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Thread: Octave Mandolin Strings

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    Registered User Darwin Gaston's Avatar
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    Default Octave Mandolin Strings

    I’m going to get a full body octave mandolin which uses ball end strings. The scale length 20.25” with string tension 12 - 52. Any recommendation on strings for an octave mandolin and a good place to purchase them?

    Thanks
    Darwin
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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    Ask Austin Clark. Guess you already know him.

    I have a two point on order from Austin. How do you like it?

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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    That E string at 12 seems really light. A 15 would be more appropriately tensioned compared to a 52. I recommend using the gauges for mandola strings which should get you into the ballpark assuming the instrument is built sturdy enough. 52, 35, 25, 15 is what D'Addario has for a medium mandola set. Tuning those gauges to GDAE on a 20" scale will be about equivalent, but you could bump it down to lights, 49 34 23 14 which could be more in line depending on the instrument. As for the strings themselves, buy the bulk strings from JustStrings. The come in tubes of 12 per gauge and are the most cost effective way to get custom sets, even if you can't imagine using 12 sets.

    Or, as mentioned above, ask the builder or a friend who builds.

    Hope this helps,
    Baron
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  5. #4
    Registered User Darwin Gaston's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    Peter,

    Austin makes a great two point mandolin! I have had offers to sell mine but its not going to happen its a keeper as they say. Believe me it sounds just us good as it looks!! You will be very happy with it. Here are some photos of the one Austin made for me back in January 2019 showing the wood Austin selected and the finished Clark 2 point mandolin.

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    Last edited by Darwin Gaston; Oct-01-2020 at 10:31pm. Reason: Add pics
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  7. #5
    Registered User Darwin Gaston's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    Baron,

    Thanks for your recommendation on buying bulk strings from Just Strings.

    Darwin
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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    I discussed string options with Austin when I bought my GBOM. One reason he builds them for ball ends because the choice of strings is greater which may be in the US but options are limited/expensive in the UK. Fortunately, we have “Newtone” who will put together whatever sets you like.

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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    I have a Northfield Maple Octave mandolin and was thinking about trying Thomastik Mandola strings on it. I’m willing to take the risk on the sound possibilities because I like the sound and feel of Thomastik strings but I’m concerned that the mandola string length is not long enough for an octave scale length. Any ideas, Thanks!

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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    "I have a Northfield Maple Octave mandolin and was thinking about trying Thomastik Mandola strings on it. I’m willing to take the risk on the sound possibilities because I like the sound and feel of Thomastik strings but I’m concerned that the mandola string length is not long enough for an octave scale length. Any ideas, Thanks!"

    Hi Alan,

    The Thomastik 174 set (European mandola, a.k.a. octave mandolin) is sized for a 45cm scale length. Your instrument (unless it is custom) has a 22 inch scale length or about 56 cm, which is far too long for the 174 set. You could use the 185 set, which is for liuto cantabile (CGDAE) which is sized for around 61cm, discarding the C string, but this is fairly expensive option (around $100 a set, currently in the US). Fisoma (available from https://lordofthestrings.com/en) makes a set for 46-50cm, but even this is too short for your instrument (I used Thomastik for years but have switched to Fisoma, equally good and less expensive).
    Robert A. Margo

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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    The Thomastik 174 set (European mandola, a.k.a. octave mandolin) is sized for a 45cm scale length. Your instrument (unless it is custom) has a 22 inch scale length or about 56 cm, which is far too long for the 174 set.

    Hi Bob

    Thanks for this response. I was thinking the scale length would be an issue and now that confirms it. Looks like I’ll be staying with the strings I got.
    Alan

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    I have a 21" F4 OM with an Allen tailpiece that takes ball end strings. I use guitar strings, I buy them as singles from my local music store:
    G - .048"
    D - .040"
    A - .024" (wound)
    E - .013"

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  17. #11
    Registered User Darwin Gaston's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    I have a 21" F4 OM with an Allen tailpiece that takes ball end strings. I use guitar strings, I buy them as singles from my local music store:
    G - .048"
    D - .040"
    A - .024" (wound)
    E - .013"
    I'm think more and more that you have to purchase single ball end strings. Because I have called Strings by Mail and they don't carry octave mandolin strings. Also, I called Elixir and they don't make octave mandolin strings.

    So far the only place that I have found that are willing to make ball end octave mandolin sets of 13 24 36 52 Phosphor Bronze strings is Curt Mangan.
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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    As I said above, Newtone will make up sets of anything and call them whatever takes your fancy.

    Bear in mind that there’s no such thing as an octave mandolin/guitar string - they’re all simply strings. Some may have balls and some may have loops but, providing that they’re long enough, they’ll be fine for any instrument you care to put them on.

