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Which strings fit this description?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Dave Speranza, Jun 11, 2005.

  1. Hi, I am finally thinking about changing strings on my bass they have been on there for YEARS. I've had the same set of spirocores on my bass the whole time i've played and I have some money now and thought it might be fun to try some new strings.

    Here is what I am looking for:

    - Volume/cutting through in a small group jazz context. I am becoming more and more addicted to playing without an amp, and I get a pretty loud sound now, not sure if the strings can get it louder but I dont want to go backwards. I was really leaning towards some obligatos but now I have read that people are not digging them because they get "buried" in this type of situation.

    - Bowability This is not as important as the above, but as a jazz player struggling to get some classical stuff happening I am not interested too much in fighting to get a sound of out what seem to be notoriously "scratchy" arco strings

    - Decent pizz tone I put this last because it doesnt really seem like that much of a factor (although i've never really experiment with strings, I could be way off here.) But it seems to me that it'd be easier to get good pizz sound from good bowing strings than it is to get a good bow sound from pizz strings.

    I keep reading the archives and thinking "thats gotta be the string I'm looking for" but then read something else and think, no. I understand there is no perfect string but any recommendations are appreciated. Thanks
  2. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    If you want good pizz/arco and lots of volume, I hear the Dominants are a good choice. That is, if you feel like dealing with a bit higher tension...
  3. Depends what you think is a good pizz tone!
    Bowing strings are usually loaded with dampening stuff to reduce the metallic edge, the sustain and the brilliancy.
    So if you want more of a gut-like kind of tone, bowing strings can be nice indeed.
    But if you want sustain, volume and clarity, I'd stay away from them!

    Seems to me you need hybrid strings.
    Some examples, besides the Obligatos and Dominants: Pirastro Flat-chromes (the new ones, not the Originals) (steel)
    Pirastro Permanents (steel)
    Kolstein Varicor Excels (steel)
    Kolstein Heritage (synthetic core)
    Innovation 140H (solid synthetic core)
    Super-Sensitive Sensicores (synthetic core)
    Super-Sensitive Supremes (steel)
    Velvets (there are several models but I'm not familiar with any of them. Synthetic core)
  4. Not necessarily, IMHO. Based on my experience, which admittedly is limited compared with others here on TB, I don't think that generalization holds. It's a pretty individual thing, and it depends on what you consider "good pizz sound."

    I used the Pirastro Flat Chromesteels for quite a while and they worked very well as a hybrid string for me. I do about half and half, arco and big-band jazz pizz. These strings were good for arco (at least compared to other strings I've tried), had a very strong, clear sound. There was some scratchiness but I believe ths was due more to my limited bowing ability than the strings.

    For jazz pizz, they were loud, clear and strong, wtih lots of sustain. So if that's a "good pizz sound" for you, then you should consider them. The E didn't sound as good or clear as the other three, but on my bass, no E string ever sounds good (may need an adjustment there).

    I haven't tried any of the new synthetic type strings like Obligato, Anima, Dominant, etc .

    Good luck on your quest . . .
  5. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I also somewhat wince at the suggestion that it's easy to get a good pizz tone from hybrid or arco strings. If you're used to Spirocores, don't expect other strings to sound and definitely not to "cut through" like them.

    There is mega truth to what is being said too about your bass and set up making a big difference. I played an E. Wilfer with Helicore Orchestral strings on it once that had very good Pizz tone (in a shop) but every other bass in that shop with Helicore Orchestral strings on it sounded deader than a door nail pizzicato. So beware, it's a search, a journey and it can get expensive. I've had some good luck trading with other people experimenting and it's saved me some money.

    Now, that being said, with all of the disclaimers about how I have no idea what you will like or what will sound good on your bass here are a few things you could try:

    Thomastic Superflexables - This is an easy safe step for you. Will be similar to Spirocores, but more bow friendly. If you bow the low Spirocores O.K. but get scratchy on the G, maybe just try a G string. Experimenting with one string at a time is a lot cheaper than full sets. The chances that you will like the first thing you try are, I'm afraid, not very good.

    Pirastro Permanents - I like these strings. They're steal core, durable bow very easily (I have no fine ear for things like "fundemental", but they're easy for us jazz guys to bow and I think are a quite suitable Pizzicato string. They cost about the same as Spirocores or anything else of that variety. They will not last for years like your Spirocores did. Depending on how sensensitive you are to them getting deader.

    People use Helicore Hybrids. I don't personally think that they as good of steel string pizz tone as Spirocores and they don't bow nearly as well as other hybrid-type choices, so I think that you're giving some things up without gaining enough in return. My opinion, a lot of good players use them. I don't dislike them, I've never had them on my bass. I do know that the is or was a problem with some string breakage with them. Don't know if it got resolved or not.

