Short scale bass strings go dead crazy fast

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by nozkcb, Jun 7, 2021.


  1. nozkcb

    nozkcb Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2009
    I've been playing bass for 40 years. I have been fortunate enough to have had about a hundred basses in my life, but until last year I never had a short scale Bass.

    I have a 30 scale P-style bass that plays great and sounds great with new strings on it, however, unlike any other bass I've ever had, this one kills strings in some cases, literally within hours, or maybe over the period of a few rehearsals. The E-string especially will go dead, (and I mean from brand new sparkling and snappy, to like flat-wound dead) in a matter of hours.

    I have tried 4 different brands of nickel wound and one set of stainless. I've tried different gauges too, and while heavier strings hold out a little bit longer, they all go dead incredibly fast.

    I can find no information on what might be causing this, or how to prevent it from happening. That said, I have been careful to not cut the strings too short. In fact, on the second set of strings I tried, I literally wound on the entire (uncut) string on the peg to ensure it wasn't coming unraveled. I crimp the ends 90° before winding them. I wipe the strings down regularly, I am not beating on them excessively hard.

    I can't believe four different brands of strings can all exhibit the same behavior. The only common denominator is the bass itself.

    Has anybody else experienced this, and does anyone have any suggestions?
     
  2. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    Have you tried GHS Balanced Pure Nickels? That is what I use on my travel bass (30-inch scale) and they are God's gift to short scale players. My friends and I have used just about every short scale set out there over the last 40+ years. The BPNs mount conventionally with their silk leaders. They are consistent string-to-string and up the fret board. Big, round tone. They have enough tension that they don't flop. Being round-wound strings, they have enough flexibility that they don't go thump too soon. When I set my travel bass up last autumn, my band had many rehearsals getting ready for our annual Mexico trip last February. After all the rehearsals and gigs in Mexico the strings are still good. Yes, all short scale basses tend to go thump on the E string, so I do have a spare E string, but I haven't had to use it yet.
     
  3. nozkcb

    nozkcb Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2009
    Thank you very much for the recommendation. Have not tried the GHS Balanced Pure Nickels, but I will now!
     
    Morrighan likes this.
  4. Morrighan

    Morrighan La Contessa Supporting Member

    Oct 22, 2015
    Isle of Everywhere
    Seconding this recommendation, GHS Balanced Nickels are the bomb on my short scale cat bass

    20210504_142323.jpg
     
  5. dalkowski

    dalkowski Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    I think we would all like to see the rest of this cat.
     
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  6. micguy

    micguy

    May 17, 2011
    On a short scale, if you use the same gauge strings as on a full scale, you have less tension. That means the core doesn't stretch as much, and the tiny gaps between windings are even tinier. It takes less gunk to fill those tinier gaps and cause deadness. The cure (assuming this is the cause) is....larger gauge strings.
     
    nozkcb likes this.
  7. Morrighan

    Morrighan La Contessa Supporting Member

    Oct 22, 2015
    Isle of Everywhere
    TL;DR Carey Nordstrand de-jankified a Goya Panther. GHS short scale strings are the perfect winding length. :thumbsup:


    20210504_170345.jpg
    20210505_110820.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2021
  8. dalkowski

    dalkowski Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    Morrighan likes this.
  9. nozkcb

    nozkcb Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2009
    Seems like a good theory
     
  10. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    Well, no. As Italian harpsichord makers found out in the 1600's, thicker strings don't vibrate as freely, and you lose tone and sustain as a result. The thing about the BPN's is essentially the same approach harpsichord and later piano makers used: focus on the windings. The windings on BPN's consist of exactly that: pure nickel. Pure nickel is more dense than iron, so that makes for more mass for the given diameter. More mass means more tension, which means more stability on short scale basses. But since the wrap wire is the same or similar diameter as conventional nickel plated or stainless steel, and the core-to-wrap ratio is similar, and since the BPN's use a round core rather than a hex core that the edges dig into the wrap which also cause loss of flexibility, the string retains flexibility for better tone.

    Feel free to consult the designer of these strings, Jon Moody of GHS, a member of this forum.

