Metal is probably the most diverse genre of music there is. You could spend all day naming every sub-genre, and every sub-genre’s sub-genres.
But despite how diverse metal is, there are certain elements to the sound that remains constant. And to get the right tone, you need the right equipment.
Top 3 - Bass Strings for Metal
One small piece of that puzzle is the strings you use. Here are the 5 best bass strings for metal and heavy music.
Best Bass Strings for Metal & Heavy Music
1. DR Strings Hi-Beams
DR Strings might not be a name that many associate with metal, but they offer a few lines perfect for it. One of their best are the Hi-Beams.
These are great round wound strings. It isn’t hard to see why so many bassists consider these among the best. These strings have a fairly well-rounded sound. But they also have a nice, bright, metallic sound to them.
They are also nice and punchy. Your bass lines will have some serious attitude with these strings. They don’t have that jangly tone of some other steel strings either. I would say they are just tight and consistent.
This tight, punchy, and consistent sound makes them ideal for metal. Your bass is going to be controlled when it needs to, while standing out when you want it to.
One thing I noticed was how soft these strings feel, soft for steel strings at least. Since you are likely going to play pretty hard in a metal band, you want strings that won’t be too rough on your fingers.
DR Strings are known for lasting quite a long time. These are going to keep you playing for quite some time. They aren’t coated, however. So, don’t expect them to last for months. The upside is that they have a very natural feel.
If you are looking for crisp, tight, and punchy strings, I would highly recommend the Hi-Beams. They are also quite affordable, meaning that you will easily be going back to them every time.
2. Dean Markley Blue Steel
The Dean Markley Blue Steel strings are quite interesting. Metal is an extreme genre of music, and the Blue Steels are certainly an extreme set of strings.
Instead of the normal, boring way strings are made, Dean Markley has done something i don’t believe anyone else ever has. These strings are cryogenically frozen before being brought back up to room temperature.
Yes, you read that right. These strings are cryogenically frozen.
The purpose of this is to make these strings durable and bright. It does seem like it has done the trick. These strings are quite bright, with a very nice presence. The tone is quite chunky, and I was surprised how well they cut through the mix.
They are also quite durable. I didn’t notice them budging under heavy playing.
I was interested in seeing how the freezing would affect the tension of the strings. Surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to have much of an effect.
These strings are still quite flexible. They also seem to settle just as well as any other strings. I am interested to see just how long they last. They reportedly last twice as long as regular strings.
They do seem to keep their bright tone quite well, though. They don’t have that sharp drop in brightness once settled.
Luckily, they aren’t any more expensive than other strings. If you are looking to experiment with these, you won’t need to spend a whole lot more to do so.
3. RotoSound Swing Bass
The RotoSound Swing Bass strings are probably going to be an odd choice for many. They don’t exactly scream metal.
The truth is, they have been the go-to strings for rock bassists for 50 years now. That makes the jump to metal pretty easy for these strings.
They are known for their hard hitting, crisp, and fluent sound. I am always surprised by how well these strings cut through the mix.
If you play a lot of slapping and thumping, think Fieldy from Korn, these are the strings to go for. They just have this great attack and pop that is perfect for that type of playing.
They are also extremely durable. You can really go to town on these strings without worrying that they are going to break.
I wouldn’t recommend these if you are a beginner, however. These strings are quite tough on your fingers, and you need to play quite accurately. They can sound messy if you don’t have control over them while playing.
If you are a proficient player, these are fantastic. They are an excellent upgrade or alternative for your current strings.
I would also just make sure that they are going to fit on your bass. They are a bit on the shorter side at 34 inches.
But don’t just take my word for it. Geddy Lee of Rush plays with these strings. If they are good enough for Geddy Lee, they are good enough for me.
4. Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky Cobalt
Ernie Ball is a brand of strings that most, if not everyone, recognize. They can be a bit polarizing, but are some of the best in my opinion.
They are also quite innovative. They were the first to introduce cobalt strings, like their Hybrid Slinky Cobalt.
These strings are designed to be playable, durable, and to sound fantastic. They absolutely check all three of those boxes. Moreover, these strings have a very clear and rich tone. But they aren’t as bright as other strings.
Their tone is quite warm and mellow. Perfect if you are playing darker sounding metal like death or black metal. Since they are made from an iron and cobalt alloy, they are also softer than steel, but harder than nickel.
Plus, if you have any allergies, these strings are not going to give you any sort of reaction. This also makes them more durable than nickel, and more flexible than steel. They are just very pleasant to play.
