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New strings sounding way too bright - help!


alexclaber

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You may have noticed that I often rave about how good my 3 year old LaBella Deep Talkin' S/S rounds sound - unfortunately, having attempted to fit a Hipshot to my bass I ended up cutting the E-string shorter and since I discovered that the detuner won't fit I've reverted to the old tuner, leaving me with IMO too few turns on the peg. I have thus bought some new strings and I'm keeping the old ones as some nicely broken in spares (probably a good idea - I can't believe I'm never going to suffer a broken string mid-gig, though it hasn't happened yet!)

 

I'd forgotten quite how bright my bass is - I swear it's the brightest bass in the world, it practically makes Stanley Clarke's tone sound like Bill Laswell's! I've searched various forums and the net in general and found nothing on how to break strings in quickly (bearing in mind that just playing this bass lots with all this damn treble will probably cause my girlfriend to murder me).

 

I want my Jaco/Les/Larry/FamilyMan sound back ASAP - can anyone suggest something that will deaden these strings a bit, but not kill them or leave them smelling of fried chicken?

 

I remember the days when I liked all that top end - now it just makes me feel like I'm playing a guitar, eeeewww...

 

Alex

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Well, since you ruled out the "smell like dead chicken" option, I don't have any suggestions.

 

When I did my "Strings & Springs" modification (posted about elsewhere), I also got a lot brighter sound. And I switched to half-flats that I had previously removed because they were too dull. What's the deal? I suppose I had just played my old strings until they were dead. D-E-D Dead!

 

Anyway, back to the topic. So, any suggestions to break 'em in quick?

- Matt W.
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I remember reading an article about the "three phases of string wear" and how you can use that to evaluate strings.

 

Phase One: New, bright...sometimes painfully bright.

 

Phase Two: Aged a bit, usable tone...

Phase Three: Dull and Dead.

 

As I recall, strings are in Phase One for between 3 days and 3 weeks depending on the string. Then, Phase Two, the useful phase, lasts between 1 month and a perhaps 6 months (or longer). Phase Three lasts until you can get to the music store for a new set.

 

Once I started thinking of strings in this way, I began noticing the trend. (Which is why I like DR's...they stay in Phase 2 a long time.)

 

So...are your strings in phase 1? And will they settle down in a week or so?

 

To speed up the wear, you could tune them sharp, maybe a half step, and practice for a while. When you tuned them down, they'd be better. (Caveat: you might damage the neck of a lesser bass doing this. You might break one of these new strings.)

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Originally posted by Matt W:

Well, since you ruled out the "smell like dead chicken" option, I don't have any suggestions.

Well, That's where I was going. Go to KFC, get a bucket of chicken, get your hands all greasy and go play that bass. Repeat often. Soon you'll have a fast fretboard and all the dub you could ask for. :thu:

- Jon

-----

You have the right to remain in the groove, any solos cannot be used against you, you have the right to snap and pop, if you cannot snap and pop, two fingers can provide the funk just fine.

 

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I can think of a couple of things that may work for you - changing the pickup height, for instance, but I'd suggest that you mess with the tone controls on your bass and amp first- new strings are brighter (the reason I change strings...), but they will calm down in a couple of weeks (the reason I change strings every couple of weeks).

Dave Martin

Java Jive Studio

Nashville, TN

www.javajivestudio.com

 

Cuppa Joe Records

www.cuppajoerecords.com

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DBB: The old strings were still in Phase 2 (and hence are perfect as backup strings) even though they're over 3 years old - I think I must have string-friendly perspiration! It's so long since they were new that I can't remember how long it took until ear-searing trebly Phase 1 was over, I just hope it's not too long.

 

DM: When I'm plugged in I will turn the treble down, but at home I tend to practice unplugged so if my bass sounds too bright acoustically no knob twiddling will help!

 

Alex

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Perhaps you should use nickel roundwound strings on that bass, or maybe try some of the "groundwound" ones. These are roundwound strings that are "flattened" out to give a bit of that flatwound flavor.

 

I don't have to break them in too long, and even without that period, I can get a nice, warm tone when amplified.

