questions about bass strings

I have never really thought much about bass strings before, but recently a few questions have come up and I am having trouble finding answerers.

First, a multi part question. At my last band practice, the guitar player was playing with my bass. He told me my action was really high, and that I am plaing with strings that are too thick. I play with .045 - .105 but the manufacturer of bass bass recomends .045 - .100 My question is this: Can playing with a thicker string warp my neck? Second, does it matter if my action is too high? I have never adjusted it, and am comfortable with the way it is. Can it harm my bass? Will it affect my sound?

The next question is easier, what is the real difference between string types (nickel wound, stainless steal, flatwound, etc.) other than what they are made of? Are there sound differences? I read somewhere that stainless steel can be bad for my frets and fretboard.

wheat's picture

Answers to your

Answers to your questions:

1. If the manufacturer recommends 45-100, I'd try those, though I don't think the slightly thicker E string is going to make much difference.

2. Playing heavier strings won't warp your neck, but, if your action is too high, it will make intonation difficult. Think of it like this: when you press the string down (to fret it) it has to travel a certain distance before it makes contact with the fret. The only exception is strings that are played open (i.e. w/o fretting them). The strings at the lower end of the neck (near the tuning pegs) are closer to the frets, so they don't have to travel very far in order to make contact. But, at the upper end of the neck (i.e. closer to the end of the fretboard), the action will be higher. This is one of the reasons that stringed fretted instruments can't be perfectly intonated--here's always going to be a little difference between an A played open and any fretted A, especially higher up the neck.

Have you ever set the intonation on your bass? Thor's guide can help you out with that.

Some players, especially upright players, think that higher action and thicker strings yield better tone. I'm still undecided about that. I play some very light strings at a fairly low action and I'm able to dial in the sound I want.

3. Nickel is softer, cheaper, easier on your frets, and tends to wear out sooner. Stainless is more expensive, harder, harder on your frets, and tend to last longer. To my ears, nickel strings have a little more clank, especially when new. That's good or bad, depending upon your tastes. Flats have a really distinctive sound that you either love or don't. I like it once in a while, but I prefer 1/2 wounds (a.k.a. ground wounds) to flats.


Thanks Wheat

Thank you for the help. If it won't harm my bass, I think I will keep the action high. I am used to it like that, and have dialed my sound in around my action set up.

I am getting ready to buy a second bass, and think I will try the action lower to experiment with that sound.

Thanks again,


wheat's picture

That's a good idea. It's a

That's a good idea. It's a real trial-and-error sort of thing.



Jimi66I started on an up right, and i preffered lower action, also if you can afford them gut strings for an upright sound wonderful.


Hazz's picture

Just something to watch out

Just something to watch out for ...

1. If the manufacturer recommends 45-100 ...[/quote]

[quote=rev token]...I play with .045 - .105 but the manufacturer of bass bass recomends .045 - .100 ....[/quote]

Since the manu recomends 100, take a look at the saddles, especially for the "E" string. Sometimes they design the saddle to precisely fit a certain gauge string. If that is the case with your bass then the .105 may be sitting ON TOP of the saddle rather then IN the saddle. Even if the string is "mostly" in the saddle but you can see a tiny bit of light under it, then it will throw off the intonation, make it difficult to adjust and the tuning may/will go out a lot more often. It will also keep the action higher then need be as you will not be able to lower it properly.

If the string does not fit properly you can do one of three things, 1)run the recommended string, 2)buy a new saddle for the guage you want to run or 3)(what I do) file the saddle carefully to get it to the right size for the gauge you are using.

Action - personal preference as long as you get good intonation.
String gauge - your guitar player would HATE my bass as I use 45-132, if you get the tone you want and have the finger strength then use what you want

Again Wheat nailed this one as well but yeah, the different strings have different tones and feel. Also, the different windings will have different sounds on different basses. If you are looking to change the tone just a bit then do not play flats on a Bongo and compare them to the same flats on a Corvette LTD, same with the other windings.


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Thanks again. The string fit

Thanks again. The string fit on my Karera, but I had a new saddle put on my Jackson. I bought it at a local music shop, and told them that was the only was I would buy the bass. They charged me an extra $25. That might have been a rip off, but my bass was the way I wanted it.


wheat's picture

Any time a guitar shop

Any time a guitar shop charges you less than $50 for anything, it's probably a bargain. :)