Half-Rounds?

Being new to bass, when I got my LTD B50 FM, the first thing I did was swap out the strings and get some new EB 50-105 (I think…they are in the green packaging) and while they are good for me as a beginner, I read some things that make me think I might like half-rounds or flats. I am learning more and more every day and think I am developing some “Likes”. I like the way the roundwounds sound but the extraneous noise can be annoying. I am working on my technique to try and stop the scrapes and chirps that I am generating from playing. I like rock, blues, slow rock, and never use a pick (yet). What are the pro’s and con’s? I know the flats should sound darker but will they have at least a little high end zing? Would tape wounds get me to the sound in my head? Or is half rounds the way to go. Please oh gurus of the lower end of Hell, enlighten me! The bass sound I hear in my head is similar to Bruce Hornsby “That’s just the Way it is”. How can I get close to this sound?

4 Likes

Hi @Bald_head_Ed, you will get (vastly) different opinions depending on who you ask (or who answers you), because - at the end of the day - it comes down to personal preferences and as such you need to experience different strings for yourself. That can be an “expensive hobby”, but you don’t need to do it all at once and switch strings like crazy. Actually, most strings need some time themselves to settle and “mature” and shouldn’t be judged when they are brand new…

There are, of course, some general aspects that we can all agree on, and to learn some of the main aspects of strings (materials, gauges, surfaces, tone, …) this page might be helpful:

As for the title of your thread: I tried half-rounds for a while, but found them neither here nor there - I prefer mostly nickel roundwounds, but have also flats on one bass. In fact, while it may sound a little frivolous, one reason to have more than one bass is to also have a choice of strings (and thus tone), as you can’t exchange strings all the time (certainly not from one song to the next :crazy_face:). And, yes, flats can have some “zing” as well - there are also quite significant differences within the main types (rounds or flats) and from brand to brand etc.

Finally, as for that Hornsby tune: it was the 80’s, so it could have been played on a synth… but, I think it is a fretless and a bunch of effects on it as well. No idea what strings…

3 Likes

You might want to try tape wounds before half rounds. A lot zingier than flats and less than rounds, and easier on hands.

It’s only strings. Try a set and see if you like them. If not, try another set

I have flats on two basses, rounds on another two, and tape wounds on the last two. If I’m grooving to Motown then it’s flats, rocking with the rounds, and noodling with the flats

4 Likes

This seems to be the general consensus.

String swapping is a right of passage of the bass player. I went through a bunch of string swaps and learned a lot. To me this is the #1 reason to have two basses, one with rounds, one with flats.

Don’t use flats to cover up your inexperience though (cause they will).
Use flats for the tone they produce.
At some point you most likely will want the tone rounds produced (most rock, etc) and at some point you will learn to play them without all the extra noise.

Have you had your bass set up properly?
if not, you may get extra, unavoidable fret buzz that no level of proficiency will correct.
I would start there.

in general, I prefer flats over rounds but have many basses with rounds for various styles and tone. I do all my lessons with flats simply because I like the feel and the tone better.

Tapes are even more differenter. They sound a bit closer to an upright, with their own feel and thump/twang. I had them on an acoustic bass and am thinking of giving them a whirl on an electric soon as well. I wouldn’t reco them as your main strings though, they are limiting.

As for the Bruce Hornsby song, sounds like a synth bass to me (keyboard). You can get that sound on an actual bass with the proper synth pedal.

3 Likes

If you look on YouTube for isolated bass tracks you’ll find most will have the scrapes and chirps. It’s easy to be too hard on yourself about this when playing alone but most of those sounds are lost in the mix when playing with a band.

6 Likes

@Bald_head_Ed - Not sure anyone other than yourself can answer this question however, all anyone can do is offer their own experiences.

For me, half rounds are a great compromise when I need that “in-between” tone that I’m looking for in certain songs. Granted, changing strings all the time is a pain in the ass - I know… Probably why I have a half dozen bass’s all strung with different strings…. I do however have my Yamaha TRBX304 (Big Red) strung with half rounds. My Squire P has LaBella Deep Talkin’ Flats on it (thanks @PamPurrs) and I use it when I want more of that double bass tone. DR Blues on my MIM Fender P for the Country Rock that I love to play, and D’Addario rounds on my Ibanez SR when I wanna jam to things like RHCP or some of the faster classic rock songs…. Oh, and then there’s the Slinky’s that I have my BEAD bass strung with when I wanna really get down to some heavy rock….

