Top 10 Best Bass Strings of 2019 – Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

If you are a bass player, doubtlessly you have wondered at least once about different types of strings and how they affect your performance. Strings are an extremely integral part of your instrument and largely determine the quality of the sounds it produces. If you are confused about the different varieties available, you are in the right place. Keep reading to find out more about bass strings, what they are, and which ones are the best available.

If you’re looking to try out a new set of strings on your bass guitar, there’s a surprisingly large number of options out there. Besides the option of gauge (thickness), you can explore different materials and windings that sound and play vastly differently.

After scouring bass forums, striking up chats and trying some strings first-hand, we identified 10 of the most-praised sets of bass strings. Between them are a wide range of prices, materials, and designs (flatwound vs. roundwound) that can serve many different types of bass players.

Comparison of the Best Bass Strings

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Rotosound Swing Bass 66

  • Unique stainless-steel composition for the best quality.
  • Roundwound strings ensure high playability and accuracy.
  • Perfectly balanced bright and aggressive tones for wide range of music genres.
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DR Fat Beams

  • Consistent balance from string to string.
  • Easy on the frets with roundwounds for enhanced flexibility.
  • Best stainless steel for amazing accurate sounds, with fat mids and bright highs.
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Dunlop Super Bright Nickel

  • Lower tension.
  • Warm tones with clear and defined high.
  • Very bright nickel-plated steel bass strings.
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Ernie Ball Extra Slinky Flatwound Bass String

  • Flatwound strings.
  • Optimal core to wrap ratio for comfortable tension.
  • Super bright sounds with cobalt under wraps for added clarity and output.
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Elixir Strings Nickel Plated Steel 5-String Bass Strings w NANOWEB Coating

  • Rounded tones with high clarity .https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0002E1O6I/?&tag=gearsavvy-20
  • Tone stability compared to any other bass string.
  • Nickel-plated steel 5-string bass strings with coating.
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GHS Strings M3045 4-String Bass Boomers

  • Best roundwound strings with strengthened core for slap.
  • Nickel-plated steel ensuring long-term resistance and durability.
  • Medium gauge for brilliant sounds with high volume and strength.
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Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Bass Set .045 - .095

  • Can be used on acoustic basses.
  • Excellent clarity with mellow sounds.
  • Phosphor, copper and tin alloy brings about the brightness of rich acoustic overtones.
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D'Addario ECB81 Chromes Bass Guitar Strings, Light, 45-100, Long Scale

  • Warm and mellow tones.
  • Best flatwounds for fretless bass.
  • Fits long scale basses (maximum 36 1/4 inches).
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D'Addario EPS160-5 5-String ProSteels Bass Guitar Strings, Medium, 50-135, Long Scale

  • Suitable for long scale basses.
  • Heavy gauge 5-string brightest bass strings.
  • Offer harmonic, rich and deep tones with high output and tight lows.
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Ernie Ball 6-String Slinky Nickel Wound Bass Set, .032 - .130

  • Well balanced strings optimal for long scale basses.
  • Roundwound nickel strings ensuring clarity and punch.
  • Bright, but well-rounded tones, especially good for rock.
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Are All Bass Strings the Same?

Bass and guitar strings are basically the same, just coming in different sizes. In both cases, there is a large array of products available on the market, which fulfill different purposes. Essentially, a bass guitar needs to give you those amazing deep low notes, so choosing the wrong strings can easily impact your performance.

They come in different gauges (thicknesses) and they can be brighter, suitable for pop and country, among others, while others have warmer tones that offer fuller bottom ends ideal for old-school music genres, including jazz and rock. The material they are made of is also crucial: nickel-plated steel have good attack and frequency response, pure nickel has a warmer sound and a bit less crisp sounds, and stainless steel offers the brightest tones with high-end responses, although it might be brittle for some. 

Why Are These the Best of the Year?

Wondering why these products made our list? Here's why:

Quality

The products in this article are chosen according to different characteristics. They are the best in terms of quality of the product, which you should definitely aim for by choosing one of the products below. High-quality strings are the best asset a bass or guitar player can have, as they can offer the extra edge you are looking for. 

Playability

Most super-light or light strings do not offer the type of sounds you are looking for. These products have been chosen so that, even if you choose to go for a medium gauge, you will still enjoy a high degree of playability. The products are either novice-friendly or not too much of a challenge for motivated and ambitious beginners. 

Versatility

These products are the best due to the degree of versatility they allow to the player. Some strings are specially made for vintage music genres, while others for contemporary ones. Keep reading to find out how to choose the best quality bass strings without compromising on your music choices and playing styles. 

