Dominant strings go bad quick

January 14, 2009 at 02:27 AM ·

My daugher has had her current violin about 18 months and we find that I have to change the Dominant strings frequently and probably sooner than when we first purchased it. She uses a medium Dominant G, heavy Dominant D silver, medium Dominant A, and a Eudoxa E string. During the first 9 months or so, we changed the strings every 3 months or so to maintain the sound quality. During the last 6 months it seems the strings only last 8-10 weeks before we notice deterioration in the sound. When new strings are put on, they stretch for 1-3 days and sound a little metallic/bright for the first 4-5 days but settle in real nice. The decline is slow after the first month. Recently, I had to replace a frayed A string after 6 weeks and suddenly the D string seem to sound dull and like a wolf note). We replaced the D string--and lo and behold the violin sounded alot better!

I do think we are beginning to "listen" to the violin better than before which may explain the increase string-changing frequency.

I have read on the discussion posts that Dominants can lose their sound fairly quickly, but is 6-12 weeks the exception or the norm? Are there alternative strings to consider that last longer with the same sound characteristics? I'm also concerned about the overall costs over time so that a string that lasts twice as long but costs twice as much isn't a big advantage.

Changing strings(my job) is a little stressful. (I'm not a musician, checking the bridge, waiting for the strings to stretch, winding the string on the peg properly, etc.)

Opinions or advice?

Replies (20)

January 14, 2009 at 02:52 AM ·

Depends how rough and howmuch time you play with the strings. I think the longest is 6 months but I prefer to change strings 12 times a year minimum to keep sound quality. Dominants I believe can last up to 6 months but looking at it and playing it probably won't be the same as a string after 1 week of settling down.

Obligato's I think last a decent amount but they cost twice as much as your dominants. Howabout you try the Vision line from Thomastik there suppose to stretch really fast and stay well for long time.

January 14, 2009 at 03:13 AM ·

I don't practice much, probably consider practice practice 2 days for an hour per day through out the year in overall.

But hey, it's still the same set of dominant strings (yes, all dominant with aluminum D, all medium) for more than a year and they still play 5ths perfectly. Doesn't seems to have much problem with the tone too.

Of course I did wipe off the melted rosin on the strings once in a while with a little help of white spirit (mild solvent where you can get off art supply stop), just a drop or 2 on a cloth and I'm able to wipe the strings pretty clean. It'll clean up the sound but won't have much impact on  the tone quality though. Hey, I even use the white spirit to clean my violin's body too, it'll melt away those sticky rosin and sweat build up from hands, but cause no harm on the varnish, but I wipe them away immediately after the initial white spirit. However I have no guarantee if it'll cause no harm on your violin, so better just use it to clean the strings.

Also worth noting that, dominant strings, when new, will have a lot of power and brilliance as well as metallic edge to them. The metallic edge will eventually fade away after a day or two, left those power and brilliance. But they'll too fade away pretty quickly too that's why while people loving their initial sound quality and dislike when they totally break in. I find I actually like the broken in sound than the initial sound, and it'll last for a long time.

So if you like the initial sound of the dominant you'll find it'll become dead pretty quickly, I'd recommend you try something else, perhaps something like the Pirastro Tonica or something from D'Addario. You can also try dominant infeld which is close siblings to dominant but the sound they deliver doesn't seems to have a dramatic change through out their lifespan.

January 14, 2009 at 03:35 AM ·

come to think of it, the set of dominants on my kid's violin has been in use for more than 18 months. (transferred from another violin to the current one).   for her, a daily one-hour player, at her level and circumstance,   even with reasonably good ears, i think  she understands that there are many other issues to consider regarding better sound production.  of course, for serious violinists with frequent concert hall performances,  it is a different consideration.

strings will eventually wear out over time.  folks have different thresholds for sensitivity and tolerance.  another factor is perhaps our expectation how long the strings should last! :)  

January 14, 2009 at 04:04 AM ·

Oddly enough, I find strings sound better if I almost take them off and restring them (one at a time of course!)... this seems to restore their initial sound, and can be repeated a couple times to extend the tone life (if the strings go false, though, that's an entirely different matter and it can't be solved except to replace the strings).

January 14, 2009 at 04:11 AM ·

I use Dominants and play anywhere between 15-20 hours per week and have to replace the strings about every 3 months.  The comment on the initial brilliance is very true.  You could try some of the steel core strings which are more stable and last a bit longer.  It really depends on the quality of sound you are aiming for and budget.

January 14, 2009 at 03:56 PM ·

I change Dominants every 3 months or 120 hours of playing whichever comes first because that's when they die on me. And that's the way they have been for a cheap $100. violin and the nice student model I have now. I switched to Passione strings and they have gotten better since I put them on my current violin which was the first week of October 2008. $77.00 at IUSTRINGS.COM and they have the best price Dominants if I remember correctly, but it's been a while since I bought Dominants.

Cheers,

Royce

January 14, 2009 at 04:10 PM ·

I use Dominant A, D & G and can usually get 5 months out of them if I wipe the rosin off the strings after every practice. I take a soft, lint-free cloth and rub each string individually until all traces of rosin are gone. Have never had one fray on me.

