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Kicking the Hornet's Nest - Thinking About Dominants

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So..., The other day a very fine player was in the shop and we were assessing a violin I had recently completed a overhaul on for him. I had strung it with Dominants, a string that even a decade ago I wasn't a huge fan of. However, I had about 5 lightly used sets in my miscellaneous string box (because I never end up using them) but thought every once in awhile a violin sounds pretty good with them and I wanted to just put something on there to get a sense of the direction to go in. He played the violin for a few minutes then asked me to change the Dominants and I suggested Rondos (a bulk purchase only set also by Tomastik). The difference was stunning, where before it had a dull and grating sound, the violin now had a vibrant, colorful, and singing quality. This has played itself out over and over again over the years with many players and instruments.

 

My questions are as follows; 1) why are distributors and many makers, shops, and teachers still relying so heavily on Dominants? and 2) is the Dominant domination coming to end? On that last question, I'm sure it is already happening as synthetic string technology has clearly come a long way since Dominants first came onto the scene and there are so many choices.

 

I'm merely curious how others feel in general about this undoubtedly iconic string set. Love them? Hate them? Good for certain instruments? Do you use them much less now that there is such a panoply of choices? Any other comments about their continued success? Okay, unleash the hornets! Go!

 

P.S. If anyone needs a bunch of hardly used Dominants cheap, I know a guy  ;) .

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Husband strung his first violin with them and the dealer chuckled and told him no one uses Dominants anymore.  Dealer replaced with Piastro something or other and hung up the fiddle, and we took home the Dominants to be used never, or not yet anyway.  I don't hear a lot of consensus about "best" strings--they all do different stuff for different instruments.  There's that string chart that has been posted so many times here (use this set for dark, this set for bright, and etc.), but I don't know how true/accurate it is either.

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I like Dominants.  They are my go-to.  That  doesn't mean that there isn't a brand or line out there that won't sound better - to you - on your instrument, just that the odds are that the Dominants will perform well.

 

In that regard, they function as a standard of comparison.

 

Dominants aren't used anymore?  A dealer scoffed?  I'd be a bit suspicious.  I know many people who love Dominants.

 

Having too many choices isn't a benefit either.  I'm doing my last experiment (maybe)...I will return to Dominants if I can't justify the expensive of continuing on with my new $$$ strings...

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How cheap is cheap?  I haven't tried them in awhile.

 

When I started, Eudoxa gut was the standard, or Olives if you were rich. Kaplan (I think) was a cheaper alternative to Eudoxa.  Seems like the winding was yellow.   Then Dominants entered the market.  About the same time you began to see them on lots of album covers -- Perlman, who in that era before mass media was the lone biggie, along with his little bother Zukerman playing viola.  And -- probably just as importantly most if not all of the instruments in the Bein & Fushi calendar had them on.  Instant cred!

 

You might not like something about a string, and you can switch the string and get something different.  But you can also improve the original string by paying close attention to what is happening, and that change becomes automatic after a few minutes.   But in this age of plenty, the first inclination is probably to switch strings.

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I don't know what "cheap" means either.  I think the asking price for Dominants is about $80 around here.  The PIs I just put on as part of my experiment are $143. I really like the PIs, I think (recalling) that they sound better than the Dominants, but I don't think the PIs sound $70 better.  So unless I find I really really love them, I'll likely revert back to Dominants...

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So..., The other day a very fine player was in the shop and we were assessing a violin I had recently completed a overhaul on for him. I had strung it with Dominants, a string that even a decade ago I wasn't a huge fan of. However, I had about 5 lightly used sets in my miscellaneous string box (because I never end up using them) but thought every once in awhile a violin sounds pretty good with them and I wanted to just put something on there to get a sense of the direction to go in. He played the violin for a few minutes then asked me to change the Dominants and I suggested Rondos (a bulk purchase only set also by Tomastik). The difference was stunning, where before it had a dull and grating sound, the violin now had a vibrant, colorful, and singing quality. This has played itself out over and over again over the years with many players and instruments.

 

...