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best Bass Strings

Here is a brief, yet comprehensive review of the best bass strings on the market:

Rotosound RS66LF Swing Bass 66 Stainless Steel Bass Guitar Strings (45 65 85 105)

PROS

  • Good for fretless basses.
  • Highly playable and versatile.
  • Tough stainless-steel composition.
  • Bright tones for long periods of time.
  • Deep, fat sounds with clear top ends.

CONS

  • Wears the frets.
  • Beginners might find them hard to play.
  • Sometimes they do not stay vibrant for too long.

What Recent Buyers Report

This product offers great quality articulate, bright and aggressive sounds with high harmonics that give it a piano-like edge. They are also versatile, as you can turn the tune down and enjoy smoother, subdued sounds. They are durable with a good feel and their construction is extremely high-quality.

Why it Stands Out To Us

The Rotosound Swing Bass 66 is the best choice overall due to their high-quality stainless-steel construction, which ensures their longevity and resistance against corrosion. They create subdued smooth sounds, they are extremely durable and offer consistency and tuning stability.

Who Will Use This Most

These are perfect for full roundwound players and they are highly playable, even for beginners (although they might be a bit rough on the fingers for non-experienced). They offer bright, aggressive sounds and they last for a long time, as their stainless-steel construction makes them resistant to corrosion. They enjoy tuning stability, making them perfect for the gigging musician.

Bottom Line

Overall, the Rotosound Swing Bass 66 are the perfect choice for your bass guitar. They are versatile, flexible and their roundwound wires are perfect for bright tones. They are ideal for experienced professionals, but also for beginners who want to learn how to play with high accuracy.

Runner-up:
DR Fat Beams

DR Strings FAT-BEAM Bass Guitar Strings (FB-45)

PROS

  • Can be used with 35 scale basses.
  • Fatter, smoother, and deeper tones.
  • Enhanced playability and harmonically consistent.
  • Roundwound cores for higher flexibility and sustainability.
  • Handmade stainless steel for best sounds and tones.

CONS

  • Average string life.
  • Not suitable for beginners.
  • Very bright when they are new.

​What Recent Buyers Report

DR Fat Beams offer bright vivid sounds without pops or buzzes. They are smooth, punchy, and warm, extremely pleasing to the ears. They are perfect for all types of sounds and music and they have a nice and smooth feel, even for heavy gauges.

Why it Stands Out To Us

DR Fat Beams are hardly even considered competition to other alternatives. They are hand-made, roundwound wires built especially for high flexibility, accuracy, and deep tones. They are perfect for electric basses, with strong kicks in the low end, offering fatter tones and sharper sounds.

Who Will Use This Most

These DR Fat Beams are perfect for experienced bass players. They offer bright fat tones, though they might be too hard for non-experienced fingers. They are perfect for those who aim for piano-like tones and they can easily be tuned up.

Bottom Line

Overall, DR Fat Beams are the ideal round wound stainless steel strings for electric bass players looking for versatility, deep tones, high accuracy, and tuning stability. They bring out the lows well, and the mid-range definitely enhances the quality of your performance, especially for musicians looking for outstanding mids.

Best for the Money: 
Dunlop Super Bright Nickel

Dunlop DBSBN45105 Super Bright Bass Strings, Nickel Wound, Medium, .045-.105, 4 Strings/Set

PROS

  • Punchy midrange.
  • Bright, high-quality sounds.
  • Focuses on clear and defined highs.
  • Lower tension, suitable for beginners.
  • Highly durable and long-lasting nickel-plated steel.

CONS

  • Poor quality control.
  • Might seem too bright (good for dull pickups).
  • Might seem rougher compared to other brands.

What Recent Buyers Report

Dunlop Super Bright Nickel Wound bass strings have an upper/mid bump and they are great with a jazz bass or with a dark one. Highly playable and versatile, these come with lower tension and more flexibility compared to other brands on the same gauge. They are also affordable and have a long life.

Why it Stands Out To Us

Undeniably the best price to quality option on the market, these are made from nickel-plated steel for enhanced durability, offering bright tones with punchy midrange, yet strong highs. These roundwound strings offer incredibly bright tones with an upper-mid crunchy tone.

Who Will Use This Most

Since they are nickel-plated stainless steel, these have lower tension compared to other alternatives, thus they are perfect for novices or for professionals who enjoy bright tones. They are highly playable and they have a smooth feel, all coming together into an extremely affordable offer.

