Stringing the “Right” Strings

Wrong                                                                             Right

This may seem pretty obvious, and it is more so on a bass than a guitar but the principle is: “Do not put unnecessary pressure on your neck. It can cause twisting, warping, and can break your nut and nobody likes broken nuts..

In this picture you see pinching the strings so all four go between the screws of the string tree, the bar that is designed only to hold them down.  This becomes particularly important to players who bend strings to any extent. Think of the added tension and pressure this puts on the nut. These old nuts are made of plastic and can easily break if mistreated. Proper string placement puts the low E string and the high G string under the string tree outside the screws while the A and D strings go under the string tree between the screws. On a six string guitar the high and low E strings are outside the screws and the emaining four between them.

This Hagstrom fretless bass does not use or need a string tree. The head has a slight slant back and the tuners are placed so that each string, properly strung, makes a straight line minimizing the pressures on the neck, nut, and tuners.

Now look at the Hagstrom I B below.  What is different? The strings all go pretty straight but the winding is clockwise rather than counter clockwise as it was in the Fretless. The lesson is to pay attention to your instrument’s tuner placement and learn how it wants to be strung. The only issue I have with the instrument below is that it has too many winds on the E string so the pull is not quite straight. The correction would be to pull it a bit tighter before you start winding so when you are in tune there are one or two fewer wraps.


Some people obviously do not know what the string tree is for. Take this enterprising person who wanted the strings to go over the tree. I do not know what this person was thinking. The positioning is totally wrong for a zero fret. If you do not want your strings under the tree why not just remove it? Depending on how you play, it might work.

Let’s turn next to string selection. There are many choices out there because different people like different sounds and feels. Start with the premise that the heavier the string is the tighter it must be to achieve the same tone and

the more difficult it will be to bend if you want to find those in between tones. Because of stresses placed on the instrument, particularly on Hagstrom’s acoustic-electric Viking series and Concord basses, I recom-mend light to medium gage strings. If you choose medium to heavy strings, ease the tension if you are storing it for an extended period. If you do not you can end up with something like this, particularly if the instrument is further stressed by extremes in heat or cold or humidity.  The neck joint on this guitar was crushed by excessive force of tight strings over a fairly long period.   Seen from the side the pickup will  tip downward into a hole as the body buckles. Not fun.

We also must consider the frets on these instruments. They are of a soft metal and very low to start with. Low frets and low strings makes for easy play and better intonation but it comes at a price. Strings, particularly steel strings, tend to wear groves in frets and dig into the wood in fretboards. Round wound dig in more than flat wound but flats do not have as bright a tone that many lead players want. Nickel is softer than steel so nickel strings are not as hard on frets.