String tension and "tautness"

OK, so different strings with different cores, different materials, different gauges, different lengths, different finishes etc have (obviously?) different string tensions or, to use a less scientific term, “tautness”, which I would describe perhaps as how easily they are set in motion/vibration, or perhaps how easily you can bend them (how “buttery” they are!?!?).

This is all very un-scientific, but please bear with me…

What about the exact same type of strings (make, material, gauges) that I have presently strung on three different basses and I think I can notice a difference in “tautness”. Is that possible or is that some kind of illusion??

The three basses differ mainly as follows:

  • bass 1: 34’’ scale, 4 strings
  • bass 2: 35’’ scale. 5 strings (B-G)
  • bass 3: 35’’ scale, 5 strings (E-C)

I am only comparing strings A and D for this “experiment” and the strings on bass B feel stiffer/tauter than those on the other basses.

Are other neck parameters (width, profile, material, fingerboard material, …) also contributing here? Is the presence of the B string the deciding factor here??

Perhaps somebody here knows much more about this and could offer some explanation whether this is real or just my imagination.

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I suspect that all of these are contributing factors to how the strings feel to your fingers.

I have found the same thing to be true with my basses to an extent. But another factor could be the actual strings themselves: how old they are since the date of manufacture, how long they’ve been exposed to your environment, how much (or not) they’ve been stretched by playing, etc.

All to say, it’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

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Length of the scale will affect tension. as a rule, shorter scale means less tension. Hence fan frets.

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Also flats are stiffer than rounds, and hex cores stiffer than round cores

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All good points, @Wombat-metal , but I am looking at the exact same type of strings and even when they are strung on the same scale basses, I feel a difference…

Yes, this is probably contributing as well.

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Are you talking about fretting, plucking, or both?

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Basically, the “feel” of the strings… so… both :smile:

For fretting, I would assume the action plays a big role in the feeling, in how much you have to move the string. For plucking, only wild guesses :sweat_smile:

Wild guess number 1
In different basses, you’re plucking at a (slightly) different point. Closer to the bridge it’s stiffer and/or it moves less?

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You have different intonation that’s probably contributing. Strings are wrapped by different people, two packs probably feel subtly different. The wood is different. Age of strings as said are different. Each bass has it’s own character. I have two D5 basses which feel different for all they should be the same. A bass has it’s own character

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Unless they are TI flats which kinda throw the rule book out the window on tension and tautness.


agreed. they spoil me



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I read ‘taught’ my brain thinks this. One for @Mike_NL

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My guess is you are a very sensitive fella @joergkutter, or, at least, more sensitive than the spec for tension of whatever strings you are using.

What I have learned is that different MFGs make strings for different people at different times and put them in their little envelopes. There was a time during covid that LaBella was making strings for other people left and right, and we have heard of other companies doing this as well.

Some brands list their tensions, and I bet those brands have enough QC to be able to maintain a spec. I would bet other brands that don’t list the tension specs are not hiding anything other than the ‘spec’ is too wide to make a decent claim.

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Haha, yeah, I guess… I’ll take it as a compliment :smile:

The strings are TI rounds, but I figured that would not be part of the equation (as they are the same on all three basses, and I don’t think TI had someone else make strings for them…)

But, they were all of somewhat different age, so that could certainly play a role as well.

I was just curious and wondering whether I had overlooked something very obvious here… seems not to be the case though.

I too have fixated on this!
The string tension is the main difficulty for me - the main thing that will hang me up with a set of strings. I can’t stand the feeling of digging into a super tight, highly resistant piece of wire. Feels like I’m fighting against the string instead of grooving with it.

Which is to say - I too have had this question.
Here are my un-tested musings:

The spacing from nut to bridge? - if it’s wider space, the string is traveling a bit further than a super straight shot (wider nut).
If there’s distance between the saddle and the anchor? Like, through the body strung basses, or basses with extra long bridges.
How thick is the core of the string that they’re winding around? I imagine a thicker core would be a more taut string. (Only really makes sense when comparing same gauge to different brands).
Are the basses all ~really~ 34" or is one of them 34 1/16"??

I don’t know the answer to any of these, but these are things I wonder.

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Change of intonation changes scale length ever so slightly


Well, dang, awesome! So it’s not just my over-active imagination :smile:

But, I see you raise more questions than you answer… thus, it seems some more in-depth research is definitely required. Will start a gofundme to offset the cost of strings and basses needed in that experimentation… for the greater good of bass(wo)mankind, of course :wink:

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I did a string experiment as a final project for my college physical science requirement - the Physics of sound.
I compared D’Addario, DR sunbeams, DR hi-beams, Elixirs and … maybe Ernie Balls?
All 105-45s.
It’s when I fell in love with the Sunbeams (but still bought D’Addos because I could afford them on the bi-weekly string changing I was doing).
It’s when I realized that the coated strings were the highest tension things out there.

There may have been tension measurements to back all of this up, but the data and research has not survived. Alas.


@Koldunya had done a lot of tension spec research on here for a while, esp around B and odd setups etc. I think that is what led her to really like Stringjoy or Just Strings (can’t remember) as they list tensions on all of their strings

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