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Dominants are awesome.

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Jeremy Allen, Apr 29, 2006.

  1. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    OK; the above has been said around here before by some people, but I thought I'd emphasize it.

    I think Velvet Animas are the best-sounding pizzicato string I've ever heard; but (IMHO, YMMV) they aren't really fit for modern orchestral bowing techniques, and the unique feel under the fingers (and the low tension-to-output ratio) takes some getting used to (but it's worth it).

    Thomastik Spirocores (mittels) are the undisputed "modern steel (jazz) string" and will be the Platonic ideal that my brain conjures when the words "bass string" are mentioned forevermore, but they have their own well-known limitations.

    On my bass, Obligatos are worthless wet noodles and Pirastro Flexocors/Permanents/Flat Chromesteels are mostly good for bowing and not long, painful jazz gigs.

    Gut strings are the bomb! In the same sense that driving that awesome '65 T-bird that your friend rehabbed from the junkyard is the bomb, until you need to use it every day to get to work or you want to drive 1000 miles with your bass to a gig and you realize that the gasoline consumption and the oil consumption are roughly equivalent, and that the brakes don't function well above 30 mph. (Again, YMMV--I offer these comparisons as a yardstick against which to judge my opinions of the following string. Which are as follows--)

    Dominants are awesome. They combine the best qualities of Spirocores and Animas, except that unlike either of the above strings they are a dream under the bow (just listen to Joel Quarrington for some proof). They're a bit stiffer than Spiro mittels, but not in a bad way (not stiffer like Flexocor Starks are stiffer; stiffer in the sense that when you play Spiro mittels and say "damn, I wish these would give me a little more meat to work with" then these strings do). They have more than enough sustain for "modern" jazz work, and more than enough thump for everything else. They're not difficult to play, but they're not too easy to play, either. They come much closer to the Velvet perfection of huge tone for unamplified jazz gigging than any other non-Velvet string I've tried, and they're much more friendly under the fingers than Velvets. Tonight, I surreptitiously played them unamplified on a gig with some heavy-ish guys (put the amp onstage, plugged in, turned it on, but didn't turn it up so they wouldn't know) and it was a dream come true--"Sunday at the Village Vanguard" tone, and afterwards when I told the pianist and drummer they both independently said "Holy sh!t, that felt so good and open and nice and I knew something was different but I couldn't tell what."

    So I think these strings are worth checking out, you know? If you disagree with many of the above statements (like, if you think that Velvets sound bad, or that Spirocores are not in fact the "modern steel string sound," or that Obligatos do not in fact sound like wet noodles and that the other Pirastro strings are generally good for hybrid purposes, or that gut strings actually function well in all musical settings, or that a 40-year-old T-bird is actually perfectly functional as a means of transportation), then it's possible that your bass and fingers make different things happen with strings than mine do, and your results with Dominants may differ. But I first played them on a friend's bass, who got the idea from TalkBass, and then I played them on Chris Fitzgerald's bass and thought "huh," and all you "hybrid" or just straight-up pizzicato players may have the same positive reaction I did.

    Edit: It occurs to me that there might be some confusion, so: "Thomastik Dominant Bass Strings" are what it is that I'm referring to as awesome. Not chords built on the fifth scale degree, or "top" partners in sado-masochistic relationships...is it just me, or is it getting late?
  2. Nice rant & rave. I couldn't agree more. I tune in 5ths & use the spiros for low C & G, Dominants for D & A. The Dominants speak sooo much better than the spiros on the D & A, but I can't find a better growl than the spiros down low. The strings match real well. I've used the Dominants for about 3 months. My only complaint is if I have to work hard to pull the sound out (in certain gig or volume situations), my left hand hurts. Otherwise, best strings I've ever used.
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Jeremy - I take it the band got free beer last night at the gig? :D

    Seriously, I had to laugh when I saw this because of that conversation we had at the Jazz Factory the night you played with LaBarbera's band. There we were, two fairly introverted guys of undeniable Norwegian-bachelor-farmer descent who had just met trying to act extraverted and look at the other guys' shoes for a change... We were talking normal bass dork stuff (y'know, as in "You like Pops? I like Pops, but it's kinda gooey in the summertime" etc...), and then the conversation shifted to TB and how funny the "trends" were here, and by way of example you went on a small rant about how Dominants were the "String Du Jour" at Talkbass; I raised an eyebrow in mock offense and mentioned that I was using them and thought they were great. Welcome to the String Du Jour bandwagon. :)
  4. Andy Allen

    Andy Allen "Working Bassist"

    Aug 31, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I've turned in to a Dominant-bore myself these days - since I haven't had any new strings to talk about I've been droning on about Doms any chance I get :p.

