So I play a lot of chords on bass, (I loop a progression and walk over it) my chords sound good besides the fact that my strings are outdated and kinda give them a bad tone. Does anybody have an answer to what kind of new strings I could get to give me a nice jazzy and light sound? I don't mind acoustic either as I play without being plugged into an amp a lot. I'm willing to spend any price, i have a four string bass and am just looking for a more clear and softer tone. I also plan on buying an octave pedal to help aid my progressions.
I play mostly EBG - 5/6 string. Flat wounds are used by a lot of players to get a "dead" sound without all the rock n' roll edge and brightness, not just for jazz but for any type of 'old school' music where a more natural, less metallic, often percussive sound - closer to an upright bass, is desirable: Chicago Blues, Motown/Stax Volt, early rock n' roll etc.
Most rock n' roll, blues and RnB was recorded with an upright until the late 50's, when the EGB became more accepted, and many upright players moved to the Fender, using flat wound strings on it (pretty much all there was at the time). Here's a nice example: Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis Presley(1956). James Jamerson, originally a jazz player, used an upright on some early Motown recordings, then switched to a Fender P Bass with flat wounds - La Bella heavy gauge: 0.052 - 0.110 , for virtually all of his great Motown recordings of the 60's and 70's (reportedly the same set of flats for years on end...).
In short: There was a transition period - most of 1950's - before the EBG came of age. It was generally expected that an EBG should sound similar to an upright and flat wounds were the standard. In a 'pure' jazz setting, or for an old school sound that's closer to an upright, you just might want flats.
Fretless EBG players, who these days are usually jazz players, almost always use flatwounds, because aside from their sound, round wounds eat away at the fingerboard without the protection of frets . Jaco Pastorius used Rotosound swing bass strings - round wound steel - on a fretless J Bass. But he did everything differently anyhow, so...
Personally, I don't like flat wound strings very much - you get more finger traction with rounds and you also lose a lot of the richness of sound afforded by rounds (I believe that's part of the reason Jaco used rounds - and he was able to emulate the sound of an upright closer than anyone else - check this out: John Davis, Jaco Pastorius - Dolphin Dance, 1986 ). If you have a good bass and you dial it in right, IMO you can get great clarity and definition, as well as a soft mellow tone, with the right rounds. I don't know from experience but I surmise that you'll get a lot more out of a pedal with rounds as well.
To cut to the chase, you have several options:
- Tape wounds - several varieties (I'm including heavily coated strings here too) - if you have an acoustic electric bass with a piezo pickup, you don't even need a metal core. They're a different experience entirely and work well with some basses in certain settings, but you're quite limited with them.
- "Half Rounds" - sometimes called "Bright Flats" or "Half Flats" or "Ground Rounds" - usually a round design but a goodly portion of the deep ridges on rounds is ground off - they leave enough round wound edge to give you some traction and more life than flats, but not too much. AFAIK, most players (including me) don't seem to care for them that much, for various reasons.
- Pressure Wounds: A lot players really like these for your sort of application (including me). They are highly compressed rounds - to the point that most of ridges become flattened and compressed - similar idea to 'half rounds' but a better implementation. Pressure wounds are very dense and very versatile strings. (I have several basses - on two of them - one Fender J and one G&L L2500 - they are strung with pressure wounds because those basses are very hot - high, bright edgy output - difficult to get a mellow sound. The pressure wounds tame them - they are the best option for a hot bass if you don't want to use flats.)
- The last option is the best IMO (and doesn't exclude changing strings) : Learn to use your bass and your output chain and how to work your technique to get the sound you want with a good versatile set of rounds. The most important components of your sound are your technique, the quality of your bass, and how you dial it in. I know full time working pros who don't pay any attention to their gear or their strings - they can make almost anything sound good.
Besides the construction of the string, another big factor is the material. You'll find bass strings with nickel, steel, nylon and brass cores and/or windings at most decent music shops, sometimes cobalt too. Every bass player has their preferences and quirks about strings, but in general, those who want a brighter, more edgy sound - hard rockers, slappers, metal heads, modern funk/RnB players - will go for steel or cobalt. Players looking for a more mellow sound will prefer nickel. (Nickel, being softer than steel, is also easier on your fingers, frets or fingerboard.) For your application, if you want a metal string you'll probably want nickel - strings with a steel core for strength and nickel windings for a tempered sound and easier, smoother play - are very popular.
Regardless, before you go spending lots of $ on a premium set that turns out not to be what you like (a big name brand set of flats will cost you $40-$50, "top of the line" over $100) you can try some of the good cheaper brands.
As for chords: The properties of your strings will be reflected in your chord playing as well, but sometimes you want to make adjustments - that's where your technique and your control over your bass will become that much more important.
I don't think I'm supposed to give brand recommendations here, but if you go to the chat here Bass Strings I can tell what I know from experience and other players.
Many jazz bass players that I know prefer flat wound strings for the "jazzy" sound as they tend to be smoother and less bright than the round wound strings.
You will find much discussion on-line about the merits and qualities of the two types. Here is one link to get you started: http://fenderbassplayer.com/flatwounds-vs-roundwounds