Orchestral strings for a bright, tight bass

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by sricks3, Feb 10, 2018.

  1. sricks3

    sricks3

    Dec 6, 2007
    Augusta, GA
    I need new strings for my bass. I play it exclusively in orchestral/classical situations, so arco performance is the biggest consideration. My problem is that my carved-top, solid flat-back bass is particularly bright sounding, and it's also fairly difficult to bow with the D and G in particular having a tendency to scratch and screech. So I need a string set that is super responsive under the bow and also as dark sounding as possible.

    I've tried the following:
    • D'Addario Helicore Orchestra - These are my baseline. Tone and bow response are both just ok, but at the price it's everything I'd expect.
    • Pirastro Eudoxa - I remember these being amazing in tone and bow response, but I only bought them one time years ago because I managed to get an amazing deal. Unless my situation changes drastically, I won't be able to afford them again.
    • Pirastro Passione - These are currently on my bass for the first time. They sound better (and deeper) than the Helicores, and they bow more easily also. The D and G are still a little tough, but that seems to be more the fault of the bass than the strings. They've lasted a while, but when they started to die they went downhill very quickly.
    Some brief research has helped me narrow down the field of new string possibilities to the following (but I'm open to other suggestions):
    • D'Addario Kaplan - People seem to really like these, especially for the price, and I've heard they bow pretty easily. If they're a substantial step up from the Helicores, the price might make them a top pick on it's own.
    • Pirastro Evah Pirazzi - I see reviews specifically mentioning quick bow response and "gut-like" sound, but they're also commonly listed as good hybrid strings which makes me wonder if they'd be too bright.
    • Pirastro Flexocor Deluxe - A lot of orchestral players seem to regard Flexocors as the industry standard and the baseline to which other strings are compare, but I've never actually tried them. The Deluxe set is described as being easier to bow than the standard set.
    I'm also still considering another set of Passiones, but I've only ever tried three different brands, so I like the idea of branching out. Belcantos got left out of the top three somewhat arbitrarily, but I've heard them described as dark and easy to bow, also.

    It's possible that lighter strings would make the bowing easier (I've always used mediums), but I'm not sure if I'd lose too much low-end or dynamic range if I switched to lights. Then again, the Eudoxas were particularly thick but still bowed really well.

    Can anyone point me in the right direction? Ultimately, I probably just need to get a nicer bass, but that's not in the budget right now.
     
  2. Flexocor 92. They’re flexible, thin in gauge but not too thin, and generally well balanced. Some say the E is weak but on a bass that produces fundamental well, that’s not the case. If the 92 E sucks wind on your bass, replace it with a dead Spiro and boom.
     
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  3. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Nashville TN
    with your needs i think a set of daddario kaplin lights may be good. never tried them though so do some research.
     
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  4. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Jargar - Forte or medium.
     
  5. sricks3

    sricks3

    Dec 6, 2007
    Augusta, GA
    Thanks for the recommendation! From what I've seen online, people tend to say that the Flexocor 92s are the stiffest of the three Flexocor varieties (others being Originals and Deluxe). Have you played the other Flexocors for reference? I was leaning towards the Deluxe set because they're supposedly easier to bow, but people sure seem to love the 92s and Originals.
     
  6. sricks3

    sricks3

    Dec 6, 2007
    Augusta, GA
    Yeah, I'm considering the Kaplans based on price alone, but they seem to get a lot of love, too. I'm a little worried about sacrificing sound if I go to lights, but it might be worth it if my D and G speak better.
     
  7. sricks3

    sricks3

    Dec 6, 2007
    Augusta, GA
    Thanks for the recommendation. I've heard that Jargars are really easy to bow, but people also seem to describe them as quite bright. I'm not sure that would work well on my already bright bass. They're comparatively cheap, though, so I might give them a try sometime.
     
  8. I’ve played all the Flexocor Orchs and much of the rest of their line. The Deluxe are even more well balanced and brighter but stiff under the left hand. The Originals are totally imbalanced; the G in particular can be piercing and the lows are deep and dead sounding. The A is huge. Primitive is my read on them.

    I’m on Kaplan Mediums now but enjoyed the 92s for years. They’re supple under the left hand but can take bow pressure. The timbre and tension are well balanced across the set of the E happens to work with your bass. And they’re beautifully wound.