 

The Rotos or D'Addario XL's are the best for me when using nickels. Never too bright, yet still full and warm sounding. Great for hi-fi active basses, like my Yamaha five string. Thanks to the steel cores, they last a long time, too, if you wipe them when you're supposed to.

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Originally posted by C.Alexander Claber:

DM: When I'm plugged in I will turn the treble down, but at home I tend to practice unplugged so if my bass sounds too bright acoustically no knob twiddling will help!

 

Alex

Did you by chance change string guages when you replaced the old strings? If you practice acoustically and put lighter guage strings on the bass, they can indeed be pretty 'boingy'.

 

In any case, it sounds like you kust need to sweat on them for an hour or so...

Dave Martin

Java Jive Studio

Nashville, TN

www.javajivestudio.com

 

Cuppa Joe Records

www.cuppajoerecords.com

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Interesting Dave - here is my similar but slightly different personal take on the "phases" from a discussion I had with another bassist a few weeks ago:

 

1. Absolutely new. Very bright sound. Potentially great sound for some styles but difficult to control. With continuous play will sound like that for a few days.

 

2 New but played in. If money were no object, this would be the best stage. With continuous play this phase lasts for about 2-4 weeks. I'm just not prepared to shell out for a new set of strings every couple of weeks.

 

3 Well played in but still with some life. This stage lasts for several months. Realistically, unless you change strings every 3-4 weeks or less, this will be the normal condition of your strings. You will get used to setting your bass and amp to optimise the sound. As a result you will probably end up getting the best sound at this stage, because that's what you have worked on.

 

4 Dead. OK for practising but not gigging. Intonation likely to be suspect.

 

Alex I feel and share your pain. I'm just doing my first gig in months tonight with too new strings. Ideally I'd have restrung a couple of weeks ago, but I delayed and these strings are less than a week old.

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It's a weird bass this Warwick of mine - the combination of wenge thru-neck, wenge fingerboard, bronze frets, EMG pickups and (this is what differs from the modern Warwicks) cherry body and aluminium Schaller bridge give it far more top end than any other bass I've played - that's including Alembics, Ken Smith, Status, Modulus, graphite-necked Stingrays, etc. With the new strings everything I play has a lot of top end, even plucking up around the end of the fingerboard or thumbplucking and palm muting.

 

Once the strings are in 'Phase 2' I can get as much top end as I want by attacking the bass harder nearer the bridge or by slapping (without having to tweak the EQ) and when I want more mellow tones I just attack more softly or palm-mute the strings. Nickelwounds don't give quite that aggressive attack when I dig in, especially once they're getting older. My bass tone isn't a very pretty one, it's quite hard and compressed, with growl and a clean yet sort of dirty and acoustic sounding top end, and a lot of midrange thickness. I love my tone and the old LaBellas are a big part of it - I was just looking for a shortcut to make them sound aged again and, as ever in music, there are no shortcuts!

 

Thanks for all the suggestions,

 

Alex

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Originally posted by ClarkW:

It might make too thumpy a sound, but maybe try some foam or bunched up tissue paper under the strings at the bridge? That could take some of the edge off until they are broken in.

I've been meaning to cut some foam anyway for getting a more trad walking tone - that could be a good temporary measure to mellow things out in general.

 

Alex

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Originally posted by Dave Martin:

Did you by chance change string guages when you replaced the old strings? If you practice acoustically and put lighter guage strings on the bass, they can indeed be pretty 'boingy'.

Same gauge, make and model as before: 44-61-85-110, LaBella Deep Talkin' rounds: mmmm fat E-strings...

 

The silk's a nicer shade of blue on the new ones though - sort of darker and more purply.

 

Alex

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Just lay a little Tony Levin super nappy bass in there. Take a cue from the bald Buddha himself and stick a diaper under the strings at the bridge. That's where that throbbing sound on Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up" comes from.

"I had to have something, and it wasn't there. I couldn't go down the street and buy it, so I built it."

 

Les Paul

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Stop whining about it, play your bass, and the strings will lose their 'new string' brightness. In the meantime, roll the high end back some on your bass.

 

If you want strings that sound less bright, try to find a pair of Elixer POLYWEB strings; the old style. They sound broken in when you put them on, and stay that way for a very long time.