Bottom Line

Overall, the Dunlop Super Bright Nickel Wound bass strings are the perfect choice for lower tension, bright tones, and enhanced flexibility. They are affordable yet durable and they last for a long time due to their high-quality composition. Although they are very bright, they also have bottom, which makes them suitable for a wide range of music styles.

Ernie Ball Extra Slinky Flatwound Bass String, .040 - .095

PROS

  • Reduced fretboard damage.
  • Brighter than traditional flatwound.
  • Flatwound string with smooth feels.
  • Cobalt ribbon wrap for super bright tones.
  • High versatility tones due to different alloy (cobalt) than traditional strings.

CONS

  • Tension too high on a .55.
  • Brighter than traditional flatwounds.
  • Instructions not clear; cutting the tip disrupts the winding, causing it to snap.

What Recent Buyers Report

These strings play well, sound great, and feel amazing. They have less tension, which also means that you do not need to cut the A strings (due to lighter gauge). These flatwounds sound similar to roundwounds, in that they have added brightness compared to traditional flatwounds.

Why it Stands Out To Us

This product is the best flatwound option on the market, combining new technologies to manufacture super bright cobalt ribbon that offers enhanced feel, clarity, and output. The core-to-wrap ratio is optimal in order to deliver comfortable tension and enhanced playability. Roundwounds are the most common type of bass string today. Their coarse texture produces a brighter tone, suitable for modern rock & pop.

Who Will Use This Most

This product is best for both beginners and professionals due to its playability. In addition, it is great for players used to roundwounds due to the fact that they are brighter than the traditional flatwound, thus efficiently combining the benefits of the two types. Additionally, flatwounds are easier on the fingers, making them an optimal choice of beginners.

Bottom Line

Overall, these are perfect for those who want to try flatwound strings, but to avoid the dullness of traditional ones. The uniqueness of cobalt in the composition alloy allows the player to enjoy the playability and lower tension of flatwounds, yet preserving the brightness of roundwounds.

Elixir Strings Nickel Plated Steel 5-String Bass Strings w NANOWEB Coating, Long Scale, Light (.045-.130)

PROS

  • Repels sweat and debris.
  • Better grip and durability, best for metal players.
  • Nickel-plated steel strings with a smooth and natural feel.
  • Rich and rounded sounds with a heavy mid-range presence.
  • Ultra-thin NANOWEB coating that improves tune stability and longevity.

CONS

  • Sounds rather bright.
  • Not suitable for slapping.
  • Sounds better when amplified.

What Recent Buyers Report

These Elixir strings are extremely durable and long-lasting, though they might sound quite bright. They have good tone and feel, including the quiet slides. No peeling or fuzziness of coating has been reported and they can even last up to 2 years, much longer than any other brand. They feature reduced finger squeak and enhanced playability.

Why it Stands Out To Us


Without a doubt, these are the best bass strings for metal players. Their NANOWEB coating ensures that they are long-lasting, and they are extremely resistant during hard-hitting attacks. They offer high quality rich and rounded sounds for the best metal performance.

Who Will Use This Most

These are ideal for metal bass players due to their composition. Their coating ensures that they offer high-quality rich and rounded sounds, with a heavy mid-range presence and resistance to hard-hitting attacks. They offer enhanced clarity and they are more durable than any other similar brand on the market.

Bottom Line

Overall, this option stands as the optimal choice for a metal bass player. They revolutionize the standard nickel-plated stainless-steel niche with their extra strong NANOWEB coating, which ensures higher longevity, along with high clarity and tone stability for a long time, compared to any other coated or uncoated option.

Best Bass Strings for Slap:
GHS Strings M3045 4-String Bass Boomers

GHS Strings M3045 4-String Bass Boomers, Nickel-Plated Electric Bass Strings, Long Scale, Medium (.045-.105)

PROS

  • Best for slap.
  • Lasting intonation and harmony.
  • Resistant packages for long-term freshness.
  • Roundwound wires for bright, high-quality sounds.
  • Consistent quality with nickel-plated steel and strengthened core.

CONS

  • Very bright sounds.
  • Poor quality control.
  • High tension and medium gauge – not suitable for beginners.

What Recent Buyers Report

The GHS Strings M3045 4-String Bass Boomers are the best option for slapping due to their high tension and sturdy construction, allowing you to play lows without fret buzz. The highs are subdued compared to other similar products; as they get used, the lower mids become more pronounced with a warm sound, though not enough to change the performance, remaining meaty and rich. They are extremely long-lasting.

