Flatwound strings on a guitar?

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Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (The Mod Lang) » Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:17 pm

I played a 325 with flat-wounds the other day. Really liked the feel but the tone through the toasters and amp seemed a bit weak to me. Does anyone play with these strings on their Rickenbacker? What are the advantages/disadvantages and characteristics?
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (JakeK) » Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:29 pm

Hey, Jacob, (what a coincidence, that's MY name, too!)

The advantage of flats on your guitar is a really smooth feel, and a LOT less string noise, but the disadvantage is you won't get a ringing sustain (at least without a little compression), and a dull thunk, rather than roundwounds where they ring for a while and have a sparkle to them. Another advantage is string changing, with flats, it's not as often as with rounds. I'm in need of changing my rounds every few months, where with flats, I change every spring season.

Whenever I want to try something different, I put flats on my Ric 6-string, but I'm always drawn back to rounds. In other words, I alternate depending on where/what I'm playing and influenced by at that time.

HOWEVER...

My Ric 12-string ALWAYS has flatwounds on it. Pete Townshend said flatwounds on a 12-string is "important", and our own Todd Bradshaw concurred with a theory about why flats are essential for a 12-string, something about the main strings being dull enough to emphasize the chime of the octaves. He knows better than me, it's his theory!

I feel flats are best for a hollowbody and rounds are best for a solid-body. You'll never see *my* Strat with flats!
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (Rickissippi) » Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:41 pm

I tried flats on my 360 for several months, and set my guitar up for it according to the manual by moving the bridge baseplate back which helped give me perfect intonation. I eventually ended up going back to compressed rounds, but I enjoyed the flats. They are supposed to have the true vintage sound. The smooth feel is fun, too - almost like you're playing gut. I had also heard they were better jazz strings. I'm not really a jazz player live, but I do dabble a good bit at home. I would take it out on rock gigs, though, and they could do just as well, sonically through the amp, as any other string I've played.

One big drawback to me was that I couldn't bend the G string up a full step - the G on flats is wound, not plain steel. Maybe this means I'm too reliant on that move, but I find I do it several times a gig, and without it, I had to re-think some of my parts that required that bend. However, they stayed in tune beautifully, especially the G, which as a plain steel string in a roundwound set gives us all a lot of heartburn.

I'd recommend trying it at least once.
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (JakeK) » Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:49 pm

IIRC, Thomastik-Infeld's G string in their .010 set has tension low enough to bend slightly.
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (sloop_john_b) » Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:09 pm

Been there, tried that, no more flats on guitars for me.
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (The Mod Lang) » Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:36 pm

Rickissippi wrote:I tried flats on my 360 for several months, and set my guitar up for it according to the manual by moving the bridge baseplate back which helped give me perfect intonation. I eventually ended up going back to compressed rounds, but I enjoyed the flats. They are supposed to have the true vintage sound. The smooth feel is fun, too - almost like you're playing gut. I had also heard they were better jazz strings. I'm not really a jazz player live, but I do dabble a good bit at home. I would take it out on rock gigs, though, and they could do just as well, sonically through the amp, as any other string I've played.

One big drawback to me was that I couldn't bend the G string up a full step - the G on flats is wound, not plain steel. Maybe this means I'm too reliant on that move, but I find I do it several times a gig, and without it, I had to re-think some of my parts that required that bend. However, they stayed in tune beautifully, especially the G, which as a plain steel string in a roundwound set gives us all a lot of heartburn.

I'd recommend trying it at least once.


