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Not only will different types of strings sound different, but they will also have different impacts on the longevity of the frets (and fretboard in the fretless bass) and how they feel to touch.

There are three types of winding techniques used for bass strings:

  • round wound strings
  • half round wound strings
  • flat wound strings

Generally, the structure of a bass string is made up of a steel core with a hexagonal section around which very precise numerically controlled machines wrap several steel coils or nickel-plated steel.

Most of the brightness, elasticity and volume, is due to the hexagonal structure of the core.

The inner structure of a bass string (130 low B).

Generally, strings made entirely of steel tend to sound brighter than nickel strings, which make up for this with better midrange response. Steel strings usually give a rougher feel than nickel strings, which tend to be more "manageable".

For these reasons there are those who prefer steel for a more modern genre and for slapping, and nickel for more "rock" and "vintage" genres.

From left to right: round wound, half round wound and
flat wound strings.

The sound of the fretless bass is also strongly influenced by the type of string used.

The use of round wound strings, for example, is more suitable for those who are looking for a more "singable" solo sound with long notes and the classic "brass" effect in the fretless guitar. In this case, we tend to keep the bass's neck almost straight and the strings slightly low.

If you want a deep bass tone, the flat wound strings (smooth) will offer a very pleasant feel to touch and a sound that is more similar to a double bass, while the half round wound strings will deliver a tone which is halfway between the two previous ones.

In the acoustic bass (for an unplugged events) it is also possible to use nylon strings (nylon core and nickel or bronze coating), though this material is not detected by the magnetic pickups and therefore only works with piezoelectric pickups.

In this video, Galeazzo Frudua provides some suggestions to bear in mind when mounting strings onto electric basses.

Galeazzo Frudua

Galeazzo Frudua

As a luthier and guitar making and repair teacher, since 1988 he has built making more than 350 boutique guitars and basses priced from 2,900 to 5,600 Euros and repaired and customized thousands of stringed instruments. His instruments and amplifiers are used by flagship artists, such as Chick Corea, Peter Gabriel, Ennio Morricone, Carl Verheyen. He owns two YouTube channels—where he teaches music—that count up to 40 millions views and almost 200.000 subscribers.

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