This article is designed to help you understand what factors affect the tension - or, how loose or stiff your electric bass
strings feel. If you find you have to use too much force in order to pull the strings and get a full sound, or if they are too loose or 'floppy' and you would like to play harder, understanding this will help you make the correct adjustments with your next string purchase.
Unfortunately strings cannot simply list a tension number or score that applies universally to all basses. However, these are the things to look for in a string and how they will affect the tension.
Gauge - Thicker bass strings have more mass and therefore more tension, but it is only one of the factors in the overall feel however-- two different brands the same size can and will have different tensions, and even one brand with the smaller gauge could feel more tense after the other components come into play. However, if you are dealing with the same type of strings on the same bass, buying a thicker set will = more tension,
Scale Length - A longer scale length means greater tension. The same brand of strings will feel more or less tense if the scale length is longer or shorter.
String Height or Action - Higher string height or 'action' will make strings feel more tense. This can be altered by adjusting the truss rod and changing the height of the saddles on the bridge.
Core - A string with a 'hex' core will have more tension than one with a 'round' core. The core is the wire in which the wrapping (nickel, steel) etc. wraps around, 'hex' or 'round' refer to the shape of that wire and thus how the contact with the string is made.
More details, as well as information regarding specific brands of strings are available on the Bass String Guide.
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