There can be a great deal of debate about the ideal rope, wire or other material for making strings. It comes down to individual taste, but you need to consider:
strength, weight, looks, stretch, consistency, comfort, noise and durability.
Strength is a good thing. Breaking a string can be an unpleasant experience.
Inbindis are musical instruments and should never be played with extreme force, so you should never break a string especially if you inspect it before playing.
But to be on the safe side, you definitely want strong material to start with.
Consult strength ratings on packages before purchase, comparing them with the strongest product available.
The weight of the string (scientifically, the mass per unit length) is one factor in determining the pitch of the note played.
(The other factors being tension and vibrational length).
The heavier the string the lower the note.
We like a heavy string, because we want to exploit the inbindi\’s ultra-low musical range, and we have some big bad amps to take advantage.
Some players choose a lighter string to match the typical range of a bass guitar.
The weight of a string breaks down further into thickness and density.
Obviously, a thick string is heavier than a thin string of the same material.
However, it is also true that a metal wire will be heavier than rope of the same diameter.
You need to think about \’density\’ (scientifically, the mass per unit volume), i.e., how much the material floats or sinks.
This factor makes a difference to tone, which is then a matter of personal preference.
The look of the string is important to the audience.
The traditional material is either from an animal (sinew, gut or rawhide) or a plant fiber.
There is extra hassle in working with materials of animal origin, so most players don\’t bother.
We like synthetic rope but, to keep with tradition, choose a brown or dark color if all other factors are equal. Cotton works and can be dyed.
Hemp is weak for its weight.
The stretch of the string makes some difference to musical tone, but is a matter of personal taste.
A stretchy string has a \’twang\’ (scientifically – the harmonic overtones do not quite match theoretical frequencies of an ideal string).
How much twang you want is up to you, but an excessive amount is probably undesirable.
An amp\’s tone controls can reduce the overtones, making the amp much more important to your sound than the string.
A string with almost no stretch, such as a wire, may be undesirable from an audience and player perspective.
To get different notes, an inbindi player alters the tension of the string, and with a stretchy string, changing the tension means moving the staff a lot.
But, with an unstretchy wire, something freaky happens – you can change the tension of a wire without visibly moving the staff.
You can feel the tension in your arm muscle, but the audience can not.
They may be completely baffled about how you are playing, because you appear to be stationary.
We want the audience to see some action – that is why they come to the show.
Also, as a player, having some movement can be helpful because your body learns the approximate position for each note.
Your ear and the tension in your arm are much more important, but the extra visual feedback helps find the correct pitch fast.
Consistency is a good thing.
Every string is going to stretch a little with use and expand or contract a little with different temperatures.
You can make small adjustments in your playing, and if that isn\’t enough you can adjust the length of the string between songs.
However, some strings simply change too much and can cause real problems.
As an example of a problem material, polypropylene rope can be too sensitive to hot lights.
You might step outdoors or onto a brightly lit stage and find that your dark string is heating up and expanding rapidly.
You may suddenly discover that a note that was at the top of your range is no longer reachable because the string has gone slack.
By comfort we mean how hard the string is on your fingers.
Acoustic players frequently wear gloves because they need to work hard to get an audible, sustained tone, but with an amp doing most of the work, gloves should not be needed.
A soft, pliable string is much more pleasant to play.
Of course, you will want to avoid anything that could cut or give you a sliver.
There are two kinds of noise to be avoided, or at least controlled.
The source of the problem is the sensitivity of the pickup – it will amplify sounds that are lost in an acoustic instrument.
The first kind of noise is produced when your fingers slide along or across the string.
A smoother material may reduce this noise – the rest can be eliminated by adjusting the amp.
Sometimes this noise is useful, as long as it is rhythmic it might help fill out your sound – but you definitely want control of the amount.
The second kind of noise is internal popping and cracking.
Individual strands in a rope may stretch different amounts and may not slide smoothly across each other – they may bind, snap and crackle instead.
When amplified this noise is not good for your speakers or your ears.
Rope with an inner core and an outer sheath is a very poor choice because the two parts will almost certainly stretch differently.
Theoretically, a monofilament (like fishing line or a weed trimmer line) is the best choice, but we haven\’t found it necessary to go this far.
Durability is a good thing, of course.
While most rope will last a very long time, synthetics will probably last longest.
Summary: Taken together, we have found woven nylon with a simple, symmetric braid and no inner core is the best choice.
Thick strings, up to 1/4 inch (6 mm) diameter are playable if you are looking for an extreme bass range, but most players prefer 3/16 inch (5 mm) to 1/8 inch (3 mm).
White nylon is available in most hardware stores, and various colors can be found with a little more searching.
Cotton is a good choice if you prefer natural materials.