The waves of the crowd’s hands rise into the air, phones ready and flashing, as you walk out on stage. Hundreds of lights go off, blinding you, consuming real life, and drowning you in the idea that you only exist right here, right now. You do not exist outside of your music, so you will be sweating as much as it takes to bring these people where they came from.
The sound of their screams fills your ears, bringing you back to the real, stunning you with the fact that there are possibly too many of them, to disappoint and give them a chance to regret buying the ticket. The fear sets in as you realize you might not be as good as you think. To drown out this sound of horror you start playing. One, two, and the song starts rolling out, faster and faster.
You lose track, all you know is that your fingers hurt and that your mind is numb to everything other than the song, your hair is everywhere, heavy with the sweat that seems to permeate your very being. They pour onto the strings, corroding them further, making them struggle under the stress of your fingers, until one of them breaks, whipping across your hand. Would this have happened if you had bought the best bass guitar strings the day before? You do not know, you struggle to know as the reality starts to stretch at its seams, just as you stretch a new string across the bass.
Top 5 Best Bass Strings
Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Bass Set, .050 – .105
Ernie Ball was making musical instruments and strings so long before I was born that sometimes I am embarrassed to have the say in whether whatever they are making is good or not. Especially since I know that the resume of the manufacturer is full of people who are much better musicians and have a better understanding of how music is supposed to sound and how it is supposed to be made. I mean, I am pretty sure that if Jimmy Page and Steve Vai both trusted Mr. Ernie Ball, I have no right not to. Neither am I wrong not to, as the manufacturer keeps their quality of makeup, as evidenced by the Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Bass Set, .0.50 – .105. These nickel strings have the warm, mellow tone that anyone with a taste for bass will appreciate. Well crafted, sturdy and incredibly well sounding these 105s will have you playing the sound you thought only achievable only by letting your bass strings be a little thick. The nickel is well balanced with the help of the round winding of the strings, adding the little bit of vibrant sound you might have felt is missing. A lot of fun is to be had with this affordable set of strings.
D’Addario EXL160 Nickel Wound Bass Guitar Strings, Medium
There is a lot of precision required in the making of such intricate items as strings. The level of attention to detail required to produce an exceptional quality item of such minuscule proportions, which is supposed to produce the all-important music you want it to, is considered inhuman by many who do not understand the art. Thankfully, such a level of precision comes with years of practice, and if you have been practicing the manufacturing of strings for more than three centuries, you may be as close to perfection as it gets. Add in the help that the computers provide in the design and manufacturing process and what you get are some of the finest string manufacturers in the world D’Addario. These guys know what they are doing and thankfully they love to produce bass strings. The D’Addario EXL 160 Nickel Wound Bass Guitar Strings, medium-sized, are the embodiment of this love. These strings are made to be sturdy, with every step in the process dedicated to quality and durability, so that over the months of playing, you will not be losing any sound or tearing any strings. The beautiful, thick sound of these strings will coat your ears in sound that feels like oil or honey, pouring down into your soul and firing you up like a machine made for music or a kid going through a sugar rush. Whatever it is, you will be having a lot of fun with these round wounds.
Fender 9050 Stainless Flatwound Bass Strings
You never need to tell me what you want, because I will not be tailoring any of my reviews to your specific wants or needs. What I will be tailoring these reviews to is my belief for what the best items for general purpose use are and among these, you will often find something useful to you specifically. There are times though when the only thing I can think about is the fact that no matter how general I get, I will never be able to cover every base. During these times I decide that there is a very specific type of player that needs my help and try to help them out. So if you are a fretless bass guitar player hear me out: I may or may not have found some of the best strings for your use: The Fender 9050 Stainless Flatwound Bass Strings. If you like your fretless bass tones to sound crisp, bright, and unblemished by ridges, faults and scratches in your fret or strings, then you are staring at one of the best choices there are on the market. These strings are incredible in tone thanks to their stainless steel construction and beautifully comfortable to play thanks to the flat winding. You can use them anywhere and anytime and they will last you a long time. They might seem a little pricey, but they are not really. Just two dollars are more expensive than the cheapest options on here so much better.
Rotosound RS66LF Swing Bass 66 Stainless Steel
Some of the most beautiful tunes in the world were created in Jazz and Blues. These genres demand the greatest quality of their instruments and accessories, which is why the greatest quality is produced for them. I am serious, if you are looking for some of the best things for your music, go ahead and start looking in the Jazz and Blues sections, you will end up finding something. These genres also demand the deepest, warmest tones of their bass guitars, needing all the funk and soloing power they can get. So I went looking into the section of these genres when I started looking for the best strings and I came upon these: Rotosound RS66LF Swing Bass 66 Stainless Steel Bass Guitar Strings. They are bright and they are loud, having one of the most beautiful tonal powers out of all the strings I have put on this list. They are also very durable and corrosion-resistant, so they will end up serving you for many years to come. What I am saying, I guess, is that these are some of the best strings you can get your hands on, so go ahead.