January 14, 2009 at 05:58 PM ·

I'd like to suggest an alternative possibility, because I find Dominants to be long-lasting and reliable: is it your daughter's violin? What is it? As others have stated, Dominants are very bright when new, and after a week or two settle into a stable (but less bright) sound. Is it possible that you like the sound of the new strings because the violin itself is lacking in brightness to begin with? Perhaps as the strings settle in, the problem is not them but with the violin itself. On a brighter or more resonant violin, you may not feel that the strings have died.

January 14, 2009 at 07:31 PM ·

I can remember when my daughter played with dominants it would take about a week or two to break them in then they would be nice for about a couple of months and then we would change them.

I depends how much your daughter is practicing. Does she tune with pegs or with fine tuners?

January 14, 2009 at 09:15 PM ·

The violin is a 1860 Vuilluame(guaneri-type). She practices about 2-3 hours per day and tunes with the pegs. She understands the bright/metallic sound is temporary and that the subsequent sound is what she and her teacher desire. The best she describes it to me is the sound is "clear."  That "clear" sound is what gets less clear sooner than expected.(6-8 weeks) She cleans the strings with a micre-fibre cleaning cloth after use.

January 14, 2009 at 09:49 PM ·

Maybe it's time to try some new strings if the clear sound doesn't stay.

January 14, 2009 at 10:10 PM ·

Greetings,

6-8 weeks with this regime is about right.  Its just an expensive hobby:(

Cheers,

Buri

January 14, 2009 at 11:41 PM ·

 As a professional I go through 4-5 sets a year, and about 10-12 golden spiral E strings. Sounds about right.

January 15, 2009 at 03:45 AM ·

I've used dominants on my main violin for years and I'm not really sure why. They sound great for about a week then they lose it. I've been using them because they're so inexpensive, but I'm experimenting with Evah Pirazzi and I'm very happy with them so far. I used Obligatos on my other instrument and they were great, but they didn't have quite the same sound on my main instrument. My dominants also don't handle well with my sweaty hands; the A string always unwinds after two or three weeks.

January 19, 2009 at 08:08 AM ·

I like Dominant but because of my sweaty hand the strings go bad very quickly.
Recently I switched to Tonica (because it's on sale and cheapter than Dominant, haha!) and found that although the G string is not as "thick" (sorry I don't know how to describ it)  as that of Dominant but the sound overall is quite good and can stand my sweat better.

January 19, 2009 at 02:39 PM ·

Your perceptions about your and your daughter's hearing/awareness of tone loss are probably correct. If you both like the initial tone better than the broken-in tone of Dominants, then hints towards Obligatos, and then Tonica , Evah Pirazzi or even Infled Red, more or less in order of brighter/edgier/more metallic, might be worth a try. Do have your daughter do everything possible to maintain her strings. Clean hands, washing hands mid-practice if they get sweaty, wiping down the strings both over fingerboard and where the bow contacts. Your daughter should work on her tuning technique as well,and possibly use more fine tuners than the E one. Too much loosening & re-stretching can wear strings out unevenly extra-quickly. Have her teacher or the luthier check that her pegs are set to work easily, so she doesn't tune only to have a peg snap back. The little string-top tuners often called Suzuki tuners can be handy on A & D strings. They don't effect string length behind the bridge to any great extent. They don't allow MUCH pitch adjustment on soft-core strings, but if getting those last few cents' worth of in-tuneness is a struggle, they give just enough to ease this. Sue 

February 15, 2009 at 09:44 PM ·

I'm using Dominants and it is true, it takes about a week to play them "in", another week to get them stabilised and then they start to gradually loose power and overtones.  The G is going first D and A last a few weeks longer.  It all depends, of couse, on how much you play.  6 to 8 weeks seems to be an average for me.  But even if you don't play at all, they loose power in a few months.  But so far I have not found any better,

February 16, 2009 at 03:45 PM ·

A few years ago the biannual Journal of the violin Socienty of America published the"text" of a roundtable discussion on strings, by string makers from most of the major companies, that had been held at one of their annual meetings. (I seeem I have migrated my copies to the basement, and don't feel like searching down there right now.)

While it was generlaly agreend that Dominants are the "benchmark" synthetic strings - probably because they have been around longest, and are widely useed by many of the great violinists, it was interesting to learn how some of the plaeyrs use them.  It was reported that one of the great female violinists (I can't remember if it was Hilary Hahn or  Sarah Chang) always puts on a set of fresh Dominants within 24 hours before every performance - and then plays them in before the performance.

So, it would seem there is a good basis for believing them to be short lived.

Andy

February 16, 2009 at 04:33 PM ·

Yep, this is a common complaint.  Dominants die quickly.  I quit using them a long time ago because of that.  I swear by Eudoxa.  They're definitely the best out there if you are a classical fiddler.

Wow, that's surprising about Sarah Chang/Hilary Hahn putting on new strings before a performance.  For one thing, it's not really good to change more than one string at a time unless both are broken.  The soundpost will move and it's not good for the violin to re-adjust it too much, I've heard. 

February 16, 2009 at 10:02 PM ·

Even when changing a full set, you still just change one string at a time. No worries.

Andy

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