Strings

  1. Dukaine
    Dukaine
    This may be a dumb question but here goes.
    I've never bought strings for a mandolin before so what brand is the best.
    When I purchase strings for the guitar I usually get Martins. That's out of habit. However, I do like the sound a fresh set of Martin strings makes. I know Martin sells mandolin strings but are they good? What brand/style do Ohio pickers use?
    Elucidate please.
  2. Dawgeared
    Dawgeared
    I've been using D'Addario J74's and the poly coated EXP74's. It's hard to tell definitively, but I think the J74's are brighter initially, but don't last as long as the coated EXP's. Embarrassingly I've had a set of the EXP's on for a few months now, with some pretty heavy use, and they still sound ok. Of course I'm no Adam Steffey, so ultimate tone isn't what I'm capable of, YET!! If tone was truly important to me, I'd change strings more often.
    I did a survey last year off of the D'Addario web site, based on who used what strings(endorsed), and the 74 series seemed to be used by more players than the other configurations. When I had my mando set up, the luthier suggested that I use the same weight strings as he had put on with the set up, which were the 74's, .011 - .015 -.026 -.040 high to low. Different string weights can change the tone, and the ease of actually playing. I've noticed, in perusing the D'Addario web site, that Tim O'Brien, for instance, uses a lighter set. Some people use a heavier set. It's all a matter of taste, sound tone, and preference in the playability of the string weights. The J74's are about middle of the road as far as weight.
    The type of metal the string is made out of can effect tone and longevity also. Generally a phosphor bronze string gives a brighter sound initially, and it's what I use when I restring my guitar also. But it doesn't last as long as a stainless string. Phosphor bronze is much less expensive however. The poly coating they've introduced is supposed to extend the tone of a string, but I think it changes the tone slightly, mutes it a bit. But after a couple of weeks, sometimes even less, of steady playing on uncoated strings, they can sound pretty dead, and the coated ones still sound good though muted. The coated are more expensive than the uncoated, but less than the stainless. Check out the D'Addario web site, it's pretty informative, and there are some videos there that are fun to watch. And I bet there is another thread here at mando cafe that has been addressing this topic more fully.
    Playability and tone are also a function of your mandolin's set up, how high are the strings off the frets, and the condition of the neck, bridge and frets. A good technician can assess the condition of your instrument, dress the frets, adjust the nut and bridge, and make sure the neck is straight. It can really change how it feels to play, as well as the sound and tone. I have a low cost Kentucky mandolin, but I paid almost as much as I paid for the mando itself to have it set up by a good instrument technician. It makes playing it much easier, improved the tone, and in the case of the mandolin I have, eliminated some annoying buzzing. If you haven't taken your mandolin to a repair shop to have it set up, I suggest you do, and preferably to someone that knows mandolins. You can ask them for a recommendation as far as the strings go, and have them set it up with the strings right on it. Or if you decide on what strings you like before you take it in, just have them set it up with your choice.
    I know this is wordy, but I hope it helps. Jim
  3. Dawgeared
    Dawgeared
    Hey Dukaine, in looking at your profile it looks like I didn't have to shpeel about the set up, NICE MANDOLIN!!!! I should have looked before I leapt or posted at any rate. Jim
  4. Dukaine
    Dukaine
    I appreciate the help, Jim. The place I bought the mandolin from set it up for me. I would say I'm a little more savvy about these things when it comes to the guitar but unsure about my Mandolin. I've had it a year now and have never changed the strings. I play it nearly every day so I'm sure it's time. Thanks for the compliment on the instrument.
    Best
  5. Tracy Tucker
    Tracy Tucker
    I have tried the J74's and I know everyone else loves them... but I don't. On my mandolin, they sound very 'thunky', and I don't like the way they feel, either. Don't know if the gage is too heavy or what... but I use GHS Bright Bronze PF 270's. They have a great sound. (You'll get a zillion different opinions; you know that, don't you? lol)
  6. Dukaine
    Dukaine
    Yeah, but I'll have a better idea of what's out there.
  7. John Gardinsky
    John Gardinsky
    J74 with 16's swapped in on the A strings
  8. Dawgeared
    Dawgeared
    Why the 16's on the A?
  9. Dawgeared
    Dawgeared
    Dukaine, give this thread a look see "How many use J74's?" It's in the 'Equipment' header. Jim
  10. Dukaine
    Dukaine
    Jim,
    thanks for the heads up. There are lots of discussions about strings in under that header. I still think we need a Buckeye concensus (sp?) however.
  11. Mark Duluk
    Mark Duluk
    Hey Dukaine!
    Ditto on the nice mando - I play with Dawgeared; his post covered a lot of ground, but here's my 2 cents on the way to your zillionth opinion!: Played the Elixer Nanoweb strings for a coupla years, and like them pretty well. As Jim sez, uncoated sounds dead pretty quick. I found out about Thomastik-Infelds when I was seeking strings for an Octave Mandola that I picked up (European; short-scale 17") and liked them (have since re-strung to a Mandola, with T-Is, but thye seem a little muddy...could be instrument, but I'm gonna try some D'Addario Dola strings out and see). So, while they seem pricey, I broke down and bought a set of Thomastik-Infeld Mediums for my Mandolin. I gotta say, for me, it was a revelation...they feel GREAT and, I think, sound great (though perhaps someone hearing me play could better testify!), and lasted a full year before replacement was needed. And they really stay in tune. As a likely "Intermediate-For-Life" player, I have also found that it is easier to work up towards doing breaks. And tremolos? Well, T-Is are great for me...they are just a tad "softer" (if that's the word) than Phosphor-Bronze. (Also put a set of T-I Lights on my beater camping mando since I didn't want to stress the neck repair, and they helped a rescued Hondo sound pretty good - and make it MUCH more playable. Tried replacing them with D'Addarios, and switched right back to the T-Is; the difference was night and day for tone and staying in tune and playability. Fortunately, Elderly had a T-I sale this Summer (40% off - and their price is already low!) so I got a new set, and strung my Kentucky up. The old T-Is that I removed still had enough life in them after a year to go on the beater, too! So, while I guess I'm biased, I'd suggest giving them a try. Depending on your style, they also make a Heavy as well as a Medium and Light. (And T-I "Dominant" violin strings play like butter!) So please keep us posted on what you try out and let us know; always interested in whatb other players like.