 

I still can't believe you had a set of strings on your bass for 3 years. How often/much do you play?

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Onamission said:

Go to KFC, get a bucket of chicken, get your hands all greasy and go play that bass. Repeat often. Soon you'll have a fast fretboard and all the dub you could ask for.

I'll do it! :D
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I am a fan of bright strings because:

 

You can turn down the treble if the bass is too bright, but turning up the treble if the bass is not bright enough doesn't work.

 

You can turn up the bass is the bass is too bright, but if the bass is too boomy, there's not much you can do with it.

 

If you play for four hours a day, the strings will settle down pretty quickly.

 

Everyone on this forum plays for about four hours a day, right? ;)

 

Just remember,

 

If you don't practice, someone else will.

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Originally posted by tnb:

I'll do it! :D

:thu:

- Jon

-----

You have the right to remain in the groove, any solos cannot be used against you, you have the right to snap and pop, if you cannot snap and pop, two fingers can provide the funk just fine.

 

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I heard of someone storing strings in butter to deaden them. This might be an urban legend, but it is along the way of how strings go dead; grease, sweat, dirt, ect. get in the windings of the string and kill the tone.

That being said, the brighter the better for me. ;)

"Start listening to music!".

-Jeremy C

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Originally posted by Bumpcity:

I still can't believe you had a set of strings on your bass for 3 years. How often/much do you play?

I think I probably average between 1 and 2 hours a day on that bass, though now the fretless is back in action it's getting less play. So that's somewhere between 1200 and 2000 hours of playing time over the last 3 years. I know, I can't believe it either, it's not like I like old strings on other basses, I used to change them as often as I could on my previous fretted bass but this bass just has more top end, punch and clarity than anything else I've played. Blame the 95% wenge thru-neck (it has some small cherry stringers), aluminium bridge, small cherry body, and EMG pickups in a reverse P/J configuration with the J closer to the bridge than on a 70x J bass, the treble side of the P-pickup in the usual position but the bass side if it the other side of it so it's really close to the bridge. I'm not complaining though, saves me a fortune in strings.

 

Alex

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I want my Jaco/Les/Larry/FamilyMan sound back ASAP
:confused: Ummmm...Jaco and Les both play super-bright roundwounds. Family Man played super-dead flatwounds...and Larry Graham played flatwounds back in the day when he recorded "Hair."

 

I'm with Jeremy about keeping my strings as bright as possible. You can always use your playing technique to get a deeper sound on bright strings, but dead roundwounds tend to sound...dead. The lack of clear harmonics tends to make the fundamental sound flat and wimpy.

 

I find that flatwounds are like wine, they sound better with age. But roundwounds are more like...um...milk. :D

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Just a thought, have you ever considered that your strings and bass are meant to sound like they are right now, that all major manufacturers of bass equipment have put horns in their enclosures to help bass players out because electric bass is meant to have top end transients.

 

When you play your bass on your lap does it really sound all muffled and honky, or can you here those higher harmonics in the sound coming through?

 

A lot of the reasons why bass players of the past pulled such muddy honky sounds is because they didn't have roundwound strings, high quality active pickups and they had amplifiers designed as an afterthought by guitar manufacturers.

 

It could be time for embracing the change and realising that new equipment is meant to sound clean and crisp.

 

Either that or go to a vintage style setup, if you want that Jaco sound go for a defretted Jazz bass (passive pickups) and an acoustic 360 with one or two 15"'s. For god sakes don't go stuffing foam or TP under your bridge, it's bound to put your intonation out of whack and look really bugde.

 

all the best in getting a great tone.

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Originally posted by BenLoy:

I want my Jaco/Les/Larry/FamilyMan sound back ASAP
:confused: Ummmm...Jaco and Les both play super-bright roundwounds. Family Man played super-dead flatwounds...and Larry Graham played flatwounds back in the day when he recorded "Hair."
Jaco used new-ish rounds but played a passive fretless bass most of the time and definitely didn't crank the tone knob when playing fretted - he's got lots of high mids but not much extended top end in his sound. Les uses thin roundwounds but not new ones, he prefers to record with older strings, and although he's got a midrangey tone with lots of low treble he doesn't have much going on up high. Family Man played dead flats and it just takes turning up the bass knob (especially now I've got the Aguilar OBP-3) to get a similar amount of bottom. Larry played flats when he recorded Hair and he gets such a badass thick slap tone with them, much groovier than all those shiny 80s slap sounds.

