Bass is used to describe the lowest pitch. They are an integral part of any instruments, and the strings are extremely important for instruments like the bass guitars. It is worth knowing that bass strings are different from guitar strings as they are tuned to be significantly lower. Even within bass strings, there are different types. Of course, different musicians have different preferences.
Broadly, there are four types of bass strings – Nickel, Pure Nickel, Stainless Steel, and Flat-wound. Another distinction is made between flat-wound and round-wound. While flat-wound emerged earlier, as the first kind of electric bass string, round-wound are now the standard, giving a brighter tone.
Beginners and Experts, both tend to lean towards different types of bass strings. So, if you are a beginner wondering what is the perfect string for you, we have got you covered. But then, even experts, who may have settled on one already, often look to experiment with different strings. So, this list is for you too.
Without much ado, let’s dive right in.
1. Ernie Ball
Ernie Ball is the name of an American entrepreneur who started out as a local television musician and went on to produce guitar accessories and other related products. Founded in 1962, today they are one of the most successful brands producing strings.
Ernie Ball produces various types of strings ranging from gauge .40 – .55. Gauges are important as they also determine the type of string it is going to be. A heavy gauge, like .50, will require much more finger strength than a lighter gauge like .40. As one can notice, the Ernie Ball has both the type of gauges available under different models.
They mainly produce nickel plated round-wound bass strings. As mentioned earlier, round-wound is now the industrial standard, that is, the type of string commonly produced. This type of string is perfect for modern rock and pop as it produces a brighter tone. Ernie Ball, in particular, is considered as one of the best standard strings in the market.
The strings are sought after for they are affordable and versatile. While generally, round-wound strings tend to last well only for a week or so, they manage to last a bit longer. They produce a bright tone and are recommended for both beginners and experts. It is worth noting that popular musicians like Adam Levine have also used Ernie Ball strings. They are one of the most ideal strings available, as they do not produce a bit too extreme tones.
2. DR Strings
As an American family-owned business, the DR Strings are known for their handmade craftsmanship. It was founded by Mark Dronge in 1989 and are a manufacturer of guitar and bass strings. They are quite well established in the market and are among the more popular manufacturers of strings.
DR strings are well reputed to have the most affordable strings in the market. Similar to Ernie Ball, they also produce industrial standard round-wound strings. Typically, their strings are of gauge .45. So, it is a medium gauge string which produces a piano like bass tone, which has a very high-end clarity. As a round-wound string, they are apt for rock and pop as well.
They are made with stainless steel. As a result, the tones stay for a far longer time than in other cases. They are among the brightest strings and are resistant to corrosion, which makes it affordable and durable for a considerable time.
As a round-wound string producing high clarity tones, they are perfect for both beginners and experts alike. They are well sought after in the market as one of the most popular producers of strings. They compete with Ernie Ball, though lose out on the variety of gauges available.
Founded in 1974, D’Addario belongs to a family originating from Italy. They are well known for their strings and are well established in the market as producers of accessories for musical instruments which includes, but not limited to, guitars. They are one of the largest manufacturers of string in the world.
D’Addario has a wide variety of strings available. Among its popular ones are the nickel plated round-wound string and the stainless steel flat-wound string. In terms of quality, they aren’t all too different as compared to the other brands. Now, both the strings have their own set of features.
The nickel plated round-wound string is called as EXL 170. It is often preferred as it is both warm and articulate. The tones it produces are bright and clear. However, it easily traps dirt and grime which in turn requires constant maintenance or replacing of the strings.
The stainless steel flat-wound string called as Chrome is ideal for producing a deeper and mellower tone. This is often used for vintage and jazz tones. Chrome, in particular, is preferred as it is one of the more affordable type of flat-wound strings. They are quite durable as well.
As a privately own corporation based in the US, Fender is a well-known manufacturer of strings and amplifiers. They were founded in 1946 and are among the most well established and reputed manufacturers of strings and similar products.
Fender is well known for their cheap flat-wound strings, which are among the cheapest in the market, made of stainless steel. As a flat-wound string, they are ideal for vintage tones which are perfect for jazz, country or R&B.
Stainless steel is ideal as it among the brightest sounding strings and is much more resistant than nickel strings. They have a good high-end response, while slightly brittle. As one of the cheaper flat-wound strings, which are extremely durable and long lasting, they are ideal for beginners.
In terms of gauges, Fender offers a range from .45-.55. So, it offers a range of heavy and medium gauges. While the absence of lighter gauges may be a concern, it’s price is modest and makes up for it. Despite being a heavy gauge, as a flat-wound string, they are much lighter on the fingers than round-wound strings. So, Fender is perfect for a beginner.
GHS Strings is a bass guitar and guitar strings manufacturer founded in 1964. They are reputed with several well-known musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughan being among its users. So, they are a well-established manufacturer.
GHS is also among one of the most popular brands of bass strings, and they produce a nickel plated round-wound string which is commonly preferred by those who are well versed with their instrument and experts. Their strings are known for their power and durability, which makes them a very popular brand.
Nickel plated strings seen as the middle of the road. Pure nickel is warm and articulate, while the stainless steel is resistant to corrosion and so, are durable. Nickel plated strikes a balance between the two and provides warm and articulate sound, as well as considerable durability. It emphasizes on higher end frequencies.
In terms of gauges, they offer mostly light to medium gauges. It is said that heavier gauges, though demand more finger strength, produce a richer tone. Nonetheless, it depends on your skills. As a light gauge round-wound string, they are perfect for rock and pop.
Another extremely popular brand, Rotosound is a British based guitar and bass string manufacturer. Founded by James How in 1958, they are among the most popular brands in Europe, with many famous artists like Queen and Metallica being among their users.
