String gauge

Hi all :slight_smile:

I’m wondering about string gauge.

I’ve always used 45-105 (D’addario nickel round wound, usually tuned in Drop-D). My green P felt a bit too tiring, so I switched recently to 40-95 (a stainless steel round wound set that I already had). After a proper setup with the new strings, the P is way more comfortable and I can play it longer without being tired. I don’t like much the touch of stainless steel strings but the 40-95 gauge feels good for generic pick and finger playing in standard tuning. That said, the 95 string is a little bit flubby when I’m in Drop-D, so I may switch latter to 40-100 (nickel wound) for this reason, and I think (/hope) it should work well.

The problem is, for fast playing (shuffle or chugging with bare fingers, or down-up with a pick), the light strings feel too flubby and lack some precision. Then I try on the Yamaha SBV, which still is in 45-105, and everything goes better.

For exemple the M10L4 (Some Kind Of Wounderful, fast workout) is impossible for me to play properly on the P, but it’s OK with the Yam.

What doesn’t help me at all is that, on the guitar, I do everything with the same gauge (10-52 on 25.5", if it means something to some of you) and that’s perfectly fine (but I must say I never use standard tuning on guitar, only drop-D).

So I have a lot of questions comming :

  • is what I describe normal, or at least common ?
  • what gauge do you use and how does it feel to you ?
  • is it an utopy to look for a gauge that would work well for finger AND pick AND slow tempo AND fast tempo AND standard tuning AND drop-D, without being too much tiring ?
  • … or is it a good reason to legitimate having multiple basses, dedicated to more specific uses ?



If you know the scale length of your bass and what gauges are currently on it then I’d suggest doing this:

  1. Adjust the tension of each string so that you get the best compromise of the factors you are looking for (finger AND pick AND slow tempo AND fast tempo). Don’t worry yet about what the strings are tuned to, just get the stings to feel the way you want them to.

  2. Now get your tuner out and tune each string to the nearest half note. You aren’t trying to tune to EADG, you just want to get each string to the nearest natural, sharp or flat from where they are now.

  3. Go to this calculator and input the info you have to determine the tension of each string. Now you have an idea of how much tension you prefer on each string, write them down.

  4. Now change the tuning in the calculator to the tuning you intend to play and change the string gauges to give you tension close to what you got in step 3.

  5. Order a custom set of strings. :slight_smile:


that’s a neat method ! thank you @Korrigan !


Wow cool suggestion @Korrigan, I never would have thought of that.

I have limited experience with non-medium string gauges! I use heavy gauge flats on my sunburst P bass, and that’s about it. And they’re beastly, but it’s what Jamerson used so I don’t complain. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ve heard Victor Wooten talk about this a few times, his take - light gauge are easier to play so he uses them on tour, but he likes the sound of medium (normal) gauge better and uses them to record.

Because I barely thought about gear for the first 10+ years I played bass, if my hands ever got tired, I just pressed on and tried to get stronger, rather than change strings. I didn’t even know that was an option really! If I were to play light gauge now, it would be if it got me a tone I wanted, I think. I’m used to stuff in the realm of .045-.105 or .045-.100 playability-wise.


Tone-wise I don’t think it’s a so big issue, or at least the change did not disapoint me at all. The light strings sound a little bit brighter (but that’s a new set of stainless steel strings anyway, it could only be brighter) but nothing too drastic : it was easy to adjust a little bit the EQ and overall it sounds as good to me as the medium strings.

At least it was the case with my bass and the tone I like, maybe it’s more an issue for different tones. I totally understand that a heavy gauge set would sound great for good’ol’funk ! and then this point legitimates to have a few instruments dedicated to some different uses …


@Korrigan - you have changed my life. I’m a disciple. I will teach your ways unto the masses.

Thanks for this.


I just changed my strings but for my next ones I definitely want these:

I would actually like some more tension on my E string so that will be nice. The real star will be the .060 G string though, for that strong Hooky upper register sound.


Lol @Gio.

Glad to be of service. :slight_smile:

These are my favorite calculators:

To determine amount of tension you have if you know scale length, string gauge and note string is tuned to.

To determine what string gauge to use once you know your desired tension.

I posted the bass string calculator because we were talking about bass strings and I wanted to avoid confusion but these calculators will help you with just about any stringed instrument that uses steel strings from bass to mandolin, or even a hybrid instrument like a DIY Chapman stick… which I will get around to building… one of these days. lol


Ooh, now that I am really looking forward to - such a cool instrument! Heard it for the first time in the early 80s - Tony Levin playing it on King Crimson’s Discipline!


Right, As you may have guessed I am a complete noob when it comes to anything bass
I have just sorted the bent neck out on my Tanglewood Rebel 4K and when refitting the old strings the e string broke right where is winds onto the peg.

So, i need some new strings.

Obviously I have no preference at the moment what with me being a know nothing bozo

What should I get?



What sound/style do you like? Generally speaking, classic R&B, Motown, some jazz would be fine with flatwounds; modern bass sounds, punk, post-punk, rock, metal, and so on would do better with roundwound.


@studio - best neutral string style and best neutral string gauge - if you’re not sure what you want or what you like - would be nickel round wound.
These are the standard for Ernie Ball, GHS (are they still around?), D’Addario.

I usually go with .100 - 0.45 nickel round wound for any of my beginning students until they’re ready to start trying to hone their sound and style more.

D’Addario has been my more budget go-to brand for years, and then (when I’m feeling fancy) I buy DR brand strings.

Hope that helps.


I like my D’Addario nickel rounds. They have a nice, bright, modern sound. They will also pick up absolutely the slightest touch and finger noises. then again, that also makes them good for practicing reducing those :slight_smile:


I’m (as previously stated) a Rotosound man. The RS66LD 45-105 and RS66S 40-90 (s for short scale). I really have never had a breakage. Sound really good when they’re old and abused but cleaned for Dub. Brilliant for Punk/Metal when new, bright and pokey!


On my Fender I have D’Addario XL Nickel Wound med gauge (50-70-85-105)

On my Gibson I have Rotosound RS77S Flatwound std. gauge (40-50-75-90)

The Roundwound strings and the Fender are my favorites with a nice bright sound. The Gibson feels great with the flats (easier to slide) and has a fatter sound as expected.

Cheers, Joe :slight_smile:


Thanks man. This is real useful and I don’t know how it got by me but props for “tuning” us into this.