 

The reason I referred to my tone by referencing those players was that my default fingerstyle tone is somewhere between the growl and bite of Jaco and the thick furriness of Larry, my default slap sound doesn't have extended highs of Marcus, Victor or Stanley, more the restricted 'planky' treble of Les allied to that Larry Graham big bottom, and then there's my deeeeep sound which is quite like a more focused Family Man tone. My point was that unlike many slap bassists I prefer a less glossy and wet high end, a less expensive sound. I do love those deep wet and crystal clear bass sounds in isolation but once placed in the mix I've found a somewhat uglier drier tone just works better (for me).

 

Back to the original topic, that OTT fresh out of the packet sound has now gone, the strings are settling in and those ultrasonic finger squeaks are no more. I'll enjoy this expensive tone whilst it lasts, but I'll be glad to get back to that thick growly broken in tone.

 

Alex

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Ah, the perils of the snapshot of life that the internet provides and the risks of talking about sound when what one really needs is to hear it... I never thought I'd open such a can of worms with this thread. FYI, compared to most players my sound is definitely 'modern' as is my rig. Good points from everyone though, I'd have said the same myself if confronted with a question like mine (and not owning the offending instrument).

 

Originally posted by Jezza:

Just a thought, have you ever considered that your strings and bass are meant to sound like they are right now, that all major manufacturers of bass equipment have put horns in their enclosures to help bass players out because electric bass is meant to have top end transients.

Absolutely. And when I first got this bass I changed the strings regularly and revelled in all the top end. Then I listened a bit more and noticed that I had an obscene amount of treble (i.e. way more than Stanley or Victor etc), that it was not pleasant to listen to, and that through a big PA at high volume it was almost painful. Furthermore with the EQ flat (which was what I always used to do) the tight growling bottom end was getting overwhelmed by all the top end and was thus sounding thinner than it really was.

 

Originally posted by Jezza:

When you play your bass on your lap does it really sound all muffled and honky, or can you here those higher harmonics in the sound coming through?

There are plenty of higher harmonics coming through - it's stil possible to play PoT and get all those harmonics ringing beautifully - even when playing fingerstyle up over the end of the neck, and it just takes a change in technique to get even more. Muffled and honky I don't do!

 

Originally posted by Jezza:

A lot of the reasons why bass players of the past pulled such muddy honky sounds is because they didn't have roundwound strings, high quality active pickups and they had amplifiers designed as an afterthought by guitar manufacturers.

Indeed. But maybe when you have very hard woods, bronze frets, through neck design, rigid bridges and truly active electronics (i.e. pickups as well as preamp) you don't need such fresh strings to get bright tone (ignoring messing with EQ).

 

Originally posted by Jezza:

It could be time for embracing the change and realising that new equipment is meant to sound clean and crisp.

You're preaching to the converted ;) but I hope everyone else is listening! Active basses, SWR preamp, QSC power amp and Acme cabs - clean and crisp as it gets!

 

Originally posted by Jezza:

Either that or go to a vintage style setup, if you want that Jaco sound go for a defretted Jazz bass (passive pickups) and an acoustic 360 with one or two 15"'s. For god sakes don't go stuffing foam or TP under your bridge, it's bound to put your intonation out of whack and look really bugde.

As I belatedly explained, my sound is my sound and I don't want to sound like anyone else, but the easiest way to explain my sound was to describe as a mix of certain notable players. Next time I'll post a recording!!! Btw, Jaco's 360 rig had a 1x18" folded horn, though later on he did use a mix of conventional 15" cabs and folded horn 18" cabs. I tried the foam trick (if it's good enough for Bob Babbitt it's good enough for me) - sounded cool but it made me realise how much I like having as much sustain as I could ever want, so I'll stick with thumb-plucking and palm-muting to get that tone in future.

 

Originally posted by Jezza:

all the best in getting a great tone.

Thanks again! I'll explain myself more clearly in future!

 

Alex

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