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  20. #13

    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    I have a 21" F4 OM with an Allen tailpiece that takes ball end strings. I use guitar strings, I buy them as singles from my local music store:
    G - .048"
    D - .040"
    A - .024" (wound)
    E - .013"
    That 40 for your D seems extremely heavy. I personally wound be worried about that much tension, both for the string and the instrument. I love to use this tension calculator and aim between 20 and 25 lbs per string.

    https://tension.stringjoy.com/

    For example, your G has under 20 lbs and your D has over 30. If it works for you and you like it, I'm not trying to say you are doing it wrong, but I've personally run into tuning/intonation/structural problems when I push tension higher than 25 or so, and I *love* heavy gauge strings.

    Thanks,
    Baron
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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    I have a related question. I hope this is not considered hi-jacking the thread - if so, please ignore me. I am looking for flat wound strings that would fit a 23" scale. If you have any ideas I would GREATLY appreciate your help. I asked one of the big string suppliers but he had no leads. Thank you.

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  23. #15
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    I have a related question. I hope this is not considered hi-jacking the thread - if so, please ignore me. I am looking for flat wound strings that would fit a 23" scale. If you have any ideas I would GREATLY appreciate your help. I asked one of the big string suppliers but he had no leads. Thank you.
    I currently am using flat wound electric guitar strings on my OM. Recognize that the plain steel strings really are about the same from brand to brand and style to style - the E strings from a phosphor bronze, 80/20, monel, etc. are pretty much the same (except for gage).

    Figure out whatever gage strings you want and buy a set of flat wound guitar strings that will cover them. Buy single strings for your E's if needed. For a 23" instrument you're nearly at a guitar scale, so anything from .011 to .013 should work.

    If you need ball end, great you're there. If you need loop end just snip the brass "balls" with sude, diagonal or end cut pliers. This stuff ain't rocket surgery....

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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    "I have a related question. I hope this is not considered hi-jacking the thread - if so, please ignore me. I am looking for flat wound strings that would fit a 23" scale. If you have any ideas I would GREATLY appreciate your help. I asked one of the big string suppliers but he had no leads. Thank you."

    Assuming this is referring to an octave mandolin see my response to Alan Epstein. A simple, but expensive solution is a set of Thomastik 185 strings, which are for the liuto cantabile (CGDAE), sized for a little under 61 cm (24 in) and so would be fine for a 23-inch scale. You would discard the C string (or keep it, if you ever get a mandocello). www.juststrings.com carries these, look under "lute strings".
    Robert A. Margo

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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    I have a related question. I hope this is not considered hi-jacking the thread - if so, please ignore me. I am looking for flat wound strings that would fit a 23" scale. If you have any ideas I would GREATLY appreciate your help. I asked one of the big string suppliers but he had no leads. Thank you.
    Martin has you covered: http://www.emando.com/shop/strings8_flatwound.htm
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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    Thank you guys so much!!!! That seems to clear up the search!

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  29. #19
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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    On an instrument with a short scale, I have had good luck using the D'Addario mandola set.

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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    Not sure how my Sobell compares with your instrument, but I use 12, 21, 30 and 42
    David A. Gordon

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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by margora View Post
    Assuming this is referring to an octave mandolin see my response to Alan Epstein. A simple, but expensive solution is a set of Thomastik 185 strings, which are for the liuto cantabile (CGDAE), sized for a little under 61 cm (24 in) and so would be fine for a 23-inch scale. You would discard the C string (or keep it, if you ever get a mandocello). www.juststrings.com carries these, look under "lute strings".
    $100.18!
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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    $100.18!

    As I said, expensive. The strings last a long time, however.
    Robert A. Margo

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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by margora View Post
    As I said, expensive. The strings last a long time, however.
    I have happily played TI’s on a flattop (Mittel) and an archtop / resonator (Stark), and willingly spent the ~$40 for the privilege. I don’t see me spending $100 just so I can toss the C strings when I’ve struggled to buy the $34 set at emando.com. Maybe Santa will surprise me.
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  34. #24
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    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Collins-Hill View Post
    That 40 for your D seems extremely heavy. I personally wound be worried about that much tension, both for the string and the instrument. I love to use this tension calculator and aim between 20 and 25 lbs per string.

    https://tension.stringjoy.com/

    For example, your G has under 20 lbs and your D has over 30. If it works for you and you like it, I'm not trying to say you are doing it wrong, but I've personally run into tuning/intonation/structural problems when I push tension higher than 25 or so, and I *love* heavy gauge strings.

    Thanks,
    Baron
    Good info, but I disagree for a couple reasons:

    1. These are the strings the builder recommended.

    2. I use 13's (mediums) on several guitars, with a .036 D, on a 23" - 25" scale. Same frequency, 19% longer scale, only 10% smaller diameter.

  35. #25

    Default Re: Octave Mandolin Strings

    Maybe I could buy your tossed TI C string for my octave banjolin that I want to tuned to EBF#C#. Maybe it would work as the E string for me.

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