String Choice

Short Scale Bass Strings PicChoosing 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.

Rotosound
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
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

GHS
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
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

Thomastik-Infeld
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

Optima Gold-Plated
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

Fender
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.

Website – http://intl.fender.com/en-AT/accessories/strings/

Pyramid
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 scott@shortscalebass.co.uk if you have any questions.

Over and out,

Scott.

27 Responses to “String Choice”

  1. Mark 12th December 2016 at 12:01 pm Permalink

    Hi,

    Just discovered this site and your facebook page, well played, very good.
    I’ve just taken delivery of two Fender Mustang Offset P/J Basses, new 2016 models. I love em, always liked short scale for my wee hands. I love the fender growl, and I can get that from these Basses, but I find the tone/sound across all the strings a bit variable, can get punchy low, and nice treble, but the whole bass can sound a little inconsistent. Now both these are from Factory with strings bridge etc, haven’t been to my tech to set them up for me yet. But was looking advice on strings, some places say bridge replacement can help too, although the size of the body might not take a badass for example, or fender hi-mass. I play Rock. classic & heavy, also middle of the road on occasion, but always want that growl and bite. Also, the second bass is to be tuned down to low B, I got rid of my 5 string and now intend to run two mustangs, one standard one tuned down. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated, Thanks, Mark

  2. Mel 22nd May 2016 at 10:10 pm Permalink

    Hi Scott! When you set up the SWB-1 basses, what strings do you put on? Brand, gauge, length, material… thanks!

  3. Alan 16th May 2016 at 4:32 pm Permalink

    Hi Scott
    Another string manufacturer to try could be Newtone as I hear they they can make specific lengths and gauges, British to!

    BR
    Alan

  4. Walter M Cranston 26th April 2016 at 7:27 pm Permalink

    Scott

    Like to hear how you feel about DR short scale strings. I been using them and have been happy.
    Also, I’m interested in buying your custom short scale. I tried contacting Brian about a year ago. Are they available to be built and ship to the USA? Also is shipping affordable?
    Thanks

  5. Liz 17th April 2016 at 7:10 pm Permalink

    That’s a really useful review! I am trying to make my mind up about flat wound strings for a Tanglewood TW15 Baby Bass 26.75″ scale, came across these new Short Bass One strings made by Aquila and wondered if you had tried them?

    I am attracted by the description that they have a double bass sound but wonder if they would be as silky as flat-wounds:
    http://www.aquilacorde.com/modern-instrument-sets/modern-instrument/2813/short-bass-one/?lang=en

    • Michael 24th April 2016 at 12:00 am Permalink

      Hi Liz – I, too, have a TW15 and would like to try flat-wounds (see below). If you try any, please let me know how they sound. Thanks.

      Michael

  6. Simon 11th April 2016 at 8:26 am Permalink

    Hi Scott,

    Would you have any string recommendations for a Gibson SG short-scale (30″) bass? I find the E string to be particularly dead-sounding. Thanks.

    • Richie Seven 14th April 2016 at 7:11 pm Permalink

      Hi Simon,

      I don’t know why Scott picks and chooses but doesn’t answer all these questions, but that’s not important. I own 3 Gibson SG basses and have tried many different string configurations, so hopefully this will help you. I agree with Scott says here – especially regarding the SS Roto’s – but I do use their long-scale 88’s on my Fender P and love them. For the SG’s I’ve found the Labella Deep Talkin’ 760FHBB (Beatle Bass) to be the best choice if flatwound is your preference. They’re a bit longer than most SS strings, since the “Beatle” Hofner (and the many knockoffs) are usually a 32″ scale, but I’ve had no problems with the fit (although I’ve replaced the stock 3-point bridge with a Hipshot Supertone). The next best string IMO for the SG are the SS D’Addario Chromes in 45-100 or the medium-scale Nylon Tapewounds in 50-105, provided you don’t mind the black strings. Hope this is helpful and good luck.

  7. Michael 26th March 2016 at 11:55 am Permalink

    Very helpful information – thanks. I have a Tanglewood TW15CE BabyBass (acoustic). Can I use flat wound strings (it has an under saddle pickup)?

