The Best Bass Strings for Playing Multiple Genres
Written by Jack Sutherland
If by some chance you stumbled upon this blog and have no clue who or what Exit 85 is... We're a rock band. And by "rock" I mean drum stick spinning, 2000-watt bass stack, and lots of guitar distortion and overdrive. That's us. However, we can't expect everyone to be as fanatic about Metallica or Rage Against the Machine as we are. So it's important to change up genres from time to time.
Maybe a little Wild Cherry to get people on the dance floor? Some Rapper's Delight, or a Rock/Hip-Hop crossover like Bring the Noise or Walk This Way? Whatever it is, sometimes you've got to mix it up. And when you do, it's hard to pull off funk, R&B or Jazz when you're only geared up to play rock. So when possible I try to find equipment or accessories that are versatile across multiple genres.
So which bass string is the most versatile?
When it comes to bass strings there are so many great options. If you asked 5 different bass players which strings they preferred, you'd likely get 5 different answers. So before I get to my personal favorite, here's a few that you definitely wouldn't regret going with instead.
D’Addario is a name you just can't go wrong with. Their NYXL for 4-string or 5-string basses found at this link, come light, medium or heavy and have a very versatile tone, at a competitive price. They were also listed as Guitar World's best bass strings of 2021.
Ernie Ball Slinky
Ernie Ball Slinky Nickel Wound Strings are also a popular option across many genres. They have a notorious brighter sound, that is great for funk slap bassists. And while they may not drive as deep as some rock bassists would prefer, they can definitely get the job done.
Rotosound Jazz Bass 77
A more uncommon pick from a legendary brand are the Rotosound Jazz Bass 77 Strings. Don't let the name fool you, these strings can handle a lot more than Jazz. Brighter than the typical warm sound of most flatwounds.
DR Black Beauties
I have to mention DR Black Beauties because they just look so damn cool! With so many great options it's hard to put them at the top based solely on their sound, however they sound surprisingly good for coated strings, especially when new. In my experience they do not last as long as uncoated strings. All of DR's coated strings tend to sound dead sooner than I'd prefer. However, I wouldn't hesitate to play with a new pair at any show, and do occasionally just to add a little extra pizazz.
And that brings us to my personal choice for the most versatile bass string to play across all genres, DR Pure Blues. These nickel round core strings are made for guitars as well as bass. To be honest they were not even on my radar until I heard that Victor Wooten used them. Being the huge Victor Wooten fan that I am, of course I HAD to try them!
Now, it's important to mention that big time players recommend whoever's endorsing them. That doesn't mean it's total BS, but it may not always be exactly what they'd be using otherwise. So I kept that in mind when I tried them, not expecting much. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
These strings have a very full and well rounded sound. As a former-funk bassist I've always leaned to lighter, brighter strings. DR Sunbeams were (and still are) my go-to string for slap bass. However, I don't have to sacrifice brightness with Pure Blues. Their highs are very bright and articulate, but with far more colorful mids than Sunbeams. And while their lows may not be as deep as something like DR Lo-Riders, I've grown to love their aggressive rumbling tone when I'm rocking out low on heavier riffs.
At $24 for 4 strings or $34 for 5 strings, they come at a price that I can afford to change them as often as I need to, even through tougher, busier parts of the schedule.