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DIY: How to Choose Your Bass Strings

DIY: How to Choose Your Bass Strings

Veteran bassist and longtime PG contributor Steve Cook provides a no-nonsense guide to finding the best strings to fit your bass and playing style.

He works with varied types of bass strings, all by D’Addario, with flavors from snappy and bright to mellow and subdued. Along the way he investigates materials, coatings, and gauges. (Medium strings are probably what your bass wore when it left the factory.) Steve plays the same licks throughout the video, to be sure the focus is on the strings exclusively. And before launching into the experiment with his slightly modded Fender Precision Deluxe, he advises to always let you own ears make the judgement about what sounds right for you. (Did you hear that?)

First up: XL high-carbon steel-core strings with nickel-plated wrap wire. Then, it is warmer and fatter sounding Pro Steels, with a high-carbon steel core and stainless steel wrap wire. Those are followed by XL Chromes, with a high-carbon steel core, and a stainless steel-flattened ribbon wrap. The NYXLs that now arrive have a steel core and nickel-plated steel wrap wire. The XT Nickels on his bass have D’Addario’s XT coating and a steel core, with nickel-plated steel wrap wire. Following that, it’s XL half-rounds with a high-carbon steel core and pure nickel wrap wire, trailed by Nylon Tapewounds with a high-carbon steel core and a flattened black nylon wrap. And the next XLs, regular Nickels, have a high-carbon steel core and nickel-steel-plated wrap wire. Steve finally shifts to a second riff, to display the sounds of a slightly different approach. And then he starts snapping and popping, for the funkateers out there, followed by a walking bass line. And yes, he plays with a pick as well as his fingers.

By the time Steve’s finished, you hear all these string sets with a compendium of approaches. And then it’s your turn.