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A Good Pure Arco String

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by theweed42, Jul 17, 2010.

  1. theweed42


    May 1, 2008
    Hi all,

    I have read a few threads on strings meant purely for orchestral/solo arco playing, but I thought I'd post to get some specific recommendations.

    I have a fully carved 2004 Romanian flatback (3/4), currently strung with Helicore Hybrid mediums. The Helicores are about 6 years old. I like them for pizz, but I'm going to be playing 95% arco from now on, and I'd like to get a better set of arco strings.

    Things I don't like about the Helicores:
    1.) Too thin and nasally-sounding without much punch or fundamental. They sound like cello strings and it's really tough to blend with a section.
    2.) They feel very wirey and hard on the fingers.

    I have heard that Spirocore Mittels are zingy, high tension, bad with the bow, etc. But I've played two other basses that have them, and I haven't noticed that at all. One bass even had brand new Spiros, and they were mellow (not scratchy) and sang beautifully.

    Things I liked about the Spirocore Mittels:
    1.) Clear singing fundamental (especially in thumb position.)
    2.) D and G feel softer than the Helicores :eyebrow: (the G is definitely fatter and smoother-feeling)
    3.) Much easier to intonate than the Helicores.

    So, why don't I immediately run out and buy them? Well, the basses that I tried Spiros on are both quite old and naturally dark and muffled-sounding. So, I'm concerned that a set of Spiros would sound more scratchy and nasal on my newer bass.

    I'm also interested in Flexocores and Bel Cantos. But if Spiros are supposed to be the brightest and I think they're just right, wouldn't the other strings be way too muffled?

    Does anyone have experience using Spiros on a new fully carved bass, especially for section and solo arco? And, how do they compare with Helicore Hybrids, Flexocores or Bel Cantos?

  2. you should try flexocores or permanents.
  3. Norre


    Jan 5, 2001
    Antwerp, Belgium
    ... or Original Flat-Chromes. I used to have them on my bass and I really liked them for arco. I had the solos tuned down to normal pitch. They were easy to bow and the sound was full and warm. If I would ever use my bow again I'd put them on again ... or maybe the Animas :rolleyes:
    Good luck with your search :)
  4. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Well, I think you're proving that Spirocores don't deserve their reputation as being arco hostile. They really aren't and were designed for orchestral use, they've just become a popular jazz string.

    That said, Bel Cantos and Flexocores are probably both fine choices.
  5. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Pirastro Flexocore was my favorite arco string. Beautiful sound, very responsive to the bow and not hard on the fingers. I use Spirocore because I play much more pizz than arco, but I have no problem bowing them either. Flexocore certainly has a darker sound however, so if you like Spiros for arco on your bass, keep using them.
  6. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Bobby, which Flexocores do you like? I tried the '92s a few years back and agree that they make even me sound like i know what to do with that sticky thing. Also really liked them under my fingers for playing jazz. Good sound at home, good sound from the seats out front at a jazz gig, sound didn't make it up to my ears while I was playing. Still have them, though and can't release them into the wild, because I keep thinking that some day...
  7. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    I found a full set of Original Flat-chromes; too high tension for my bass (old carved german no-name). But that's just my personal feelings, if you like the higher tensions strings you may disagree. I'm currently using EAD Bel Cantos and the G from the OFC set, and, while I like the results, am looking into possibly going for a Eudoxa G.

    I'm mainly a classical player, and do 90% of my playing with a bow. I'm a big fan of the Bel Cantos, though the experience I have with Evahs may be more helpful to you.

    A friend of mine used them on his new Upton Hybrid (carved top), which, while not fully carved, is closer to your situation than mine is, with my older bass. He was happy with them (though later changed to Evah weichs because he used his bass for a fair amount of jazz pizz work), and whenever he let me play his bass I enjoyed playing them. They also melded well in the section, in his hands at least.

    In short,
    1 I like Bel Cantos and my experience with Evahs has also been good.
    2 liked the general sound of the OFC's on my bass, but found the heavy tension and bow pressure necessary a turn off. That being said, I prefer a lower tension string.
    3 The Bel Cantos and the OFC's both have that singing upper register you spoke of. I liked both for Solo material, especially the G from the OFC's (hence my current set up)
    4 all aforementioned strings melded well into a section.

    This reply has become a bit long and ramble-y, but I hope this helps

  8. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Troy - when I had two basses I had Flexocore 92s on one of them for a while. They were absolutely wonderful for arco, but pizz-wise it kind of got worse as you went from high to low strings. If you really want a dark, old school sound, the Flex G&D can pass as a pizz string, but the A&E..... I have also used an Original Flexicore G string as a substitute G with Spiros, and it's a perfectly good pizz string, but I did not like the D. Ironically, orchestral steel strings like Flexocore also make good slapping strings, and some of those heavy duty slappers use strings like them or Jargar.