Why it Stands Out To Us

These come with a strengthened core made from nickel-plated steel to ensure durability and resistance to slapping. They have an affordable price and they offer the crisp bright sounds typical to roundwound, however with new lasting bright tones and harmonic performance.

Who Will Use This Most

This set of strings is perfect for players who prefer slap playing style with extremely bright tones. They are extremely durable due to their strengthened core, which ensures long-lasting quality effects. They are less recommended for beginners due to the higher tension offered by medium gauge and roundwounds, although they are perfect for novices who are looking for a great start with high accuracy.

Bottom Line

Overall, GHS Strings M3045 4-String Bass Boomers are the best slap bass option on the market. They are durable, roundwound wires made from nickel-plated steel. They have higher tension; however, they do not apply pressure to fret. They have subdued highs and, along the way, the lower mids are more pronounced.

Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Bass Set .045 - .095

PROS

  • High playability.
  • Full body sounds.
  • Acoustic versatility.
  • Longevity – these do not lose their qualities as they get worn.
  • Roundwounds offering the typical brightness, combined with the acoustic richness of tone.

CONS

  • Poor quality control.
  • Scale might be too short.
  • Could be wrapped for better longevity.

What Recent Buyers Report

Acoustic bass strings are perfect to add the missing ring to your acoustic bass. They bring resonant high-quality sounds with enhanced brightness, clarity, and cleanness of tones. They have enhanced acoustic versatility and smoothness.

Why it Stands Out To Us

The Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze set is the best product for acoustic basses. It is made from a less popular alloy that combines copper and phosphor to offer rich acoustic overtones, yet retaining the bright and sparkly sound of the steel. It brings resonance and projection with bright, clean and clear sounds. This is the best product to bring your acoustic bass to life!

Who Will Use This Most


This product is best for acoustic bass players because of its composition based on copper, offering the richness of acoustic tones while maintaining the brightness of the steel.

Bottom Line

Overall, the Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze acoustic bass string set is the perfect choice for your acoustic bass, combining the brightness of roundwound steel with the richness of acoustic tones.

D'Addario ECB81 Chromes Bass Guitar Strings, Light, 45-100, Long Scale

PROS

  • Mellow tunes and warm sounds.
  • Best for long-scale basses (36 ¼”).
  • Made of flattened stainless steel.
  • Damp, but tone-rich tones, best of flat winding.
  • Flatwound set with smooth feel.

CONS

  • Poor quality control.
  • Subject to preference; might sound zingy.
  • Might feel ‘sticky’ in the beginning (goes away after a few hours of play).

What Recent Buyers Report

This product offers excellent tone and versatility. In addition to classic flatwound strings, these offer the perfect combination between vintage and contemporary, with added tension, however ensuring high playability and smoothness of feel.

Why it Stands Out To Us

The D'Addario ECB81 Chromes are the best option for fretless bass due to their flatwound wires made of flattened stainless steel. They are ideal for jazz and R&B, though their versatility also makes them a great choice for contemporary pop music. Chromes offer rich and deep low-end tones, and they are perfect due to their high-quality sound and consistent performance.

Who Will Use This Most

This product is perfect for fretless bass players due to its flatwound wires. However, in addition to the traditional build, these are made using an outer flattened ribbon wire, which is polished until it becomes extremely smooth. This variety does not wear fret and fingerboards, thus it is the best option for fretless basses.

Bottom Line

D'Addario ECB81 Chromes Bass Guitar Strings are the best electric bass strings for fretless basses. They are a top-quality product due to the high quality of the mellow, warm tones and the smooth feel. Their versatility and flexibility are obvious from the first performance, which makes them perfect not only for classical music genres but for contemporary ones as well.

D'Addario EPS160-5 5-String ProSteels Bass Guitar Strings, Medium, 50-135, Long Scale

PROS

  • High playability and brightness.
  • Medium tension and intonation consistency.
  • Best 5-string set with punchy and bright tones.
  • Great for aggressive picking and articulate fingering.
  • Offers the piano-tone through tight lows and high-ends .

CONS

  • Not the best low B.
  • Less bright than expected.

What Recent Buyers Report

These strings are highly resistant and boast enhanced playability, even though they are medium gauge, compared to other light or super light brands. The brightness of the tone is perfectly completed by its sharpness, making this one of the best product choices on the market.

Why it Stands Out To Us

This option from D'Addario is the best choice for 5-string bass players, offering superb quality through its special alloy. These are perfect for producing harmonic, rich, and brilliant high-ends which, in combination with tight, deep lows, create the perfect piano-like tone. The unsurpassed quality and consistency of the brand is highly evident in this product.

