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Doug McAlexander, bass player, bass guitarist, electric bassist, atlanta, georgia
Electric Bassist

Doug McAlexander, bass player, bass guitarist, electric bassist, atlanta, georgia

Contact Information
Cell Phone: (770) 841-8009

Fretted and Fretless - Sight-reading - Live Performance - Studio Recording

Thomastik-Infeld stringsKeith Roscoe bassesThunderfunk bass amplifiersEuphonic Audio speaker cabinets

Let's Talk Strings

After 21 years playing the same brand of strings I switched. Read on to find out the whole story.

21 Years of Bliss?

Ever since I started playing bass in 1979, I have played D'Addario strings. I would try each new "fad" string over the years, but would always go back to D'Addario. I thought the criogenically frozen idea was cool so I gave it a shot. I spent all day trying to figure out what happened to the intonation on my $3000 Pedulla fretless. Yes, intonation matters on a fretless, but that's another story. It turned out to be the strings. So I went back to D"Addario. No other string had the brightness, feel and longevity of the D'Addario XL-170 (4-string light gauge set) and later the XLS-850 (5-string light gauge set), which became XL-5, which became EXL-170-5. They can't seem to settle on the name.

I Like Rounds!

I like round wound strings. I like the versatility they allow. With slight tone control adjustments on my Keith Roscoe basses, I can get a big, fat country bass sound all the way to slapping and tapping, or the famous "Jaco" sound. Jaco coated the fingerboard of his fretless with boat epoxy so the rough strings wouldn't wear grooves in the wood. I play so many styles that round wounds are a given for me. I routinely play everything from the 1940's music to the 2000's all in one gig. So I need ultimate versatility in my bass, amp, and strings. The rounds allow me that flexibility. My Pedulla PentaBuzz fretless has a special coating on the fingerboard so the rounds don't eat it up. When Keith Roscoe built my newest fretless, he used his patented "diamondwood" instead of ebony so it could stand up to my steady diet of round wounds.

What About Fretless?

While the Pedulla fretless gives a great "buzzy" sound that is great for pop music, it wasn't quite what I wanted for upright emulation. So when I spoke with Keith Roscoe about the new fretless, I told him him I wanted it to favor the upright sound but still sound good on the pop "buzzy" thing too. Hey, we all want our cake and eat it too. We chose the right wood combinations, electronics, etc. and it is awesome. I get very close to the upright sound, even with round wounds, by simply rolling out the mids and highs and boosting the lows, while favoring the neck pickup. I also wedge a piece of foam rubber between the bridge and bridge pickup to kill the sustain. Uprights don't have much sustain, right? Well, okay, if you use a bow, but that doesn't count here. When I add the highs and mids back, trim the lows to detent, I'm back to the "buzzy" sound. I love it. I didn't think it could get any better than that. Then came the newest turn of events that would change a diehard 21 year D'Addario fan.

A Good Friend Indeed!

My friend and fellow bassist Ron Freed, a former upright player and now an avid fretless electric player, called me back in 1999 and told me about the new fretless Roscoe bass he had just acquired. It's a 6-string on a 5-string neck. You would have to talk with Ron about how that was accomplished. It was his own design. Back to strings. Ron wanted to get an absolute upright sound without hauling around the real thing. He also wanted 6 strings to play with. His new bass has the same wood as my Roscoe fretless and it plays like a dream. Ron is quite technical and precise with his wish list. Keith Roscoe will attest to that. Ron holds down the bottom in a swing band and he must have a great upright sound. So, besides picking the right choice of woods, not to mention luthier, he went searching for the ultimate strings to help the cause. He found what he wanted in Vienna, Austria. He sent the strings to Keith Roscoe so the new bass didn't have to leave home without 'em. He brought the bass by and I was immediately hooked. I got my new Roscoe fretless out and we began comparing. As good as mine sounded on upright emulation, his was still better. It was unreal! He was using flatwound strings though. I commented that it stands to reason they would sound better than the rounds. But I'll bet versatility is out the window. So, knowing the electronics of a Roscoe bass, I rolled back the lows, rolled in the mids and highs, and favored the bridge pickup. This is my magic formula for the "buzzy" sound. These flatwound strings did it and did it very well. I had to have a set for my very own.

Ron began to relate to me the Thomastik-Infeld story. How this company based in Vienna Austria has been "The Name" in bowed instrument strings since 1919 and that they expanded to making guitar strings in the 1950's. Upright players already know the name Thomastik-Infeld. In recent years they again expanded their line to include bass guitar strings. The clever European engineering of the strings makes them last as much as 4 times longer than traditional strings. From the quality of the metal (virgin alloys - not recycled toasters, bikes, etc.) to the construction techniques used, they have proven that you really do get what you pay for. I ordered a set of JF-345's and couldn't wait.

