Bass Guitar String Gauges (Thickness): A Complete Guide

The string gauge (thickness) on a bass guitar massively affects how it feels to play, and has an impact on the tone too. In this article I’ll take you through the most common string gauges, and the pros and cons of heavier and lighter strings.

The most common bass guitar string gauges are 0.045-0.10″ and 0.050-0.105″. Thicker bass guitar strings sound warmer and fuller compared to thinner strings which sound brighter and clearer. Thicker strings are under more tension so feel harder to fret, but are less likely to go out of tune.

Common Bass String Gauges

The gauge of a string refers to the thickness measured in inches. A set of bass guitar strings is usually referred to as being extra light, light, medium, or heavy. A set of light strings will have smaller gauges compared to a set of medium strings.

Long Scale (Standard) 4-String Bass Guitars

Here are the most common long (standard) scale 4-string bass guitar string gauges with a scale length of 34″.

Extra Light Gauge:

  • G = 0.040″
  • D = 0.060″
  • A = 0.070″
  • E = 0.095″

Light Gauge:

  • G = 0.045″
  • D = 0.065″
  • A = 0.080″
  • E = 0.100″

Medium Gauge:

  • G = 0.050″
  • D = 0.070″
  • A = 0.085″
  • E = 0.105″

Heavy Gauge:

  • G = 0.055″
  • D = 0.075″
  • A = 0.090″
  • E = 0.110″

The most popular bass guitar string sets are light and medium. You’ll often refer to these string set being referred to as a set of 0.045-0.010 strings, or a set of 0.050-0.105 strings. Using the measurements of the thinnest and thickest string is the typical way to reference a set.

5-String Bass Guitars

5-string basses typically have an extra low B string which is thicker than the E string. Here are the most common 5-string bass guitar string sets:

Light Gauge:

  • G = 0.045″
  • D = 0.065″
  • A = 0.080″
  • E = 0.100″
  • B = 0.130″

Medium Gauge:

  • G = 0.050″
  • D = 0.070″
  • A = 0.085″
  • E = 0.105″
  • B = 0.125″

The thickness of the E, A, D, and G strings are usually the same as on a 4-string bass, you just get a thicker 5th B string on a 5-string bass. The B string is usually around 0.02″-0.03″ thicker than the E string.

Short-Scale Basses

Short-scale bass guitars have a scale length of around 30″-31″, whereas standard long-scale basses typically have a scale length of 34″. A good example of a short-scale bass guitar is the Fender Mustang Bass which has a scale of 30″.

A set of short scale bass strings will have a shorter length and taper compared to a set of long scale strings. In some cases, the strings on a short scale bass will also be slightly thinner (usually by 0.005″).

Here are the two most common string sets for short-scale bass guitars.

Light:

  • G = 0.040″
  • D = 0.060″
  • A = 0.080″
  • E = 0.010″

Medium:

  • G = 0.045″
  • D = 0.065″
  • A = 0.085″
  • E = 0.105″

Super Long-Scale Basses

Super-long scale bass guitars have a scale length of 35″ on average. The strings usually have the same gauges compared to standard long-scale basses, the only difference is that the string is different to suit the different scale lengths.

For example, Earnie Ball Slink super-long scale bass strings have a taper at 38.5″, whereas the long-scale bass strings have a taper at 37.5″.

Thin vs Thick Strings

Lighter (thinner) bass guitar strings are under less tension compared to heavier (thicker) strings. It’s this difference in tension which causes light and heavy strings to sound and feel different from one another.

Difference in Tone

Thicker strings produce more low-end (bass) frequencies compared to thinner strings. The result, is that thicker strings sound louder, warmer and fuller with more sustain in comparison to thinner strings.

Thinner strings sound brighter in comparison, but this is not because they produce more treble frequencies, but because they produce less bass frequencies so the EQ balance is difference, causing them to sound clearer but thinner.

Thicker bass guitar strings are more popular in rock and metal, whereas thinner strings are more popular in funk and jazz.

Check out this YouTube video comparing the tone of different bass guitar string gauges.

Difference in Feel

Since thinner strings are under less tension, they are a lot easier to fret and bend in comparison to thicker strings. Beginners often prefer the feel of lighter strings for this reason, as they are easier on the fingertips especially when the calluses are forming.

Thinner bass strings are more popular for slapping as they make the technique easier to perform, and produce a brighter tone.

On the other hand, some players prefer the sturdier feeling of thicker strings which are under more tension as they are less likely to be pulled out of tune.

I’d be careful about going too far to extremes experimenting with new string gauges, however if you currently use a set of 0.045-0.100 strings, try giving a 0.050-0.105 set a try next time you re-string your bass (or vice-versa)

The difference isn’t huge between these sets so you’re unlikely to absolutely hate how they feel/ sound, but you may find that you actually much prefer playing with a slightly different gauge.

Other Considerations

There are two additional considerations I wanted to touch on:

  • Thicker strings offer better tuning stability compared to thinner strings
  • Thicker strings are less likely to cause fret buzz compared to thinner strings

This again relates to string tension.

Thicker strings are harder to pull out of tune because they are under more tension. However, it’s important to note that the difference will be minimal when comparing say light and medium strings. I would not suggest using thicker strings if you are struggling with tuning stability as it’s highly unlikely this is the root cause.

Since thicker strings are under more tension, they do not move as loosely as thinner strings, so are less likely to hit the frets and cause fret buzz. Again, if you notice fret buzz, don’t just slap thicker strings on your bass to fix it as this will not be the cause unless you are using an incredibly light gauge.

Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

2 thoughts on “Bass Guitar String Gauges (Thickness): A Complete Guide

  1. My Fender Bullet bass I measure 42ā€ from the bridge to the tuner for the G string.
    The long scale strings mentioned say average 34ā€. Iā€™m wondering if my neck is longer than long?

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