    In short, GHS BPN's are the best thing that have happened for short scale bass players since Hofner had Pyramid develop strings for the 500/1.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2021
    Morrighan and michael_t like this.
  11. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    i, too, find strings go dead faster on short scale basses - particularly mikros. not only do they go dead sooner but very suddenly. i figure it's the price of admission we pay to play short scales.
     
    nozkcb likes this.
  12. Aidil

    Aidil

    Dec 4, 2014
    Jkt, IDN
    This is why I put flatwound strings on my shortscale. I don't expect them to be bright, and most importantly, flatwounds are generally stiffer thus somewhat fixed the floppy string problem that I got when using roundwounds on it.
     
    nozkcb likes this.
  13. micguy

    micguy

    May 17, 2011
    I fully understand the theory involved )I studied precisely this stuff in college, and why nickel changes the tension of the string for a given diameter. Nickel would indeed help the situation - greater tension (necessary with greater mass) would pull the windings apart a bit more. However, a thicker gauge of nickel plated steel windings would accomplish the same thing. The density of nickel is about 10% greater than steel; a 5% increase in the winding’s diameter will compensate for that if using nickel plated steel (mass scales with diameter squared)

    The OP isn’t complaining about the tone of the strings, but rather how fast they age. It isn’t a material issue - the surface of nickel plated rounds and pure nickel rounds will tarnish at the same rate. Strings die from the damping you get with gunk (which is why you can revive them somewhat with a solvent bath). The long life of flats? the windings don’t have the gaps between them that rounds do - no place for gunk to go. Strings can also tarnish, but as I said before, that’s obviously a wash between nickel and nickel plated steel.

    Piano strings typically use copper windings. They’re (on a spinet/short scale) very thick, yet they sustain fine, and don’t die for a very long time. If you look at them, you’ll see there is space between windings and.... as you don’t play them with your fingers, there’s no gunk.
     
  14. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    Theoretically, yes. Usually, my fingers turn black from pure nickel windings, as on the Thomastik-Infeld Jazz flats. But my fingers don't turn black on the PBN's. So there is something else going on with the electrolytic chemistry and reactivity. I usually completely kill nickel strings as the OP describes. These are still going strong. So even though the theory is arguable, the real-world experience is slightly different. And the 5% difference in the windings does make a difference. That is why GHS uses on their medium gauge Boomer short scale strings a 107 instead of what might be otherwise indicated, a 110-115, because it does make a difference in flexibility and therefore tone.

    For short scale bass strings, it is all a compromise of real-world tradeoffs of flexibility, tone, and longitivity. Jon Moody hit a home run with these strings. So if you disagree with me, you are not disagreeing with me. You are disagreeing with Jon Moody. I suggest you discuss this issue with him, as he has found the formula that works in the real world with the GHS BPNs.
     
  15. micguy

    micguy

    May 17, 2011
    I don’t have any beefs with Jon - I have plenty of respect for him, and I use plenty of GHS strings.

    Are balanced nickels good strings? I don’t know - I trust their brightness bar, and my tastes run a few shades brighter than balanced nickels.

    If you read my posts, you’ll see I agree that pure nickel winds will indeed push things in the right direction in terms of what the OP is looking for - the Physics involved supports that. But it isn’t the only path to making short scale strings that don't die fast - the Physics is clear on that as well.
     
  16. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    The experience of my friends and I who have decades of experience playing just about everything out there short scale, they are the best strings for short scale since Hofner had Pyramid develop the strings for the 500-1. See my posts above.
     
  17. micguy

    micguy

    May 17, 2011
    I have no doubt you like ‘em. My only question was my opinion of them - as someone who feels odd playing a short scale, I may never find out.
     
  18. nozkcb

    nozkcb Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2009
    Dang! I didn't know my inquiry would lead to this level of detail.

    There's apparently a lot more to string physics than I ever thought would impact tone and longevity.

    Great thread with lots of interesting info.

    Thanks to everyone
     
  19. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    If you do try a short scale bass, please consider trying these strings on it instead of what may be on it when you purchase or play one.
     
  20. Dan_reeves

    Dan_reeves

    Jun 14, 2013
    Hey OP, which strings did you use? That might help us not recommend something you already don’t like.

    Not knowing that, on my Bronco I have had good luck with the following, all short scale sets according to the manufacturer:
    • Daddario 105-50
    • GHS Boomers 107-50
    • Ernie Ball 105-45
    Daddario is on my Bronco now, and sounds great. I prefer these over the short scale sets that are in the 95-40/45 range. I have had much more trouble with the light-ish sets in short scale. That said, I really don’t mind a boomier E string, provided it intonates and is not quieter than the rest. I do not really care about the science of the deal, I just have learned the above from trial and error and landed here.
     
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    Primary TB Assistant

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