Should I switch to flat wounds on my P-Bass

Discussion in 'The BASS Place' started by chris m., May 15, 2020.

  1. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    I have a wonderful ESP P-Bass from the lawsuit era. It has had the same strings on it from when I bought it used about 18 years ago. They are round wound.

    When I use the bass going into my DAW I can get tones that I like just by turning the bass's tone knob back pretty far. On the other hand, I've heard that flat wounds are the way to go for a classic, thumping bass sound. I'm usually looking for classic funk bass tones-- not Stanley Clarke leads, but instead just strong, percussive rhythm parts. Most likely I'll just keep these strings on until one breaks (which may be never), but looking for your thoughts on whether I should switch to flat wounds when the time comes to change strings.

    Part of the reason that I've never had to change strings is if you add up all the time I've played it in the last 18 years it probably totals less than 20 hours....usually just picking it up for 10 or 15 minutes to lay down a quick bass line track into my DAW. I covered bass on one gig so got a few hours on it in just one night.
     
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  2. LOSTVENTURE

    LOSTVENTURE Tele-Afflicted

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    Flats are going to suck some of the high end off your tone. But the process is reversible, and you might like what you hear. I'd go for it.
    PS: my comments are based on my 6 string experience, and what I've heard several bass players tell me.
     
  3. kafka

    kafka Tele-Afflicted

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    No. You should get a 2nd P-bass and put flats on that.
     
  4. scooteraz

    scooteraz Friend of Leo's

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    What do you have to lose if you try it? You can always go back.
     
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  5. billiam5billion

    billiam5billion TDPRI Member

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    You should try tape wounds
     
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  6. PARCO

    PARCO Tele-Meister

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    Flat wounds are just a different flavor. You will play your bass a little differently with flats. The thing with flats is that in a live band situation they speak differently than round wounds and they take up a sonic space in the sound of the band that people are used to hearing in recorded music. You could always just place a foam pad underneath your strings near the bridge when you record.
     
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  7. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Eeeeeeeewwwwww!

    Can't hurt to try I suppose, too bad GC is closed they have a bin of strings nobody wants and there are always discounted flatwound bass strings in there.
    Not sure but your 18yo strings may be pretty darn warm toned already?
    What flats do is not just sound warm but also eliminate most of the harmonic content, so the tone is more one dimensional.
     
  8. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    True, nothing to lose but the forty bucks.
     
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  9. Mike Simpson

    Mike Simpson Doctor of Teleocity

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    I have a 51 P-Bass with flats and a J-Bass with rounds so you should have what I have...
    I like flats better but I like Bass not baritone guitar. YMMV
     
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  10. memorex

    memorex Friend of Leo's

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    Flats will not give you round sound.
    And rounds, even with the tone control down, will not give you flat sound.
    It's up to you to decide which sound you want.
     
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  11. PigBoy

    PigBoy Tele-Meister

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    Yes.

    Thread closed.
     
  12. 68Telebass

    68Telebass Tele-Afflicted

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    Fender stainless steel flats 9050 medium set- $26 on big online dealers. made by D’Adarrio, Classic sound, great feel. You will lose that annoying finger noise that rounds give you. The loss in high end “zing” made up for in low end punch and “different” harmonics that can help cut through a mix.
    Again, they last for years and continue to sound great.
    And, you can always go back if you don’t like what you hear...most folks never go back after their first set!
    Try the tapewounds IF you like the Fender flats first!
     
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  13. fretWalkr

    fretWalkr Tele-Meister

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    Before the lockdown, I was playing with a bass player who uses a fretless jazz bass with flats. He started on upright bass and is going for that contrabass sound. It works well for him and gives a stronger fundamental.

    I've got a '75 Fender Pbass and I've had the same round wounds on it since I got it 25 years ago. I've thought about going to flat wounds but I do like the harmonic content of the tone. I can plug it directly into my board or audio interface and get a perfect sound every time.

    I wonder what Jaco and Marcus Miller use?
     
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  14. Praxis

    Praxis Tele-Meister

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    I went through that dilemma several years back; I fretted and sweated about it for a while, then finally put a set of flats on my P-bass. Fast forward a few years, and now all my basses but one (a Jazz) have flats.

    Flats are amazing, especially on P-basses.
     
  15. scooteraz

    scooteraz Friend of Leo's

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    Honestly, I have spend some amount of money trying specific things. Sometimes I like what I try. Sometimes I have to chalk it up to the fee for learning. Sort of the university of experience.....only that one does not give credentials...
     
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  16. MatchlessMan

    MatchlessMan Tele-Holic

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    I bought a bass that had flats on it a few years ago and ended up having them on all my basses. I go for the brighter flats - D’Addario Chromes and Ernie Ball Cobalts - and rarely find myself hankering for rounds.
     
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  17. Ian T

    Ian T Tele-Afflicted

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    P-bass and flats is like PB&J. You can't go wrong for the sounds you are going after.

    Old rounds are nice, too, though. They still can get a little zing when you want them to, sound better for slap, but far sound more like flats than new strings.

    And if you put a mute beneath the bridge, the roundwounds can get pretty close. Try that out first. A sponge will do the job.

    If you do get new flats, they are going to take some time to "break in". They sound best after a few months or even longer. New, they are kind of clanky and have some high end sounds that most people don't like.

    If you do go with flats, there are many choices. On one end of the scale there are Thomstik Flats which are very low tension and have their own sound, lots of mids, these are very popular strings. On the other end you have the Labella Deep Talkin Flats in the Jamerson gauges which are super thumpy and very high tension. In between there are many other choices. But none of them are going to sound great out of the box.

    Unlike guitar strings, it's very common to reuse bass strings. So you should keep your 18 year old rounds, and if you don't like the flats, put them back on and save your flats for another day.

    By the way, that lawsuit ESP P-Bass sounds very cool. Can you post a pic?
     
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  18. ElJay370

    ElJay370 Tele-Holic

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    I don’t play a ton of bass anymore, but I played a friend’s P Bass with flats and found them so comfortable I strung my own bass with ‘em.

    The flat sound is not the heavy rock sound. That doesn’t mean you can’t play heavy rock on flats, its just not the Chris Squier/John Entwhistle sound. There’s less string noise, less attack. In return they allowed me to play faster and smoother, and gave me less finger fatigue during a session. It does change your playing style quite a bit. The sound made me feel more like a real bass player instead of a guitarist playing bass.
     
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  19. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    Flats are great and for most people they do the good work of making the bass less like a guitar. They give you a percussive attack and less sustain

    Thomastik jazz flats are really great string and have a flexibility the most flats don't have. They're easier on the hands
     
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  20. Praxis

    Praxis Tele-Meister

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    This ^

    As ElJay370 wrote, you can play heavy rock bass with flats, but it sits in the mix differently than with rounds. It's much thumpier, with a deeper fundamental, and fewer overtones. Check out Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) for some good examples. There are ways to cop that tone with rounds, but it's a lot trickier to do. Flats just get you there quickly, and in a really satisfying way. A good example of "rounds sounding flat-ish" would be John Paul Jones on "The Lemon Song." He has said that's a set of old rounds on that one.

    I've played a lot of classic rock with rounds and with flats; I just prefer the flats overall. But for oldies, country or R&B? I want flats for sure.
     
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