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Why Do You Play Flats?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by FugaziBomb, Apr 10, 2020.

  1. FugaziBomb


    Jun 5, 2017
    To put a new spin on a beaten horse, what is it about flats you prefer over rounds and what genre of music do you typically play that they work well for?

    For example: I play rounds. I play in a reggae/punk/rock band and a few cover bands. I like to use a lot of effects (specifically OD, but also chorus, envelope filter, delay, yada yada). I like the high frequency response of rounds to drive those effects. I've found that I prefer rounds over flats for this reason.

    What about you? What is it that flats do for you that you prefer over rounds.

    To clarify, there is nothing wrong wth using either string, they are both useful. No factions or over reactions, just anecdotes. No need to quarrel!
    Stumbo, Kubicki Fan, DJ Bebop and 2 others like this.
  2. crlujan


    Jul 26, 2011
    SF Bay Area
    I play flats because I play bass. Haha! But, to be honest, they have the right sound and feel. Rounds, to me, are too harsh and feel cheap. I play 60s style soul/R&B. On a Precision with flats, fingers, and foam.
  3. bolophonic

    bolophonic Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    I have multiple basses. The ones set up with flats are my “thump” basses.
  4. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    The tone, the feel, less wear on the frets, and it suits the music I play.
  5. TheDirtyLowDown


    Mar 8, 2014
    Mostly 70's funk, soul, jazz and blues. Fretless finger-style. They just sound and feels right for the music, and under my fingers.
    Alex Hamilton, Eric66, Mili and 8 others like this.
  6. When I got my Yamaha BB424 it was far too bright. I use nothing else but flats now love em
    Alex Hamilton, Mili, Dabndug and 2 others like this.
  7. About 100 million years back I only played in punk bands. Saw a set of Rotosound TruBass for £4 is a closing sale,sets were normally 3-4 times that. Bought them and loved the thump.

    Moving to flats was a natural progression.
    Dabndug, TN WOODMAN and Gt6s like this.
  8. Hans Gruber

    Hans Gruber

    Jun 18, 2003
    Los Angeles
    I play all kinds of strings. Depends on the music. All sounds sit in the mix differently.

    In my particular setup there's a narrower sonic footprint, seems to help a lot with recording in various kinds of music. Of course, flats have different flavors. Right now I'm using Chromes and have been overall happy with them. They have a little flexibility compared to the average flatwound.

    Some basses seem to respond better with flats like my old hollowbody, some respond better with rounds.
    Mastermold, Rezdog, lowplaces and 3 others like this.
  9. sedan_dad

    sedan_dad Suspended

    Feb 5, 2006
    I find a bass will tell you what sounds best on it. Flats work better on some basses and others sound better with rounds. Take your blinders off.
  10. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    I play flats because I want my bass to sound like a bass and not like a bass guitar. If that makes sense.

    Although I love clarity and definition, I don't like high end. I don't use high end when I play the kind of music that I play.

    Flats have a smoother bass sound and they play smoother too. No round wound ridges grinding my fingers. Flats also have less sustain and faster note decay where as rounds kind of keep on ringing out.

    Flats don't eat my frets.
    dagrev, wluffman, sleipnirus and 14 others like this.
  11. mellowgerman

    mellowgerman Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2008
    Orlando, FL
    I first started on both upright and electric in my middle school band. Always preferred the feel of those fat smooth upright strings, so when I found out you could get them for electric bass too, I chose to go that route. There have been a few basses that I prefer nickel rounds on; most notably Gibson Thunderbirds, as well as my current Gibson Triumph. Never cared much for stainless rounds. My Starfire (my #1) will always wear flats though.
    In a more in-depth-pondering line of thought, it always made sense to me that flats in most cases just sounded fatter and warmer. Considering physical mass, take a gauge .105 flatwound string and a gauge .105 roundwound string, and a hollow .105" tube; the flatwound string would completely fill up that tube, whereas the roundwound string would still leave a lot of room for air inside the ridges of the winding. On the same token, it makes sense that a well-constructed roundwound string, especially on a round-core, would vibrate more freely and sustain better. Pros and cons I suppose, but I personally don't need infinite sustain. Nice middle-ground I've found are LaBella black nylon tapewounds. As far as I understand, it's basically just a light gauge roundwound string with the nylon tape wound around the outside, bringing it up to the gauge on the package. These seem to sustain better than any flatwounds I've tried and fall somewhere in the middle in terms of tone, while still feeling great on the fingers. I could never get used to the feeling of pressurewounds or half-rounds, nor was I ever floored by their tone.
    TN WOODMAN and FugaziBomb like this.
  12. dalkowski

    dalkowski Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    Because thump 'n' thud. I play mostly jazz.

