one slower and one faster. Better take some Dramamine before listening, or you might get seasick from some of the intonation flubs.

    Where in NY are you from?
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2018
    MasterMonkeyMan and Speterc like this.
  19. Depends on the bass. My Peavey Foundations get rounds, my Peavey Milestone IIs get flats, my ABGs get tapes.
    String gauge to me is more important than string brand (except in the case of the tapes). I prefer 40-60-80-100.
    fretlessguy likes this.
  20. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    Really enjoying the balanced tension set I just put on. It plays nicer.

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