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Sticky flatwounds problem

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Gwardar, Apr 10, 2010.

  1. Gwardar

    Gwardar Supporting Member

    May 24, 2009

    I recently switched to heavy gauge flatwounds and I'm loving the tone. Unfortunately after a while of playing in an air-conditioned room (both fingers and strings get sweaty and cold) the strings become very sticky (or "grippy" would be a better word).

    It's then really hard to play anything, let alone having any agility. Basically it feels like the string is made of glass and my finger is rubber. No such issue with roundwounds.

    I was wondering whether anybody had that problem. I really like flats and I want to continue using them.

    Tried various strings so far: LaBella, Rotosound Jazz, GHS brites and Ernie Ball flats. The only ones that haven't got that problem (or have it to a lesser degree) are LaBellas, but they sound really, really dark and are extremely high tension.

    Tried FingerEase and/or FastFret. They just make the problem worse.

    Any help would be apprieciated

  2. It's funny you bring this up, since I recently put roto flats on my new Jazz and it's the first time I'm using flats. I noticed this too after playing for a while. I just went with the "nose grease" method.

    I forget where or when I read this, but I remember hearing that someone somewhere would rub their plucking fingers on their nose and the natural skin oil serves as lubricant. Works for me and I've been using it ever since.
  3. I use those little individual alcohol swatches like diabetics use and wrap the cotton around the string and slide it up and down from bridge to nut, pinching it just hard enough to get it to grip the string but not so hard that it won't slide of course.

    Keeps the strings nice and clean and dries out/cleans your fingers while you are doing that pinching as well.

    I use Sadowsky black label flatwounds which are made by Labella. Great strings that can get how you describe IF i don't do the alcohol thing maybe every 6-8 hours of playing.:bassist:
    Gabbs and e-flat like this.
  4. Gwardar

    Gwardar Supporting Member

    May 24, 2009
    That's really, really gross. Old bluesmen' method.

    I prefer something synthetic. Someone should synthesize nose grease and make a fortune on that.
  5. jasper383


    Dec 5, 2004
    Durham NC
    Wouldn't Fast Fret help here?

    I also have read of Tommy Cogbill (famed Nashville studio player, who played a P with flats) keeping a tub of Vaseline, and dipping his plucking fingers in it before each take.
  6. Gwardar

    Gwardar Supporting Member

    May 24, 2009
    Fast Fret makes it even more grippy; I think going opposite (i.e cleaning the strings with some alcohol) maybe the key. Yet to try Vaseline.
  7. experimental bassist

    experimental bassist

    Mar 15, 2009

    Until you get the strings good and soaked with chicken grease, you'll never get them feeling or sounding like they should.

  8. IIRC, "nose grease" is from the fold where the nose's side hits the cheek. Less gross than the phrase leads one to imagine.
  9. S. Katz

    S. Katz Guest

    Oct 24, 2008
    Los Angeles
    Cleaning the strings won't help. Nothing is building up to make the strings feel "sticky." Flatwounds feel "sticky" because there is a larger surface area of string making contact with skin. Roundwounds present a grooved surface to your skin, so there is less metal-to-skin contact. As your skin warms up, it softens and it adheres to the greater surface area. Some kind of lubricant will help this sensation (because it will make the skin slide off the metal better), but I suggest something else--get used to the flatwounds. With time, your fingers will adjust to the extra surface tension and your playing facility will return.
  10. guroove


    Oct 13, 2009
    Buffalo, NY
    Try DR flats. If those don't work, then your fingers either sweat too much or your callouses are too soft. I also think that flatwound callouses might be slightly different from roundwound callouses. I had a similar problem when I first started on the upright bass, but it got better with time.
    Versatek6 likes this.
  11. Luckydog

    Luckydog Supporting Member

    Dec 25, 1999
    True dat. Wiping the strings down will only help if your fingers stay dry. If your hands sweat, you'll end up with the rubber on glass feeling. Unless of course you sweat like a pig (do pigs actually sweat I wonder?) in which case you'd be lubricating the strings with sweat. If I'm using flats, I use a little lotion or oil on my fingers before each set and don't get stuck.
  12. Bassmansean


    Sep 21, 2009
    Mishawaka, IN
    I've been using flats for years and I've tried lots of stuff to solve this problem including fast fret.

    As strange as it sounds, I have to say that good old fashioned nose grease has always worked best for me....lol. The hardest part is looking cool while you're doing it, although I do love some fried chicken so I might just have to try that.. haha.

    I wouldn't clean the strings, because the more grease you build up between those flats the easier they will be to play, thus broken in.
  13. Tylerrr51


    Nov 28, 2009
    Milford, CT
    Thanks, now im hungry.
  14. jbravo


    Jun 1, 2009
    South Dakota
    This has not made me hungry, but has caused some serious belly laughs. I also have recently switched to flats but have not had enough time to consider my grease options.:)
  15. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    I had the "sticky" strings problem playing an outdoor concert in the evening. Caught me by surprise and I had a bad set until I got used to it. Got a can of FingerEase to throw in my gig bag in case it happens again.
  16. lmfreeman9


    Sep 1, 2007
    I had this problem only with new nickel flats-TI's and Pyramids, and only when they are new. I forgot what I used - but it was alcohol or something like it and it solved the problem.
  17. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    FingerEase has been my solution as well - especially on new flats.
  18. Gwardar

    Gwardar Supporting Member

    May 24, 2009
    Finger ease actually made it worse. It may depend on the material though. The can says this stuff is effective on stainless steel and nylon. Roto Flats are monel.

    Anyway, I managed to help the problem a bit by cleaning the strings thoroughly with methylated spirit before use.

    Actually when they came out of the box there was a lot of metallic residue coming from them. I cleaned all of it before putting the strings on and they are a little bit better.

    What makes real difference is air-conditioning.:meh:

    Other than that - I guess I just need to get used to them
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    ultimately, that's your best bet.
    AstralBirth likes this.
  20. Managed to track down some liquid talc which did the trick for me!

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