    Hardly anyone uses Helicore Pizzicatos. I've heard them on two basses and in both cases the sound was striking. I would say that I liked it. It struck me as specifically loud. I don't know much about them, you don't see them much.

    I personally can't recommend the synthetic core stings; Obligatos, Dominants, Heritage, Innovations. Which is not to say that you shouldn't try them. They work great for some people. They all will bow great compared to Spirocores all all are designed to have good Pizz response. The tone you will either connect with or not. I loved Obligatos, but they fell apart on me, Pirastro replaced them, they fell apart on me again. I've read about Dominants and Innovations breaking. No reports on durability of Heritage yet, but I'm just through with experimenting with perlon core steel wrapped strings until one has been on the market for several years with none of these problems reported. Some people use these strings without these problems, from my visual observation, they tend to be people who play mostly with a bow or who don't dig in that hard with their right hands, ususally converted bass guitarists. If this describes you, they might be great strings for you. I wish they worked for me, but they don't and be warned if you start to experiment. It can get expensive. Especially if you're coming from a place of having the same strings on your bass for years at a time. Just not going to happen with these types of strings.

    Exodus E and A/Oliv D and G - Reportedly the holy grail of jazz strings. Gut sound, good sustain, good arco response. 2 or 3 times more expensive than steel strings and by all reports the windings will come off in a gig one day, so you need to have spares with you. I suspect that these are the perfect strings for me, but I'm afraid to try them, because I just don't need the issues.

    The Velvet Strings are kind of an animal to themselves. Don't order these, but seek them out on other people's basses and play them. They really feel different. No opinions from me. I've had Animas on a loaner and played a few other basses. I've heard them sound AMAZING from the audience. I don't know if I could live with them and haven't tried them on my bass yet, but I've been tempted and maybe I will some day.

    And there is a bunch of stuff in between; Jargars, Varicores, various orchestral strings that tend to sound gut-like so some people use them for jazz. I haven't tried them all. I play every bass that I can and ask what strings are on it if I don't recognize them because it is a constant search. The only real answer though....brace yourself is to live with a different kind of string on your bass for a while in different playing situations. If you love strings on someone else's bass, you may hate them on yours. If you love the sound when you put them on, you may hate it in 2 weeks when they've settled in (or vice versa). You may also find that you like something, but that you have to replace it every 6 months to keep it sounding that way. I know a top local guy who replaces his strings every 3 to 4 months. It get's expensive.

    Try something and post your experience, then post it again after they've been on for a while. It is cool to start hearing different things from your bass and I think it has both helped and hurt my playing at different times.


    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Thomastic Dominants - Loud, very easy to bow and have a fat Pizz tone that cuts. Definitely worth checking out
  7. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    But weren't there breakage issues with Dominants? If you don't put them on just right or they touch the side or wind past the silk or something, they tend to snap?

    I've been tempted to try these, but as much as I'm pursuing "the sound", I need a good workhorse string.

    (See my rant above about perlon wrapped strings) By the way, I wrote that distracted and in a hurry, in spite of the length, tough to re-read.

    I don't consider myself an expert. I haven't had everything and do think that people should experiment and find what they like.


    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    IMO the Dominants are pretty durable as long as you don't take them off and put them back on. They last a long time. I just put on a Pirastro Flatchrome G and D and I have to say these strings are pretty impressive. I play mostly acoustic so I need decent volume. They bow great and they have a strong fundamental. I wouldn't hesitate to try these either.
  9. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I fell in love with the Flatchrome G string and am just now trying something different. Very warm sound, strong Pizz tone, and bows nicely. I put a used (on trade) D on twice and it didn't work on my bass, but I've had some trouble matching treble side strings on my bass, so that doesn't mean anything to me.

    By reputation the lower strings on the flatchrome set are not quite stong enough for really digging in pizzicato, but I can't speak from experience.

    My happy set up for just over a year was Permanents E-D and Flatchrome on the G. Nice warm tone, punchy, good balance, good arco response.

    I'm trying something different now because of an injury and some issues with my bass, but not because I became unhappy with this string set up.

  10. jonas


    Dec 9, 2003
    Frankfurt am Main/Germany
    Lando Music (Germany)
    Are you really talking about the "Original Flat-Chrome" (which is marketed as a orchestral string), or the "Flat-Chromesteels" (which is marketed as a hybrid string)?
  11. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Sorry, it is confusing. I'm talking about Flatchromesteels.
  12. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    What's on your mind? You started this, have we talked you out of it? Have you tried something new?

  13. Well,

    I keep reading through all this stuff. Then I go back and play my bass and I start getting worried about what if it doesnt sound as good? What if i dont like the feel? and think maybe i'll keep going on these strings.

    Then i pick up the bow and think - man, would I sound better on some better strings? and why does my G-string suck so bad arco? I should get new strings. more bow-friendly. I love practicing arco.

