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'Flatwound' strings questions...
Old 23rd July 2020
  #1
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cubic13's Avatar
'Flatwound' strings questions...

Hi all,

I'm using more and more my bass these days, even if I'm more a (mediocre) guitarist. IOW, I have no consistent background/experience, when bass playing is involved.

I feel like I have a persisting problem with the scraping noise of the strings when playing my present Epiphone Korina Explorer bass. More practice will probably partially solve this, but still... Beside this, I like playing this instrument and its overall tone in several 'musical contexts', but sometimes, I feel like I need a more 'rounded' sound, with less mediums from it, and never really get it, actually, unless using a drastic tone correction which isn't really satisfying. Difficult to describe, and it's as subjective as can be...

So, I was wondering to which point flatwound strings wouldn't help, here, as the strings I am using presently are round nickel ones. From which, three questions :
- To which point flatwound strings could change the overall tone of an instrument to something with less mediums, and help solving the strings noise ?
- I see that some strings manufacturers (D'Addario...) make 'semi-flat' strings : to which point this could be a worthwhile compromise ?
- At contrary, is it worth having two basses on the long run, one having flatwound strings, the other staying with round ones ? I was thinking about something like a Precision bass, in this case, or an equivalent.

Thanks for any advice...
Old 23rd July 2020
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
BasHermus's Avatar
 

Flatwounds will could solve both problems for you. They tend to put more emphasis on the fundamentals and reduce string noise greatly.
In my (very humble) opinion flatwounds are suitable for all types of music, as long as you don't want to slap.

Whether it is exactly what you need is hard to answer. The only way to find out is by trying them.

Personally I really like them, so I have them on both my basses (fretted and fretless).
After trying out various brands I settled for Thomastik Infeld strings. They are slightly brighter than some others and they are very comfortable to play.
They're expensive, but they last very long.
Old 23rd July 2020
  #3
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Janne19691's Avatar
I have flat wounds in both of my basses (I am primarily a guitar player). I play basically classic rock style with folk music flavor. The qualities the flats give me are all positive. Smooth classic vintage tone, comfortable on fingers, lasts long. Wouldn't change to round wounds anymore.

Last edited by Janne19691; 23rd July 2020 at 04:40 PM.. Reason: make the message more clear
Old 23rd July 2020
  #4
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cubic13's Avatar
Thank to you both !

Your answers are more or less in accordance with my feeling about it but, for a reason, I didn't act as so the last time I purchased a bass strings set (it's been a while, I admit, something like several months). So, I think that strings replacement has to be planned soon, before anything else...
Old 24th July 2020
  #5
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zvukofor's Avatar
I used a DAddario Chromes on bass, they’re less expensive and are very nice tonewise.
Still using them on my guitar too, converted to flatwounds 20 years ago and i’d never change to roundwounds.
Old 24th July 2020
  #6
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s.d.finley's Avatar
I have 2 of my basses set up with flat wounds. I really dig the smoothness and fullness of the tone. Be aware that some flat wound sets have higher tension that others. You might want to get your bass set up by a shop. This will help prevent strings from rattling and uneven action. And your neck possibly bowing.
Old 24th July 2020
  #7

I recently put a set of Ernie Ball flat wound strings on an old Ibanez P-style bass. They were brighter than the Boomers they replaced.

Left-hand noise was reduced a little, but I've been playing bass since the 80's.... The old Boomers were only 20 years old, though.



-tINY

Old 24th July 2020
  #8
I've played bass (my second instrument) since the mid '60s. I am not, in general, a fan of flatwound strings, mainly because you can always turn the highs down if they're there, but you can't boost what isn't.

I recommend half-round strings as a good compromise - they have highs, but not to the degree of full roundwounds, but there's still something to work with when you need it. Brands are D'Addario Half Rounds or GHS Brite Flats.

As far as string noise is concerned, practice. NEVER use an easy mechanical "fix" for a problem with technique - it will stand in your way sooner or later. But half-rounds ARE quieter - and won't wear your frets nearly as fast.
Old 25th July 2020
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

I love flatwounds on bass.