 

It is possible that those 'used' strings are fatigued as well.  If they've been stretched, contracted, restretched and are older...I don't know that that is a fair comparison.

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I like dominant GDA, but the E I replace with evah pirazzi gold. It did not sound good on ANY of my violins... I also seem to like tonica quite well as a cheap option.

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It is possible that those 'used' strings are fatigued as well.  If they've been stretched, contracted, restretched and are older...I don't know that that is a fair comparison.

Very much so.

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Lots of players still use Dominants all the way up to the highest level of play and most expensive instruments. They are my favorite strings for both violin and viola.

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They are good strings. Some of the new strings in the market are too bright for my taste.

 

The good thing about using a well known string as Dominants (with a Larsen or Jargar E) is that most players know them so they can evaluate the instrument.

 

If you use strings that are not all that known it will be harder to evaluate the instrument, I think.

 

Anyway, string choice depends on the instrument, of the player's technique and personal taste.

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The last time I played the 1714 ex-Jackson Strad, it had Dominants on it.  Seemed OK.

I haven't really tried Dominants on any of my own instruments in many years, the only reason being that many years ago when I tried them, I didn't like them.  My tastes may have changed since then (and my instruments too), so maybe I should try some out again.

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The only reason I buy dominants is because they are cheap and last long. I really wish there were alternatives as they are getting ridiculously pricey.

Actually, compared to student strings, they always have been.  They are a working pro's string, and priced like it.

 

Dominants, as has been previously noted, are frequently viewed as a standard.  They represent a thoroughly known quantity to players, dealers, and builders alike. When you suddenly need a new string in Podunk, the only fit-to-use string available at the local shop will likely be Dominants.  They are reliable, predictable, medium-priced, and well understood.  While the anxious, angst-ridden player's silver-bullets-of-the-month come and go, the Dominants remain available to install after you've pitched the overpriced fad that came in an artsy box into the trash.  When I came to this board, members were arguing about Dominants.  When I exit feet first, they'll still be arguing.

 

The one thing I'd like to see Infeld do with them is bite the bullet and subcontract the E string to Goldbrokat.  :lol:

 

Whenever I see these "Is it time to reject Dominants?" threads appear, I always wonder if the question is merely socially acceptable camouflage for wanting to bash Thomastik/Infeld over other, more controversial, issues.  :)

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Whenever I see these "Is it time to reject Dominants?" threads appear, I always wonder if the question is merely socially acceptable camouflage for wanting to bash Thomastik/Infeld over other, more controversial, issues.  :)

 

Banging the same old drum here but Warchal Karneol are cheaper, better sounding(much), longer lasting, and the E string is great. It speaks only to the conservatism of the music establishment that people are still buying Dominant or Tonica.

Having said that, barring the E which is only good for cutting cheese, I think Dominants are very good, particularly with the silver G.

There's a great temptation to enhance a defective fiddle with sexy strings that do a lot to modify the tone (Evah Golds for example) or with high tension that gives a temporary high, but ultimately if a fiddle doesn't sound good with Dominants, better get a different fiddle  :wacko:

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  but ultimately if a fiddle doesn't sound good with Dominants, better get a different fiddle  :wacko:

 

Every fiddle is made with a specific 'type' or brand(s) of string in mind.

 

Making 'gut string' violins is a slight bit different than making 'steel string' violins.

Not only is the plate thicknesses slightly different, but such things as the bridge height, and arching profile must change slightly also.

 

Thinking in the direction of play-ability - well, it makes a great deal of difference which strings you have in mind, when designing the fiddle from the start. Fiddles where red labels are going to be used - are going to be different, tonally, than are classical violins that are made NOT to make fiddling types of music - but to play classical m,usic.

 

I also find Dominants (the strings) to be perfectly suitable for classical music violins, but then again, I build around this specific string choice. 

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Banging the same old drum here but Warchal Karneol are cheaper, better sounding(much), longer lasting, and the E string is great. It speaks only to the conservatism of the music establishment that people are still buying Dominant or Tonica.

Having said that, barring the E which is only good for cutting cheese, I think Dominants are very good, particularly with the silver G.

