We have a lot of threads on strings, but I wanted to throw this one up specifically on when y’all change your strings.
I was inspired because I got lazy and biffed an important string change recently - I had two distanced gigs in a weekend - a video shoot for a metal Christmas song (linked here, you doomy rockers) and a live-streamed church gig.
The bass for both was my trusty 50’s reissue MIM P-bass.
I hadn’t changed them in a year, because I was loving the dead, muted funk sounds for playing the Country/Americana/Funk things I was playing.
I should have changed them for the stoner metal Christmas jam. It would have had the bite and the cut that I wanted… but it was the holidays and I was slammed and got lazy.
I was so bummed after we played and recorded the Christmas song, that I went home and stayed up changing the strings.
The next day I had the church gig.
The dead strings would have been perfect for that church gig.
I’ve had producers and engineers give both sides of this:
Most recently, the producer/engineer on an album said: Always record with brand new strings. You’ll get all the tone and clarity in the recording, and if you want it adjusted, you can always darken the sound. It’s impossible to engineer the sound of clear, new strings.
I’ve also been coached to never change strings within 3 days of a session, because it will take a while for your instrument to adjust and settle, and that new string sound is too extreme to record well.
I’m of the mind of - if you’re paying attention to your sound, you’ll know when/how to change strings. But I do like the reminder that you can’t engineer that clarity. If you want it, change them strings!
I have a lot of phases in my life on when I changed strings.
Phase 1 - “Wow, I didn’t know they had to be changed”
I didn’t change the strings on my first bass (a Hohner Rockwood!) for the two years I had it. I didn’t know it was something that should/could be done. I was taking lessons all the time, and while my teacher mentioned it and encouraged it, it just didn’t happen.
I’d like to say I was a young James Jamerson, but it was ignorance, not the love of dead-string-tone that motivated me.
Phase 2 - “When they break”
I did a lot of down tuning, then up tuning, on my second bass (Hamer Slammer Series). This thing got demolished. I didn’t change strings so much as replace them one at a time.
Phase 3 - “Before every gig”
When I was playing a lot with Toast Machine, the strings took a beating, and I would change them out before every gig. This was on bass 3 (Modulus Sweet Spot 5 string). I would have to change them about every week or two weeks otherwise to get that beautiful bright sound because I was playing a ton, practicing a ton, and had fallen in love with all those crisp, bright overtones and harmonics.
Phase 4 - “Depends on the Application & The Strings”
This is where I think we all want to end up.
Still bummed I biffed it on that Christmas stoner metal jam.
Nice to always be learning and learning and messing up, right?*
*For the church gig, I had a major missed cue at the end, and while the band was at the Coda, I was rocking it through the second pass through the verse. Ouch. But… messing up and learning, right? Feels good, right? Right??