Flatwounds vs. Roundwounds: Which Is Better For Bass Guitar

By Monica | News

Nov 10
flatwound vs roundwound

When it comes to bass guitar strings, there are two primary options that you can take: the flatwounds and roundwounds. Both of these guitar strings have their respective capabilities to show off. But noticeably, in the recent years, people have been hopping back to the traditional flatwound strings while supplanting the roundwound strings.

So what are the things that precisely separates these two strings? Well, let us find out together in this article!

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Flatwounds vs Roundwounds

It is essential that you understand the different variants of bass guitar strings. After all, they have a significant impact on the tonal characteristic of the instrument. You cannot just pick a bass guitar and expect that it would be versatile on its own.

Flatwound Bass Strings

It is known that the first bass string that has been commercialized in the market is the flatwound variant. The brand Fender was the one who manufactured this type of string, which primarily accommodated their own line of bass guitars.

Construction

Notably, most of the flatwound strings today have high carbon steel construction. They also have an outer wrap made of polished stainless steel. However, you can still see other variants that are using the round steel as their core and nickel as outer wraps.

Flatwounds are easier to use than roundwounds. They don't punish your fingers too much. Despite this, you can still expect that they have excellent longevity. In fact, some people think that flatwounds gains better sounding the longer you use them.

Tonal Characteristics

The rise of flatwound strings started around 1950s. It continued its success until the early years of the 80s. During those periods, many bass guitars, professionals, and amateurs alike, saw flatwound strings as the best string for their instruments.

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The fame of flatwounds subsided in the dawn of the 90s, as the roundwound strings were introduced in the market (we will get into that later). Fortunately, many are starting to rediscover the prowess of flatwound strings today, especially the new souls in the industry. Of course, it has to be expected as flatwounds have great tonal capabilities to share.

Specifically, flatwounds can generate mellow and deep sounds. This particular string variant has much of its focus on the mid and low frequencies. Therefore, they are perfect for country songs, jazz, rock, blues, and even reggae. If you are usually hunting local bands in the indie scene, you can see that most of their bassists are using flatwound strings for a change.

Because of the unique construction that this string has, it is expected that it won't produce squeaking noise while you are playing it. Many musicians also observed that flatwounds are gentler to frets than its counterpart. You can notice this certain nuance on fretless bass.

In recording applications, music producers prefer flatwounds than roundwounds. They can easily blend in throughout the mix without a stress. Moreover, controlling is not that difficult.

Disadvantages

If you want a string that can produce bright and aggressive tone, you should not pick flatwound strings. As I mentioned earlier, the string is made to made to emphasize the low frequencies.

Also, take note that the tension of flatwounds is higher than roundwounds. Therefore, maintaining their tune is quite difficult. They are most costly than roundwounds, too.


Roundwound Bass Strings

Interestingly, the first roundwound strings were released on the market on the 1960s. It is just a decade later than the first production of flatwound strings. By the way, a British guy named James How is the one who invented this type of string.

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Construction

The premise of How in constructing the roundwound string is pretty straightforward. Instead of using flat ribbon as the outer wrap of the string, he used a nickel wrapping and round steel. The result of this design drastically changed the tonal characteristic of the string. Specifically, the treble of the string intensified, causing it to release bright and highly aggressive sonic attacks.

Roundwounds didn't grow instantly to bass players around the world. In fact, English bassist John Entwistle of "The Who" is the one and only known icon that used the roundwound. He has a signature for classic rock, hence, preferring this type of string over flatwound. But sooner, people were able to embrace roundwounds as part of their music arsenals.

Tonal Characteristics

The comeback of flatwound strings did not deter the popularity of roundwound strings. Even for the returning trend, it is still undeniable that a lot of bass players today already placed the crown on roundwound strings. But why is this?

The answer is pretty simple. The aggressiveness and clarity of roundwound strings are unparalleled. This is essential for bass players who want to play slap or lead. Rock and metal genres greatly benefit from these tonal characteristics.

Of course, the other reason why bass players prefer roundwound strings over flatwounds is due to their price. The materials used in this string are inexpensive. The manufacturing cost is not that high either. Take note that roundwounds provide better tuning over flatwounds because they don't have too much tension on them.

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Disadvantages

Well, certain drawbacks are found on roundwounds. First, their lifespan is quite short due to the outer wrapping that this string variant has. It is very susceptible to the accumulation of grime and dirt. Eventually, the clutter can shut down its brightness.

As a matter of fact, professional bass players who are in need of extremely bright sounds tend to change their strings on a daily or regular basis. If you are going to compare it with flats, it is undeniable that the latter is more cost-efficient than roundwounds. After all, flatwounds can last for years.

The outer wrapping of the roundwounds also causes them to be rough. When you play them, finger squeakings can be heard. They also cause a quick wear-and-tear of the fret.

Conclusion

In the battle of flatwounds vs roundwounds, I cannot say that there is a winner. For me, both of these strings types have respective application in where they can excel. It can be easily indicated on the tonal characteristics of the strings. One is deep and murky while the other is bright and aggressive. Choose which one of them will suit your playing style.

But of course, it would not harm you if you try both of these strings. After all, it pays to be a versatile bass player, right?

If you have any questions, comments, and suggestions, just drop them in the box below. Also, you can subscribe to my site to get constant updates on music resources and anything in between.

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About the Author

Hi everyone! Im Monica and I am an avid lover of guitars and everything in-between. My current profession is not really music-related. It is quite discouraging but I just don’t want to drop my zeal–especially not to guitars! I created GuitarTrance.Com so that I can keep up with my hobby. Of course, I want to engage with the community as well! Hope we can all get along!