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Solo Strings in Orchestral Tuning?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by TheGrayBassGuy, Apr 2, 2006.

  1. I'm planning on getting a set of solo strings because I'm going to be playing the Bottesini with my high school orchestra at the end of the year. I'm probably going to be playing in the bass section for some of the other piece in that concert, so I'm wondering if it'd be alright if I tune the strings down to Orchestral Tuning.

    I think I remember my teacher saying he usually left solo strings on his bass, but I could be mistaken.
  2. No problem with that.
    But expect a loss of tension, and the strings may feel quite floppy.
    Depends on the brand.
  3. Andy Allen

    Andy Allen "Working Bassist"

    Aug 31, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Solo Dominants tuned to orchestra pitch work very well (for me). I don't recommend them for someone who will be changing tunings between orch and solo, though, as they are somewhat delicate and prone to breakage. It's recommended that you don't de-tune them once they are up to pitch.
  4. Sorry airbass, but is that specifically for Solo Dominants or all solo strings?
  5. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    some Berlin Philharmonic players used to play regularly with solo strings tuned down in the orchestra. Klaus Stoll used to do this.

    They play huge 5 string basses in that orchestra. Perhaps the use of solo strings helped them with the very long string lengths that typically increase tension. They also like (or used to like) a very diffuse sound quality, very airy.

    Two years ago in my last visit to Berlin 3 of the younger players were using regular orchestral strings, but rather loose ones (obligattos, olives)
  6. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    Hey TheBassGuy

    I think the no-detune policy is supposed to be followed with all solid core strings in general: perlon, gut, steel etc... but I might be wrong. Dominants have a solid perlon core.

    The rope core strings are usually more forgiving (steel, tungsten, carbon etc...)

    Guys, please correct me if I'm wrong.
  7. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I almost posted the same thing, but then remembered that I didn't really know what I was talking about. In general, strings with non metal (or maybe even solid metal) cores like Obligatos, OLIVs (which are gut), Dominants...tend to have durability issues that strings like Spirocores or Flexicores do not. Tuning them above the pitch that you intend to play them at or uninstalling and reinstalling generally is considered to be a bad idea. I would think that the same would apply to alternating between orchestra and solo tuning with the same strings.

    If you wanted to do that, you might think about doing it with something like Flexicores, Permanents, Flatchromesteels, Superflexibles or something.

    Just a thought, remember that I don't really know of what I speak.

    I would wonder out loud also how your bass would react to changing tension that often. I've used solo strings tuned orchestral (but never solo) and strings that I felt had more or less tension and it always seems to take my bass a little while and some playing to adjust to the tension change. I wouldn't want to put it through that every week or multiple times each week.

  8. Andy Allen

    Andy Allen "Working Bassist"

    Aug 31, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Troy said it as I understand it - braided/ropecore steel strings are much sturdier and reports here indicate they last longer in general, too.

    For orchestra use perhaps solo Flexocors would do the job?
    I don't have any direct experience with them though.
  9. I'm actually using Medium Orchestral Flexocors now, so I imagine a switch to Solo Flexocors would be really smooth.

    When I'm not rehearsing with an ensemble, would it be in my best interest to leave it in Solo or Orchestral Tuning? I actually only use my own bass for orchestra rehearsals once a week for about 3 hours, so I'm thinking that it would be best to leave it in solo tuning most of the time. That way wouldn't my bass be able to adjust to the new strings easily?

    If any of you don't recommend changing the tuning that often, could you possibly provide me with another solution?

    Thanks for all the insight!
  10. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    That was me that said I'd be concerned about changing tuning that often and I really don't have a basis for that, except that I don't think my bass could take it. Maybe this is something that orchestra guys do on a regular basis.

  11. Anon2962


    Aug 4, 2004
    It's not so common for orchestral musicians to play with detuned solo strings, at least in these parts. the only reason for doing this i can think of is do decrease string tension, but there are low-tensions orchestral strings available these days so it seems pointless now.

    Also, it's not often that even pro orchestral bassists get to play solos, so why carry solo strings.

    And added to this is the fact that you can get almost every part for solo tuning at orchestral tuning these days, making the need for solo strings less again.
  12. Dominants use a braided perlon core, not solid.
    Solid core is rare nowadays:
    Innovation 140H (synthetic)
    Pirastro Chromcors (steel)
    Super-Sensitive Red Labels and Stellars (steel)
    LaBella 610s (steel)
    Thomastik Precisions (steel)

    Nothing else comes to mind right now, and as you see, it's very marginal today.
  13. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
  14. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I disected an Obligato E string once. I tried to take some pics, but they didn't really turn out. The core looks like a paint brush or a fiber optics line. not a small gut string, definitely not braided. It's a bunch of little strands. Under the chromesteel that you see is a tigher metal of some kind (this is the one that the outer one spins around) and within it, a bunch of "hairs" for lack of a better word. I'll check to see if any of those pics are worth uploading, but suffice it to say, not what I was expecting to see. I think I was expecting something that looked like weedeater line.
  15. The central strands are the composite core material. Small and stranded for flexibility and pitch accuracy. Around that is the mass windings which are round wound I would guess and the hairs are damping material - probably polyester or some other silk substitute. By controlling the mass, the core density and diameter, and the damping, they can dial in the right amount of sustain and gut thump as well as the feel of the string. The big deal with Ob's is the core which is very tough but small and also stretchy and impervious to temp and humidity changes. That why they stay in tune so well after they intially stretch. The core is also they key to the rolling problem as because of it's size in relation to the overall string diameter, you don't get alot of torsional stiffness.
  16. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    Interesting. On BobG's site it says "Pirastro's relatively new Obligato strings have a solid synthetic core with a very thin metal wrap."

  17. The use of solo strings detuned in an orchestral situation is usually a matter or protecting the old instruments which can sometimes have longish strings and big front plate surfaces with thin graduations. Regular orch strings can shut down a bass like this. The same goes for 5 strings which can get all the help they can in the tension dept.
  18. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I tried, unsucessfully to upload the photos this morning, which are really not that clear anyway.

    But, I know what I saw. The winding that you see on the outside, a thicker metal winding or tube down one layer (this is what the exterior winding spins around), filled with, I would guess, a few hundred little hairlike threads of something synthetic, I'm guessing Perlon whatever that is. The middle winding was pretty tough, took a pretty good snip from some wirecutters. The "hairs" were very fine and flexible. Like a very non-absorbant paintbrush.

    I'll try to retake the photos and shrink them down to talkbass compatible size. I may not have a good enough camera or be a good enough photographer to get a shot.

  19. I'm in the same situation. The principal in the CSO recomended that I use Jargar dolce. When I get my new bass (in 2 months) I'll have Jargars on it.
  20. GirlBass


    Jul 31, 2005
    New York
    It's not that big of a deal. In school when we're getting ready for a recital or a jury or whatever but then have to play in an orchestra later that day, we generally just tune them down. It's not the same as orchestral strings, but it's really not a big deal. You don't want to change strings during the concert, do you?
    Just don't tune orchestral strings up!!

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