    Johno is pretty much right on with his rant - except I've never played guts or driven a '65 T-Bird, so I'll take his word for those.

    I agree with Larry about the bottom end, and am still using a Spiro orch/red on E; it is well worn in and has the best balance of tone, growl and feel.

    Otherwise I'm now using the Solo gauge Dominants tuned down to orch. pitch - they give me less tension for my thumb position studies without losing that dominant sound or feel. As Johnno said, the Dom orch gauge are a touch stiffer than Spiro orch gauge, and the Dom solo gauge tuned down are a touch stiffer than Spiro Weichs. So those who are wary of the Doms due to their higher tension would be happy with these I think. I am.

    I'll shut up now,

  5. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Well, this is liberal-college-campus land, so it was Pinot Noir, but it was indeed flowing freely!

    I had actually tried Dominants on my long-lost Kay about five years ago and I noted that they were very easy to bow but, being more of a wuss then, I thought they were too stiff. I'm utterly incapable of resisting the TalkBass Thing du Jour if it can be within my price range (I haven't sprung for a New Standard yet, but I certainly would if I could), but for me it really helps to get to try something out for myself in person.

    I'm recording next week in this studio where the guy always sets the bass up the same and with the same mic, and where I've recorded frequently in the past couple of years. So after Tuesday, I'll have recordings of myself in the same setting with Spirocores on the bass, with Animas on, and now with Dominants. Maybe I'll try to post some clips; the difference between the Anima recordings and the Spirocore recordings is quite dramatic, and I think the Dominants will be right in between the two.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Please do post those clips - that will be a great reference point for string shoppers: same bass, same recording setup, same player. The real question is, will you have consumed the same amount of pinot noir all three times?
  7. Deltree


    Feb 7, 2005
    That would be fantastic, Johono! While Dominants are the string de jour, the Animas seem to be the mystical 'aspirational' string, and I've yet to see a set in the flesh this side of the pond.

    I too am in the 'wooohooooo!' phase with my Dominants. My latest 'discovery' with them, and one that has come up in this thread, is the way they feel under my right hand in thumb position - so comfortable compared to Spiros, and I never imagined that there was anything wrong with Spiros. Even doing the slab-type thing - picking at right angles to the string (one of my teachers called it 'piccolo-ing,' is that accurate?) which I previously did very rarely, I find the tone pretty satisfying. I think I'll keep doing it, although not if there are any other bassists, at least purists, in the audience!

    Under the bow too, I'm no genius with the stick-o-pain, but it's so much more rewarding with these than with those 'other' strings. I do rather like the idea of using one for the E string though. Anyway, I'm rambling.

    I never dreamed that I would be such a geek over strings, but it pays off doesn't it! :bag:
  8. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    Yeah but what about the breakage factor? :)
  9. Mine haven't broke yet & a lot less expensive to replace than the Velvets if they do. Although I've only been using the Dominants for a few months. I've had one string break on my bass in 25 years. I dunno? Maybe my bass is set up properly?
  10. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I've never had one break on me before but I only used an A for a short-time. I played a bass with a Dominant G once and I liked it for a steel string.
  11. Andy Allen

    Andy Allen "Working Bassist"

    Aug 31, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Check out the "Dominants breaking" thread lower down this forum - Thomastik has plans for solving this issue it seems, and Mike from Thomastic is requesting info from users to help with this.

    Personally I've only had problems with an E at installation because the string length on my bass is fairly short and the body of the string was winding around the tuning peg. Otherwise both an orchestra gauge and a solo gauge ADE have had a hard life on my bass with no problems at all.

  12. glivanos

    glivanos Supporting Member

    Jun 24, 2005
    Philadelphia Area
    When I was at Upton bass a few weeks ago and tried their laminated and hybrd Hawkes basses, they were strung with Dominants and they sounded awesome.