    (When I took up the bass guitar ca 1977/8, I was all about light rounds with tone and treble dimed, because Thee 'Oo.)
    Bajo Clarkko and Michael Bauer like this.
  13. kohanmike

    kohanmike Gold Supporting Member

    All of my electric mini basses have flatwound, and a few of my bass ukes with piezo under saddle. I so dislike the zing of round wound that I'll never use them. I recently received a custom made mini SG EB-0 on which the builder put round wound, so I'm waiting to bring it to my luthier to replace them with my go to Gold Tone/La Bella 25" flatwounds.
    Stumbo and TN WOODMAN like this.
  14. I play both. Wouldn't have it any other way.

    But when I play flats, I get a more even response from the instrument, in terms of both technique and output. Flats are the great leveler.

    And if I need more spikes, I can dig in with fingers, or use a pick, and make them emote in ways you can't quite get with rounds. It's a nice addition to a well-rounded (no pun intended) tone palette.

    By the same token, I can smooth out my basses with rounds when needed. If you drew a Venn diagram, there is some crossover territory between the two, but I need the whole spectrum, so I keep basses strung with both.
  15. +1

    I can't stand a short-scale hollow or semi-hollow with rounds. Always flats for me.
  16. I have a number of basses, but Precisions are my center of gravity. Round-wounds sound nasal to me, almost like the bass has a bad cold. I just hate the sound of rounds, although I appreciate the lots of players love them. LaBella DTBs for me, although I am starting to consider GHS flats or even Thomastiks. I haven't made the move yet, though. I came of age in the '60s, when bass was defined by thump, and that's the sound I hear in my head when I think of bass. I think everyone should play to what they like, and I personally like flats.
    Old man, eddiemac, Eric66 and 5 others like this.
  17. nixdad


    Aug 15, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    I prefer the sound and feel of flats overall. Additionally, I'm in a Beatles band so the TI Flats feel great and help me accurately reproduce McCartney's tone as recorded.
  18. shawshank72


    Mar 22, 2009
    I play everything from outlaw country, grunge, hard rock, to punk.
    The feel
    The sound
    Makes my bass sound like a bass.
    Eric66, retslock, The Mogpipe and 5 others like this.
  19. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2013
    South Bend, Indiana
    Well, I play flats because:
    1. The bass I learned to play on (new-at-the-time '68 Rick 4001) had flats on it from the factory; the bass I played when I was in a band had flats on it; and the first bass I bought ('78 P-Bass, in 1988) had flats on it. To just say "because I'm used to them" would be a massive understatement...
    2. The kind of music I play - and, except for the Jazz I'm trying to learn, have always played - is the kind that was played and recorded with either an upright bass, or an electric bass guitar - with flats. 'Cause round wound bass strings hadn't been invented yet...
    3. I have 23 basses (or is it 24? I forget..), and I play all of them. Some much more than others, but they all get decent playing time. I'm pretty well off, financially, but trying to keep that many basses in new rounds, would a) be a full time job - and changing strings/setting up basses ain't my idea of fun; and b) I'd wind up in the poorhouse. With flats? So far, the only ones I've ever had to change were a stone dead set that came to me on a '73 Rick 4001...
    4. I've suffered pretty severely frostbitten hands many times in my life, and also have other nerve problems in my hands - especially in my fretting hand. I do have four basses with rounds on them at the moment, but sometimes it's just too painful to play them. Trying to play when it feels like the ends of my fingers are being ground off, ain't a lot of fun... If it wasn't for the fact that I really like the way those strings sound on those basses, they'd be wearing flats - or tapes. And,
    5. I absolutely loathe the sound of new rounds. That clangy, zingy brightness annoys me no end. If I want to hear that stuff?
    Mod. 3 Ode-1.jpg I'll get this thing out for a while. These strings do bass rounds one better; not only do they have to be changed every time you turn around - they're always clangy, zingy, and bright...:whistle:
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2020
    TN WOODMAN, nixdad and kodiakblair like this.
  20. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia bassist, arranger, aelurophile Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    I only play flats on DB. I always play rounds on BG and palm mute if I want thump. IMO the ongoing flats on a P discussion is as boring as the tone of flats on a P.
    Yellow Bang66, diegom and Revolver like this.
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