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String Gauge-Action-Feel-Playability

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by King David, Feb 21, 2003.


  1. King David

    King David

    Dec 13, 1999
    Indiana
    I am thinking about stepping up a notch on the gauge of strings. I currently use medium lights (45-100 on a 4 and 45-130 on a five). I have also noticed that it is easier to play faster runs when I lighten up on my touch on my right hand and when the action is lower. I just recently purchased a 5 and the low B is nice and tight, but I think it could be a tad tighter.

    How does the string gauge affect the action (getting the lowest without buzz)? Does the action need to be higher or lower typically?

    How much does a heavier gauge affect the fretting hand playability?

    Bass strings are so expensive and a setup for a new gauge is pretty expensive too. I am looking for opinions before I spend some dough.
     
  2. corinpills

    corinpills

    Nov 19, 2000
    Boston, MA
    A good tech can get your action the way you like it with different string guages. Of course, heavier strings have more tension and take more force to move. Most people find that heavier strings produce a fuller tone. I use 1.10 - .50 flats and other basses feel like toys to me becasue I've built up the hand strength (I'm kind of a tough guy, you see). It's well worth exploring, but you have to anticipate the initial difference in tension.
     
  3. jdombrow

    jdombrow Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Colorado Springs, CO
    You can switch to heavier gauge strings, or stiffer strings. I've been using DR Low Riders 45-130 (5 string set). They are wound on a hex core (instead of a round core) so they are stiffer than most strings at the same gauge. I prefer heavier (or stiffer) strings for both fingerstyle and slapping, but everyone is different.

    Heavier gauges or stiffer strings will affect your fingering hand. Heavier string gauges will also generally require adjustments to your string height and truss rod. You should learn to do this yourself - it's not that hard. There should be some good resources here for instructions (search the archives under "Setup"). Just remember to make adjustments in very small increments, and take notes if necessary. This way you will start to understand the results of the adjustments, and you you can always go back to your original settings if it doesn't work out. (For instance: truss rod tightened 1/4 turn; G string saddle screws loosened 1/8 turn...). If you adjust your truss rod, wait a day for the neck to settle before you decide if you like it or before you try to make another adjustment.

    Trying to find your ideal string type and setup takes time and money. It's the unfortunate part of playing bass, but it's worth it in the long run when you can concentrate on playing rather than woryying about how it feels or how you sound.

    Good luck,
    Jim
     
  4. King David

    King David

    Dec 13, 1999
    Indiana
    I appreciate the info. I have done a few setup tune ups myself. One part I do not know how to do is the neck to body angle.

    With heavier strings does the action have to be higher to accomodate the thicker strings, or can it be lower because the strings are tighter?
     
  5. jdombrow

    jdombrow Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Colorado Springs, CO
    I've never done neck to body angle adjustment, and I don't believe it's necessary on most newer basses. I've rarely heard it mentioned.

    With any string, the action can be as low as you want, as long as you're not getting strings buzzing against the frets. Set the action where you want it and then play a note on every fret all the way to the end of the fingerboard. If you get buzzing, you can either raise the action, or change the truss rod adjustment. I try and have my truss rod adjusted for a minimal amount of bow in the neck, and then set the string height after that. This provides the most consistent action. If the neck is bowed more, the action will typically be higher near the body end of the neck.

    If you change to heavier strings, you will probably need to lower the string height. The larger diameter of the string will cause the string to be a little higher off the neck.

    Jim