5 Best Acoustic Bass Guitar Strings

5 Best Acoustic Bass Guitar Strings

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In 1982, The Ramones had already Bopped to the Blitzkreig and fully expressed their desire to be sedated. Hell, they had already moved on to working with Phil Spector and making a movie.

Loud guitars and driving drums were nothing new, and you might be forgiven to think punk rock had come and gone.

And then the Violent Femmes’ flawless released their debut album. The bizarre yet irresistible trio gave punk rock a new start and gave acoustic bass guitarists their new idol.

Just listen to the first few seconds of this acoustic bass guitar solo.

To be perfectly honest, he still might be the only one!

To get the right sound and tone with an acoustic bass guitar you can’t just rely on your skills, you also need good strings.

But before we get a look at these good strings, let’s take a ride take a trip down memory lane and see what the acoustic bass guitar is all bout.

Unless you want to skip ahead, in that case here are my top string choices for you and your acoustic bass guitar:

Best Overall
Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze
Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze
9.9
  • With such high-quality manufacturing, your strings won't lose their clarity and tone quality as they wear.
  • These are loud enough even without an amplifier, so you can imagine the volume if you get them plugged in.
Best For Brighter Sound
DR Strings Rare Phosphor Bronze
DR Strings Rare Phosphor Bronze
9.6
  • The Phosphor bronze produces a fatter sound, and the round core keeps it loud and bright without losing the deep lows.
  • The compression-winding technique improves tone and offers depth and sustain.
Best On A Budget
D'Addario EPBB170 Phosphor Bronze
D'Addario EPBB170 Phosphor Bronze
9.8
  • The string manufacturing creates a loud and rich bright tone with great sustain.
  • Once tuned up these strings don't take long to settle.

The Birth Of The Acoustic Bass Guitar

The acoustic bass guitar is a deceptively strange instrument.

Both guitars and acoustic instruments have a history stretching back hundreds of years. So you’d be forgiven for assuming acoustic bass guitars were an old idea.

The evolution of the acoustic bass guitar follows a curious winding path.

Much like the whale, which evolved as a mammal similar to a dog or wolf, before bizarrely returning to the water and adapting anew.

Historically, bassists played double basses, also known as upright basses, in jazz, swing, and early rock and roll bands.

Kay of Chicago was the first to mass-produce these upright bass guitars that were too big and heavy in the mid-50s which came to an end in 1975.

It wasn’t until the electric guitar was invented, that it was then modified to create the electric bass guitar.

Ernie Ball was inspired to combine the ideas behind electric bass guitars, and the hefty guitarrons of Mexican mariachi, to develop the original Earthwood acoustic bass guitar in 1972.

Thus, the ABG (acoustic bass guitar) was born.

What Is The Point Of An Acoustic Bass Guitar?

The acoustic bass is still a niche instrument. Other than Violent Femmes cover bands, I can’t think of any contexts that default to acoustic bass guitars.

There are typically only a handful for sale in any given guitar shop, but as niches go, they are unique and proud.

The acoustic bass is very useful for acoustic jams or traveling since it’s a fraction of the size of a double bass. Furthermore, most include some kind of pickup, doubling their use as a unique alternative to the double bass.

Acoustic basses are a serious commitment, their scales are long and their strings are very high tension.

All this considered, you’d do well to choose your strings wisely.

I mean the same can be said about a 12-string guitar or an Archtop since string choice has a huge impact on the tone and on the playing experience no matter the instrument.

But the acoustic bass acts in different ways in different contexts, and when it comes to these niche instruments analyzing string options is a surprisingly complex affair!

How To Choose Acoustic Bass Strings?

As we’ve already established, picking strings for your ABG is no joke, and there are a lot of things to consider, so let me show you the criteria I used to create my list of bass strings.

String Material

The default choice for acoustic bass strings is, of course, to play strings designed for acoustic basses.

However, unlike other types of acoustic stringed instruments, you can also choose to play strings for electric basses.

Acoustic Bass Strings

Dedicated acoustic bass strings are mostly available in two materials, phosphor bronze, and 80/20 bronze strings.

Phosphor bronze is also the default material for 6-string acoustic guitar strings and it produces a relatively warm and rich tone, whereas 80/20 strings are bright and crisp, with a sizzle.

Electric Bass Strings

If you want to go mainstream then choose nickel-plated steel strings for your acoustic bass. They offer a balanced sound between the brightness of the steel and the warmth of nickel.

Another common option would be copper-plated steel strings with their bright tone, which I associate with steel joined together with harmonic overtones.

Pure nickel is a great option for those of you who are in search of that warm vintage sound.