Lightly palm muting right on top of the bridge and using a pick with flat wounds is THE sound for me. Fat, warm, dynamics are in control, all of the top end is in the pick attack so notes are well defined, no string noise. Works great with acoustic guitar, clean electric, fat and punchy but mellow. Totally a vintage sound. Think Neil Young’s Harvest. But obviously that might not work for other styles.
Old 25th July 2020
  #10
Gear Addict
 
cubic13's Avatar
Thanks for the added comments...

So, things are more balanced, I reckon. The consensus seems to be that flatwound does significantly affect the overall tone of a bass, though. Point taken...

Meanwhile, I have looked at a thread in Talkbass forums about the semi-flat/half wound stings : There were comments such as 'half wounds are a failed attempt between rounds and flats', 'the worst of both worlds' or 'never again !', others absolutly love them. Go figure... Seems also, that, beside D'Addario, there aren't many manufacturers providing this kind of strings sets : maybe it isn't worth doing so...

Beside this, and I'm thinking of tINY post while writing this, I retrieved a ghs 'Bass boomer' (ML3045) strings set in the absolute mess that I have as a 'home studio'. Completely forgot that I purchased it a good while ago : guess that I should start with this one...
Old 26th July 2020
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mendocino beano View Post
I love flatwounds on bass.

Lightly palm muting right on top of the bridge and using a pick with flat wounds is THE sound for me. Fat, warm, dynamics are in control, all of the top end is in the pick attack so notes are well defined, no string noise. Works great with acoustic guitar, clean electric, fat and punchy but mellow. Totally a vintage sound. Think Neil Young’s Harvest. But obviously that might not work for other styles.
Younger people these days don't have the foggiest notion of what a "vintage sound" really is.

On bass, sure, flats are "vintage", more on less.

On guitar, generally not, unless you're a trad jazz player from the '50s. The one exception would be electric 12 string.

For 6 string rock or country after 1955, HELL, NO!
Old 26th July 2020
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by cubic13 View Post
Thanks for the added comments...

So, things are more balanced, I reckon. The consensus seems to be that flatwound does significantly affect the overall tone of a bass, though. Point taken...

Meanwhile, I have looked at a thread in Talkbass forums about the semi-flat/half wound stings : There were comments such as 'half wounds are a failed attempt between rounds and flats', 'the worst of both worlds' or 'never again !', others absolutly love them. Go figure... Seems also, that, beside D'Addario, there aren't many manufacturers providing this kind of strings sets : maybe it isn't worth doing so...

Beside this, and I'm thinking of tINY post while writing this, I retrieved a ghs 'Bass boomer' (ML3045) strings set in the absolute mess that I have as a 'home studio'. Completely forgot that I purchased it a good while ago : guess that I should start with this one...
If you want a bright "roundwound" sound and don't want to wear out your frets in a couple years you want ground wounds.

The other major brand is GHS "Brite Flats". I've used both those and the D'Addario Half Rounds and have no real preference.

I could be wrong, but I do not believe that GHS Bass Boomers are half round.

That guy on "talkbass" is an idiot who probably has never even used half rounds.
Old 26th July 2020
  #13
Gear Head
 
Stoneblack's Avatar
 

I have tried half rounds and don't really see much difference - they are basically flat wounds to me with a tiny bit more life. Flats will definitely solve your left hand noise issues or at least improve them. I find that flats are much more sensitive to right hand technique / fingers, pick etc. I don't like flats with a pick at all, in fact I prefer rounds even when I want a thick jazzy sound - always about the right hand technique accentuated by the tone control settings.
Old 27th July 2020
  #14
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Dr. Mordo's Avatar
 

I've used them for 10 years or so. I love flats and will never put anything else on my basses again.

That said, I agree they are more sensitive to your picking hand technique. I use a pick most of the time, but I have to pick very lightly to get the tone I want from flats.
Old 27th July 2020
  #15
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Yuri Kogan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cubic13 View Post
Thanks for the added comments...

So, things are more balanced, I reckon. The consensus seems to be that flatwound does significantly affect the overall tone of a bass, though. Point taken...

