Flatwounds overview please

Beakertwang

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I'm just looking for basics/generalities. How will they affect tone? Solid body vs. hollow body, HBs/SCs, etc. Anything else I need to know in order to make me ask more questions.
 

JokeSmuggler

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I'm just looking for basics/generalities. How will they affect tone? Solid body vs. hollow body, HBs/SCs, etc. Anything else I need to know in order to make me ask more questions.

I use them on my semi-hollow but I imagine the basics are less brightness and more warmth, more lower order harmonics which makes some beautiful clean sounds. One big difference among brands is tension. On a comparable set of D'Addario Chromes vs. Thomastik Jazz Swings, the D'Addario has several lbs. extra tension per string. I use the Thomastik 11s. Also they don't go bad nearly as fast as rounds because your finger acids and dirt have no grooves to get into. I'll never go back.
 

Axis29

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3,646
Depends on brand and material. I played round wounds for 25 years before I ever tried flats. I had switched to nickel round core, round wounds a few years before the transition. I kinda like a little warmer, more vintage-y tone.

I'd been reading about rounds for a while. I tried D'addario Chromes first. Put 'em on a Strat and they just sounded weird to me... Kinda sift and muffled. I tried them on my Gretsch 5127 and liked 'em better... But, still wasn't 100% happy. I kept seeing recommendations for Thomastik-Infleds... I finally got up the guts and paid the $25 a set.

Worth every penny.

I really love the T-I's. I like them on my hollows and solids, singles and humbuckers. Heck, I even tried them on a flattop acoustic.

I tried a set of Pyramids as well. I like them too. But, I don't think they last as long as the T-I's. Still longer than rounds, though...

So, how do they compare to roundwounds? Well, compared to my old nickel RW, they are similar. There is a slightly softer initial attack. Open and lower strings are not quite as percussive, but the main tone is the same. Further up the neck, the term creamy comes to mind. Very smooth and thick. A bit more mid presence.... I like it.

I hear people call them dull. But I disagree. I admit, that I did bump my treble settings up just a notch or two. But, I had plenty of room on the dial. I've actually had a few guys look at me incredulously when I tell them I'm playing flats. They all comment that the tone was not what they expected.

Adding gain cuts out some of the differences, or at least minimizes them! I love the way the open strings and lower frets sound with higher gain... And when I move up the neck, you can get that big, fat, creamy sustains thing going.

One big advantage is that they last forever! I've had one set on one guitar for about 18 months now. I've changed out the plain strings... But, the wound ones are still going strong. I have several sets on guitars that are over 12 months. I play my guitars all the time, rotation is irregular... Some will get played for days, weeks and then I swap out... But my #1 and #2 Gretsches spend the most time being beaten upon and have had the strings on the longest. I play out three to five times a month. So, they see time in the saddle.

The other advantage is feel and comfort. I find the T-I's nice and slinky feeling for bends and the tension is well balanced. But, the silkiness of them has done wonders! No more string screech and my callouses are actually smoother now as well. Less friction has also made me speed up a touch as well, changing between chords and single note stuff. Maybe that's just because I want to play more? Dunno.

I do still have one or two guitars with rounds... One for slide, I think ya kinda need that grind, and my SG... Just haven't quite gotten ready to make that switch yet.
 

Beakertwang

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Would it be fair to say that on a semi hollow, they would create a more acoustic-like tone through a clean amp?
 

mrpinter

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Axis29 has pretty much nailed it down... I agree with all he said. Good flats will give you a big, powerful sound that's more refined than round wounds. With that said, I've been a loyal Thomsatik player for about 25 years, but I just discovered some strings that are in that league as well - a German string brand called Optima. They're about the same cost as T-I's; and I'm just trying my first set of their flats... don't know whose products I like more at this point - both great strings.
 

Ben Furman

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Chromes are dull, or at least they become so quickly. Pyramids are brightest (think Beatles) but have fairly high tension and some odd overtones with distortion. T-I Swings are luscious. Hard to imagine a finer set of strings.

Will have to try the Optimas!
 
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136
I've just strung up my Edwards 148 with 13 flats and I'm rather surprisingly finding them easy to play. For reference I normally use 10s. I think it might be the consistent feel across all strings. The extra tension is also helping with picking, which is different to what I expected.
 

JokeSmuggler

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Would it be fair to say that on a semi hollow, they would create a more acoustic-like tone through a clean amp?