They offer stainless steel strings with a wide range of gauges, including both light and heavy. Rotosound are however more popular for their medium gauges. They are known for their ideal output and are apt for more harder forms of music like metal. They are popular for many notable musicians like Cliff Burton also use this string.
The strings produce a warm and fat tone, which is often used for jazz and similar forms of music. Their bright tone also makes them ideal for pop as well. So, the strings offer a wide range of variety, and are ideal for both beginners and experts.
A custom version of strings produced by them is the BS66 which has custom gauges. This makes it difficult for beginners to master, while for experts, it is recommended if they are looking to create a bright and punchy tone. It is ideal for the modern aggressive kinds of music.
Founded in 1965, Dunlop started from being a small home operation and grew into a large manufacturer of musical accessories. They are well reputed for producing all types of musical accessories, not only guitar strings, and are known to have acquired several other brands as well.
Dunlop is a well-established brand known for their nickel plated round-wound strings which produce a brighter tone. They offer light and medium gauges, but not heavy gauges. A lighter gauge is ideal for faster response and action. So, they are ideal for modern musical genres like rock and pop.
As a nickel plated string, they produce warm tones and are quite durable compared to pure nickel strings. The brighter tone of these strings allows the finger noises of the musician to shine through. So, it is ideal for musicians looking for such a response.
Hence, as a relatively unique string that brings out the finger noises, it is ideal for experts looking for a particular type of response, or just experimenting with different strings. They are highly affordable and produce the standard type of strings. However, they are not among the more popular brands producing this type of strings.
Thomastik, or Thomastik-Infeld, is an Austrian manufacturer of strings for various stringed instruments, founded in 1919. They are among the only companies to produce the earliest brands of perlon strings and are well reputed for their strings.
As a brand, they are known to produce good quality strings that are perfect for jazz. They produce pure nickel flat-wound strings which are known for their lack of tonal extremes, making them ideal for recording and similar cases. Their gauges are light, or rather, extra light, ranging from .43 to .100.
Thomastik is not known for their affordability. Their strings are quite expensive. As it is pure nickel, it easily traps dirt and must be replaced after a certain period of time. As flat-wound strings, however, they are quite easy on the fingers. Nonetheless, the durability added to its price does not make them a very popular option. Instead, they cater to a very particular section who are looking for a particular tone.
So, due to their price and type of strings, they are not ideal for beginners. They are more suitable for experts who may be looking for a specific type of tone. The strings are very high end, with warm and clear tones, and while are preferred for jazz, can be used in other forms of music as well.
While they are not as popular as Thomastiks, KCG strings also produce warm and bright tones. They also produce vintage tones which are apt for jazz. Their most popular product is the nickel plated round-wound strings. Their gauges range from .45 to .105.
Despite being round-wound, they are relatively quite long lasting. As a producer of the standard type of strings with vintage tones, they are ideal for musicians looking to produce such tones in a more affordable string. They serve as a more affordable alternative to other jazz strings which are quite highly priced.
As nickel plated strings, they produce warm and clear tones. They are quite resistant to corrosion as well. However, as round-wound strings do not last for too long, they tend to last for only two to three weeks. However, considering their price, it is not unexpected. They are ideal for those who are experimenting with different tones and are looking to try out more vintage ones at an affordable price.
Among one of the more recent manufacturers, founded in 1995, Elixir Strings are known for their innovative ideas. They are known for their usage of Polyweb and Nanoweb coatings and are among the leading producers of acoustic strings. They are quickly becoming well reputed in the market.
Elixir strings are usually recommended for experts. They produce nickel plated round-wound strings, which are known for their warm, rich and rounded tone, with incredible clarity. They commonly produce light gauges like .45 to .100. A striking feature of Elixir strings is the usage of the Nanoweb.
As a brand, they have always been at the forefront of innovations. This patented coating has made them stand out from among the rest. Despite being a round-wound string, with the nanoweb coating, they manage to extend the durability significantly. With an increased lifespan, it is not needed to constantly change the strings.
At the same time, however, often, musicians complain of coated strings not producing the same tone. So, they are not ideal for beginners but rather for experts who are experimenting with different strings. It is a viable option due to its durability and warm tones.
However, it is worth noting that due to the coating, the high-end response had to be cut. So, these strings are not ideal for genres requiring faster output. Nonetheless, it is one of the better coatings out there and certainly worth trying out.
As mentioned earlier, the durability of the string might be an issue. Round-wound strings are the standard, however, have a short lifespan. A trick to keep the shine and freshness of the string is boiling them. This can also be done to guitar strings as well. By boiling them, the strings lose their trace metals and dirt, making them fresher, and bringing their sounds closer as compared to before.
Another aspect of strings that should be kept in mind is the shape of the core. Broadly, they can either be hexagonal or round. A round core is looser and easier to play on. They offer less tension as compared to hexagonal. However, hexagonal, while are tighter, offer a more clear tone as compared to round core strings. So, when choosing a string, this should also be kept in mind.
The coating is also an important aspect of a string. The most common type of coating that is applied to the strings are Polymer. Coating is done to increase the durability of a string. So, a string that lasts only for a week can with coating be extended to a month. However, coating is a topic that is debated in the community as it often leads to the loss in the tone of the strings. So, it should also be kept in mind when settling on a string.
After all this, the most important part of it all is your own playing style. The best type of string depends solely on your playing style. If you are used to jazz, it is ideal for you to stick to a flat-wound string like Thomastik, while for rock and pop, Ernie Ball is a viable option. It is best for you to go and explore different types of strings, see how they feel, and then settle on one.
So, with all this in mind, I’m sure by now you have settled on a string to try out. As a beginner, it is best to first get an amateur string and keep practicing. Once you master it, you could try experimenting with strings and see which one feels the best to you, and then stick with that.
Now go and pick the best string and start practicing.