String history: when and why did roundwound strings become more popular/widely used than flatwounds?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by srblue5, May 8, 2021.

  1. srblue5

    srblue5 Tele-Holic

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    I'm having a new Squier Jaguar set up with flatwounds just to experiment a bit, which has got me wondering about the era when flatwounds were the dominant electric string and when/why that changed over time.

    It seems like a lot of early jazz, blues and rock 'n' roll recordings were done with flatwound strings likely because that was all that was widely available and/or stock on instruments. I've read that the Beatles used Pyramid flatwounds pretty much exclusively until the mid-60s (the Casinos/SG on Revolver don't sound very flatwound-ish to me, but I could be wrong) but did other British Invasion bands (Stones, Kinks) do the same around that time? What about players like Chet Atkins or Buddy Guy?
     
  2. esseff

    esseff Tele-Afflicted

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    Maybe roundwounds became popular because they were cheaper than flatwounds. They were bend-friendly too. Just a guess.
    Flatwounds are twice the price here in the UK,
     
  3. Boreas

    Boreas Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I also wonder about tension differences between the two.

    I have never played flatwounds that weren't prehistoric.
     
  4. nathanteal

    nathanteal Tele-Holic

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    I've never played a set of flats that I liked.
     
  5. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    I can't say exactly, but in the '60s it was common for guitarists to use a thin banjo string for the high E, then shift the other strings down one and throw away the low E in order to get a thinner string set that had a plain third and was easier for bending. Ernie Ball started selling sets like this commercially in the late '60s.

    Which ones have you tried? The differences in flat sets are much more pronounced than the difference in rounds. I had a set of D'addario Chromes on my Jaguar that felt stiff and weren't fun to play, but somebody convinced me to try Pyramid Golds- the difference was night and day. The Pyramids had the feel of roundwounds (you can bend them!), but the tone of flats.

    The funny thing is, I love D'addario Chromes bass strings.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2021
  6. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    That's a myth.
    Roundwounds pre-dated flatwounds by decades.

    Fender telecasters came from the factory with heavy gauge roundwound strings in 1950.

    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/oem-strings-on-original-esquire-broadcaster.1055839/#post-10267783


    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/mapes-strings-in-1950.1054770/#post-10241227

    Still with the advent of jazz many players switched to the new (noiseless) flatwound strings since the guitarist started doind SOLOS (unheard of before the 50s) so they became very popular.

    Yes early R'R' tunes (but not all Duane Eddy and many others used rw strings) and the Beatles used fw strings...

    But from 1965 and on rw became very popular since guitarists started doing bends.....and than Hendrix pretty much standardized the use of rw strings (the string set he used ,the famous 010-038 set was the standard "rock n'roll" set until the mid 80s....)
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2021
  7. Rjelecaster

    Rjelecaster Tele-Meister

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    Regarding history of strings, I would be out of my depth. The best I could offer would be a theory.
     
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  8. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

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    Flats have higher tension than rounds when when string gauges are equal. The reason is the core wire in a flatwound is larger and heavier.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2021
  9. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    fws have more tension,visit the D'Addario site that has complete tension charts you can compare.
     
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  10. buster poser

    buster poser Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

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    Probably okay back when a guitar wasn't meant to be a standout instrument, but flats were "deader" to me on my Tele, muddier. Probably great on an archtop, for jazz, etc., but I've never cared for the way they've sounded on the solidbody electrics I've owned.
     
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  11. Boreas

    Boreas Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Makes sense. I assume this is what was changed on the newer "hybrid" flatwounds that advertise more flexibility and easier bending?
     
  12. kafka

    kafka Tele-Afflicted

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    Yes, propagated by people who misunderstand the Rotosound story, who pioneered the use of round-wounds for bass guitar only.

    http://www.rotosound.com/our-story/
    https://www.fender.com/articles/tech-talk/bass-strings-101

    Flatwounds were invented in 1874, and only replaced gut strings on bowed string instruments. Piano and harpsichord, however, had roundwound strings in the late 18th century, and have never had flatwound strings.

    https://www.sgw.nipponsteel.com/en/story/music/03.html
     
  13. ThermionicScott

    ThermionicScott Poster Extraordinaire

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    Acoustic guitars never went through a "flatwound phase" that I know of...
     
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  14. loopfinding

    loopfinding Friend of Leo's

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    yeah i was going to say, flatwounds were an orchestral development. classical guitar is always roundwound. i'm not entirely sure why jazz guitars adopted flats? maybe it's something in tandem with the violin-ish design of the archtop? but then earlier acoustic archtops had rounds? i have no idea, really. it seems like it came in with electrification, and soon left.
     
  15. ThermionicScott

    ThermionicScott Poster Extraordinaire

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    Not just the core wire, but flats have more mass for a given overall diameter because none of it is air space.
     
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  16. kafka

    kafka Tele-Afflicted

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    Well, the reason I used flats on my ES-175 is pretty much the same reason that I turn the tone knob down - and that's intonation when using extended chords. I have a fixed bridge, which is only so good. By rolling off the tone, there's less likely to be some harmonic that makes things sound weird.

    But, although I found this to be a reason, it probably has more to do with tradition than anything else. Someone did it first, and the rest of us all just copied.

    I do think it has to do with amplification, though. Early archtops replaced banjos in orchestras. If you've ever played an old Epiphone with fat bronze strings, it cuts through like nothing else. It wasn't necessary to cut when they started putting pickups in them, and it became more of a harmonic than a rhythmic instrument.
     
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  17. Dave W

    Dave W Friend of Leo's

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    from the Fender link: Roundwound bass strings were developed by Britain’s Rotosound company in the early 1960s, at the behest of the Who’s John Entwistle, who sought a brighter, more piano-like bass tone to complement his trebly and fleet-fingered lead bass style.

    The truth is that Danelectro and Silvertone Dano basses came with roundwounds from the 50s. Entwistle was buying Danos just to get the strings, since they weren't available separately. That's why he approached Rotosound to make roundwound bass strings available separately.

    I bought my first guitar in 1959. It came with rounds. I don't remember ever seeing flatwound guitar strings in stores back then.
     
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  18. JL_LI

    JL_LI Poster Extraordinaire

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    In my case, 1970 give or take a year or two. I used flats in high school. Everyone did. I tried round wound plain G strings in college. They were good with a band because of easier bending. I went back to flats for coffee houses. I didn’t bend much. I wanted a sound that was a little less bright without the screech when I changed positions. I use nickel wrap rounds now. Playing finger style now, the timbre difference between wound flats and the plain strings is too great for me. We use what works. We use what we need. I can’t put a date on that.
     
  19. JRapp

    JRapp Tele-Holic

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    I always used them on some archtops and now use them on a 50s Strat and an LP Custom. I have multiples of these models and thought I would set them up a bit differently. I'm digging it. BTW---there are .046-.010 flat sets out there that bend just fine.
     
  20. fozhebert

    fozhebert Tele-Meister

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    I switched from roundwound to flatwound on my Epi LP recently and I really like the tone. I ditched the pick too. Just something in the tone that makes me want to play more.
     
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