DR Strings Bass Strings, Black Beauties
Some new technologies mean the use of computers in manufacturing, while other technology implies unique coatings that increase the durability and the tonality of the strings. Whichever technology you prefer to improve your strings, there is little to no arguing that in both cases the results are stellar and always welcome. The DR String Bass Strings, and Black Beauties as they are known are some of the best strings on the market. Their name comes from a unique black coating of the strings that helps improve the sound and the lifetime of the strings, something we all can definitely appreciate. The fact that these strings are coated is not unique, the fact that the coating has a unique making is. This coating has a pleasant texture to the touch. These string last longer than you assume they would and the sound is something out of a heavenly dream dedicated to hearing the funkiest sound. Whatever it is, I definitely recommend these.
So what makes the best bass strings what they are? The answer is complicated and drenched in the semantics of subjectivity. While you might find that you enjoy the crisp and fresh sound, someone sitting next to you might surprise you by declaring their love for the deep and dark, mellow sounds of a bass guitar. This means you and the other person find that the best strings, for each of you, are pretty different. Don’t just trust me to say what the best strings are, because while I might know for a certain type or make of strings, I will not know the perfect strings for you. This is why we are about to dive into the thick of what you need to consider when trying to pick out your strings.
Bass string gauges
Just like with any stringed instrument, the gauge or the thickness of the strings is extremely important to the sound they are to produce. The thicker the gauge the fuller and thicker the sound is. This is why bass strings are so thick. The problem with the thickness is the actual ability to control the sound. If you are trying to bend the notes or even simply changed the key they are in, you will have to apply much more pressure with your fingers. Thicker gauges also mean that your bass guitar’s neck will have to deal with more pressure, meaning it will be endangered to be warped.
On the other hand, the lighter strings, while giving you a slightly less full sound, will allow you to manipulate them and use all kinds of fun techniques on them. The lack of thickness of the sound might even be an advantage to your music if you are playing some kind of specific genre. Just don’t go too thin, or else the string will end up breaking, especially since you might play the bass guitar a little harder, instinctively.
For any beginner, the best place to be is somewhere midway, a place that allows you to have a full sound without having to deal with the problems that come with the thickest strings.
Bass guitar string winding
Most metal strings have similar construction. A core and, if the string is thick, a wound part over the core to increase the tensile strength, thickness and fullness of sound, as well as its ability to play low register sounds. The bass guitar strings are no different – the core, the winding are all their, with the only difference being, unlike guitar strings, all bass guitar strings are all wound. This is because all strings are supposed to be producing lower register, thicker sounds.
There are several types of strings available for bass guitars:
Roundwound – is the most common type of string available for bass guitars, and most often used. These have ridges on the outside of the string and cause more wear on the fretboard of the guitar as well as the player’s fingers, but also seem to have a slightly bright sound.
Half Round – the ridges on these strings have been ground down to almost non-existence, making them be less damaging and easier to play. This also has resulted in a slightly warmer sound from the usually bright sound of the round wound strings.
Flatwound – these strings are most popular on the fretless bass guitars, but can be found on ones with frets as well. These cause no wear on the fretboard of the guitar and are incredibly smooth and easy to play on. The sound is mellow and warm, much more so than that of the half-round strings.
Tapewound – only the bass strings have these tape wound versions available to them. These anomalous strings are made by pouring nylon as the outer layer of the string. This makes them pleasant to the touch and just as, if not less, wearing on the fingers and the fretboard as the flatwound. The nylon results in a short decay of the sound of the bass and a seeming “thud” of the bass guitar. Fun stuff really.
Humans are a curious species, which results in there being a whole pile of materials available for the making of bass guitar strings. Not all of them are great, but thanks to the experiments conducted by hundreds of musicians over the years, we know that there are three materials best suited for playing the bass. At least there are three types of strings that are most used, so that must mean something right?
Steel – The steel strings are used across the board for all kinds of instruments. This is because they have a bright, addictive sound. The same goes for bass strings – the sound is addictive and the material is sturdy, so go for it.
Nickel and Steel – There are alloys in the world that optimize a lot of things. One such alloy for musical instruments is a combination of Nickel and Steel, which combines the bright tone of the steel with the sturdiness of the Nickel. Legendary stuff.
Pure Nickel – Nickel strings are notorious for their sturdiness, but what makes them the favorite of so many bass players is the mellow, warm sound they produce. It feels like you are playing strings that have been used for so many years they have been broken in. The sound is not played out though, remaining fresh for a long time after being strung up.
The stringing of the bass guitar takes a lot longer than you had hoped for. It is a shame that you are not yet famous enough to have several instruments ready just in case one of the strings breaks. Without your bass, the song feels empty like it is missing something integral its structure, to its being. The crowd’s murmurs started being heard over the music, the fear starts creeping back into your mind and the few minutes you are spending getting the string through the holes and sounding just right.
It is so much harder in the dark, you think. Your fingers are trembling, the crowd is getting louder. The guitar player comes over, and holds the guitar for you. He says it is alright, he says that this happens so much more often on a guitar. You should not worry, it is part of performing. You believe him as you finish up and hang the guitar back on your shoulder. You strike the first note, the second, and then as an apology to the audience, and as a way to calm your nerves, you launch into one of the funkiest solos of your life.
To get them cheering for you so that the fear is gone once again, you go as hard as you can. You realize that now that the new string is strung up you sound crisper, more clear, and more vibrant. You start to enjoy your own music, the best bass guitar strings bringing out the best in you. You don’t, simply start playing a different song so that the band can catch up. You are going to sweat more tonight, work more, get more exhausted and it is going to sound awesome every second of the way.