Bass Blog

Check here for regular bass tips, articles, and information on bass player culture.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

When Are Your Strings Bad?


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In our last blog post "When To Change Your Bass Strings", we talked about when it's time to change your bass strings. Some players hardly ever change their strings because they like the sound that their worn-in strings produce. James Jamerson, one of the great Motown legends, rarely changed his strings. However, there are some clear indications to look out for when your strings are worn out, when they're affecting the quality of your sound, and when they need to be replaced. 

Bass Won’t Stay In Tune

If your bass won’t stay in tune, the reason could be that it’s time to say goodbye to your old strings. Basses that have old strings will constantly go out of tune or will be difficult to intonate correctly. Over time, strings will stretch out and lose the integrity of the tension they hold. Obviously, staying in tune is an absolute must especially when recording. Even if you are in love with the sound of your strings, it's best to say goodbye to your current set of strings.

They Sound Muffled

If you’re a newer player, you may not have gained the ear that can hear the nuances of the sound that your bass produces. Or, maybe you can hear these sounds, but don’t know what they mean yet. When your strings sound dead or muffled, that generally means your bass strings have lost their brillance and high-end characteristics. This is one of the first tell-tale signs of string aging. If your bass sounds "lifeless" or has a dull-sounding tone when you play it, it might be time to call it quits with your current strings. For most string sets, this happens around 4 to 6 weeks if you're an active player, and longer if you don't play as much.

They Lose Their Shine

Another way to determine the age of your bass strings is to simply look for visible changes in appearance. After use and, in some cases, being exposed to certain elements, your strings may start to look gunky between the individual coils with oxidation and rust, discoloration, or dark spots. These are all signs of old strings that are done serving their time. Do note that even if you never play your bass, your strings will naturally lose their life over time due to moisture, humidity, and other environmental factors (even fluctuations in temperature). 

They are Unraveling

No matter if you are playing roundwound or flatwound, if your strings are unwinding near the tuning pegs, it’s time to invest in some new strings. Often, strings that have been used will begin to also unravel at the bridge due to friction. If your strings are unraveling, there is a good chance that they could break at any moment and especially while you're playing. It's rare that bass strings don't let this happen to you! 

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