    Dammit. Now I want them again.
     
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  9. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Nashville TN
    Listen to kungfu. He's actually played these
     
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  10. sricks3

    sricks3

    Dec 6, 2007
    Augusta, GA
    Awesome! This is exactly the kind of input I was looking for. I'll probably get a set of the 92 Flexocors. They seem to be the industry standard (if there is such a thing) for us orchestral players, but I've still never tried them. Out of curiosity, can I ask why you switched to the Kaplans and how you think they compare to the Flexocors?
     
  11. Actually, Bel Cantos seem to be the standard right now.

    I switched from 92s to a really dead old set of Bels because I wanted more clarity and note separation but eventually got sick of the Bel blandness and put on the Kaplans in search of more color because I had a set in the drawer.

    Like the 92s the Kaplans have a nice range of tone color, and aren’t monochromatic like some of the sets mentioned in this thread, but the 92s are more expensive and you know right away where that extra money went.
     
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  12. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2018
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  13. elmer

    elmer

    Oct 1, 2004
    Finland
    I´ve had all three Flexocors, Passione, Kaplan mediums, Bel canto and Jargar forte G. I agree with Kungfu with Pirastros! I like the deluxes best but they are too bright for you. You can have 92s in three gauges! Try light (dünn) D and G with medium A and E! Or better still, take mediums and show your sounpost to a luthier. There could be a setup issue with tight the G string. Thats my theory if even the medium Passiones feel too tight.
    I´m loving the stark Passiones now (with Flex Dlx E) and they really feel like medium tension strings and they are dark, colourful with the easiest bow response!
    Kaplan lights could also be good for you. Mediums were easy to bow, dark, easy tension but dull sounding, just like were the Bel cantos on my bass. Jargar forte G sounded weak compared to all the Pirastros, but maybe the dolces/forte combination could work for you.
     
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  14. elmer

    elmer

    Oct 1, 2004
    Finland
    Forgot to say that Passiones start with the bow easier than the different Flexocors - no scratchiness. Deluxes are close but they feel stiffer and ars brighter. On my bass only Kaplans were as easy to bow.
     
  15. paulunger

    paulunger Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2002
    Fort Worth, Texas
    +1 on the Flexor 92's. The Deluxe's are much brighter and more of a hybrid string. They bow well, just not as easy as Flexor 92's, and the bottom two strings of the Deluxe's are much heavier in tension. Which is good for a dark bass.
    You might also seriously consider having your soundpost looked at. The slightest adjustment to your soundpost can make the bass darker and easier to bow. I found numerous times over the years that my problems where not with the strings, the bow or the bass but with the soundpost location and/or fit.
     
  16. the_Ryan

    the_Ryan

    Jul 10, 2015
    Bronx, NY
    My first thought was that it might be a post issue as opposed to a string issue.
     
  17. sricks3

    sricks3

    Dec 6, 2007
    Augusta, GA
    Thanks everyone! I'm aware that a soundpost adjustment might make a bigger difference in bow response, but I've actually already had my luthier try adjusting for easiest bowing. I'm actually a luthier too, but I work on guitars and bass guitars, not violin/bass family instruments. I might try to make a second, slightly looser fitting post when I change strings and take it to my bass luthier again if mine doesn't work out.

    Based on my current budget, I'm thinking about going with Kaplan medium D and G strings and Flexocor (either medium or light) E and A. Does that sound like a reasonable compromise? Would the Flexocor light E and A work with the Kaplan mediums, or should I stick with Flex mediums?
     
  18. One way to find out.
     
  19. paulunger

    paulunger Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2002
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Stick with the Flexor Mediums for your E and A. They will more closely match the tension of the Kaplans. Or just use Kaplans all the way across. Plus, Pirastro E strings are notorious for being weaker. That's why many professional orchestra bass players use a high tension or brighter sounding E string.
    It may just be me but I'm not a big fan of mixing sets in a 2+2 way. I much prefer 3 (G, D, A strings) + 1 (E string). 3 Flexocor Mediums with a different E string is a very popular combination.
     
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  20. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    Passiones on Schnitzer bass-plenty dark but still project, low C is huge. Tension is very comfortable on my CT repaired left hand.