Who Will Use This Most

This product is perfect for 5-string electric bass players. It is medium gauge; however, it has high playability, which makes it the optimal choice for both pros and novices.

Bottom Line

Overall, D'Addario delivers the same quality in this product with consistency. These are versatile and flexible; they can achieve a piano-like tone, completed by the sharp, bright sounds.

Ernie Ball 6-String Slinky Nickel Wound Bass Set, .032 - .130

PROS

  • High playability and perfect for tapping.
  • Sturdy construction, made from nickel alloy.
  • Versatile and flexible; not too bright, yet not too dull.
  • Powerful and clear; bright and well-rounded sounds.
  • Nice, crisp sounds on the high and fat warm crisp on the lows.

CONS

  • Poor quality control.
  • Fragile if wound too tight (might start vibrating).
  • Less longevity compared to more expensive counterparts.

What Recent Buyers Report

If you are looking for a 6-string electric bass set, look no further. This product offers bright and crisp sounds on the highs, but also deliver a strong punch on the mid-range and distinct tones on the low end.

Why it Stands Out To Us

This is the perfect set of 6 strings for your electric guitar. Compared to other brands, they are comfortable and playable and they come at an affordable price. The nice crisp sounds and the brightness of the tone add the perfect combination that will make your performance stand out from the crowd.

Who Will Use This Most

These are best for 6-string bass players looking for consistent quality in an option that will deliver crisp, bright sounds. Overall, they have a nice punch on the high and a fat warm crisp on the low and are highly versatile.

Bottom Line

Overall, the Ernie Ball 6-String Slinky Nickel Wound Bass is the perfect choice for 6-string bass players, offering high quality and consistency at an affordable price. The crisp bright notes are suitable for numerous music genres.

Types of Bass Strings

You should consider a few characteristics before making your final decision. Here is a short review of what you should look for:

Gauges

The gauge or the thickness of the string is extremely important for the playability and tone of your bass. You need to choose high-quality heavy strings (professional players), which are harder to play, as they have more tension; the opposite applies to light strings. 

Construction

Most bass strings are made as wrapped steel core wire, and the most common materials include stainless steel and nickel. Mixing the two, you get nickel-plated steel, which offers bright tones suitable for many music genres. Pure nickel strings have more vintage tones, reminiscent of ’50 and 60’s bass sounds, while stainless steel is great against corrosion and it is often used by metal, rock, and jazz players. 

Type of Winding

Type of winding greatly impacts the tone and the feel. Roundwound is the most popular, having round wrap wires from nickel or stainless steel. They are extremely popular among rock and funk bassists, but they are known to wear down frets. 

Mellower and rounder, flatwound serves great for old-school jazz and soul bassists, jazz, blues, and country. They can be used on fretless basses because they have a smooth finish that allows them to cause considerably less fretboard wear. 

How to Change Bass Strings

The only tool you need to have in order to change your bass strings is a wire cutter. First, detune the strings until they do not produce any more pitches. Use the wire cutting tool to cut them close to the pickup region and then remove them from the tuning post and bridge. 

To add new strings, remove them from the package (carefully, in case the package contains color-coded instructions). Insert each string into its appropriate bridge entry and carefully pull them through, making sure you use your finger to prevent them from grinding against the bridge hole. Carefully take the strings from the nut to the center of the tuning post; measure 2-3 inches from the tuning post and then bend the string at a 90-degree angle.

Measure an additional inch of string from the bend (crimp) and cut it with the wire cutting tool. If you develop any twists while tightening the string, remove it from the tuning post and push it back 4-6 inches through the bridge. Lastly, turn the tuning key to strengthen your strings, ensuring that they are pushed down on the post, under each prior wind. 

Now all you need is to use a tuner to tune your new strings. Lightly stretch out the string along its length and repeat the tuning and stretching process until each pitch is stable. 

Flatwound vs. Roundwound Bass Strings

The biggest distinction in today’s bass string market is flatwound vs. roundwound. Flatwounds were the first kind of electric bass string to emerge in the early 1950s. Roundwounds arrived shortly after to accommodate rockers (ahem, John Entwistle) looking for a hotter, brighter tone. They’ve since become the industry standard, although there’s still lots of love out there for flatwounds.

The difference in design makes a huge difference in how the string feels against your finger. Flatwounds are smooth to the touch, while roundwounds are a bit more coarse. This might make flatwounds sound like the better choice for beginners. However, flatwounds also tend to have more tension, which means they’re harder to press against the fingerboard.

