What Are the Best Acoustic Bass Strings

There are as many types of acoustic bass guitar strings as there are manufacturers of acoustic basses themselves.What constitutes the best strings is open to interpretation and is largely dependent on what style of music you play.

Roundwound strings are generally regarded as best for rock and roll music due to their even response and overall brightness. Roundwound strings are so called because of the thin strand of round wire wound around a round or hexagonal core to form the string. Two basic types of roundwound strings are produced: nickel and phosphor-bronze. Nickel strings are inexpensive and are primarily used on electric basses but will work fine for acoustic basses as well. Phosphor-bronze strings are designed for use with acoustic basses and tend to produce a clearer tone and better response but are usually a pricier option. Because rock artists tend to be harder on their instruments, coated stings from companies like Elixir and Dean Markley feature a thin synthetic coating on the surface of the string to enhance durability.

There are two schools of thought about acoustic bass strings used for country music. One favors the use of roundwound phosphor-bronze strings to produce a more rock-oriented sound associated with modern country crossover artists, while traditional country artists tend to gravitate toward flatwound strings that produce more of an upright acoustic bass fiddle sound associated with classic country and western music. Flatwound strings are made by winding a wire with a square cross section around a round or hexagonal core, providing a flatter string surface for the player. Flatwound strings are usually more expensive than roundwound strings but tend to last considerably longer because their flat surface is less likely to accumulate dirt and grease between the windings, as their roundwound counterparts do.

Jazz-fusion, funk and blues acoustic bass players generally prefer a roundwound string that will give them more punch. A phosphor-bronze or even nickel string is a good choice, especially if the instrument is an electrified acoustic bass. Nickel strings produce the best response when used with magnetic pickups, while phosphor-bronze strings are better suited to piezo electric pickups. Traditional jazz artists, on the other hand, are more likely to choose a flatwound string, again due to its ability to mimic the sound of an upright bass.

Bass guitars are not normally associated with classical music, since the large majority of pieces are written for a traditional upright bass and meant to be bowed. There are, however, arrangements that are suitable for bass guitar. Classical bass guitarists, while few and far between, almost exclusively use flatwound stings. In addition to providing a softer, more acoustic sound, the flat surface of the string eliminates the squeak of fingers moving up and down the fretboard, a common occurrence with roundwound strings.

Approved by Jesse Anderson