    Then I come back on here and I just get more confused. I keep reading about the obligatos and decide that its everything I want in a string except the volume/cutting through. which of course is one of my main concerns.

    but - given my relative newness to the instrument, I think having a string that works better in the shed than on the gig is fine - because i should be doing more shedding anways. So i am gonna try out the obligatos.

    If I hate em I think dominants will be probably be my next choice.

    BTW - Is putting strings on myself something I should do? I was just gonna take it to the luthier...Should I just learn? Is it hard? Will I screw anything up?
  14. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    At some point, it will help you to be able to put your own strings on. Perhaps you could have the luthier (or your teacher?) show you the best way to do it, and then in the future do it yourself.

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Go to David Gage's site. You can find articles there on instrument care. One of them is how to change upright strings. You may find that useful. I am going to recommend that you check out Dominants first. Obligatos are nice strings, but they don't cut through near as well. I find that they don't have a strong enough attack to be as effective acoustic. I think you would be a lot happier with Dominants.
  16. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    You can do it yourself, but 2 things can go wrong:

    1) don't lower the tension on all of the strings at the same time or the soundpost will fall and then you'll be at the luthier's anyway. Change one string at a time.

    2) make sure your bridge stays in exactly the position it is happiest. In theory this is centered between the little notches between in your f-holes and perpendicular to the table with the feet flat on the table and not tilted.

    If you go with a perlon string like Obligato, it's especially important to lubricate the bridge and nut slots with pencil lead (graphite) before putting the new strings on so that they will slide through on some slippy stuff.

    It's cool to try new strings. If you're up for the adventure, it's absolutely the right thing to do. On the other hand, I'll through out one more time. If it's the G string that causes you heart burn, try a new G string. You can buy them individually and it's a less costly way to experiment. When you find something you like you can expand your experiment.

    Let us know how it goes, though, either way.

  17. rossM


    Jun 27, 2005
    sydney australia
    I have found the eternal search for strings so bewildering . I tried genuine gut for a period - starting with G&D strings - I liked these - but found that onusing the amp the fingernoise was a problem as was getting enough attack to be heard against a drummer.

    So I experimented with hybrids - Currently I am using a Kolstien Heritage G&D with a Spirocore E&A - My attempt is to get a nicer rounder top , but not loose too much of the sustain in the bottom end. I have heard the suggestion that the Hybrid srings are suited to those who do nt dig in (converts from EB) . IMHO not so - Yes youhave to work the sting to get tone & drive in the bassline - But you do not have to work harder than you need to if the string is responding better . I play 3-4 gigs a week (mainstream jazz)
    SInce using the Kolsteins which are softer & more flexible - I have noticed smaller callousses on my fingers.
  18. Nivaca


    Jan 8, 2005
    After years of using Corelli 307s, yesterday I switched to D'Addario Helicore Hybrids (Medium tension). I loved its sound! Great power and dark tone for pizz, and also nice for arco. My bass is booming now!
    I recommend these strings for your case.
  19. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Just to clarify, my statement above was that I personally didn't trust that perlon core, metal wrapped strings held up for guys who really liked to dig in with their right hand. This is based on my experience and those reported by others. Specifically with Obligatos the A and E strings have well documented problem with the windings "spinning" around the core after a few weeks of hard playing. In my experience and others reported, for some reason this doesn't seem to happen as much with the treble side strings.

    This is specifically an Obligato problem, but I've heard of different types of durability problems with other brings of perlon/nylon wrapped strings. I haven't experimented with them all, because it's just too expensive. I have not heard this about the Heritage stings yet. For all I know they are completely durable, but as I said, they've got to live down the sins of their competitors with me until they've been on the market for a really long time.

    There are many strings on the market that are either branded as "hybrids" or used as "hybrids" meaning people who like a darker tone for jazz or play both jazz and classical. IMHO, a few of these that have steel cores and therefore, I wouldn't associate with durability problems associated with "digging in" include: Helicore Hybrids, Pirastro Permanents, Thomastik Superflexibles. I didn't mean to imply that these strings were not durable for heavy handers.

    For that matter, if you can afford the experiment, you shouldn't trust me on Obligatos either, because they do end up working for some people, but be warned that my experience with the windings twisting around the core is not isolated. It bothered me a lot and I think started interfereing with my time as the string and my finger were kind of getting out of synch. I know guys who play with these with no complaints, but from my observation, they are easier on the stings than I tend to be with my right hand. (which is not a judgement on playing ability, just style).

    I hope that clarifies and further disclaims. And remember, I don't claim to have any idea what I'm talking about.

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Dominants hold up fine. I actually just put my Dominant G back on. For this particular bass the Dominant is the best sounding G. The Flatchrome is a cool string, but I have always been most happy with the Dominant. I still have the Flatchrome D on....