Flatwound vs. Roundwound Tone

Along with touch, this is the biggest difference between roundwound and flatwound bass strings. In a nutshell, flatwounds give you a deeper, “deader” tone, while roundwounds give you a brighter, more “aggressive” tone. 

Also note how roundwounds produce more “finger noises” -- there’s more scratching as your fingers move along the neck. Whether you love or hate those subtle noises will probably cement your position on the roundwound vs. flatwound debate. [If you do love those noises, check out the Rotosound Swing Bass 66]

Roundwound vs. Flatwound Lifespan

The 3rd major difference between roundwounds and flatwounds is how long they last, particularly how long their tone lasts. Roundwounds tend to lose their brightness after a few weeks. This is because the small spaces between grooves gradually fill up with dirt and grime. Some people don’t mind this “deader” roundwound tone. Others, however, will change their strings on a weekly basis to keep their tone sharp.

Flatwounds, on the other hand, can maintain their tone for months, or even years. Some users of the Thomastik-Infeld JF344 (affectionately called TI Flats) have claimed to use them for years without noticing any tonal differences. 

Flatwounds are a more traditional string design. They produce a deeper, mellower tone that’s suitable for jazz, country, R&B, and reggae. Smoother to the touch, flatwounds are also easier on the fingers.

Conclusion

Overall, this article offered you brief guidelines on why you need to pay attention to your bass strings and what are the most important considerations. Having high-quality bass strings can definitely enhance your experience with your bass and improve your performance considerably.

If you want the best middle-of-the-road option, go with Ernie Ball Nickel Wound Super Slinky (45 gauge). They’re the most popular material and style (Nickel-plated roundwounds with medium thickness). They won’t feel too tight, or too loose to the touch, and they’ll produce a sound that most people expect to hear when they pluck a bass string.

People Also Ask

Here is a quick FAQ section to get you started with your new bass strings:

How Often Should I Change My Bass Strings?

There is no exact rule for this, but they should be changed every 6-12 months according to your play routine. You can change them whenever they start to change their sounding. You can use coated strings for extra life. 

What Are Bass Strings Made Of?

Bass strings can be made from nickel-steel alloy (most popular), pure nickel (vintage warmer tones), stainless steel (bright tones), copper-plated steel (rich acoustic overtones) and, lastly, polymer-coated strings for extended life; all of these affect the tone differently from one brand to another. 

Why Do Bass Guitars Have Only Four Strings?

Initially, all-electric basses came with any four strings, as musicians did not feel they needed more for great music. More strings, however, add more range to the electric bass. 

Is a 6 String Bass Worth It?

6-string basses are considerably easier to play because the extra two strings make it easier for musicians to play higher notes without moving too far down. The only problem comes in terms of spacing, where basses come with narrow necks (similar to a guitar), thus the 6 strings are much closer together compared to 4-string basses.

What About String Materials?

Now that we've gotten the roundwound vs. flatwound debate aside, we can talk about the next biggest tonal factor: the material of the string.

  • Pure Nickel: The original material used to produce bass strings. Pure nickel strings (like flatwounds) are warmer and mellower. Though a bit more expensive, pure nickel strings retain their tone the longest. You don’t have to replace them as often as stainless steel or nickel-plated strings.
  • Stainless Steel: A newer development, stainless steel strings are much brighter and offer more gain than pure nickels. On roundwounds, the texture is a little more coarse than nickel. (You’ll notice a little more friction against your fingers.) It also producers more “finger noises” from scratching against frets.
  • Nickel-plated: The most common type of string. These are made of steel that’s coated with a thin layer of nickel. The result is a balanced, “middle-of-the-road” tone. The steel provides some brightness, while the outer layer of nickel adds warmth and makes it smoother to the touch.

And String Gauge?

Gauge refers to the thickness of strings, measured in thousandths of an inch. When comparing gauges between packages, typically the first (highest) string is used. So “45 gauge” would refer to the thickness of the highest string (0.045 inches).

Generally speaking, the thicker the strings, the richer your tone. However, thicker strings can also be harder to play, as they require more strength to press down.

Here’s a simple overview of where string gauges fall on the spectrum:

  • 40 and under: Light, easy to play, weaker tone.
  • 45: Middle of the road.
  • 50 and over: Heavy, harder to play, but stronger tone.

The majority of our recommended strings are 45s. Ernie Ball Nickel Wound and Fender 9050L, however, come in a wide range of gauges.