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Progressive Tension Questions

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Fireball827, May 30, 2018.

  1. Fireball827


    Dec 15, 2017
    So I've been doing some reading recently, and was going to get a bass set up anyway, and I wondered if it would be worth getting a set of strings for progressive tension. I was browsing the Kalium tension chart and came up with the following for a 35" scale bass (which matches my Ltd F-105):

    Formatted as string - gauge (tension)
    • B - .150 (50.25)
    • E - .106 (45.79)
    • A - .076 (42.59)
    • D - .053 (37.73)
    • G - .037 (33.64)
    This leads me to ask a couple questions, though.
    1. Is the 50.25 tension too much on the low B, and if so, would the 45 I could get from a .142 gauge a better starting point?

    2. Would this play decently, or are my tension jumps too high?

    I'm very new at most everything relating to strings outside of the ratio between gauge and thickness, so I would appreciate a little help with this. Thank you very much in advance.
  2. The idea of "progressive tension" is not new. But the general idea is it would work better if you do the opposite, ie high to low from G to B.
  3. Fireball827


    Dec 15, 2017
    I thought the idea was to get a heavier tension on the low strings to stop fret buzz, and a lighter tension on the high strings to make bending easier.
  4. shoulderpet


    Sep 24, 2015
    50.25 ibs of tension seems kind of high to me but it depends how stiff you like your strings to feel, for feel I would aim for a little bit lower (maybe 45 ibs) but totally up to you, the other thing is a .150 B string may feel disproportionately huge and may make things feel kind of cumbersome. I would also go slightly heavier on the G to get a more balanced feel.
  5. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    In theory that would work fine, and it won't cost that much to find out if you like it.

    That said, however, a .150 B string is going to be so inflexible it may have issues with intonation and sounding the same as the other strings.

    Have you tried a balanced tension set where the tension is equal across all strings?
  6. Fireball827


    Dec 15, 2017
    What are the benefits of balanced vs progressive?

    And on a side note, based on other advice, as well as my own research and opinions, I am starting to think of a set of Kalium balanced .136, but I'm not sure. It should have about 42 pounds of tension for B standard, and still around 37 for A# standard. (I tend to flit back and forth between those fairly regularly.)
  7. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Fireball827 yes it is worth trying if it interests you, and it's worth persevering with and perfecting by trial and error.
    I've been experimenting with this approach for years. There are many reasons why it makes good sense in terms of string physics and playability with various techniques, those light-top guitar sets have the right idea. Strings with more mass inherently need more tension to keep that mass under control. The more strings you have the more essential progressive becomes.

    But it is much rarer even than equal tensions because most bassists are used to the very common traditional sets that are the opposite and have tension rising with pitch, and have trouble adjusting to the different tonal change across a set. Equal tensions is already problematic for some players.
    It may well 'sound wrong' at first but there is no actual 'problem' with the tone, it's just something you have to acclimatise to if you like the way it feels and plays.

    A low B is at a point where the disadvantages of having it tighter than the E possibly outweigh the progressive advantage, and 5 is a big jump, so i would keep B equal to the E.
    I recommend a gentle change in tension, usually i choose gauges to give me the most gentle change possible.
    You may need to tilt your pickups (maybe by different amounts) to rebalance volume and tone across the set.
    The tradition may 'sound' better to those used to traditional sets, but in many ways progressive tension actually 'works' better.
  8. Fireball827


    Dec 15, 2017
    Would you recommend beginning with balanced tension, and once adjusted to that, making the switch to progressive?
  9. JGR

    JGR The "G" is for Gustav Commercial User

    Jun 29, 2006
    President, CEO, CFO, CIO, Chief Engineer, Technician, Janitor - Reiner Amplification
    I'd try balanced first. I tune down half a step, and the Kalium 136 balanced set feels great. I've also had success building similar sets using other brands that offer singles (check out BSO - DR Low Riders, EB Cobalts, D'Addario, GHS, Ken Smith) - the Kalium are round core so you could probably go one notch up to a 142 and still be in the realm of a balanced 136 set using something with hex cores.

    I also use the same gauges on my Dingwalls which would create more of a progressive tension set due to the multi-scale. Feels great as well, though it doesn't seem noticeably different from the balanced on the single scale guitars. That said, going from traditional to balanced was immediately noticeable, and I can no longer tolerate conventional gauged sets. Having equal tension also really helped my right hand finger technique. YMMV.
  10. Fireball827


    Dec 15, 2017
    Thanks a lot for your input. I am leaning toward the balanced .136 Kalium set now. I think I'll give it a try.
  11. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    No harm in doing that, equal tensions is well worth trying anyway.

    My approach is to trust how it feels and the playability, and persevere trusting that your ears will adjust to the new tonal change across a set.
    When i started tuning in fifths i loved almost everything about it but the larger tonal changes from string to string bothered me. Eventually i got used to it and realised there was no problem.

    Kaliums are actually hex core but are apparently quite flexible compared to other brands.
  12. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Apr 11, 2021

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