Choosing the right strings for your bass guitar

How to choose bass guitar strings

The correct choice of strings is extremely important in order to achieve the proper sound of the bass guitar. There are different types of strings. We choose and set the strings on the bass guitar depending on the genre of music and on what kind of music band we play in.

At the very beginning of my career, I was also working as a builder and a repairman of bowed and plucked string instruments, so I got to know these wonderful instruments very well.

When I was still learning the profession, we have hand woven the strings! Today, this exhausting work is done by machines.

Strings for a bass guitar

Bass guitar is a stringed instrument and belongs to the group of plucked string instruments. We strum the strings with our fingers or a guitar pick, which can be plastic or made from bone (like in the past)! Plucked string instruments differ from bowed string instruments by the way we play the instrument.

Bowed string instruments produce sound by a bow rubbing the strings. For example instruments such as doublebass or violin.

The strings, along with the corpus of the bass guitar, magnets and amplifiers, produce a range of high and low tones.

Correct setting of new strings on a bass guitar

When buying strings, we should pay attention to choosing the right length in relation to the length of the fretboard (long Scale, Short Scale). Do not let the strings hang from the guitar head, like some guitarists do. Hanging strings also obstruct us when playing.

coil bass guitar string

Avoid coiling a string on another string. Strings should fit nicely!

We should also try to avoid coiling a string on another string. That means that we should not coil a string on the tuning peg, where another string has already been coiled. If not, we risk that our strings detune in most undesirable moment and ruin our mood or even our performance!

How to string your bass guitar

We string our new or used strings on the entire length of the fretboard and do not shorten them in any case, because by shortening the strings, we destroy their original sound. We coil the entire string on the tuning peg on the guitar head.

Setting the appropriate height of the strings in relation to the guitar neck.

When playing and rehearsing funk slap, it is especially important that both the G and D strings are lower than the A and E strings.

We should only pay attention that they are not lowered too much, as it may cause an irritating twitch and incorrect tone. We can check this by playing all the tones on the G and D string from the bottom up.

A clean and clear tone is a sign that the strings are set up correctly!

For all other techniques and genres, we set the string height to a level where we can easily play a rather long tone, without the strong initial twitch.

The choice of strings for a variety of musical genres and music casts.

In Swing we usually use Flatwound strings. Flatwound strings are most often used on fretless bass guitars. With them we achieve very specific slide (glisando) efect.

Flatwound guitar string

For Funk slap and Rock, we use Nickel Roundwound strings. Round wound strings have a distinctive metal sound. Most bass players use these strings. Jaco Pastorius and majority of other contemporary bassists used or are using predominantly Nickel Roundwound strings.

Roundwound guitar strings

Roundwound strings can be made either from stainless steel or nickel. Stainless steel strings have a brighter sound, while nickel strings have a softer sound. Nickel roundwound strings are more recommendable, since they have less finger noise.

Halfwound guitar strings

In pop music, we choose thicker and softer strings.

Choosing our strings regarding to our music ensemble

In smaller musical groups, we usually use sharper strings with a distinct sound, which we can additionally shape with an amplifier and other effects.

For big mixed orchestras and larger mixed musical casts, which require special adjustments in group playing, softer strings are more appropriate.

Choosing right bass guitar strings

Choose bass guitar strings that best fit your needs

Softer strings don’t stand out in a larger musical cast and don’t corrupt the sound of the entire orchestra.

String maintenance

Eventually even strings wear out. They accumulate dirt, grease, and other particles. Strings then get a dull sound and should be replaced with new ones.

String should also be regularly cleaned with special cleaners. But we should never boil the strings, as this will destroy their properties.

Regular maintenance and cleaning of the strings is also important, because badly kept strings make more damage to the frets on the neck of the guitar (they wear out faster).

Mantain your bass guitar strings regularly

Mantain and change your bass guitar strings regularly

But the bass guitarist has always the most important role! Even the best strings and equipement cannot replace a poor technical competence of bass guitarist. Still, a correct choice of strings and their use, can significantly improve the sound of a good instrumentalist and his participation in a musical cast.

My choice for perfect slap bass strings

Here are two bass guitar strings I had best experience with up to now. The first set is D’Addario EXL170 Nickel Round Wound Bass Guitar Strings, Light, 45-100, Long Scale.

