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Which strings for "classic" rock?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by David Meyer, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. I am learning a bunch of rock tunes for a new band, including tunes by the Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Foreigner, Journey, and Steely Dan. I know many of the bassists in these bands played a Fender Precision. I own a '77 P bass, and I can't get it to sound like any of the above bassists. I am using Ernie Ball Slinky strings, which are round wound. Should I be using flat wound strings to achieve a more authentic P bass sound from that era?
    trothwell and BrentSimons like this.
  2. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2013
    Lost Wages, Nevada
    '78 P-Bass 1.JPG I'm more into "Vintage" Rock, and Rockabilly (among other things), and my '78 P-Bass wears flats (and the bridge cover mute) for that reason. The picture was taken just prior to changing those Fender 9050L flats to something much thumpier. Honestly, I'd think that, for what you want to play, rounds would work just fine. By the time that music rolled around, most bass players were using rounds, anyway. I have Slinkys on a couple of my basses, too. Rounds of any kind aren't my favorite kind of string, but the nickel Regular or Hybrid Slinkys work for me. And, personally, I never worry too much about trying to sound like somebody else. Unless you're hearing them live from a 3rd row center seat, you can't tell what anybody really sounds like, anyhow. All you'll hear is what the producer and the recording engineer want them to sound like. I got to hear the Beatles, live in the Cavern Club, in 1962. And, trust me; they didn't sound much like their subsequent records - at all. Especially that bass player... IMO, you'd be much better served by just nailing the songs, and sounding like yourself...:thumbsup::thumbsup:
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2020
  3. Rotosound Swing Bass 66's
    D'Addario Xl's
    or Ernie Ball Slinky's come to mind for a classic rock sound. You might just need to turn the highs down a bit until the strings settle in as they are all quite bright out of the package.
    Hope this helps,
  4. Have you got two basses? Old 70's Doobies, Foreigner and Steely Dan had fat sounding strings with just enough articulation to make out the note. DR Sunbeams or DR Pure Blues? Not as familiar with Eagles sound even though I know their original bassist would/could use a Rickenbacker live. Journey from Escape onwards would require good rounds like BrentSimons mentioned above. Maybe DR Lo Riders would be a happy medium between all these sounds once they break in.
    Gizmot, BrentSimons and David Meyer like this.
  5. Either the La Bella Flats or the GHS Precision Flats for something old-school.

    But if I were in your position, I might try the Fender 9050 flats for something a bit more middle-of-the-road and versatile with a wider range of tonal flavors anywhere from "vintage" to "semi-modern".
  6. I appreciate your honesty. For me, it's always been about nailing the parts, but I use original recordings as my templates, and some of those early bass sounds (like Chuck Rainey, Tim Schmidt, etc.) are so warm yet so defined. It seems when I crank some of the "snap" out of the pickup it loses definition. By the way, I changed the original pickup in my '77 to a Seymour Duncan a couple of years ago. It works well for me. Nice bass, by the way. I'm also left-handed, but was taught how to play guitar by my right-handed father when I was 12. I can't imagine trying to play lefty!
    jamro217 and Zoobiedood like this.
  7. Thanks for your response. You're the second one to mention the Fender 9050's in particular, so I am intrigued by that possibility.
  8. For $25, they're a great value. Even if they don't work out for you, no big loss. ;)
    Jim Carr and BrentSimons like this.
  9. TC.65


    Dec 20, 2008
    Carbondale IL
    You may want to give GHS Balanced Nickels a try they have great tone and feel. The best roundwound out there IMO.
  10. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone. Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    Since you’re trying to cover a wide variety, I would consider something in the middle of the sonic spectrum like DR Sunbeams.
    SactoBass, BrentSimons, BOOG and 2 others like this.
  11. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    Anything. Everything. There are as many different strings as there are "classic rock" bassists.
  12. Rotosound Swing Bass 66's
  13. Greenstreet


    Aug 31, 2017
    For the era you're looking at, nickel round wounds are going to be the most versatile.
    Flats will give you more of a 50s/early 60s Motown thump.

    If you do want to try flats, I'd go with something like Chromes.

    BrentSimons and AlexanderB like this.
  14. cool breeze

    cool breeze

    May 13, 2016
  15. cool breeze

    cool breeze

    May 13, 2016
    Great piece of advice GIBrat51!
    BrentSimons likes this.
  16. AlexanderB


    Feb 25, 2007
    Another vote for nickel rounds, like D'addario XL.

    Live today, flats will not sound like a lot of audience members are used to hear bass, and it will also NOT sound like the original recordings.

    While the recordings got the bass sound enhanced by good preamps, compressors, limiters etc, I think the thumpiness and short sustain of flats does not sit well in the mix today, especially if you have some Journey songs or the later Eagles songs.
    BrentSimons, Bajo Clarkko and Vinny_G like this.
  17. Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
  18. I'm sure that, even if you never succeed in nailing that ideal tone, experimenting with different strings is a worthwhile exercise, if only to increase your general knowledge; but there's also the whole rest of the signal chain to consider: technique, pickup(s), amp, pedals/effects, engineering, mixing...I tried doing what you're doing, emulating a very specific tone, and finally gave up because I finally realized that I'd much prefer any tone that I was really happy with. So I'm with @GIBrat51 on this.
  19. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2013
    Lost Wages, Nevada
    If you really want to try a set of flats? Yeah, they would be a good choice. A very versatile, 'middle of the road" sound. Like I said, the only reason I pulled them off my P was that they weren't Old School thumpers. Not that they aren't good flats. They were on a different bass before they grew cold...:cool:
  20. Have you tried turning the tone knob down a bit or experimenting with some foam under the strings by the bridge?. The foam tends to be very finicky in regards to thickness and requires a bit of experimenting to get the desired tone.
    jamro217 likes this.

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