There's a great temptation to enhance a defective fiddle with sexy strings that do a lot to modify the tone (Evah Golds for example) or with high tension that gives a temporary high, but ultimately if a fiddle doesn't sound good with Dominants, better get a different fiddle  :wacko:

I agree 100%, so you are not banging on your drum alone.  For the money, Karenols are great.  For the same price or less than Dominants, I really enjoy their "Amber" line of strings.  

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Hi Craig,

In case there's any confusion, I'm using the term "fiddle" in the English sense ie. a violin.

What I mean to say is that if an instrument doesn't sound fine with Dominants (whether for classical or trad, whether a violin or a viola) then the fault is with the instrument. Not everyone loves Dominants, but they are relatively neutral and will not sex up an indifferent violin (fiddle) ...

:)

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I agree that Dominants make a good standard.   Though I much prefer Olive for my own use, I still will string instruments with Dominants because everyone understands that reference point.    Dominants are acceptable at any level, and not too expensive for student use.

 

Once settled in, neither Dominants nor Olive distract me or leave me thinking about the limits of the string or frustrated.  Neither has a too tight core to the sound.  Both can speak openly and freely once settled in.   Brand new Dominants can have an overly ringing even metallic aspect that can frustrate me while it lasts.   But many people seem to love that initial 'new' Dominant sound.

 

Like many people, I usually avoid the Dominant E.   For some instruments I actually prefer a Dominant A or D mixed in with a set of Olive.

 

 

But I haven't really spent the time or money to explore other brands. A long while back, I found that between Dominant and Olive, I can usual find an acceptable stringing.   For me, that means a stringing that freely reaches any tone color I want, and doesn't throw me against string limitations that make me think about the string instead of playing and music.

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  For me, that means a stringing that freely reaches any tone color I want, and doesn't throw me against string limitations that make me think about the string instead of playing and music.

 

;-)

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I'm hardly an expert, but I definitely think it depends on the instrument itself. There are some violins that sound great with Dominants. I've seen a few in person that really came to life and sounded more vibrant and powerful once they were switched over to them. My own violin had old Dominants on it for a long time, and I was never a big fan of how it sounded with them on. It almost sounded like they limited the dark/rich spectrum on my violin. I switched to Warchal Amber strings awhile back and it sounded a MILLION times better. I think Warchal Ambers suit a certain type of violin the same way that Dominants suit another, and my violin was a lot happier with the Amber strings. (A Glass violin, used for both classical and fiddle style playing).

All that aside, I've never been a huge fan of the Dominant E string on any violin, really. Most violins equipped with Dominant strings that sounded great had the E string switched out with either a Hill E or a Pirastro Gold E.

Dominants are decent. They aren't perfect, and they definitely suit some instruments better than others, but there are definitely worse strings out there. In a perfect world all violins would have strings suited just for them, I think.

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Frankly, while they were one of the original synthetic string sets, I've never really cared that much for them. They take a while to settle in and their lifespan is too short for the cost, to me. I've always liked lesser know strings, John Pierce "Artiste" strings being one of my favorites. But since Pierce died they are dropping in price and I suspect the quality will go soon too. But as many posters have pointed out here, different violins work best with different strings. So the concept of "Use these. Their great!" simply doesn't work.

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Karneol convert here, although the E whistled, so Goldbrokat. I think the Karneols are most like Obligatos, but much cheaper.

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I didn't like the Karneols I had. I have also tried Amber and Brilliant. I can only say that the Amber E is great. Somehow, Warchal strings have a metallic sound for a long time before they start to sound natural.

One good thing about Dominants is that they are low tension. But I prefer Vision Solo.

Cantiga and Kaplan Amo have sounded great on my violin. Cantiga is cheap and does last forever, unlike Dominant.

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Dominants have a distinctive sound which, for me, cloud the actual characteristics and capabilities of individual fiddles. I hate trying out violins strung with Dominants at auction viewings because I find they have a certain tonal texture which homogenizes things. Yes, Dominants provide a standard - but its a pretty blah standard.

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