B4CE Strings

fronobulax

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New member @JPS was in conversation with me about strings for a B4CE. Turns out they bought the instrument discussed here. They self-identified as a guitar player getting their first bass. Since I change strings rarely and have a vague recollection that there are strings that won't work on an acoustic with some pickup technologies, I figured I'd open things up. I'll call out @mellowgerman because he often makes more sense than I do and often speaks with different experiences than I do and call @gilded since he's the last person I recall posting about a B4CE they had in hand.
 

mellowgerman

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For unplugged playing, my favorite strings on acoustic bass have been the D'Addario black nylon tapewounds. They are available in short scale, medium scale, and long scale. The B4CE is short scale, correct? I would maybe go with the medium scale set just to make sure they're long enough (considering how they string down through the bridge like is typical on acoustics, a standard short-scale set might not cut it). In regard to length though, have a jumbo-body Kay acoustic guitar-to-bass conversion, which is 25.5" scale. It currently has a short scale set on it and the thick main-winding does go around the post. Absolutely fine with no impact on tone nor function. The thing is, these are normal flexible roundwound strings, with a layer of nylon winding on the outside. They will not break like some flatwounds do when bent to extremes. They are relatively low tension and have a smooth satin kind of finish to them. Other nylon tapewounds have a shiny finish that I've found can result in some excessive clackety-clack on the frets. Tonally they are very warm, but have a nice mid-presence that makes them project and cut through a mix better than flatwounds do in an acoustic context. Finally, the obvious advantage of this sort of string, in an acoustic context, is that you don't have those god-awful squeaky, clanky phosphor bronze strings on there! Don't get me wrong, that type of string can work very well on a 6string acoustic, but I've never heard a bass with phosphor bronze strings that didn't sound like the titanic scraping up against the iceberg (at least to my ears).
 

JPS

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Thanks, I dont like the phosphor bronze on my guitars either, too clangy... I prefer a smoother sound (not muddy). but for the B4 I will most likely record direct into my digital interface using the jack on the bass...so I still wonder what string to consider??
 

JPS

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ps, I think the bass has a 30.5" scale lenght...
 

fronobulax

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ps, I think the bass has a 30.5" scale lenght...
My recollection as well. I'd read the package carefully. I don't recall a lot of string between the saddle and the bridge anchor point so some short sets might work that wouldn't work on, say, a 30.5" scale Starfire.

If you don't want phosphor bronze I think nylon tape wound are the only real alternative.
 

JPS

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Thank you for your advice! I was wondering about Rotosound RS77M Monel Flatwound Bass Guitar Strings (40 50 75 90) or maybe D'Addario ECB81M Chromes Bass Guitar Strings, Light, 45-100, Medium Scale.
 

fronobulax

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Thank you for your advice! I was wondering about Rotosound RS77M Monel Flatwound Bass Guitar Strings (40 50 75 90) or maybe D'Addario ECB81M Chromes Bass Guitar Strings, Light, 45-100, Medium Scale.

This is why I opened up the discussion. In the past I thought I read several examples of electric bass strings that did not work on an acoustic bass guitar with some kind of pickup. The issues were the composition of the string (quantity and type of metal?) and the technology (piezo? mic? combination? something else?) of the pickup. So if I remember what I read correctly and if what I read was correct we need to be reminded of how the 90's Fishman pickup worked.

I may be wrong but I don't want to be the guy who says "Yes, this will work" and then be wrong.
 

JPS

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This is a really interesting and relevant question. If I remember right, the pickup creates a magnetic field that is disturbed by the vibration of the metal string. The perturbation of the field induces a current that is sent to the amplifier. So I don't really know anything about the various types of pickups like piezo, or how they may modulate the sound differently, and I also wonder how the pickup transduces the nuance in sound produced by a guitar top made of a thin slice of wood as compared to a solid body construction. It must do this with high fidelity though, or you could string up a pickup on any old thing and it would sound the same no matter what the platform, i.e. solid guitar, traditional guitar, shoe box, shovel... BTW, the shovel guitar can really sound good in some peoples hands! See
 

mellowgerman

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I think you are correct on the short scale length of the B4ce, but the important detail is the amount of string that passes beyond the bridge saddle, which can sometimes call for a "medium scale" 32" scale set. That said, if Frono is correct and there is no more there than on your typical Fender-style bridge, then you will want the actual "short scale" set.
A piezo pickup functions off of physical vibrations, so you can use any type of string with one, provided it creates enough vibrations for the pickup to sense. The limitation of magnetic pickups is that the material of the string must have magnetic properties, so no luck if you had a pure nylon string like you find on ukuleles, ashbory basses, etc. Phosphor bronze acoustic strings would be no good on an electric instrument with a magnetic pickup, as the pickup would only sense the core of the string, resulting in a thin, subdued, and unbalanced sound.
But in your situation, you can use any bass strings you'd like, though I don't think anybody makes fully nylon strings for full-size basses, only the uke-size ones. Speaking from personal experience though, flatwound strings may sound great on an acoustic bass, but they will be quieter when playing unplugged, especially on non-jumbo acoustic basses like the B4ce. Essentially, the less depth of the body, the less low end volume (which is where flatwounds really get their power). Also, I've found heavier gauge strings are typically louder on acoustic basses, since they create more powerful vibrations that project better. With that in mind I would probably steer clear of that super light gauge rotosound set. The D'Addario Chromes should do fine, especially since they tend to produce more mid and high response than a lot of other flatwound alternatives. I would just take care not to mix up "Medium Scale" and "Medium Gauge". Buying medium scale sets when they meant to grab medium gauge or medium tension strings seems to be a common mistake players make and the likely reason for why I can often find medium scale sets in open packages at a discounted price on the Amazon Warehouse Deals site.
One of my past bands did several radio performances, but for one of them we decided to just go with our kitchen-table approach... which meant all acoustic, with me on the cheapo Ibanez acoustic bass that I really only ever used for acoustic rehearsals and/or playing by myself on the porch. I always kept chunky flatwounds on that one and in this context it worked out quite well. We just used two normal radio/vocal mics for everything that night. My two bandmates did vocals, banjo, and guitar all on one mic, standing back a bit, and I stood much closer to the other one with my acoustic bass. The result was a nice thumpy uprighty kind of sound. If you had been standing 15 feet away in the studio though, you probably would have only heard the vocals, banjo, and guitar.
 
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JPS

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Thank you for the answers. I will make some measurements on the scale length and go from there (maybe get back to you). Also, I hadn't thought about string gauge, probably will go with mediums for a richer sound. So, you are saying the Fishman in that bass is piezo style? Nice sounding band. Is that you with a Kingman on the left, or...?
 

mellowgerman

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Yup the Guild B4ce has a piezo pickup. Anytime a guitar or bass has an under-saddle pickup, it is a piezo. On acoustics, the only magnetic pickups you'll find are just about all sound-hole pickups, with the exception of designs like the Gibson J-160e, which gets an actual magnetic pickup embedded right up against the butt of the fretboard.
Finally, thanks for the kind words! It was a fun band to be in. Yes, that is me on the left. The bass was an Ibanez AEB. Due to the angle of the shot, the body looks bigger in the photo than it actually is. I got it super cheap, for the sole purpose of playing it unplugged around the house, but that night was the one and only time I used it for a performance. I was pessimistic about it until I heard the recording afterward. Was surprised to see how nice it sounded through that radio mic!
 

JPS

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Wow, I got the bass in the mail today...what a sweetheart. Thank you Mike Jackson!! Here is my first run on the bass (Youtube link)... might just leave the strings alone.

 
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