Why are bass guitar strings so expensive? What are the different materials used in making bass guitar strings? Are there any differences in the lifespan of different materials used in making bass guitar strings? Are there any differences in the sound quality of different materials used in making bass guitar strings? These are just some of the questions frequently asked by bass guitar enthusiasts about bass strings.
When it comes to replacing bass guitars, they can really be expensive for some, especially for those who have tighter budgets, so it is normal to doubt whether changing your strings would be a better option or not. So, let’s find out the truth about these expensive bass guitar strings and whether they are worth the hype.
Before we talk about bass strings, let’s first check out the bass guitar’s history. So, when was the first bass guitar invented? It was in the 1930s when inventor and musician Paul Tutmarc was able to build the first electric bass guitar ever. The first bass guitar model in Paul’s company, Audiovox, was named the Model 736 Bass Fiddle. The bass guitar comes with one pickup and a set of four strings and has a 30.5-inch scale length.
However, it was in the 1950s that the electric bass guitars started mass-producing by Leo Fender and the Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company. The first bass guitar introduced by Fender in the market is the Fender Precision bass guitar, which is still one of the most famous bass guitars today.
It was also in the earlier years of the bass guitar that when you had to change your bass guitar strings, your only option was a set of flat-wound bass strings. Thankfully, we are now living in modern times, and there are already different types of bass guitar strings that you can choose from. There are also different materials used in making bass guitar strings that you can use for your bass guitar. It really just depends now on your preference as a musician.
Types Of Bass Guitar String Windings
One reason that adds to the bass strings’ high prices is its type of winding. The word winding refers to the material used in wrapping the bass string’s core. As there are different types of winding, there is also a preference for most bassists when it comes to playing different bass guitar techniques, which is why they contribute to the price of a bass guitar string.
Flatwound bass strings are the oldest in this group, but still, many bassists use this for their bass guitars. Flatwound strings are known to have a ribbon-like winding wound on the string’s core. You will feel that the windings of the strings are very smooth and comfortable to fret with.
Although these bass strings are known by many as the preference for jazz bassists, they can also be used for playing vintage rock, as they were heavily used bass strings in the 50s and 60s. Flatwounds produce a mellow tone that you will really love. They also have a longer life span, as their design has been done to prevent dirt and oil build-up in the strings.
Rarely used by bassists as they are also hard to find, tapewound bass strings are softer and smoother to play than flatwound strings. Thanks to its nylon tape that is wrapped around the string’s outer wire wrap, they are great strings to go with, especially for a fretless bass guitar.
Tapewound bass strings are known to produce a darker and mellow sound that is similar to what you hear on upright basses. They are a little bit dull and thumpy to listen to. These strings are wear and tear-friendly, so you do not have to worry about your bass guitar’s fingerboard.
The most common and popular of all, roundwound bass strings, was invented by the Rotosound company and became popularized by one of the best bassists of all time, Mr. John Entwistle. These bass strings are wrapped with a round wire, either in nickel or stainless steel.
These bass strings are known to produce a bright tone and are very loud too. One reason why many bassists love to have these on their bass guitars is that they are versatile to play with, as you can play them in any genre. They are perfect for slapping and tapping techniques with their high-end tones.
However, one of the downsides of using roundwound bass strings is that they wear down faster because of their design. They can also be a little bit rough as they have more grooves. Lastly, you’ll get a lot of finger noise when playing with these strings.
Groundwound or Half-Round
The most uncommon to see in all types of bass strings, the groundwound is a combination of flatwound and roundwound bass strings. These strings start as a roundwound; however, they are grounded or pressed to have their outer surface partially flattened. In essence, groundwound bass strings are roundwound, but their roundness is ground off.
Groundwound bass strings produce an impressive bright tone with great attack and punch similar to roundwound bass strings, while it is much quieter to play than a set of flatwound bass strings. They are still smooth to play but not as smooth as the flatwounds.
Materials In Making Bass Guitar Strings
Bass guitar strings made of stainless steel are the brightest-sounding of all the materials usually used by companies in making bass guitar strings. Their mid-frequency response is a little bit scooped up, which makes them perfect strings to be used in playing genres such as funk, heavy metal, pop, and slap.
Although you can see a few stainless-steel bass guitar strings sold at higher prices, most of them are really affordable and are one of the go-to options, especially for those who have a limited budget. Stainless steel bass strings also last longer compared to other materials, which is a plus for its value.
So, do you know the difference between a nickel and a nickel-plated bass string? A nickel-plated string is a kind of bass guitar string that is made of steel and is wrapped usually with a combination of 8 percent nickel and 92 percent steel. They produce a bright sound and are still smooth to play with, which is a good thing for your fingers.
Most of the cheapest bass strings are nickel-plated, but some options in the market are very expensive, even though they are still nickel-plated. Compared between the nickel and the nickel-plated, the former is more durable, as the latter loses its brightness after some time.
As the name suggests, the bass string is made of pure nickel. This type of bass guitar string is perfect for playing the rock and blues genre, as it is known to produce a vintage tone that is very warm and rich.
Few lower-priced bass strings use pure nickel, as most are sold with mid and high-level price tags. They are a bit stiff to play with, but they can sustain their tone longer than other materials.
So, why are guitar bass strings so expensive? Bass guitar strings are larger than other types of strings, so more materials are needed to manufacture them. They also last longer than guitar strings, and you rarely replace them. Lastly, there is less demand for bass guitar strings in the market, so, usually, they are more expensive for companies to profit from their products.