    I've got some worn-in Spirocore Weichs that I've really been enjoying, and they've been working fine for me for both pizz and arco. Ideally, I prefer the tension of mittels, but I like the sound of the weichs better on my bass.
  9. ldekoning


    Mar 13, 2010
    Boston, MA
    I just switched from helicore hybrids to evah pirazzi regulars, and play about 70% arco. I picked these strings because supposedly they do everything well. In my experience they are far superior to helicore hybrids!

    Mainly the evahs have more bass and are easier to start with the bow than the hybrids. They are also easy to 'dig in' and get a big sound - much easier than the hybrids. For bowing, they really do have more meat and less zing. Mine are just beginning to settle in and I can't wait to hear how they mellow out.

    Evahs already have a great reception as a hybrid string, and if you check the Pirastro website you will see that many orchestra bassists use them exclusively. Who knows, you might love them.

    However my teacher has flexocor strings on his bass and I miss how easily the bow gets them going. They have a beautiful rich sound that is easy to obtain. The evahs are great in their own way but are a bit fussier. If you are thinking of going this route, I was just recommended a permanent E and A for growl and flexocor heavy gauge D and G for warmth. Supposedly this is a great combination that will also yield adequate pizz response!
  10. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
    I use EPs on my Classical bass too. I can't think of a better arco string. And I also noticed a lot of younger bassists using Obligatos for orchestral work.
    I have Obligatos on my Jazz bass, which I occasionally use for orchestra as well.
    I just love the feel and sound of Pirastro. The Eps and Obligatos IMHO are the very definition or warmth.
  11. theweed42


    May 1, 2008
    Wow, thanks for all the great responses! There's definitely a lot to think about. I appreciate the advice on the Evahs and Obligatos, but I don't think I want to go with a synthetic core string. I'm very poor and IME they wear out in less than a year.

    That being said, it seems there are advocates for Original FlatChrome, Flexocor and Spiros. I did some further digging on Youtube to find guys whose sound I dug. It seems like you can indeed get a good arco sound using Spiros (like Ranaan Meyer.)

    Tension- and feel-wise, do you guys know if Helicore mediums are closer to Spiro Weichs or Mittels? I'm trying to figure out which would be the easiest to put on my bass.
  12. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
  13. theweed42


    May 1, 2008

    Thanks for the chart. I was just looking for that. :hyper:

    Guess I'll just have to take the plunge and pick one now.

    Wish me luck!
  14. Norre


    Jan 5, 2001
    Antwerp, Belgium
    Good luck :D
  15. I put belcanto's on my bass. The strings are quite wide / soft under the fingers and smooth both in feel and sound. As they are a sister to the spiro's (metal core), they should have longevity and so far mine have been lovely. A little dull for pizz, but passable. Absolutely sublime under the bow.

    I had dominants on my last bass, they are a synthetic core, nice tone. The E broke after about 1 year. Not much comparison as I'm fairly new at the string game, but this is my experience so far!
    salcott likes this.
  16. theweed42


    May 1, 2008
    I thought I'd come post an update on my arco string search.

    I managed to narrow my search down to two choices. One was a straight set of Bel Cantos. The other was a mixed set of Original Flex ADG and a Permanent E. After reading the Bel Canto Megathread, it seemed like Bel Cantos would be the best compromise string that would allow me to have some decent pizz tone. So, I ordered a set last week.

    My Impressions on the Bel Cantos:

    I really like the feel of them, straight out of the package. They were very easy to put on the bass. They didn't sound amazing on the first day, so I let them settle in overnight. On the second day, WOW.

    They are definitely a darker string - even darker than my 6 year old Helicore Hybrids. They're also quite a bit thicker gauge, which I wanted. The Bel Cantos reminded me of Helicore Orchestrals, but smoother under the hands and with a bit more presence.

    Bowing, they are very easy to start. I LOVE the D and G. I'm initially less enthusiastic about the A and E, because of the lower string tension compared to the hybrids. I'm used to increasing tension in the lower strings. However, I'm sure once I get used to the feel, I'll love the quick starts.

    Also, I've been really impressed at how well the lower strings speak up the neck. It may have been because the hybrids were dead, but I couldn't get a good pitch center out of the A and E any higher than second or third position. Not a problem with the BCs, as they speak great all over the neck.

