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what affects the "stiffness" of bass strings?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Rockin John, Sep 14, 2004.

  1. There are two American Dlx Jazz 5ers at my dealer. One of them I now own = Alder body, Maple board (2004 model).

    The other = Ash body Pao Ferro board (2003 model)..

    Apart from that there is no apparent difference between the basses, and they both have stock strings = 8250s. Both are brand new.

    Whe strung to pitch the strings on mine have some 'give' when plucked. On the other the strings feel really firm and tend to resist plucking.

    I'm baffled by this. The dealer has agreed to swap basses for me if I wish but, before doing so, I'd like to discover more about this apparent difference.

    Any comments greatly appreciated.


  2. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Same gauge strings? Or same strings, different gauge? Usually string gauge is what affects string tension. The thicker the strings, the tighter. The thinner/lighter gauge, the lower the tension, and more 'give'.
  3. Well, I notice one of them is a 2003 model. I suppose having strings on it for a year might have something to do with it.
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    For me it's generally
  5. yeah, im interested too. I inadvertantly bough some long scale strings for my normal scale bass and found they were way too floppy, was that just because they were a super light gauge, or are long scale strings wound looser to accomodate the extra length??
  6. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Probably due to the super light gauge.
  7. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    There are a lot of variables. Here are the most important:

    Nut height and the number of winds on the tuners- these set the behind the nut string angle. Just a slight change in angle results in a big change in tension. The tension behind the nut affects the feel of the playing area of the string.

    Saddle height and intonation. These set the behind the saddle string angle. As above, but even more so, as the string length here is shorter than behind the nut.

    And of course, the string itself. Even if both basses have "the same" strings on them, there are usually wide variations in batches of strings, particularly if one set is a year apart in manufacturer's date from the other set.
  8. Interesting. I never imagined that number of turns on the tuner would make any difference at all (other than the angle the string comes off at towards the nut).

    These basses are fitted with Hipshot string guides to the headstock so the angles are identical in each case.

    As for bridge saddle height, mine has low action. The other (plus a USA DLX 4) have higher actions. These two actions can't be lowered because there's not enough adjustment left on the bridge. Perhaps the necks at the heels are thinner, I dunno. Anyway, it's simply not possible to compare mine with them. Shame because I wanted to give them a go with a nice low action: Fender's quality control again???

    Accepted is the comment about tollerances on strings. My other thread in Strings talks over the point that the dealer is going to try replacing the stock strings and we'll also try some other brands to see what happens.


  9. p12bassnut

    p12bassnut Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2009
    DFW Metroplex
    So- If string angle is low behind the nut does that create more tension/stiffness?
  10. p5string


    Aug 21, 2004
    Webster, NY
    A large factor is the core of the string. Round cores have lower tension than hex cores.
  11. Lyle could you expand upon this idea of the angle to the nut affecting string tension/stiffness? I have never heard of this (not saying I don't believe you) just curious to hear more about it. Thanks, -Jon.
  12. Meatrus


    Apr 5, 2009
    Thats your answer IMO, high action makes much more tension.
  13. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Higher action, old stings (metal fatigue sets in), corrosion and finger crud in the windings of the old strings, neck angle set wrong, poor set up, hex core versus round core, different ratios of the various wrap layers and the core wire size, nut height, fret dressing quality (affects how low you can set the action without buzz), and neck relief all affect perceived tension when comparing different strings on different basses.

  14. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    Stiffness is primarily a result of construction; materials, method and procedure. Hex core has generally 18% to 20% more metal than a similarly gauged round wire as it is measured on the flat. Steel is more rigid than nickel and is stiffer naturally. Thicker strings are easier to make more stiff by virtue of the number of wraps they sport - more wraps mean more stiffness. If there is more tension put on the string in its making than it will be exposed to once it is put on the bass all the elasticity is taken out of the string and is more stiff by default.

    Break angle can accentuate stiffness if it is severe - a severely bent string is less able to move over a nut or saddle. This approaches a 'feel' thing. Distance beyond the nut or saddle allows more string to flex/stretch and will allow it to feel less stiff. The only thing additional wraps on a tuning post does is alter the break angle.

    Something else - the more rigid the instrument the more stiff the strings will feel. A bolt on with a less-than-absolute neck joint flexes and transmits that to the 'feel' of the strings.
  15. Honch

    Honch Guest

    Sep 7, 2006
    So, on headless basses with double ball end strings, and where the string stops/end right after zero fret, and bridge, will have the most stiffness? Also, on guitars with locking nut and locking bridge? With no angles at all, and the string "ends" where it locks.

    I know, very few basses do have locking nuts or locking bridges but anyway. Physics rules must apply equally there.

    I've always felt that guitars with locking nuts, and headless basses with double ball end strings - with absolute no angle at all behind zero fret, are rubberband feel, and the least tension.
  16. so..the steeper the angle at the nut/bridge the stiffer the string ?
  17. Long Scale Strings are the "normal". They should feel floppier only if your bass is a short scale.
  18. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Yes, with all else equal (same string and gauge). The stiffness or perceived tension is higher. Although the actual scientific tension (that you see on tension charts or calculate with the tension equation) remains the same.
  19. Honch

    Honch Guest

    Sep 7, 2006
    Not same light gauge, as usual. I do think it has to do to a certain extent - TOO - with the angle behind a regular nut, at least at the first few frets. Here's an analogy. Far fetched but you'll get it.

    Think of it as a rope tight over a gunwale (rail) aboard a sailing ship. It is tightened somewhere 14 degree angle downward away from the boat and gunwale. Think of PULLING the rope at a certain distance from the gunwale UP IN THE AIR. It doesn't require the same amount of force as PUSHING the rope DOWNWARDS the same distance, does it? Of course not. The angle at the other end of the gunwale, is helping to apply excess tension to the rope WHEN PUSHED in downward motion, ne's pas? Now when PULLING UP towards the air, the angle is not applying tension, since you actually shorten the distance and the line over the gunwale is straighter, thus, less force is needed.

    Now, think of tying the rope with a knot AT or AROUND the gunwale of the boat. The rope stops there and does not continue behind it. Now, the same amount of force is needed to pull the rope UP IN THE AIR as it is needed to PUSH IT DOWNARDS since the angle remains the same in both directions. It may or may not be the same as in the former example.

    Make similar comparisons to a locking nut on a bass, or headless, and a regular guitar bass with a regular nut.

    Now, think of this AMPLITUDE of a string when struck. It surely can move more equally up and down closer to its end points than on a regular nut/bridge where the string carries on at an angle behind it. Hence the rubberband feel. But the actual tension of a string is the same since it is brought up to pitch.

    It doesn't have to do with light gauge. The feel was immediately different when locking UP the locking nut on that guitar, and then the strings proceeded behind the nut in a normal angled way. Try this for yourself. Of course the actual TENSION is the same, but when plucked, and fretted at the closest frets 2-3 from the nut, the difference is felt. The amplitude alters a bit, that is felt especially when digging in and pick loud notes. Also, I would even go out on a limb and recommend even more relief on a neck with locked nut and bridge - and hence, headless basses too - than if they had regular headstock/nut/ and bridges. Due to the slight increase in amplitude of the string when plucked, hence "rubberband" feeling. Also this feeling is evident should one reverse a headstock, and let the thick e-string have a longer travel downwards towards the tuning peg which is further away - then - than on the high e-string. Must be same on any bass then. There's a certain subtle difference between TENSION and STIFFNESS that I think is misinterpreted around here.

    This is probably called something in physics or mechanics law, I don't know, probably basic school physics, but can be put in under a few "categories" there.