Meanwhile, I have looked at a thread in Talkbass forums about the semi-flat/half wound stings : There were comments such as 'half wounds are a failed attempt between rounds and flats', 'the worst of both worlds' or 'never again !', others absolutly love them. Go figure... Seems also, that, beside D'Addario, there aren't many manufacturers providing this kind of strings sets : maybe it isn't worth doing so...

Beside this, and I'm thinking of tINY post while writing this, I retrieved a ghs 'Bass boomer' (ML3045) strings set in the absolute mess that I have as a 'home studio'. Completely forgot that I purchased it a good while ago : guess that I should start with this one...
It all depends on what you play, and how you play bass. For classic , cleaner stuff flats are ok. I find that new ones are not much less top end then the round-wounds, but differ in dynamic presentation. I find them absolutely useless for rock, metal .. They just die in the mix. I find that tape wounds have a punchier mid-range and should be considered.
Otherwise if you want to cut in the mix, use round-wounds or as John mentions Half-rounds. They both sit well in the mix and brightness can be controlled. Unless you insist on using fresh strings for sessions - i would strongly advise against that.
I have 34 bass's here, only 2 are flat-wounds. One is a beat-up but still classic '63 P-bass. For that Jamerson tone . Because of the flats it doesn't get used much (clients tell me so). I probably should consider putting Half rounds on it. The other is a Gretsch hollow-body. This may get the tape-wounds.
Old 27th July 2020
  #16
Gear Addict
 
cubic13's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
If you want a bright "roundwound" sound and don't want to wear out your frets in a couple years you want ground wounds.

The other major brand is GHS "Brite Flats". I've used both those and the D'Addario Half Rounds and have no real preference.
Indeed, I have seen these also. Thanks for the feedback.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
I could be wrong, but I do not believe that GHS Bass Boomers are half round.
No, you're right, but I was thinking about what tINY stated in his post (#7).

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
That guy on "talkbass" is an idiot who probably has never even used half rounds.
Could be, but he isn't alone. In the whole thread, the ones that are against half round strings outnumber the ones in favor of them. So...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Stoneblack View Post
I have tried half rounds and don't really see much difference - they are basically flat wounds to me with a tiny bit more life. Flats will definitely solve your left hand noise issues or at least improve them. I find that flats are much more sensitive to right hand technique / fingers, pick etc. I don't like flats with a pick at all, in fact I prefer rounds even when I want a thick jazzy sound - always about the right hand technique accentuated by the tone control settings.
Point taken, thanks for the comment. Actually, I very rarely use a pick. Probably a deformation coming from my guitar playing : I almost never use one either with the ones I have, no matter if acoustic or electric.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Mordo View Post
I've used them for 10 years or so. I love flats and will never put anything else on my basses again.

That said, I agree they are more sensitive to your picking hand technique. I use a pick most of the time, but I have to pick very lightly to get the tone I want from flats.
This confirms what Stoneblack was saying. Thanks.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuri Kogan View Post
It all depends on what you play, and how you play bass. For classic , cleaner stuff flats are ok. I find that new ones are not much less top end then the round-wounds, but differ in dynamic presentation. I find them absolutely useless for rock, metal .. They just die in the mix. I find that tape wounds have a punchier mid-range and should be considered.
Otherwise if you want to cut in the mix, use round-wounds or as John mentions Half-rounds. They both sit well in the mix and brightness can be controlled. Unless you insist on using fresh strings for sessions - i would strongly advise against that.
I have 34 bass's here, only 2 are flat-wounds. One is a beat-up but still classic '63 P-bass. For that Jamerson tone . Because of the flats it doesn't get used much (clients tell me so). I probably should consider putting Half rounds on it. The other is a Gretsch hollow-body. This may get the tape-wounds.
I am learning something, here : didn't even know about the tape-wound ones, until now. Something to scratch my head on a little more about...
Beside this, my main aim is precisely for rock stuff and yes, I have seen more than few times testimonies concerning the mix issue when using flats. At the end, I'll probably first change the strings I have (D'Addario nickel, labelled as 'bright tone', I just saw when looking again at the pack cover) for the ghs ones that I just retrieved. If the latter don't do it, a purchase of half wounds (or tape-wounds...) ones is more or less planned.