So you have to set up your guitar specially for FW's? Hmm...
I LOVE the sound I get on my pure nickel strings, so idk if I'll be changing any time soon. Just thought it'd be worth exploring as my grlfriend only uses flat-wounds on her bass and swears by them. Honestly I didn't even know they made them for guitar! Also the wound G string is good to know. Didn't really notice it as a drawback on a short scale 325, but with all the tension on my 620 it would probably make some leads a bit difficult.
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (Folkie) » Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:43 pm

Todd Bradshaw's theory holds water: Flatwound strings really do accentuate the sound of those octaves on a 12'er, so if you're looking for more sparkle and chime, Thomastik Infeld flats are the way to go. 8)
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (jps) » Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:34 pm

Folkie wrote:Todd Bradshaw's theory holds water

I sure hope so, he builds boats. :mrgreen:
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (Folkie) » Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:35 pm

:lol:
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (paulramon1962) » Sat Dec 03, 2011 3:26 am

I've played a '59 Fender Musicmaster with vintage Gibson flatwounds on it. It played and sounded absolutely amazing. Maybe i'm just a huge fan of the flat sound :)

Beatles do that to ya.
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (kiramdear) » Sat Dec 03, 2011 3:41 am

I've no hard and fast policy concerning flats vs. rounds. Some guitars need that roundwound sparkle and zing, while others need to be tamed down a bit by flats. It's case by case for me with my six-stringers.

I do concur about rick 12ers and flats, however. I can't imagine putting rounds on my Carl Wilson. :shock: :o
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (jfine) » Sat Dec 03, 2011 6:55 am

Flats used to be fairly common back in the '60's. Bob Bogle with the Ventures used them on a Jazzmaster for the original 1960 recording of "Walk Don't Run"--one of my favorite guitar tones (and songs) ever, and every time I'd run across a Jazzmaster, first thing I'd do was to flip to the middle position on the pickup selector to get both pickups for that sound, and it was "close, but no cigar", until I tried one with flats and there it was. That also makes a Jazzmaster actually usable for jazz and eliminates most of the problems with the god-awful stock bridge, but it's not so good for the bridge-pickup sound. I've never tried them on a Ric, but I used Ric flats on my Vox Phantom 12-string back in the day and they sounded great. Does Ric even offer a flatwound 12-string set anymore? If not, they should!
Kira--I've played that Carl Wilson of yours, and flats or not, it may be the best Ric 12 I've ever had my hands on. Glad to hear you've still got it!
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (electrofaro) » Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:52 am

JakeK wrote:The advantage of flats on your guitar is a really smooth feel, and a LOT less string noise, but the disadvantage is you won't get a ringing sustain (at least without a little compression), and a dull thunk, rather than roundwounds where they ring for a while and have a sparkle to them.

Really? Barely any difference on my 360 between D'Addario .010 rounds or TI .010 flats at all. It was in fact a Gibson-user and studied jazz player who advised me to get good flats, And it improved the sound of the 360 imo. He liked it a lot too - should ask him if he got around to buying a 360 himself, as he loved playing jazz and blues on the 360.

Got TI 011s on the 360 now, and they are not that hard to bend at all, imo. There's just what I call the little lame tricks like the pick over the strings or sliding to another fret which become kind of useless, but then the type of stuff I play it's not needed much anyway.

As for what Kira said, it's very much true - there's a difference from guitar to guitar. No matter what strings I put on my 340, it's sound is always louder than my 360. The 340 now has TI .010 rounds on it, and barrés are easier on them, imo, but for the overall sound and playability I'm not going to switch back to rounds on my 360.
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (teb) » Sat Dec 03, 2011 2:07 pm

It seems to me that for six-string electric guitars things have pretty much reversed over the years. Back in the late 60s and early 70s you would have had to really hunt to find rounds for electrics (or basses for that matter). If you're into the music from that era, most of the guitar work was most likely played on flats.
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Re: Flatwound strings on a guitar?

Postby (Hotzenplotz) » Sat Dec 03, 2011 4:12 pm

teb wrote:It seems to me that for six-string electric guitars things have pretty much reversed over the years. Back in the late 60s and early 70s you would have had to really hunt to find rounds for electrics (or basses for that matter). If you're into the music from that era, most of the guitar work was most likely played on flats.


100% agree!

I use flats on a 6string with toasters. I was looking for this special sound. At first I only had the toasters and the factory strings. Then I took the Thomastik Infeld JS110 on it. Whoa! Quite old school, used as a rough rhythm guitar. Perfect!
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