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Reviving Old Bass Strings: A New Approach

I let one of my friends borrow my 1978 pre-Ernie Ball Music Man bass, and he really gunked up the strings. You’ll hear in the video below that the strings are pretty dead.

There are all kinds of tricks out there being shared for reviving old strings: boiling, alcohol, whatever. This doesn’t require any of that, and you don’t even have to remove the strings.

You can follow along with the video to see exactly how this is done. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Detune the string. Get it nice and loose.
  2. Grab the string, pull it away from the neck and slap it against the fretboard several times.
  3. Check the string and compare with the others. If it still isn’t bright or new-sounding, keep slapping.

Now you can really slap that thing.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes for you… share your results and other tricks in the comments.

Thomas Risell, otherwise known as “MarloweDK”, is a bassist and music educator from Denmark. For more great bass lessons from MarloweDK, visit PlayBassNow.com.

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Share your thoughts

    Brian Axsmith

    Brian Axsmith

    What’s so hard about it? Well you have to take them off for one thing. And then put that back on. And the boil them in between. That takes a lot longer than this method.

    Toby Webb

    Toby Webb

    Also it rust the core of the string and they tend to break soon! Denatured Alcohol does the same thing and it does rust the string! Just drop them in for a hour.Dry them off and put them back on!

    Fred

    Fred

    I think many of us were wondering what this was doing to the frets. Great idea, but I’ll spend the few minutes boiling a backup set. Again, it’s a great idea, but if you have softer fretwork… might not be the perfect option. JMHO

Peter Fitzpatrick

I boiled my strings when I was young (and poorer) and it certainly works. I guess detuning and tapping the dirt out has a similar effect. I now use Elixir coated strings, expensive but they stay bright for ages.

Honza Hrbek

Did this with a friend’s PBass he borrowed me for a gig. The strings were so filthy I considered using heavy duty gloves. In a jiffy it sounded like (I think) a Fender should.

Don Sweat

Don Sweat

I had a 78 MM Sabre Bass..the Maxima Gold strings lasted 15 years! boiling, snapping, placebo effect. Joe Osborne never wiped his strings down, his bass is on the most #1 hits of all time…go figure. Buy good strings!

Keith Temple

If needing a REALLY good deep clean on stainless steal round wounds – get them off the bass, loosely coil them and put them in the dishwasher on ‘Pot Scrub’ and (((((RINGGGG)))))…repeat as needed.
Have fun
ScotsBass

Steve Carriere

Steve Carriere

I see all the tricks to extend strings for a while and allI think is I’d rather just put on a new set. For me, it’s not like I’m needing a fresh set every month or something. I can spend $40 for strings a couple times a year.

Fred Doston

Fred Doston

Instead of doing this directly on your frets and ruin them faster, put a relatively thick piece of cloth between the neck and the strings and slap them on it, it still works!

    Do Jacobson

    That might actually be not that bad of an idea… don’t like the idea of ruining my frets in the long run… Like the dirty sound a bit more though, so won’t be doing this too often anyway.

Mats

Mats

You shouldn’t care for the frets. Fret not! Since the string is very slack it doesn’t have the tension to make any groove into any fret, or worsen them. Whatever slack tension there is, it’s
spread evenly out to all of the frets along the string and not just ONE fret at say 9th fret.

However, the gunk is shifted, the technique is like whipping old carpets, just like they did before the vaacum cleaner was invented. Also, when slacking the string, the windings are actually squeezing out the gunk from the windings since the spaces becomes tighter. The gunk must be gone somewhere so check fretboard, and everything else afterwards.

Me myself uses Ultrasonic cleaners, and it’s visible for the naked eye that difference, and it’s clearly heard. This idea, I knew of, (I am from Sweden, he from Denmark) but you shouldn’t try this as a long term fix. The zzing disappears after one day, and you have to do it again. Boiling, or Ultrasonic makes the “new-string-zzing” lasts a few weeks longer.