Choosing the right strings is CRUCIAL to getting a good result from your short scale bass! The range of dedicated short scale bass strings available is relatively limited, although there are thankfully still enough to suit all of us! 🙂 It is possible to use long scale strings on many short scale basses – more on this later…)
Bass strings on a short-scale are under less tension that on a long scale so if you’re used to using say 40-95 on a long scale, you may need to go up a gauge to 45-100 to get the tension back to where you like it. Some manufacturers seem to simply make their strings shorter or longer depending upon the scale whereas others use a thicker core for their short scale strings.
Below I will talk about the various brands I’ve tried and give you a summary of my experience with them. String choice is of course a very personal thing and these are only my personal opinions…
A quick but important note – some manufacturers produce short-scale bass strings that only work on 30″ scale basses. If you have a 30.75″ scale bass, or a bass like the Hofner Violin where the tail-piece is some distance from the bridge saddles, you’ll need to use MEDIUM SCALE strings otherwise the wound part of the string won’t reach past the nut.
Here in the UK the most commonly available sets os short scale strings are Rotosound’s RS66s 40-90 stainless steel roundwound & RS77s monel flatwound 40-90. Both these sets have the afore mentioned thicker inner core. Sorry Rotosound but in my opinion these strings are AWFUL!!!! Whilst I quite love Rotosound’s long scale strings, their short scale offerings suffer with terrible overtones, particularly the low E. It’s so bad that if you fret an A at the 5th fret on the E string, it simply sounds out of tune. They also tend to rise in pitch considerably just after being plucked/slapped, which adds to this out of tune vibe. It’s a real shame because they feel great and playing fast on them is a breeze.
If you like Rotosound strings then my advice would be to try using long scale Rotosounds a gauge higher than you’d use on long scale and cutting them down about an inch from where the silk wrapping starts. On most shorties you’ll have to carefully wrap a little of the wound part of the string round the tuning post. Take your time doing it – there is a risk you could damage the string although I’ve done this countless times with no problem whatsoever. This doesn’t work on Danelectro basses sadly due to their tiny little guitar-style tuners.
I’ve just fitted a set of their PSD BASS 99 (Piano String Design) to one of my SWB-1’s and they sound awesome! I’m just about to contact Rotosound in the hope they might consider making a dedicated short-scale set of these.
Website – http://www.rotosound.com
D’Addario’s round-wounds are the most consistent and pro-sounding short scale roundwounds on the planet imho! They do both a stainless & nickel range. They sound very pure in tone and have good tension. All that overtone/out-of-tune stuff you get with the Rotosounds is non-existent with D’Addarios. When I got my first short scale, a Danelectro Longhorn, the only short scale strings available locally were Rotosound. I soooo wanted the bass to work for me, and whilst I loved the feel of the bass, and the Rotosound strings, the ‘out-of-tune’/overtone thing was driving me nuts and I was very close to selling the bass on ebay!! I ordered a set of D’Addario Pro Steels online just to see if they made any difference before I sold the bass and well – the difference was night & day!!! When I first plugged the Dano in after fitting the ProSteels I could not believe what I was hearing. Pure, solid lows with beautiful bell-like highs!!! You get a long-scale type tone from a short scale bass with these. My only gripe with D’Addario is they do their ‘super-light’ gauge in Nickel?!
D’Addario’s flatwound strings are equally fabulous, although for some they sound a little bright and they are slightly higher in tension. For a darker more vintage-sounding flatwound you might be better served with LaBella, Thomastik or Pyramid.
Website – http://www.daddario.com
The first thing I’d say about GHS is what a fantastic company they are to deal with. They’re extremely enthusiastic and passionate about what they do, and they seem to genuinely care about their customers and were so helpful answering any all my questions. These qualities can be rare today so hats off to GHS!
I currently have four sets of GHS bass strings sent by the company for me to review. Yesterday I video-reviewed their round-wound Super Steels. I have yet to check out the other three sets, but these Super-Steels have very quickly become my favourite round wound strings!!
GHS’s ‘Super Steels’ I found to be a very powerful, growly round-wound string. Very strong but not overpowering mids make for very musical and articulate playing, even with the tone rolled right off. The strings are lovely and bright, but in a balanced way, i.e. just enough ‘grit’ in there when playing finger-style or with a pick, but switch to slapping/tapping techniques and there’s all the sparkle you could wish for. The strings feel much smoother than other stainless rounds I’ve used and overall are, fr me, the best roundwound short-scale strings I’ve used to date! 10/10
I’ve also tried their piccolo bass strings on my short scales which are fabulous. The Piccolo strings they make are long scale but cut down just fine for short.
Website – http://www.ghsstrings.com
LaBella short scale strings are fabulous! Both their flatwound and roundwound strings sound superb. Their stainless steel roundwounds have an incredible growl to them that I’ve not heard in other strings – very aggressive. Their flatwounds have a great vintage tone and a nice feel. Simply put – you won’t go far wrong using LaBella on your short-scale bass! 🙂
Website – http://www.labella.com
I’ve only personally tried Thomastik JF324 Jazz-flats. They are by far my favourite flatwound short scale strings!!! Really low tension and flexible, but with this super-warm, middly, punchy tone. I used these on a tour I did with Steve Cropper and they sounded just ‘right’. I really can’t recommend these strings enough however if you use a lot of force in your playing and don’t want to adjust, you might be better with LaBella or D’Addario.
Website – http://www.thomastik-infeld.com
I tried a set of these a couple of years ago. Being into flashy-looking stuff I really hoped they’d sound amazing! Well in truth they sounded ok. Nothing special, good-enough, not as bright as others. BUT they last a LONG time and they are great for people who have allergies to other strings. And they do look VERY cool!! 😀
Website – http://www.optima-strings.com
I’ve tried Fender’s acoustic and electric short scale bass strings and like them both. The sets i tried were pretty low-tension and sounded bright & zingy. Not as good as D’Addario and their electric short scale strings are (I think) only available in Nickel. Not a bad choice if nothing else is available – WAAYYYY better than Rotosound’s short scale strings.
OK – I’ve never tried Pyramid strings, but it’s worth mentioning that guys like Paul McCartney used them which must say something!!! I’ve got a set on order as we speak so will report back when fitted and tried.
Website – http://www.pyramidstrings.com
That’s all I’ve tried so far. I do hope that this gives you some help in choosing your first set of short scale strings, or if you’re looking to change. Please feel free to email me at on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Over and out,