  8. Jay Cresswell 22nd January 2016 at 10:17 pm Permalink

    Hi

    Recently discovered your basses via Ebay and was intrigued

    I prefer the short scale, I play a mid scale 32″ at the moment.

    Do you have plans for a 5 string version at all?

    J

    • Scott Whitley 23rd January 2016 at 11:09 am Permalink

      Hi Jay – thanks for you comment! 🙂

      I do indeed have plans for a 5 string, in fact the plans will be going off to the factory to have the first sample built within a day or two.

      Keep your eye on the blog, or maybe ‘like’ the facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/shortscalebass/ to keep up to speed with it’s progress.

      Thanks again Jay,
      Scott.

  9. Roland 8th January 2016 at 9:54 pm Permalink

    Hello!
    Greetings from Germany.
    You may try the “Höfner Contempary Bass Strings roundwound HCT1133R”. They come .040, .060, .075 and .095. I think they sound close to the Fender electric strings and they are really good. Mine last at least 2 years and the complete set is only about 13,– € in Germany.
    http://www.hofner-guitars.com/guitar-accessories/guitar-strings/bass-strings-contemporary.html
    I use them on three short scale basses. A Hondo Alien from the mid ’80s (this is a headless “paddle” bass with aluminum neck – a copy of the Kramer Duke) superb sustain, but it doesn’t give you a really deep sound; a Jack & Danny bass, a model made as a sample for the Musikmesse Frankfurt which is not officially sold in Germany (yes, this is my main instrument), and a Career bass I bought used as a backup for only 30,– €, this one sounds good but is not as good to play as the others.

  10. Jonathan Moody 16th October 2015 at 12:54 am Permalink

    Scott, I jumped on here based on seeing your link on another forum. I work for GHS, and would be happy to get you some of our “proper” short scale strings for you to review and comment on.

    • scottwhitley 16th October 2015 at 8:47 am Permalink

      Hi Jonathan! By all means fire some across – I’d be very happy to check them out!! 🙂

    • Franklin Bryant 2nd February 2016 at 7:50 pm Permalink

      Need flatwound & Brite flats for a Jaguar VM short scale bass.Suggestions please

  11. Paul 18th September 2015 at 12:13 pm Permalink

    Am I the only person here?!
    Anyroadup looking for a replacement fot the Rotosound disaster, which Labella set are the “growlers”, I’m a bit confused by the range……but I do like a growler!

    Paul

  12. Paul 16th September 2015 at 9:15 pm Permalink

    Totally agree with your description of the Rotosound Shortscale Bass strings……Unfortunately I ordered a set the day before I found this site…….oh well, hey ho!

    The E string sounds a bit dead compared to the others, has strange indertones and was a disaster to intonate, pluck the string at the twelfth and its starts off about a quater tone sharp then settles down to pitch, which makes intonating fun!….This was the case with all the strings, however I like the tension of them, but they will have to go as I just can’t cope when at certain frets they sound out of tune, a real shame…..in the grand scheme of things they are cheap, but its still a waste of good beer tokens!

    • scottwhitley 7th January 2016 at 10:26 am Permalink

      Glad it’s not just me then 😉

  13. Paul 12th September 2015 at 8:15 pm Permalink

    Damn, sorry forgot to say…great, honest advice regarding string selection…..thank you!

    Paul

    • scottwhitley 5th October 2015 at 8:37 am Permalink

      Thanks Paul! 🙂

  14. Paul 12th September 2015 at 8:13 pm Permalink

    Scott

    I have recently discovered your YouTube channel and am gradually working through the videos……all good so far! I like your style!…..

    Any chace of a video discussing chords shapes especially in relation to Piccolo Bass? I cant find anything on the subject!

    I have (very) cheap Harley Benson Short scale P bass in the mail, which I intend to modify and string up as a piccolo……….should be fun!

    Crack on with the SW1 Bass! I’m tempted!

    Best wishes

    Paul

    • scottwhitley 5th October 2015 at 8:36 am Permalink

      Hi again Paul!

      I’ll put the Piccolo Chord Shape lesson on my to-do list mate!!! 🙂

Leave a Reply