Have you ever purchased a new set of strings and wondered why the action was drastically different compared to your last set of strings? The B-string was much lower or higher? Chances are the big difference is the strings by the ball end are either tapered or not.
What is a Tapered Bass String? A tapered bass string when the first 2.25″ to 3″ of string is thinner than the full thickness of the string. This “Tapered” length will vary depending on the manufacturer. On the B-string which is usually made up of 3 winding layers, the tapered section will be as thick as one winding and become the full thickness of the string (.130T) for example. Tapered strings are usually indicated with a “T” after the size; .135T .130T .105T .075T etc. It is not typical to see a tapered string in the .070 or lower size as these are usually constructed of one wrap wire the entire length of the string.
Why are Bass Strings Tapered? Larger gauge bass strings are tapered mostly for a better installation. The thicker the string / heavier the gauge, the more rigid and less flexible the string becomes. On many bass bridges the string must come up and bend within a short distance. If the string is very thick like a low-B .130, the string may not allow for the creation of a proper “witness point” even when pressed down on. (A witness point is the point where the string sits on the bridge saddle and the start of the vibrating length of the string). If a proper witness point is not made, the string will not be perfectly straight between the saddle and the nut. The result will be a string that does not allow for proper intonation to be set and odd harmonics to be heard while playing. Also some bass bridges will have very small notches made for the string to sit in, having a tapered or even exposed end will allow for the string to “seat” in the saddle.
When to use Tapered Bass Strings? I suggest using tapered strings when using larger gauges. I prefer to use a Tapered B-String for anything .125 and larger. On strings .120 and lower you can get away with not using tapered strings. I also suggest to use a Tapered B-String if you notice the string needs to pass up and over the bridge saddle in a short distance resulting in the string bending sharply. Using a heavier string gauge with a tapered end in this instance will allow for a cleaner more direct string installation. Using strings with tapered E and A strings are not a necessity but if the bridge is notched with thinner slots they will help prevent the string from popping out of the saddle with aggressive playing styles. Also since the bridge saddles need to be raised higher to accommodate the tapered string ends, more down-force is put on the bridge saddles resulting in a securely seated saddle and string.
Example of a string set with tapered B E and A strings.
The above string set has a tapered B-String, E-String, and A-string. This is known as a “Full Tapered” set. The D and G string (thinnest strings) have one wrap wire the entire length of the string so there is nothing to be “tapered” in this set.
This next image gives an example of the 3 most common string ends:
The above image shows three different types of strings.
- Full Wound Bass String: The string is the full thickness of its size the entire length of the string. The string will get thinner for the tuning posts.
- Tapered Bass String: What was discussed above.
- Extreme Taper / Exposed Core Bass String: These take the “String Taper” to another level. The one pictured actually has a very fine winding around the core. This gives the string more durability as it prevents the core material from corroding and being exposed to the elements. It also prevents the core wire from cutting into the saddle. A true “Exposed Core” string will have a bare core wire here.
Will you try a tapered string set next time you need to change strings? Bellow are some tapered bass string sets you may enjoy.
D’Addario Pro-Steel Tapered Bass String Sets: B E and A strings are Tapered.
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