D´Addario is a very well known brand and in my opinion are one of best string manufacturers in the world. This specific strings are very popular and many bass players choose them.

They are relatively cheap and of high quality. I think you get the most for your money with this strings, with them you can´t go wrong. Their bright tone makes them very suitable for playing funk slap. This is why I mostly buy and use this strings. They are durable too.

Best Slap Bass Strings D´Addario

My other choice would be DR Strings Bass Strings, Bootzillas, 45-105. This strings were designed especially for funk and have an extra long life. They are handmade, therefore they are a bit higher priced. I used this special strings to record all exercises and examples from my e-book!

Best Slap Bass Strings Bootzillas

So, what kind of strings do you like to use, which do you like most? Drop us a comment, share your thoughts!

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Simon George June 20, 2012 at 12:28 am

thanks for the tips. i have been playing guitar for years and am now trying to transfer what i know to bass. this really helps. great post keep up the hard work.

Reply

2 Ladislav July 21, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Thank you Simon George! I wish you much success with your playing!

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3 faustoos December 30, 2012 at 8:51 pm

hail
im a bass player
im oroginally fromthe deep east ,and play eastern musick in black metal style
first im very happy to find u
second please tell me how can i use bow or arshe to play bass strings?like a celoo,
thanks
i have miloons of questions and i will ask
my pleasure
fausutoos

Reply

4 Ladislav January 5, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Hi there, thank you for your comment. As for playing with a bow, it is very hard to write about that. I think it would be best if you visit your local music school, or get an classical instructor, pay him an hour or two, to show you exactly you play with a bow. You should see that in action, not read about it. Best!

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5 Matt Kein May 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm

can you please recommend what string should I buy for my epiphone toby by tobias, I Play Different Genre. thankyou.

Reply

6 Ladislav May 11, 2013 at 9:33 am

Nice guitar. In this article I feature strings I´ve had best experience with, would work for you as well, no matter the genre. Try with round wound strings, most popular type of strings.

Reply

7 Jones sabo you will want to can easily express joy May 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article. I desire to read more things about it! Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed! Very helpful information specifically the last part 🙂

Reply

8 donettejohnstone November 20, 2013 at 3:48 am

Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and I am inspired!
Very helpcul info specifically the ultimate section
🙂 I maintain such info much. I was seeking this particular information for a long time.
Thank you and good luck.

Reply

9 Andy November 21, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Thanks for the review! What do you think about D’Adario XL160? Installed them recently and found them not too bad!

Reply

10 Prajwal March 28, 2014 at 8:26 am

Respected Sir,
I have ibanez sr300 soundgear series. I need to know whether DR Neon Bass strings are good; will the last like any other bass strings?; their tone as compared to other strings?; Will you recommend these type of strings?
Thank You

Reply

11 Ladislav July 10, 2014 at 10:17 am

They are good strings, else I would not reccomend them on my page. They are also stylish and could be used for live performances, to add some extra visual punch. However for funk slap I would most likely recommend ones mentioned in this article.

Reply

12 Steve June 12, 2014 at 3:55 pm

What do you think of Ken Smith Slapmasters ?

Reply

13 Ladislav June 25, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Hi, I am not familiar with them, so if you buy it, let us know how they perform.

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14 Alejandro June 23, 2014 at 1:59 am

Hi!
Curently I’m using a Squire J Bass and I’m planning on buying Nickel Roundwound strings. D’Addario sounds nice, but what’s next? How should I choose Size, “style” (heavy, light…) and what does “045, .065, .080, .100” mean?
Thanks!

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15 Ladislav June 25, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Try using different types of strings to find which suit you best, experience will show you most. Numbers show the thickness of strings, you can also experiment here, over time you will see which are best for you, that depends on your playing style and sound preferences.

Reply

16 Delmer H March 10, 2015 at 7:31 pm

Hello,
Your article is very interesting. I have played bass since 1963 and now prefer Rotosound flat-wound black nylon wrapped strings for playing dance music. They sound great and are easy on the fingers.

Reply

17 Marvelous Ekojoe May 18, 2015 at 1:52 am

thank you for this amazing article. please i am an amateur and just got a bass guitar.. what online course do you recommend because there is no music school in my area

Reply

18 Dacia June 7, 2015 at 8:14 pm

Good information. Lucky me I discovered your site by chance (stumbleupon).
I have book-marked it for later!

Reply

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