For those of you who want to rock, or you simply need something that’s going to withstand your aggressive style then stainless steel is your friend.

They are sharp, and snappy so they can make themselves heard during a heavy session.

String Winding

There are three main types of winding, round wound, flat wound, half-round, and tape wound which is a more unique winding.

Roundwounds

Most acoustic bass guitarists go for round wound strings because they offer the most brightness.

You also get more friction which is ideal for players with sweaty hands, or bassists playing rock, punk, and pop styles.

Flatwounds

Flatwood strings will give you a much smoother and faster feel. When it comes to sound these strings give more emphasis on mids and lows that jazz, R&B, and reggae musicians appreciate.

Flatwound steel strings, which are also designed for electric bassists seeking that upright feel, can be used on acoustics as well.

Beware though, that this type is very poor for pure acoustic playing. They have a dull, thumping tone that does not project well unless amplified.

Halfrounds

If you want to find a balance between round and flat rounds then you want to find that sweet spot that half rounds offer.

You will basically get the round wound brightness and the reduced finger noise of the flat wounds.

Tapewound

Tapewound, otherwise known as black nylon strings, are designed for electric bass players who strive for a warm, round, vintage tone.

But they can also be fitted to acoustic bass guitars, for an experience and tone that is known to resemble upright bass.

String Core

There are two types of string core wires, hex, and round cores.

The hex core strings are shaped like a hexagon and thanks to this specific shape the outer wrap doesn’t make complete contact with the core.

This creates a brighter tone with more clarity that serves better all the musicians that are looking for a more modern tone.

Round cores as you can imagine are round, and they produce a deep and boomy sound instead.

There’s just more output with these and instead of a modern tone you get a vintage vibe instead

String Gauge

Gauge also refers to the relative diameter (or thickness) of the strings in a pack.

As I mentioned before, the acoustic bass is a particularly stiff instrument to play. It combines the greater string resistance of acoustic instruments with the heavier gauges of bass strings.

Lighter gauges of strings are easier on the hands, but have a thinner tone and do not project as well.

Nonetheless, the typical advice is to start with lighter strings, and gradually work your way to heavier gauges as you get stronger.

5 Best Acoustic Bass Guitar Strings

The moment you have all been waiting for is here, so let’s dive right into your possible choices and their possibilities in tone and sound.

Best Overall: Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Bass Strings

Best Overall
Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze
  • With such high-quality manufacturing, your strings won't lose their clarity and tone quality as they wear.
  • These are loud enough even without an amplifier, so you can imagine the volume if you get them plugged in.

When it comes down to it, string brand loyalty is about as tribal an affair as a lager choice or a basketball team.

Some musicians are fierce Ernie Ballers, myself included, and we have a good reason for it.

Ernie Ball strings check all the boxes and they are a good starting point for novice acoustic bass guitarists not only for their easy feel, and superb quality but also for their friendly price.

I also wanted to give the top spot to a more vintage-sounding set, that despite its warmth maintains excellent clarity.

You can thank the phosphor alloy and it’s the consistency of these strings, 92% copper, 7.7% tin, and 0.03% phosphorus wrapped around tin-plated hex-shaped steel core wire, that creates such a balanced tone.

When it comes to acoustic bass guitars certain strings can sound muddy or simply unimpressive.

Well with these Earthwoods you get clear resonance and projection as well as a clean mellow sound.

While these are round wound strings they still feel comfortable to play with just enough friction to give your possibly sweaty fingers full control.

Earthwoods can stand the test of time and the element shield packaging will keep them fresh for longer.

So, all in all, it’s a bargain!

Check the 500+ reviews and today’s price on Amazon by today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

 

Best On A Budget: D’Addario EPBB170 Phosphor Bronze

Best On A Budget
D'Addario EPBB170 Phosphor Bronze
  • The string manufacturing creates a loud and rich bright tone with great sustain.
  • Once tuned up these strings don't take long to settle.

As you go down the list you’ll realize that most strings I have recommended so far are on the deeper, or mellower end of the tone spectrum, not to mention harder on the wallet.

But this doesn’t mean good acoustic guitar strings can’t be affordable, or as affordable as ABG strings can be.

Let’s take D’Addario, a legendary string manufacturer, whose history stretches back centuries to Italian string-making families.

Their D’Addario EPBB170 strings are phosphor bronze, round wound with a hex core and each ingredient gives them a brighter, snappier tone than some of the other strings I’ve covered here.

One downside is that the tone is also not as deep or complex, but they will maintain it even after long and intense sessions.

These strings are uncoated so they lack the enhanced break strength that I’d personally prefer, but they are longer lasting than nickel strings.