    I was very impressed and may be looking for a slightly used set to buy off a talkbass member looking to sell :bag:
  13. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    I'm not sure you want to do that; anecdotal evidence and the guys at Thomastik say that once you put 'em on, leave 'em on or else they're more prone to the breakage we've been hearing about, and therefore a used set may not be worth it. I broke a Dominant D (in the middle of a wedding processional..) once, and I had put the set on and off a couple of times before that.

    But! If you want to save some money, you can do what I recently did (and often do), which is to just buy the G,D, and A and keep using whatever E string you have on. E strings are expensive and I'm very happy with having a Spirocore down there; leaving out the E makes the new set considerably more affordable.
  14. jfv


    May 5, 2003
    Portland, OR
    Hmmm, well sometime I'm gonna have to try a set of
    these. But honestly, I dont know where this 'wet noodle'
    about Obligatos comes from. Of course right now I've
    been using a bow about 80%, but I am fairly pleased
    with the Obligatos i have on right now.

    In fact, my teacher had a set of Corelli 370s cheap, and
    being the favored string of Rabbath types :) I bought
    them. However, being lazy I have not yet switched and
    last week my teacher is over, playing my bass and she's
    like "hey, these strings are sounding really good' :)

    Maybe its just the mystic energy she puts into my
    equipment, I dont know :) I do know that like a lot
    of strings they needed a while to 'open up'.

    As I said, one of these days I want to try the Dominants
    but for now it seems a waste to just dump these Obligatos.
  15. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    Everybody's bass reacts differently. I wasn't just joking around when I said that "if you think Obligatos do not in fact sound like wet noodles... then it's possible that your bass and fingers make different things happen with strings than mine do, and your results with Dominants may differ;" it's a serious thing to consider. So on my bass, Obligatos are floppy and don't set the bass in motion, and Dominants are great, and I think if Obligatos worked really well on a particular bass, then Dominants would probably be too stiff to work well and would not be a good choice. I should also say that I'm playing way more pizz than arco, and the wet-noodlery is more noticeable under the fingers when playing unamplified with a loud drummer than it is under the bow.

    Ah, but that's all part of the fun...spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on strings to find out how your particular bass responds to them, and then having to repeat the process when you get a new instrument.
  16. brianh


    Aug 19, 2005
    Endorsing: Epifani Amplification
    How is the Dominant A string? I've been using Dominant D and G with Spirocore (orch.) A and E. I like the Dominants a lot.....
  17. JoeyNaeger

    JoeyNaeger Guest Commercial User

    Jun 24, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Bass Specialist, Lisle Violin Shop
    Obligatos are some of the most bass dependent strings I've tried. I put them on my hybrid bass and they worked fantastically for arco and had an amazing pizz tone. I put them on my Solano and the A and the E were almost useless with the bow and the G and D were quite nasal. It was basically a completley different string. Of course I put that same set on my friends bass and they worked great :meh:
  18. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    The Doms take a few weeks to settle in but they grow to be a very balanced set. I've had mine almost a year now and it's a pleasure every day.
  19. B. Graham

    B. Graham Guest

    Aug 11, 2002
    I love the Dominant A. It's the biggest sounding A I've had on my bass. I've been back and forth a little about Dominant's over the last couple of months (threads abound), but I'm sticking with them.

    I posted a link in the recording area earlier today. I wasn't actually trying to play much worth recording, just testing out a mic and pick-up, but it turned out OK so I posted it.

    It's a lower end Eastman carved bass, with Dominant's, and a small condenser mic.
  20. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    So--I'm still in love with Dominants. They're just great.

    But, I did in fact break one. How? Well, by doing the two things they suggest not doing--taking them off and putting them back on, and letting the string portion get to the tuning peg. And just as warned, the A string broke. I'm not at all frustrated--they're great strings, and I think they were rock solid on the bass I originally had them on and wouldn't have broken any time soon (I lay into them pretty hard). It is a bit annoying, though, that you can't do anything about it if the string reaches the peg: one can't change the string length (without an adjustable tailpiece or some serious work), and on this bass I'm about to go into serious debt for the Dominant A is out of the picture. Too bad, because I think the A is the best one of the set--sounds like an Anima, but with great tension and smooth wrap.

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