Same strings, but very different tension on different basses

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Govner22, Jun 25, 2020.

  1. Govner22


    Jan 19, 2013
    I use DR Sunbeams (40-100) but have noticed the tension feels fine on my Ibanez but much more loose/floppy on my Jazz. The basses have the same scale length. Is this unusual? Could it be differences in the bridges (pics below of the Ibanez SR-500 and the Jazz). Or the setups? Any thoughts appreciated.


  2. Vinny_G


    Dec 1, 2011
    Yes, this may be due to differences in action and relief settings. I don't see why it would be because of the bridges, since they are not through-body.
    tindrum, Govner22 and michael_t like this.
  3. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    It's the tilt-back headstock on Ibanez, it makes the strings feel less flexible than the straight up headstocks of Fender or G&L.


    The break angle from the nut to the machine-head capstan does a lot in determining string stiffness.

    I can downtune to as low as C#-Standard on any of the Ibanez in this room (3), but not so on a Fender (not w/o changing strings).

    Just spit-balling on this one, but I also think the radius matters.
    DaveAceofBass, eadg98005 and Govner22 like this.
  4. +1

    In my experience, "action" is one of the main things that affect how a set of strings FEEL. A higher action means the string needs to be pressed farther down for fretting, which in turn increases the tension, resulting in a tighter feel.
    iiipopes, Govner22 and Vinny_G like this.
  5. Govner22


    Jan 19, 2013
    Thanks, I would never have thought to consider the angle of the headstock and they are indeed very different. (The action and radius’s of the basses are essentially identical.). I guess for the Jazz I’ll switch to the higher tension equivalent of Sunbeams, whatever that might be.
  6. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    If you like DR, switch to Nickel Lo-Riders, they're the HEX-core version of Sunbeams. Sunbeams are ROUND-core & thus more flexible, or less stiff.


    Please note that the "tension" of your strings is the same, to reach the same pitch, but the stiffness is different.
    dave64o and MonetBass like this.
  7. Govner22


    Jan 19, 2013
    I actually did try Lo Riders after reading the thread where you and others distinguished between tension and stiffness but they still felt loose to me. I could go for a higher 105 gauge like the one you reference but any other strings you might suggest?
  8. Interesting about tilt-back heastock vs. straight-up headstock...

    I once had exactly the same strings (GHS Pressurewound 44-102) on my Yamaha (tilt-back) and my P-bass (straight-up) and didn't notice any difference in the stiffness/flexibility of the strings. If anything, the ones on the P felt a bit stiffer only because of the way they were set up with a slightly higher action.
    Govner22 and Vinny_G like this.
  9. darwin-bass

    darwin-bass Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2013
    Salem OR
    Are you plucking in the same place on both basses? Really?
    HaphAsSard likes this.
  10. Cutter8

    Cutter8 Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2018
    If it is the same strings, same scale length and same tuning, the strings may FEEL different on the two basses, but it can’t be because the tension is actually different, right? I‘m prepared to be informed that I’m horribly mistaken, but I could swear that identical strings/vibrating lengths/pitch at different tensions = a violation of the laws of physics. If I’m wrong, someone please point me to the “Physics for Dummies” explanation of how this stuff really works. I hate being ignorant about stuff I know I should understand.

    @Killed_by_Death, I feel pretty certain you could tell me if I’m wrong and explain why. So, what say you? :help:
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2020
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  11. Isaiah Angel

    Isaiah Angel

    Jun 8, 2020
    Odessa TX
    Second on the pressure wound strings especially rotosounds. I think the fact that they are compressed means it takes more mass to make the same Guage just like Flatwoods of the same Guage always feel much stiffer. But it may all be in my head...
    Govner22 likes this.
  12. ixlramp

    ixlramp Guest

    Jan 25, 2005
    I doubt this is the case. Fretting increases tension which would make the note sharp, so you would end up decreasing tension to compensate and be in tune. In other words, the tension that matters is that when the string is fretted. So a bass with higher action would have lower tension when the string is not fretted, equal tension when fretted.

    But, a higher action makes a string of a particular tension 'feel' tighter because you are trying to deflect it by a larger amount.
    Correct, the actual scientific 'tension' is identical, but the 'perceived tension' or 'feel' differs, the player notices the latter.

    If a 'Jazz Bass' has a string tree, the break angle might not be much different to a tiltback headstock.
    Cutter8 likes this.
  13. The Headstock, Action, and Relief in the neck will all cause different tension in the exact same string between basses. In most cases its normal for tension to vary between different basses with same strings, only when the tension is extremely loose or tight that you should be concerned.

    Govner22 likes this.
  14. stuntbass77


    Nov 6, 2007
    Have the same situation with my two current basses. Same strings and the MIA strings feel stiffer. It’s not a problem but your not the only one.
    Govner22 likes this.
  15. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I have a degree in Acoustical Physics (studied the Physics of musical instruments, specifically). You're thinking just fine. If two basses with the same scale length are tuned the same with the same strings, the actual string tension is definitely the same. The two basses are most likely set up differently - different neck relief, string height, nut height - that kind of stuff can make an instrument harder to fret, which feels like different tension. A few well performed measurements of things (if you have the right tools) will quickly unmask what's going on.
    byacey, Cutter8, JimmyM and 2 others like this.
  16. Govner22


    Jan 19, 2013
    Yes. In between the pickups which are positioned about the same.
  17. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    A high nut can easily make strings feel higher tension, especially in the low positions. On each bass, put the butt end on the floor and sight down the neck as you go from open to fretting the first fret. Compare the string travel on your basses. I suspect the higher tension bass has greater string travel.
  18. Govner22


    Jan 19, 2013
    I just wonder if the very different headstock angles of the basses exert more/less tension on strings with the same specs, as stated by KilledbyDeath. Curious about your thoughts.
  19. Govner22


    Jan 19, 2013
    Thanks, just tried it but the string travel was indistinguishable between the two in this case.
  20. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    The sharper angled headstock will put more down force on the nut, but the strings' tensions will absolutely be identical when tuned to the same pitch.
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