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How do you adapt to different tension strings?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Aaron Saunders, Jul 12, 2005.


  1. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ontario
    I'm not sure whether this'd be a Technique or Strings, but I was just curious as to how you guys tailor your playing to different tension strings? I was just reading the Obligatos vs. Dominants/Animas thread and saw Chris Fitz's remark about how the Obligatos allowed for crazy chops (in his bedroom,) but the Dominants made him pull back his playing a bit and overall performed better live.

    I was just curious as to how this affects everyone -- especially if you've got two basses set up for different applications (one for jazz, one for orchestral/symphonic) and those who use mixed sets on the same bass.

    When I play BG, I generally go the low tension/low action (for those who double on slab, specifically Thomastik Jazz Rounds most of the time or really light D'addario XL's.) When I got my own DB though, I decided to try and go for the "unamped as much as possible" route with high action. The strings on my DB are Spiro Mittels -- which, to me, are very high tension, especially compared to what was on the school's DB (I'm not sure what they are, but they sounded much worse for pizz but were a bit easier to bow.)
    The change was a bit shocking at first, but I've changed my use-as-much-of-my-right-hand-finger-as-physically-possible method to one that uses the full weight of my right arm, less finger meat (mostly the pads and sides of the pads) and over all a more "dancing" than a "pulling" motion -- I find this also lends a nicer tone (as long as I keep my hand from straying to far away from the end of the fingerboard,) good volume, and easier application of two fingers. Overall, I can play much longer, more smoothly, and more complicated lines. The higher tension definitely required me to refine my technique...I could get away with just using my finger muscles on the school's low-tension bugger. With the left hand...well, that's basically just a case of making sure I use my fingertips and just tough it out as my hands get stronger and don't tire as easily over time.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Tbeers

    Tbeers

    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Coincidental that you should bring up this topic right now... Here's something I posted earlier today regarding the Dominants:
    I think that playing with higher tension strings teaches you not to try and "fight" with the instrument...

    You mention how it affected your right hand technique. I actually find it equally startling how differently I am using my left hand now with the Dominants. My first gig with these new strings, I almost died my left hand got so tired. I'm starting to learn to stop the string with only as much pressure as is necessary. This allows me to get as good a sound as ever, keep the same speed chops I had with lower tension, and do so without wearing myself down.

    I think it's important for every musician to waste as little energy as possible. Switching to Dominants is actually helping me toward that goal.
     
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I think it's really all about the sound. Sometimes I play lightly on the Dominants, but sometimes the music seems to be calling for more "POW" from the strings. In general, I find that I can play quietly on just about any string I've ever tried, but the same cannot be said when a "muscular" sound is called for. I like high tension strings because they seem to allow for the greatest dynamic range, and because they always seem to give clear and quick articulation of pitch. That said, they can have their drawbacks: most important is their sustain, the color and "thickness" of which I can never quite seem to find on lighter strings, but which is also difficult to TURN OFF when desired. I'm working on some left hand techniques to improve this, but it is a trade off.

    As far as LH pressure on the string, they all feel pretty much the same to me since I have worked to build my LH technique around arm weight and "hanging" the hand without the thumb from the neck. The biggest adjustment for me always seems to be how to produce the sound from the RH. It may well be that when I get better at both, I'll be able to control the degree of sustain better...I hope so, anyway.
     
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I always find heavier srtings to be faster, both pizz and arco.

    CF -- try moving your right hand up away from the bridge a bit and think of pulling the string in such a way that you are causing it to vibrate in a circle. This can soften up the attack of the heaviest of strings.
     
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Me too; glad to hear it might be the same whenever I start trying to get serious about arco.

    Thanks - that's what I'm doing at the moment with the Dominants at times when it seems called for. The left hand thing I mentioned has to do more with the sustain, trying to find a way to minimize it...I'll keep at it!
     
  6. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    A more classical type of pizz will give you a thumpier sound, but you don't have a lot of choice with dynamics or much speed, but you can get a lot more 'bumhh' that way.

    When you get to The Stick the heavier strings might be a little bit of a dissuasion at first. I spend about a year with Spirocore Solos at orch pitch (after a year with Orch Spiros) which really gave me an easier start. Now I'm back on Orch Spiros and wouldn't want to go back to light strings as the heavier ones offer so much more in timbre and dynamics, which I couldn't really take advantage of until my tough with the bow had progressed to a more workable level. I do kind of miss the darker sound of the Solos for pizz sometimes. Funny that they seem a lot brighter (thinner sounding, maybe?) for arco.
     
  7. Tbeers

    Tbeers

    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Any string should, in theory, sound darker pizzicato than arco. That's part of the difficulty with bowing spiros... a pizz note comes out nice and bright, but arco is almost screechy.
     
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    But, what I was saying and should have been more clear, is that the Solo Spiros are both darker pizz and brighter arco than the orchestra gauge, which are brighter pizz and darker with the bow.

    I think I got that straight :)
     
  9. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    Florida
    I've got Obligatos on my LaScala. I want to try the Dominants but the sustain-for-a-month kind of sound is not what I'm after. Every day that bass sounds better and better, but it just feels like it will really explode with good tone if I put a higher tension string on there.
     
  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Dominants aren't THAT sustainy. Nothing like Spiros, for sure, and the same or maybe less than the Obligatos. Of course, different strings act differently on different basses.
     
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I dunno, Ray... on my bass, they seem to have exactly as much sustain as Spiros, and way more than Obligatos. YMMV. :)