I would say they are a lot closer in sound to classical strings than acoustic ones. I use flats for all types of music. I don't miss the brightness when playing rock type stuff, but if you ever play any fingerstyle or jazz comping, they have a tone that rounds just don't have.
 

maydaynyc

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They greatly reduce finger squeak as well. I used a set of TI 12s on my 335 for about 6 months and I loved them for jazz chording and clean playing, but in the end switched back to roundwound 11s because the flatwounds and heavier gauge are not as easy to bend and I was starting to have some pain in my thumb.
 

Flyin' Brian

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30,403
One of the reasons that I use Curt Mangan strings (I'm not affiliated) is that I've found that they give me the warmth and resistance to finger squeak that flatwounds do without going totally dead and at considerably lower cost. I think if I was chicken picking country on a Tele they wouldn't work at all, but for the different types of music that I play they fit the bill.
 

FreeBlues

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These strings sound VERY interesting! Has anyone tried them on a Rickenbacker 360/6? For $25 it's a bit spendy for a trial that doesn't work out.
 

Chill_Billy

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You want flats for Jazz and roots music right?
Because they don't really respond well to OD (polite way of saying they will sound like ass) and bending will be a bitch.
 

mrpinter

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Mr Billy, have you ever actually played a good set of flat wounds? Because a good set of nickel flats responds just fine to OD in my experience, and if you use a lighter gauge like Thomastik-Infeld .010-.044's bending is not hard at all (that set has a wound G but it's an .018" - I haven't had any problem bending it).
 

Beakertwang

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So I put a set of D'Addario Chromes 11-50 (wound G). It's a Reverend Manta Ray HB. I just got it yesterday, and badly needed new strings, so I thought I'd try them. I usually play 10s on my electric, 13s on my acoustic. So far, I like them, and I don't find them dull--I'd say mellow. I really like the neck pickup with the treble rolled off a bit. That's sweet!

For reference, I play through a VHT Special 6 at home.

Maybe in a few months I'll get a set of T-I's.
 

Axis29

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3,646
You want flats for Jazz and roots music right?
Because they don't really respond well to OD (polite way of saying they will sound like ass) and bending will be a bitch.

Mr Billy, have you ever actually played a good set of flat wounds? Because a good set of nickel flats responds just fine to OD in my experience, and if you use a lighter gauge like Thomastik-Infeld .010-.044's bending is not hard at all (that set has a wound G but it's an .018" - I haven't had any problem bending it).

This would have been my comment. Word for word.

I bend the living crap out of mine. I'm not sure how having a smooth surface makes them harder to bend? That makes absolutely no sense... Besides, the strings most people bend are unwound to begin with!

As for sounding bad with overdrive? Uh, did you read my post? I use them with fuzz, with overdrive and distortion all the time. They sound great!

I ran my Tele with T-I's into a 5e3 dimed the other night and they sounded glorious. Thick, gritty, grindy, grunty and twangy. I had been using it earlier in the evening with my Virbolux Reverb using a Tim and a Moor Black Secret (Rat Clone). I loved it that way too!

So I put a set of D'Addario Chromes 11-50 (wound G). It's a Reverend Manta Ray HB. I just got it yesterday, and badly needed new strings, so I thought I'd try them. I usually play 10s on my electric, 13s on my acoustic. So far, I like them, and I don't find them dull--I'd say mellow. I really like the neck pickup with the treble rolled off a bit. That's sweet!

For reference, I play through a VHT Special 6 at home.

Maybe in a few months I'll get a set of T-I's.

The Chromes went dead on me a lot faster than T-I's. They didn't last any longer than a regular set of stainless steel strings.

They sounded okay on my Gretsch Hollowbody. But weird on my Strat. I don't even know how to describe them... But I don't think I kept them on the Strat more than about a day... maybe a day and half. Maybe a month and a half on the Gretsch.
 

Beakertwang

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2,561
If anybody in my town carried T-I's, or any flatwounds besides the D'Addarios, I would have picked them up. I'll take it the recommendation, and order a set online before I need to change strings.
 

mrpinter

Gold Supporting Member
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9,089
Not to overly complicate things, but another company that makes a really good flat wound string is Optima. The only place I've found to order them from in this country (it's a German company) is Strings By Mail. They are nickel flats like the T-I's, and have a great sound - maybe a bit darker than the Thomastiks. You can't go wrong with either company, IMO.
 

lostpoet2

Silver Supporting Member
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3,295
I've got flats on my '76 ibanez es-175 and they are perfect for the Jazz that I cannot play.

I also have flats on my classic vibe p-bass, and they are perfect for old school tones-Motown, rock, blues, whatever...
 




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