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Progressive tension article

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by shatner, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. shatner


    Sep 22, 2004
    Isle Of Wight, UK
  2. tdshea


    May 13, 2011
    New England
    Good article shatner I think on my next string change I'm gonna give the 4 string set up a try . I just put on a set of DR Brights G string a little hard to bend . I finger hard and notice a bit of noise :bassist:
  3. shatner


    Sep 22, 2004
    Isle Of Wight, UK
    The .040 is definitely a lot easier to bend. I've grown really accustomed to the heavy to light progression across the strings now. I know it's not for everyone but I suppose it depends on your style etc. I've not found any problems with slapping on the heavier E string, if anything I find it has more zing at the higher gauge. I've always picked fairly hard and dig in a fair bit so the heavier strings helped in stopping so much rattle.
  4. matante


    Nov 3, 2003
    Los Angeles
    I think you are focusing too much on the way strings feel rather than how they sound. A standard set of D'Addarios (45-100) sounds incredibly balanced even if the tension numbers are all over the place.
  5. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Good to see someone else likes progressive tension.
    Here's a good 5 string set 145 100 70 50 35 (25) and the B can be retuned to A and still sound tight.
    bmihalov likes this.
  6. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    I'm interested in the idea of balanced tension and can understand the idea of progressive tension as well, although I'm not really one for bending or popping.

    I've just assembled a fairly balanced set of 135 100 75 55 40 from Bass Strings Online - fantastic range of singles in every gauge and very reasonable prices, even delivered to the UK. I'm looking forward to trying them out when they arrive and see what difference it makes to my playing and my sound. It's good to think about these things and experiment.
    MaglorOnBass likes this.
  7. Mike M.

    Mike M.

    Feb 14, 2010
    Thanks for this. I have a Fender AM STD 5 string Jazz bass and still haven't quite found the right set. While some sets have felt better than others (I'm talking tension), I'm still not there.

    Thing is, I've noticed how the differance in tension when using the same strings on a 4 versus a 5 string bass. On my 4 string Jazz bass I have DR Fat Beams and they're great. Thought I'd try the same gage set of Fat Beams with the added .130 B string on my 5 string and they all feel looser to me.

    Simply put, while I can very easily play my 4 string because the tension of the strings feels right, my playing doesn't sound or feel as "sure footed" when playing my 5 string because the tension feels sloppier.
  8. shatner


    Sep 22, 2004
    Isle Of Wight, UK
    Are both basses the same scale length? If the scale is different then the string tension will be different. I have an old Ibanez SR1000 and I used the same prog tension gauge set of strings as my Fender Jazz and they both feel completely different. The Ibanez E string feels much tighter. However, the action, the intonation and a whole bunch of other factors can give a sort of illusion so that the tension seems different. If you imagine a really high action and then a really low action you can even imagine the difference in feel in your mind's eye before you play it. I think the fact that you tend to play lighter on a lower action can contribute to this.

  9. For me, THE string for that bass was (amazingly) the Rotosound Swing Bass Stainless 66 LD (light D) set. I have tried all kinds of stuff on that bass and my 2008 P5 and nothing else sounded like those. FWIW I also liked the Circle K's and DR DDT's for even feel, but the sound of the Rotos was very even and piano-growly without being as stiff as the DDT's.
  10. Mike M.

    Mike M.

    Feb 14, 2010
    Rotosounds? Wow, I haven't used Roto's since my full time bar band days which ended in 1982!! Right now I've got nothing to lose so I might as well give them a shot. I did try contacting CircleK but never heard back from them. Never did try the DDT's. I did try DR Nickel Lo-Riders and while they were pretty good for the most part, the low B was very weak sounding compared to the other string. Almost like it had half the output of the others. Maybe it was just a bad string.

    Thanks for the tip, Joe!
  11. I didn't like the low rider B either.
  12. I've been a proud user of Circle K's balanced 5 and 4 string sets for several months now. I think I push those strings harder on me as I travel around than some "endorsing artists" promote THEIR products :p
  13. Shardik


    May 24, 2011
    Halden, Norway
    I have used progressive tension on both my guitars and my bass for some years now. However, I think this works better on a guitar than a bass.

    The upside on both kinds of instruments is of course the great feel and that the strings vibrate in a controlled way (flabby strings tend to buzz against frets when hit hard, and even more so for deeper frequencies).

    The downside to progressive tension is that especially on the bass, the tension may get very high on the deep strings and that tension is spread unevenly on the neck. I fear that this may actually cause an imbalanced sideways bend on the neck. Another downside is that the E string tend to get very thick, which may require hardware modifications to bridge, nut etc.

