#1
Guitarist (10 yearsish)/pianist (too many years) here just expanding my repertoire, so I've picked up a bass and an e-drum set this year.

I'm looking for new string suggestions as well as a gauge to go for. Also, take into account that I'm in Australia, so my options are a little limited. I'd prefer to pay more for the strings than the shipping if I'm buying online. In general, I'm pretty blank on bass strings and if everything that applies for guitar string brands apply for bass.

I picked up a second hand Ibanez BTB200 (35" scale) a few months ago and I've tweaked all the playability issues and buzzing out of it, but I figured it was time to actually get around to replacing the strings since they look and sound like they might have been there for a few years. I don't know what the previous owner had on there, and I haven't played other basses enough to know the difference in feel between gauges.

Anyway, I'm not necessarily after particularly bright strings - I just want something that I can get a bit more note definition out of. Maybe this is something a bit more systemic in my setup and technique, but I figure that a string replacement is pretty inexpensive at this stage and can't hurt anyway.

I mostly play bass for Tool (because Mr Chancellor), thinking more down the Jambi, Vicarious, Schism, the Pot, the Grudge sort of line. I'm starting to branch out a bit more: looking at John Mayer (or rather, his various bassists), Fourplay, the Glitch Mob, Ellie Goudling, Dream Theater - basically there's no actual theme in what I want to play.

I guess if it makes any impact, as kind of a reference point, I tend to have 10-46s on my main guitar, or variations (10-46 + a 62 on my 7 string, 9-46 on my Strat). I wasn't sure if the 35" scale length on the BTB was enough to warrant thinning things down.

I'm very scatterbrained and hopefully this makes sense.
Pedal GAS?
Empress Heavy
ISP Dec of some sort
Keeley Katana
TC Corona/Vortex/Dreamscape
Last edited by Bob_Smith at Dec 25, 2014,
#2
The standard gauge for a set of five-string bass strings is .45 to .125 or .135. Note definition does involve the particulars of the strings you use, but it is not the main thing that affects note definition. For that, you need to get familiar with your EQ capabilities; both on your bass and in the amplifier.

No is no "right" answer to the eternal question, "What is the best gauge/material/brand of strings for me, or for my bass?" It is almost entirely subjective: you need to try different brands, different gauges, different materials (stainless steel, nickel plated, or polymer coated) and do some A/B comparisons. Because bass strings cost a lot of money compared to guitar strings, you have to narrow down your potential choices before you start buying and trying strings. The bassists you mention in your post use several different brands of stings; proving that there is simply no consensus regarding which one is "the best."
"Maybe this world is another planet's hell?" - Aldous Huxley
#3
The BTB200 is a 4 string, so I'm assuming you'd have meant to say 45-105. In any case, I'm guessing that very broadly speaking though, note definition will tend to improve the thicker you go (everything else being equal), as with guitar? Also, how much does the extra inch on the scale length make a difference with the gauge?

Broadly speaking, I usually EQ a reasonable chunk of the low-low end out, don't do terribly much (but usually mildly up) to the low-mids and bump up mids. The rest is up to what I'm feeling like.

In terms of the "best" thing goes, alrighty, that's fair. I've never really experimented with different string materials for my guitars - I basically tried 2-3 nickel plated brands and then became too superstitious to change, and so I never got to know my way around different materials.

Would you say nickel plated a good middle ground to start with?
Pedal GAS?
Empress Heavy
ISP Dec of some sort
Keeley Katana
TC Corona/Vortex/Dreamscape
#4
Start with a set of nickel roundwounds, its a good place to start while you get started on bass. Later down the road when you want to dial in a specific tone or change up the feel of said strings, and at that point you may want to experiment with coated, flats, steels, etc.

For now though just get a solid set of nickel rounds. They don't have to expensive, but I wouldn't recommend buying the cheapest set of Ernie Ball's either because you're going to end up paying a lot more if you have to change out crappy strings twice as fast.

I don't know what prices are like in Australia but maybe look into a set of D'Addario XL's or DR Sunbeams, or even Elixirs to start. If you find one you don't like, just switch brand or model when its time to change them out.
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