Thanks to you all again !
Old 27th July 2020
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stoneblack View Post
I have tried half rounds and don't really see much difference - they are basically flat wounds to me with a tiny bit more life. Flats will definitely solve your left hand noise issues or at least improve them. I find that flats are much more sensitive to right hand technique / fingers, pick etc. I don't like flats with a pick at all, in fact I prefer rounds even when I want a thick jazzy sound - always about the right hand technique accentuated by the tone control settings.
What kind of "half rounds" did you use?

I've played the GHS Brite Flats a bunch over the years which are a groundwound or halfwound type of string and I thought the exact opposite.

In other words they are basically mostly like roundwounds that are toned down a bit. Great strings that are very big and full sounding with a bunch less string noise and a nice inbetween that is mostly like a roundwound (they are not smooth) but has a bit of that big full sound of flats.

I think calling them Brite Flats is rather confusing as to me they seem 80% like roundwounds and maybe 20% like flats, if that makes sense.

Great stings that more people should check out if their roundwounds are a bit too bright but they don't want to go all the way to actual flatwounds.
Old 28th July 2020
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stoneblack View Post
I have tried half rounds and don't really see much difference - they are basically flat wounds to me with a tiny bit more life. Flats will definitely solve your left hand noise issues or at least improve them. I find that flats are much more sensitive to right hand technique / fingers, pick etc. I don't like flats with a pick at all, in fact I prefer rounds even when I want a thick jazzy sound - always about the right hand technique accentuated by the tone control settings.
Half rounds are round wounds with the outer roughness ground off. Nearly all, if not all true flatwounds have one extra layer of windings composed of a flat metal tape. This increases the tension a bit and makes the strings stiffer, less pliable.

Tapewounds are like flats except that the outer winding is not metallic.

Last edited by John Eppstein; 28th July 2020 at 10:43 PM..
Old 28th July 2020
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by cubic13 View Post
Could be, but he isn't alone. In the whole thread, the ones that are against half round strings outnumber the ones in favor of them. So...
So.... what?

That's pretty meaningless - fads in such things change periodically. Some new star does a couple interviews and 2/3 of the world switches. in a year or twop they'll read something else (or sere a new video) and they'll use something else.

It all goes with the current trends... which I tend to ignore, since I don't play in "tribute" bands or anything else that pays attention to fads and "trends".

The thing about chasing the "current" thing is that it's current and what you should be looking at is the future, if anything. Or, better still, just play what you like.

I actually prefer Rotosound Swing Bass, but those are full roundwound and tend to file down your frets. And Rotos lose a bit of their twang in a month or two, anyway.
Old 28th July 2020
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by JLast View Post
What kind of "half rounds" did you use?

I've played the GHS Brite Flats a bunch over the years which are a groundwound or halfwound type of string and I thought the exact opposite.

In other words they are basically mostly like roundwounds that are toned down a bit. Great strings that are very big and full sounding with a bunch less string noise and a nice inbetween that is mostly like a roundwound (they are not smooth) but has a bit of that big full sound of flats.

I think calling them Brite Flats is rather confusing as to me they seem 80% like roundwounds and maybe 20% like flats, if that makes sense.

Great stings that more people should check out if their roundwounds are a bit too bright but they don't want to go all the way to actual flatwounds.
I think they called them "Brite Flats" because they were #2 to market and D'Addario was using "Half Rounds" already.
Old 31st July 2020
  #21
Not entirely true. There were a lot of people still using flatwounds on guitar until the mid 60’s. The early Beatle sounds are flatwounds. Lots of others too including Dick Dale. Ry Cooder also uses flats for electric slide guitar. I love flats on electric guitar for old school blues. Roundwounds became more popular by the mid to late 60’s but you find people here and there that still used them. I kinda feel like the Ennio Morricone spaghetti westerns sound is flatwounds. I keep a guitar or two in the studio with flats.


Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
Younger people these days don't have the foggiest notion of what a "vintage sound" really is.

On bass, sure, flats are "vintage", more on less.

On guitar, generally not, unless you're a trad jazz player from the '50s. The one exception would be electric 12 string.

For 6 string rock or country after 1955, HELL, NO!
Old 31st July 2020
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by litepipe View Post
Not entirely true. There were a lot of people still using flatwounds on guitar until the mid 60’s. The early Beatle sounds are flatwounds. Lots of others too including Dick Dale. Ry Cooder also uses flats for electric slide guitar. I love flats on electric guitar for old school blues. Roundwounds became more popular by the mid to late 60’s but you find people here and there that still used them. I kinda feel like the Ennio Morricone spaghetti westerns sound is flatwounds. I keep a guitar or two in the studio with flats.
Dap King cats are using flats on bass and guitars.
Old 1st August 2020
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by litepipe View Post
Not entirely true. There were a lot of people still using flatwounds on guitar until the mid 60’s. The early Beatle sounds are flatwounds. Lots of others too including Dick Dale. Ry Cooder also uses flats for electric slide guitar. I love flats on electric guitar for old school blues. Roundwounds became more popular by the mid to late 60’s but you find people here and there that still used them. I kinda feel like the Ennio Morricone spaghetti westerns sound is flatwounds. I keep a guitar or two in the studio with flats.
Talking about guitar, the type of string you use is generally (there are always exceptions) dictated by the type of music you play.

First, the requirements of, e.g, a steel guitar are quite different from a normal guitar. If you play a style with a lot of bending you're likely not to play flats because flats, having an extra layer, are harder to bend. Flats also tend to not have as much sustain. Flats also sound different for leads - in The Beatles you can definitely hear when George switched from using flats to mostly not - flats don't sustain like rounds, generally speaking. The older guys who play jazz on flats don't bend much and tend to not sustain as much ans most modern rock guys. They tend to slide between notes where younger/bluesier guys would bend. Instrumental surf music as played by the likes of Disk Dale and The Ventures generally used jazz technique with fewer bends.

(Age is relative. In some cases the "younger" guys I'm talking about are now in their '60s...!)(And a lot of the "older guys" are, unfortunately, dead....)

You also have to understand that for a long time people used whatever happened to be available. The plethora of different types and formulations didn't exist until relatively recently, or at least did not have widespread distribution. Electric guitar strings were produced by a couple of companies and tended to be flatwounds. Roundwounds were generally acoustic strings, although Gibson did make strings of Monel metal that could be used on either.
Old 1st August 2020
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by nd33 View Post
Dap King cats are using flats on bass and guitars.
They're very "retro"...

Something you need to understand is that modern style electric guitar strings essentially didn't exist until around '61/'62, when Ernie Ball introduced the Super Slinky and Extra Super Slinky sets and Semi Mosley introduced his Venture Model guitars, which really couldn't use anything else.

Before that guitar players would use a banjo string as a high E and move everything else over one.

Last edited by John Eppstein; 1st August 2020 at 05:10 AM..
Old 3 weeks ago
  #25
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Space1999's Avatar
 

D’Addario Tape Wounds are awesome and do not have a dated sound to my ears. I have also used La Bella Tape Wounds which is what McCartney uses currently.

A cool piece of trivia is that McCartney restrung his Hofner for the Let it Be sessions and put RotoSound RS88s short scale black Tape Wounds. They were also used on Abbey Road. Big difference in the low end sound on those two records.

Pat
Old 3 weeks ago
  #26
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Pindrive's Avatar
Bass strings can be an investment. I understand your concern. Some love what they do. Others, not so much. I personally would be more comfortable with them on a bass, than a guitar. Just can't get along with how they feel, on a guitar. I'll agree that I don't think they cause so dramatic of a difference that you can't emulate it with style & equipment adjustments. Try them. Go with works best for you. Feel & inspiration are always king.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #27
Try a bunch of different strings. Use what you like.

It's a very personal question - why are you asking us?

The answer is different for everyone.

ME? I use Rotosound Swing Bass. Probably not what you want.
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