    I am therefore in the process of ordering a custom ghs precision flatwound 45-60-80-106 set for my newest bass, a fretless (and I chose 106 because 110 was not available for that particular brand model...) This would in theory be a balanced tension set.

    For my fretted bass I still prefer the progressive tension, especially for slapping. It also allows me to drop D tune the 4 string or tune the entire bass even lower if it is needed.

    Personal frustration: I do NOT understand why 45-65-85-105 and 40-60-80-100 are such common sets. The D string gets too high tension compared to the other strings, while the E string is the one with least tension.

    BTW: Great blog post. On a side note, I see that the blog post refers to Zachary guitars and their ZOG strings. Although the descriptions are unbelievably provocative with a total lack of respect for others, I do believe that the uncompromising views on the Zachary guitars pages are born from true passion. I have bought strings from them several times before, and in the mail the tone seems more civil. I have had no problems with ordering ZOG strings. I do, however, think that the progression, especially for the 4 string bass sets, are a bit steep. Great if you are going to tune lower or do heavy slapping, but in all fairness I sometimes find the huge E string fun, but a bit overkill.
  14. ihasmario


    Sep 19, 2011
    I'm making the step to balanced tension now. Progressive is definitely the next step - more logical from a mechanical sense, though perhaps not from a playing sense.

    Progressive may be the next step for me, or I may stick with balanced.
  15. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    Personally I have never really noticed any ill effects from standard string sets which can be very unbalanced and tend to be "regressive": more tension on the light strings than the heavy. However, when you go to a five string as I tried for a while, or CGDA as I currently use, you do start to notice issues with low tension on that B/C string. The fiver I just lived with but when you go CGDA you are essentially forced to buy individual strings to get a custom set with anything like normal tensions. So I shoot for a balanced tension around 40 pounds and that has been working quite well for me, granted that I have only about 4 months experience with this. I'm not seeing any real point to progressive tension but then I am not terribly sensitive to tension unless it gets too low and I am very much of the opinion that you should consider what tensions suit you and buy your strings to give you those tensions. Even I can see the problems with a too loose B string. My hat is off to places like Bass Strings Online and Circle K Strings who allow you to buy strings individually. It is great to have these options and if more people take advantage of it perhaps more strings will be available for individual purchase and the standard string sets might be adjusted to suit people better.

    I don't know if TB needs another tension calculator spreadsheet or not but I made my own because I could not find one I liked here. They are all fine for what they are intended to do but not optimized for what I want to do: evaluate string selection options. So I will share what I have and if it you suits you, enjoy.


    Attached Files:

  16. Shardik


    May 24, 2011
    Halden, Norway
    Thank you for sharing the calculator. I just ordered a string set from Bass Strings Online, and I absolutely agree that offering fully customized sets is a great service.

    When it comes to the physics of the progressive tension it is all about movements of the strings. When the heavy strings vibrate at a lower frequency, they tend to have a larger movement at the same tension compared to the higher frequency of a lighter string at the same tension. This means you have to pick the heavy string with less force or adjust the action higher to avoid fret buzz. With progressive tension, the heavier strings have higher tension and tend to move less. This allows you to set a lower action.
  17. smeet

    smeet Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    I'm using circle k balanced right now, and I like the feel, but I like the traditional sound of electric bass, where the low notes are brighter and the high notes are rounder sounding. Im using a 136 low B and although the fundamental is great, it tends to sound a bit fat and flubby compared to the other strings.
    Aaarn likes this.
  18. Did you adjust your saddle and pickup heights for these? It makes a difference since the B and E are tapered and a bit stiffer than a traditional set. I found that once I got everything optimized for them, the Balanced set gave a more consistent sound and feel all over the neck. Of course everyone hears things differently...
  19. Shardik


    May 24, 2011
    Halden, Norway
    Just for reference, I once did a measurement with a digital caliper, and found that the progressive tension ZOG 4 string roundwound long scale set had the following gauges:

    1. string (G): .040
    2. string (D): .055
    3. string (A): .080
    4. string (E): .120

    Personally I think the .120 string is a bit overkill. I think a .110 would work well too.
  20. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Approximating tensions with the Daddario tension chart for nickel rounds that would be:
    .040 33.7
    .055 35.3
    .080 42.0 (.075 38.0)
    .120 50.8 (.110 46.2) (.105 40.3)
    So yeah too heavy and steep at the bottom, 40 55 75 105 would be much better, i find a gentle gradient works well.

    I visualised the tension profiles of ZOG guitar strings, the only quoted tension values i could find on the site:



    Fifths tunings need a steeper gradient since they cover more range per string, and here's my current experimental baritone set for my Cort Curbow fretless tuned in sixths, even steeper:


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