Anyway, here’s a link to one of the latest covers I’ve done using Half-Rounds…. I tried every one of my bass’s on this song and the only one that made it sound right was the Yammy (Big Red) with the half rounds….

Keep on Thumpin’!
Lanny

12 Likes

That’s a great cover of King of the Road @Griff .

4 Likes

Thanks @PamPurrs Pam…… Still need to work on it a bit though….

3 Likes

Lost myself in watching your plucking hand @Griff . Very relaxing.
Great cover btw

2 Likes

My problem with half rounds is not the sound, it’s the feel. I used 2 so far one brand escape my thoughts but the other is D’addario. They are not very smooth.

3 Likes

Great cover Bill @Griff ,
Loved the bass line in the mix, worked a treat,
Cheers Brian

3 Likes

That was excellent, Lanny @Griff . . . :slight_smile:

Just the right tone, and great fingering too!

Cheers
Joe

4 Likes

@Griff
fantastic tone on those half rounds!
I might need to give them a try!
They almost sounded like they were singing ‘dum, dum, dum-da-dee-dum’ right along with the vocalist. WOW Great job

4 Likes

Thanks @John_E - Although I do prefer to play nickel wound rounds, there are times when either flats or half rounds fill the bill…. I tried playing this same song on my other bass’s (flats and rounds) and it just didn’t quite sound as good as the half rounds…. Not as smooth (finger feel) as flats or tapes as @Al1885 mentioned, but that’s because they are still roundwound strings that have been polished down a bit in order to remove the tops of the round windings…. Still however get a bit of that roundwound tone without the excessive harmonics (or brightness).

Guess I’ve always believed that whatever strings and setup works for the song is what a person should use and that sometimes it’s always best to “let your ears do the ‘feeling’ and your fingers will do the work”…

Keep on Thumpin’!
Lanny

4 Likes

I bought some half rounds from D’Addario a while back. They were terrible. The strings had shards on them from the grinding process that makes they half round. The shards were all over the string length attached to the string. They were edges of the round wound that after grinding were rough. I sent them back to them and they replaced them with flat wounds. My contact at D’Addario told me something was amiss when the strings were ground. Not sure if anyone else has seen this on sets they purchased. The nickle they are made of was a bit rougher then the 100% nickle strings typically use from Fender.

3 Likes

This sounds like a really bad experience! And certainly not helpful in convincing you to use that type of strings in the future…

I tried them and never really got into them. I think there might be cases where you could use them (tone-wise), but, as I said before, they felt like they didn’t know what they wanted to be… and it showed :crazy_face:

3 Likes

Same here, I have a set sitting in my closet that I had tried, but they never found a place in my heart. I’m strictly a flatwounder. I can get whatever tone I desire out of my flats and my VTBass DI.

3 Likes

For sure…that experience will keep me from trying them again. My contact at D’Addario didn’t explain why the stings were the way they were he just replaced them with the flatwounds. I use their flatwounds on several basses. The grinding process makes the strings really rough from what I see. When you look at them with a magnifying glass you see the edges of the string wrap with tears of metal on the edges. Maybe their grind stone was bad on the sets I received or whatever process they use was off the day mine were made? I am sure my sets were not the only sets that were made that way. I bought a set of Pressure Wound’s from GHS and tried those. Have nothing good or bad to say about them other then I took them off after a few days and put round wounds back on. I now use DR Strings and Fender Strings (All Nickle). Although I think I have sets from every string mfg. on hand. I like the DR Pure Blues which are on 50% of my basses. I like DR Sunbeams & the Legends flatwounds. Years ago I only used Fender 100% nickle strings and I am still very fond of those.

4 Likes

Experimenting with strings is an expensive hobby, and I think a lot of us stick to what we already know and like, and then perhaps occasionally try a new set (with the risk that it comes off again after a very short period).

I generally also have nickels as my favorites and like DR Sunbeams and can also highly recommend nickel roundwounds from Curt Mangan (if you want to try something new at some point :slight_smile: )

And then of course there are the Thomastik-Infeld strings… very special, (very expensive), but really, really nice - for certain types of music!

3 Likes

$67 is a little steep for a set of rounds, yeah :slight_smile:

2 Likes