    I'm hoping now that the sound doesn't chance too much as they settle. I'll post more info as I try them in different situations.
  17. Amin


    Oct 22, 2004
    Nice thread.
    In my opinion I am slightly shifting from big-fat-dark sounding strings coming back to steel.
    Consider I am an arco player, so I am not talking about pizz tone now..
    I have tried Belcanto, Evah, Evah Weich, Passione, Obligato, Velvet compas180suit, Olivs, Eudoxas....and so on..
    Some of them are wonderful strings with a great feeling..
    I remember Eudoxa made my bass sound 100yrs older.. Belcanto being so round,smooth , easy and gentle, never scratchy and never harsh. Passione too, wonderful strings, maybe a little more precise than Belcanto.. etc etc..
    And all these strings gave me a fat, round, quite dark response.
    But it does not mean that it really helps.
    I do love fat round and dark sounds. Really.
    But I can not sacrify clarity, articulation, and capacity to get a decent intonation.
    Then, we have to consider the differences in our instruments.
    Now I have an old wonderful sounding Czech Bass (end '800) and I have no problem in getting round sounds.
    The bass I had previously was clear-sounding and I experimented every way to make it sound darker and fat...
    Anyway, I think the quality of your bass is the main point. If the bass works fine, it will be fine almost with any kind of strings.. Obviously there are differences, but it will not be like day-night.

    I found that -for instance- playing Evahs was great, but I was always "around" the right pitch...get a clear intonation was difficult. It was like the bass was dull in a way... Well dark and fat, but with lack of some harmonics..
    We often confuse the thickness of sound, the color of sound with the volume of sound, or its capacity to be better audible..
    It doesn't matter how loud you will play. The better audible sound will be better heard.
    If the sound is clean, clear, rich of harmonics, it will run and will be well heard. It does not mean it will be thin or poor...it could be fat and round as well..
    I think that playing in a section surely is different that soloing. But if you have a string that allows you to control and adjust as quickly as you can your intonation, it will be a great pro for the section.
    Then another consideratation:
    we play a string instrument like violin, viola, cello....
    And we are in the lowest register of the Family...
    And, what is more, we are tuned in fourth instead of fifths (affecting the sound with a less open risonance...).
    So, I think that going with extra-dark and extra-fat string, it is just a way to complicate our lifes..
    What should violin and cello player say about their strings..? And they are playing in a different register with smaller instrument...
    I see cellist playing Spirocores for Orchestral purposes...
    I am now playing mainly Pirastro Original Flatchrome (which are not that brilliant, but elegant and sufficently precise) and Spirocorse Mittel 4/4.
    I love hearing all the thrills, embellishment, nuances in shifting position, or keeping a note still and strong at the bridge... Or simply hearing my sounds weel centred in intonation, clearly articulated... (Mozart excerpts, Mendelsohnn excerpts, etc..).
    I think it is more helpful.
    But this is just my own opinion.
    And consider that the only thing I've understood so far, is that I have understood nothing.
    I will be happy to hear other comments and replies.
    This forum is a real source for all double bass players.
    All the best
  18. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Let me complicate the mix, just for the heck of it: Jargar Fortes - I think they've got the best of Bel Canto/Obligato warmth with Evah/Spiro "pop" on the string, without the Flex stiffness.

    kwd likes this.
  19. mjt0229

    mjt0229 Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    I had a Jargar forte extended E on for a little while (alongside Original Flexocors) and I found it a little tough to manage. I currently have Jargar mediums all the way across, and I like those. I think the Flexocors had better sensitivity to dynamic range, but I think the Jargars are easier to play overall.

    I'm not sure I can speak much to the dark or light color of the tone, though. My bass was in for a check-up recently and my luthier told me, "that's not how these strings sound!" The implication was that my bass has enough of its own character to overpower the differences in strings.

    I tried Evahs, too, but I don't like them. The sound was great at first (noticeably different from the Jargar or Flexocors), but I had trouble with them rolling, and I didn't feel like they lasted very long. Also, they're stretchy, which makes tuning the E over the extension difficult.

    For the record, I'm a 100% orchestral player.
  20. stefaniw80401

    stefaniw80401 Supporting Member

    May 18, 2004
    Evergreen, Colorado
    Reviving an old thread -- regarding the Jargar extended E in mjt0229's post #19 above...

    I'm looking at DoubleMidi's master string xls file in the Jargar section. Notice that the forte E (32.10kp) is actually LESS heavy than the medium E (36.2kp). What's up with this?

    Also note, there is no data for extended-E's, but typically the extended-E is the same as the non-extended E string in terms of gauge and weight.

    Hey mjt, weren't you surprised with the med E+ string being heavier than the forte E+?

    The gauge of the forte E+ is .12" What is the gauge of the medium E+??

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