This D’Addario set also offers both a 4-string as well as a 5-string set. These are full-scale 34′ so you can use them on any type of ABG out there.

If this set has piqued your interest then you can read more about them and check today’s price on Amazon by check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

 

Best For Gentle Fingerwork: Thomastik-Infeld AB344 Acousticore

Best For Gentle Fingerwork
Thomastik-Infeld AB344 Acousticore
  • The sound of these strings is close to an upright bass guitar with the portability of a guitar.
  • These are long-scale strings but they are also perfect for short-scale ABG.

Thomastik-Infeld is an Austrian company that has a uniquely classy pedigree starting from 1919.

This is the company famous for introducing the first nylon-core violin strings in the 70s, which instantly became the new standard.

In point of fact, violin strings are still measured against those to this day.

The company’s Acousticore strings are expensive, and perhaps fussy. They are certainly not for every player.

The nylon core construction, similar to the famous violin strings, means these strings work great with piezo pickups but not magnetic ones.

They are also relatively low-gauge and low-tension, so they are not very powerful when played acoustically.

But if these factors don’t slow you down, then these strings are second to none. The tone is incredibly rich, mellow yet punchy.

These also maintain their brightness for a long time so that makes them more cost-effective than you’d first imagine.

The Acousticores are ideal on fretted or fretless basses and are versatile enough to span genres.

I wouldn’t use these strings for a raw, folk-punk aesthetic like Violent Femmes.

As the title suggests, these are more suitable for gentle fingerwork rather than picking. So, try Acousticores for a lush tone and laid-back playing experience on more melodic genres like folk, bluegrass, blues, and jazz!

To read more about these Acousticore strings and check today’s price on Amazon check today’s price on Amazon click here.

 

Best Electric Bass Strings For A ABG: LaBella 760N Bass Guitar Strings

Best Electric Bass Strings For A ABG
LaBella 760N Bass Guitar Strings
  • The stainless steel will make your acoustic guitar sound like a double bass.
  • These strings were re-designed for improved tone, and sustain, and they are much easier to play with.

On the other end of the style spectrum, we have LaBella’s 760N strings that are great for aggressive playing styles, and for maximum acoustic projection.

LaBella is the brand whose strings were favored by iconic session groove-masters such as Booker T and the MG’s Donald “Duck” Dunn.

And of course James Jamerson, a demigod whose basslines are more recognizable than his own name.

Just listen to this.

These strings are more likely associated with Fender P-Basses and Ampeg Flip-Tops, but they are developing a secondary reputation among acoustic bassists.

As you tap your fingers on these black nylon tape wound strings you will hear, damn you will feel that deep low woody sound that resembles the upright bass.

I must add though, that when unamplified these strings lose their loudness but when amplified you get a full sound, warm and rich.

To read more reviews and check today’s price on Amazon check today’s price on Amazon click here.

 

Best For Brighter Sound: DR Strings Rare Phosphor Bronze

Best For Brighter Sound:
DR Strings Rare Phosphor Bronze
  • The Phosphor bronze produces a fatter sound, and the round core keeps it loud and bright without losing the deep lows.
  • The compression-winding technique improves tone and offers depth and sustain.

DR is known as a musician’s company, but this is one of those brands that you are not likely to hear about when you first start playing.

But the longer you play, the more you tend to notice veterans who have slowly gravitated towards DRs.

The company makes a fairly extensive range of unique electric bass strings, many of which could shine on an acoustic.

However, if you’d prefer the brighter, snappier tone of phosphor bronze strings, as opposed to the mellower upright-oriented sound of the LaBellas or Acousticores on our list then definitely check out DR’s AcousticBass set.

Typical acoustic strings involve a wire wrapped around a hexagonal-profile core, but DRs forego this for a round core instead.

The result combines the sizzle of phosphor bronze, with the deeper tone more associated with other materials.

Of course, with an amplifier, you’re going to get more volume from your acoustic bass guitar, and these DRs are just going to get your sound on another level.

To learn more about this manufacturer and check out today’s price on Amazon check out today’s price on Amazon click here.

 

Conclusion

The relationship between a player and their favorite strings is too complex to summarize in an article.

Every string line is slightly different, and everyone’s needs are slightly different.

It’s about chemistry.

What I’m trying to say while sounding very cheesy is that the time you put into looking for the right strings is worthwhile.

However, I find that most players, upon finding “their strings” stick with them for years.

My advice would be to always keep one ear open for the new best thing because we evolve, our style changes, and strings can help us find not just one, but a multitude of voices.

So keep working, and feel the joy of the music!