I have also noticed that their sound is consistent right out of the package. They don’t have that new, clangy string sound. Instead, they sound they way they are going to sound from the start.
These strings are on the more expensive side. But I think for the quality you are getting, they are well worth the price.
They are going to play and sound great for a long time, longer than most other strings I have played. A worthwhile investment for some seriously killer tone.
5. D’Addario XL ProSteels
Another name that is going to be familiar to most bassists. D’Addario is know for their extremely high quality.
The XL ProSteels might possibly be their best affordable level bass strings. They are certainly some of my favorites from D’Addario.
These might be the cheapest set of strings on this list, but don’t think that means they are lacking in quality. These are just as good as any of the other strings on this list.
These are supposedly D’Addario’s brightest bass strings. However, they still have quite a nice warmth to them.
I think these strings strike a very good balance between the lows and the highs. The highs are bright and crisp, while the lows are tight and controlled.
That translates to a very dynamic string as well. These can really scream and shout when you need them to, and then tone it way back to a whisper when needed.
So, no matter the style of metal you play, these strings are going to sound great. They are dynamic enough for prog, and aggressive enough for more extreme genres.
Since these are also made with D’Addario’s hex core, you are getting really tough strings. Tough strings that are going to have consistent intonation and feel.
These strings also come in an impressive amount of configurations of gauges and scale lengths. No matter what bass you have or your gauge preference, I am pretty sure these strings come in a configuration that is going to be right and comfortable for you.
What Makes a Good Metal Bass String?
When you are picking out a set of bass strings for metal, it is important to understand that not just any strings will do. Strings have different qualities, which means they are going to be better suited to different genres of music.
It is important to choose the strings that are not only going to sound right for metal, but are also going to play right.
When it comes to metal, heavier is pretty much always going to be better. You need heavy gauge strings if you want to play heavy music.
The most obvious reason is that you are going to be playing aggressively, more aggressively than you would for jazz or even rock.
Heavy gauge strings are build to take a lot of punishment so that they don’t break easily. You don’t want to be in the middle of a breakdown and suddenly have one of your strings snap.
Metal bassists also tend to replace their strings quite often. Since heavier strings are more durable, they are going to last a bit longer. So, you won’t have to replace them quite as frequently.
The second reason is for their tone. Heavier gauge strings have more punch and attack. This is going to make your sound more aggressive overall.
The ideal gauge is going to depend on what you are comfortable with. The best place to start is with 0.105 gauge.
This is a good starting point for metal. It is heavy enough, but not too heavy to be uncomfortable. You can then slowly move up until you find the right gauge for you.
Just remember that heavier gauges are harder to play. They also have a higher string tension, which is going to pull harder on your neck.
If you are going to play heavy gauge strings, make sure your bass’ neck will be able to handle it. A snapped string isn’t a big deal, a snapped neck, however, is going to be a problem.
The tone of the strings are very dependent on what the strings are made of. For metal, you want strings with a punchy attack.
Steel strings are going to be your best bet. They are bright to avoid having a muddy tone, while being sharp, snappy, and crisp.
This also means that nickel strings are pretty much off the table. They have a much warmer, more vintage tone.
But alloys like cobalt are also great for metal. They are a good middle ground between nickel and steel.
They combine the best of both. They are durable like steel, but provide a slightly warmer tone if you are looking for a darker sound, or steel is just too bright.
The winding of the strings are going to have a similar effect on the tone as the material.
Round wound is the most common for strings. These are also the best for metal. They have that sizzle and attack needed for a great metal sound.
The other type of winding is flat wound. These strings, just like nickel, are the complete opposite.
They have a much more mellow, vintage tone. These are ideal for jazz bassists, but won’t work for metal.
Coated vs Uncoated
This is going to be a bit more subjective. Some bassists don’t like coated strings because they don’t feel natural like uncoated strings.
But coated strings has come quite far, to the point where many people aren’t even going to notice the difference. Coated strings do offer an advantage over uncoated.
This goes back to the issue of having to replace strings often. Coated strings are going to last much longer because of the protective layer covering them.
Coated strings also tend to retain their tone longer than uncoated strings. If you want strings that last, test out a few sets of coated strings.
The strings you use might be a small part of getting a metal sound, but it is an important part, nonetheless. Choosing the right strings is almost as important as choosing the right amp.
With the string recommendations and tips on this list, you will be playing those heavy bass lines in no time.