Roto Sound SM55 on Fretless Bass

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by JeremyStP, Jan 14, 2003.

  1. About a year ago I picked up a Fender Fretless Jazz Bass (Jaco Signature) with a polyester coated, pau ferro fingerboard. I have tried several different sets of strings including TI Jazz Flats, DR Sunbeams and DA XLs. The TI's were probably the most unique sounding but not quite what I was looking for (too mellow). The Sunbeams and XLs yielded the classic 'roundwound' fretless sound particularly with the neck adjusted for minimal relief and low action. In a three piece lounge band situation, I found the roundwounds on the coated board were just too bright and lacking 'warmth'.

    I ordered a couple of sets of SM55s which took months to get but finally arrived recently. Being Rotos I added about half a turn of relief prior to installing them. They felt a little rough at first and I wasn't overly impressed with the sound of them but I played on. I am really glad I did!

    They are very 'playable' and rich sounding. They really respond well to good technique (and highlight poor technique equally as well). With full neck pick-up, the bridge pick-up backed off a quarter and playing over the board, I can produce a great, round tone perfect for slow blues and jazz standards (sort of 'uprighty'). Move my right hand closer over the neck pick-up and the tone tightens up nicely. Good for medium/up tempo shuffles. Full bridge pick-up, minimal neck pick-up and I can get a nice tight finger funk, almost Jacoesque tone. The harmonics are very clean and easy to get even in the lower register of the E string.

    The quality of the strings is average like the DRs and DAs but with tidy (green) silk windings. Not as nice as the TIs but they didn't cost as much either. I would recommend these strings highly for a fretless bass if your seeking something a little less 'aggressive' for a jazz/blues gig (but still want to cop a Jaco/Egan thing or two at the end of the night).
  2. Hey JeremyStp, welcome to Talkbass.

    I've never tried the SM55s, but your story has gotten me interested in checking them out. Are they abrasive to your fingerboard? I have a MIM fretless Jazz and the strings I pretty much swear by are the Roto 77s. They're bright for a flatwound string, but still have an "upright-like decay." When I play over the end of the fingerboard using just the neck pup, I get a reasonabley convincing upright-like tone. I haven't tried any of the Thomastik strings yet because I may be getting rid of my MIM jazz due to the terrible hum mine has. I'm thinking of getting an Ibanez EDA905F. I have to do more research.

    Anyway, good talking to someone else that uses Rotos.

  3. When I first installed the SM55s they did feel slightly rough but I've used them now for probably ten hours and they feel 'fine'. I can't see them harming a rosewood board. As I mentioned I have had a couple of different sets of roundwounds (all nickel) and didn't really observe any wear. IMHO fingerboard wear with a fretless is not really an issue to worry about unless you play a great deal (i.e. professionally) or have a very heavy left hand (which is something to work on anyway). As my fretless technique improves, I find you can modify the 'mwah' a great deal by how hard you 'fret'. I have found a softer touch with both hands is much more expressive than 'digging in'.

    I've never tried 77s so I can't comment based on experience but I would speculate the 55s will be substantially brighter with less decay. I suspect they may be slightly lower in tension as well. The TI flats are low tension and the small A takes a bit of getting used to. I think the TI flats are great for a straight jazz gig but not quite enough for a modern blues/R&B thing.

    Before parting with you MIM Jazz, you might consider upgrading the pick-ups/electronics. I believe (as do many others) the MIM Jazzes are excellent value and with a little time and money could be a sweet bass. I am not a fan of active basses but maybe a set of Aeros or Barts might give you what you are looking for. I have a Modulas VJ with the stock Barts and passive vol/vol/tone set-up and there is no (none) hum with any vol/vol configuration. The output is a little less than the Fender Jazz but still totally acceptable My Fender Jazz will get a little noisy with only one pick-up but nothing like the noise all the guitar players I play with have!
  4. I've tried the RS55 pressurewound set ("Solo bass")on fretted basses- they are rougher than flats and only slightly smoother than rounds IMO - I can imagine they'd dig into a fretless fingerboard under heavy use only slightly slower than rounds.

    I use RS77's on my Hohner fretless acoustic- the tension of the same gauge is quite a bit more with 77's than with 55's (or 66 swing bass).
    (it's featured in the main loop of my track "Fluxivity" which is on the Talkbass mp3 station)

    I use a 35-95 RS77 set, and the tension isn't noticeably much less than on the 45-105 sets of RS55 and RS66 I use.
    I've found the lighter gauge of flats produces more mwah.