The Results?

The guitar player in the main band I perform with, Mixed Company, hates upright bass. Hold onto that thought. I strung the Roscoe fretless 5-string with Thomastik-Infeld JF-345's. I get my "buzzy" sound just fine. But I get an awesome upright emulation. Paul hates it! So I love it! I can play the fretless bass part to Oleta Adams' version of "Get Here" with just the right "buzzy" pop sound. But on another song, Brian Setzer's "Jump Jive, An' Wail", I change the tone controls, and get a great upright sound. Paul the guitar player hates it real good! And here's the bonus. Remember that I ordered the new Roscoe fretless with a diamondwood fingerboard? Keith Roscoe said the diamondwood would last so long against those roundwounds that his son would probably be running the business by the time the fingerboard needs any attention. Well, now I'm using flats! It may be Keith's great grandson who might refinish the fingerboard, for whoever owns the bass by then.

Naturally I Would Try It!

I ordered some Thomastik-Infeld roundwound strings for my fretted bass. I figured the flatwounds were great so naturally I should try the rounds. I just asked the guy at the string dealer for Thomastik-Infeld 5-string roundwounds for bass. He sent the JR345 Jazz Electric Bass roundwound strings. These strings are extremely light and are great for Jazz, Blues, and Reggae. They are so light they almost play themselves. However, they put very little tension on the neck, so a truss rod adjustment is in order to stop fret-buzz. Also, because they are sooo light, they lack the punch for thumping. I am a variety player, so this type of string won't cut it for me. Diehard jazzers will love these things though. The harmonics ring out like church bells and the strings are extremely smooth. They don't just sound smooth, they are smooth to the touch. The round windings are so fine that you can run your fingers up and down the strings and it doesn't feel like it's tearing your skin off. This is true of all Thomastik-Infeld roundwounds. So finger noise is greatly reduced. There isn't much friction either, so speed is increased. I forgot to mention earlier that you will notice you can run your volume control at a lower setting with the Thomastik-Infeld strings. The metallic structure and assembly techique of these strings yields a very high output, compared to conventional strings.

My Roundwound Choice?

I wound up settling on the EB-345 PowerBass series for my 5-string fretted basses and EB-344's for my 4-string fretted basses. These strings yield about the same tension as the D'Addario XL-170's so no neck adjustment was necessary. They are the perfect all-around string for Rock, Funk, Progressive Jazz, Latin, and Country.

What About Other Stringed Instruments?

Thomastik-Infeld has a very large selection of strings for classical guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric bass, acoustic bass, mandolin, and mandola. They are the official string of Jazz great George Benson. Because of the high quality construction of these strings, they tend to last an average of 3 or 4 times longer than conventional strings. But you don't have to pay 3 or 4 times the price of conventional strings. You get the higher quality sound, including true harmonics and the brightest highs I've ever heard, higher output at equivalent volume settings, and a comfortable feel with less friction and finger noise (due to the fine windings), at a price that isn't much more than what you pay for most conventional strings.

What About The Cost?

The Thomastik-Infeld strings actually cost less than conventional strings when you consider you won't replace strings nearly as often (up to 3 or 4 times less string replacment). I am not a paid endorser, by the way, just a converted believer. I did work a deal between the manufacturer and Arsis Productions, the management agency of the band I perform with, to sell the strings at a discount to me and everyone who reads this. Naturally you would expect to pay more for the best. But Arsis Productions is an artist management agency purchasing the strings at a savings for the players in our bands, and then making those same savings available to players outside of the organization. This is not a string dealer selling you every brand of string on the planet, whether good, bad, or mediocre. Arsis Productions doesn't seek to make its profit from selling strings. The overhead is already paid for by the management side, thus the margins are just enough to cover the cost of doing business. So you can get the best price on the best strings just because you read my ramblings. Isn't the Internet great? If you want to talk with me direct about the strings, call (770) 841-8009 and ask for Doug.

You can purchase Thomastik-Infeld strings at a HUGE discount by clicking HERE.

Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Series flatwound bass strings for fretlessThomastik-Infeld PowerBass Series roundwound bass strings for rock, funk, progressive jazz, and country

My Favorite Strings

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Questions or Comments?

Send E-mail to: BassicallyDoug@gmail.com

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