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. It is easy to assume this is the only factor, but it really is only one of many. Two different brands, both with the same gauge, can and will have different tensions. Even one brand with the smaller gauge could feel more tense than a larger one,  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 equate to 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. See the bass strings explained article for more information about scale length.

String Height or Action - Higher string height or "action" will make strings feel more tense. This can be altered by adjusting the saddles on the bridge, and is also affected by the amount of "relief" (how straight or curved) the neck of your bass is.

Neck Relief - Fingerboards are rarely perfectly flat in order to provide space for the strings to vibrate. You can adjust how much "bow" in the neck there is by adjusting the truss rod- and generally a straighter neck results in lower action as well as less tension on the strings.

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.