    Happy pickin! Mark
  12. Dukaine
    Dukaine
    Thanks for the advice Mark!
    Are Thomastik-Infelds available at retail stores such as Sam Ash or Willis Music or do I need to go on-line?
    I'll be sure to update everyone on what I purchase.
    Best
    D.
  13. Mark Duluk
    Mark Duluk
    Hi Dukaine,
    You're mighty welcome. Good question I've only purchased them in person at Elderly up in Lansing MI if you're ever up that way (I get there on business a few times a year). But I've gotten them on-line from Elderly and Music 123; depends if I'm in need, and who has a sale/free shipping. Their violin strings are readily available at any store that has bowed instruments, at least up here, so such a store could probably order mando strings in for you. But, I'd say shop around online, and see what the best deal is. Good luck and best wishes, Mark
  14. Dukaine
    Dukaine
    Ok - here's the skinny.

    After the recommendations and reading some of the other threads I was overwhelmed with the variety of string choices. The majority seemed to love the D'Addaria. So I strolled out to their web site and looked at their choices. I decided to try the J73. I like a lighter string on the guitar and the strings that came with the New York Pro seemed a little tough and unforgiving. Their site said that a local Guitar Center sold what I was looking for.
    The next day I stopped in. I got the new guy. He was very nice but didn't really know what they had in stock. I asked for the J73 and he climbed up to the top of their string display wall and pulled down a set. I asked if they carried a certain brand of pick. He didn't know but tried to sell me something else. Distracted by the other sales people trying to help and the volume of customers I paid for the strings. As I was picking them up to leave I noticed they were J74 and not J73. Calling this to his attention he told me they didn't carry J73 but that he could order it for me.
    I had already paid so I took my new strings home. I decided I could "order" a different set on-line if I wanted. After restringing the New York Pro the difference is like night and day. I love the feel a fresh set of strings make on the guitar and my experience with the mandolin is the same. The D'Addaria J74's have a bright and clean sound. I probably will go with something lighter next time just to see the difference but I like these and would buy them again.
    Thanks to everyone for the suggestions.
    Best,
    D
  15. Tracy Tucker
    Tracy Tucker
    Don't buy any - I'll give you a set of J62's when you come to the jam. Don't have the gages in front of me, but they are lighter. I tried them and loved the sound, but I tend to 'bend' strings when I play, and it was too easy to do it with those so back to the PF270's I went!
  16. Dukaine
    Dukaine
    Thanks Tracy,

    Looking forward to the jam.
  17. John Gardinsky
    John Gardinsky
    Sorry for the delayed response. I swap in a 16 because of something I heard Don Macrostie say. Says it makes the tension closer to even across the strings. With a 15 the tension on the A-string is lower and feels different. I really like it.
  18. Dukaine
    Dukaine
    I'll have to try that next time I change the strings. Can you buy the A pair individually or do you have to buy a whole set to get the 16 gauge?
  19. John Gardinsky
    John Gardinsky
    you can buy loop end strings individually. I usually buy 10-12 boxes and the extra loop end 16's from First Quality music.
  20. DannyB
    DannyB
    Depending on what sound you are looking for the Sam Bush Gibson monel strings to me are a lighter guage string. I use the Bill Monroe gibsons. I use to use D'addario strings but the Bill Monroe set sounded better on this particular mandolin. That will be another thing you will notice. Different mandolins can possibly sound better on one mandolin than the same string does on a different one. Clear as mud right?
  21. Picker Jim
    Picker Jim
    I like J74s as well, but I also think it is good to try a few different strings to find the ones you like.
  22. justkaron
    justkaron
    Hey, Picker Jim, good to see some life on these threads. I'm a rank beginner but really enthusiastic about learning. No teacher. Life in SW Ohio (Monroe)...just off I-75 halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati. With the proximity to Ky you'd think there would be more bluegrass music in this area. There's not. Disappointing to me. I love all kinds of music but lately have been at a fever pitch over classic country (I mean 40's and 50s) and all bluegrass from B. Monroe to most progressive out there.
    What kind do you play? Music that is.
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