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Thread: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

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    Default Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    Hello everyone,

    I'm relatively new to the mandolin world, approaching it as a professional cellist. I have fallen in love with the instrument, and I'm currently doing a deep dive into mando rep. I recently got my hands on a nice 1918 L&H type C mandolin, and I'm trying to figure out what the ideal set up would be.

    I'm primarily a classical player, but I want a set up that is flexible for some old time playing and other roots styles. I have tried Thomastic flat wound strings, and now I am experimenting with Optima strings. I have the flat wound Soloist set, the silk & steel Artist set, and the Black Label set with polished chrome G & D.

    I am looking for warmth in the high register, and a clear sound with projection in the bass. Sorry for the lengthy post, any input from classically-minded folks would be greatly appreciated.

    Steve

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    I own two L&H mandolins and initially I avoided the Thomastiks since many years before I used them on my Gibson and absolutely hated them. However, I broke down and put a set on my style A and it sounds great on that. You certainly can and should experiment but, if it matters to you at all, they are the go-to strings for classical players on these L&H instruments.

    Here's one example. Marissa Carroll plays a style B:

    Jim

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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    Thanks for the reply, Jim. I am very familiar w/the Thomastik brand as I have been using their strings on my cello for many years. It looks like she is using medium gauge in the video as far as I can tell. If I can get my instrument to sound like that, I'll be in good shape!

    My only concern with using the flat wound strings is that it seems like it might box you in to a particular genre. Have you ever used these strings in a non-classical setting?

    The strings I have on now are the Optima Artist set which are silk & steel w/a plain A. These have a good combo of warmth & brilliance. Hard to tell how they'll sound in a group right now for obvious reasons. I might try a split set with Optima A & E, and Thomastik G & D. A split set is actually the most widely used combination in the bowed string world.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    I only use these T-I strings on my L&H mandolin. Yes, I would play it for whatever genre I thought it would sound good in. For my other instruments I do prefer roundwound strings. For the carved top mandolins D'Addario Nickel Bronze and for my vintage bowlbacks Dogal Calace RW92b Dolce (very light gauge). The Dogal strings are nicely bright and sweet sounding on the old lightly constructed bowlbacks.

    I don't know that particular Optima string but I think it might sound a bit strange with mixing the two brands. I am pretty sure that the T-Is have a wound A string which would be very different from the Optima (I assume).

    As for bowed strings, with the exception of very cheap all steel violin strings, most bowed strings are flatwound for the bowing. Very different means of sound production. Having said all that, feel free to experiment and see what you like.

    What other genres do you play? I really would not be all that concerned if you like what your mandolin sounds like.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    I'm currently studying some fiddle tunes & old time music as well as classical. I'm studying the standard rep (Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Leone, Barbella, Calace, etc.) as well as some more contemporary 20th/21st century music. There are some great modern chamber works with mandolin that I have discovered. I'd like to branch out and learn blues and jazz on mandolin as well.

    I started with a Northfield Calhoun with regular phosphor bronze strings, and my worry is that the flat wound strings won't be heard as easily in an ensemble. But I like your advice, I'll go with the sound I like best and see what happens after that.

    Also, by split tuning I meant using different brands for different courses, not splitting strings within one course. I've put the 24k gold strings from Optima on my Calhoun, and I love the sound. More brightness & sustain than the phosphor bronze. I would highly recommend them. As an added bonus, the gold strings conduct electricity much better than their counterparts which makes playing with an EBow much more feasible...
    Last edited by ~CelloMando~; Mar-01-2021 at 6:56pm.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    Wow! The thought of playing old time music on a mandolin with an eBow! I can't imagine...

    No, I knew what you were talking about. I use Thomastik Vision strings on my fiddle and use a Kaplan e string. I know some players have a different brand for each string on violins and other bowed instruments. I just never did that on mandolin but it is possible.

    See what works. If you still have the Calhoun you could play it for old time and keep the L&H for classical. However, I find it practically impossible to hear any mandolin in a large old time jam session. However, small ensembles are usually not a problem unless you are playing with winds, drums and electric instruments.

    Again, you will have to see but frankly I believe that the Optima silk and steel strings would not be louder (if at all) than Thomastik flatwounds. But of course, you could try them and see.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    I always used D'Addario or GHS, 10 1/2 - 14 -24 -38 or 40.
    I played an L & H style B more or less constantly through the 90's, then traded the instrument to a pro who used it for 20 years. We both always strung it the same, and it sounded good and held up with no problems.

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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by ~CelloMando~ View Post
    My only concern with using the flat wound strings is that it seems like it might box you in to a particular genre. Have you ever used these strings in a non-classical setting?
    CelloMando, this is the crux of why so few mandolinists confine themselves to a single instrument. If you use strings on both the Northfield and the L&H that maximize their inherent characteristics you will end up with two very different-sounding mandos, suitable for all occasions. (And then you buy a third.)

    I purchased a L&H Style B recently, also from 1918 as close as I can tell. It came strung with standard phosphor bronze round-wound strings on it, very possibly D'Addarios. It sounded good, but I just happened to have a set of Thomastik mittels sitting around and put them on. The TIs give it a warmer, richer sound, which is the whole reason to buy a Lyon & Healy—other than the elegant good looks and the history.

    As a cellist, are you going to start looking for one of these?

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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    Thanks for the advice, Louise. Having just purchased a new instrument, I don't think I'll be getting a mandocello anytime soon unfortunately. I do have an octave mandolin, however. You probably wouldn't be able to use a lot of the same fingering patterns on mandocello, without the use of thumb not everything from cello maps on. Also having the neck parallel to ground rather than perpendicular is a huge difference too. I think if I get another mandolin family instrument, it would be a mandola. That way I have cello tuning with a much shorter scale. Those mandocellos sure look beautiful though. I'd love to get my hands on a type A or B from L&H one of these days.

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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    CelloMando, I'll be interested to hear what you settle on for the L&H. I have an L&H A model on which I put TI mittels some months ago ... and was very happy with them. However, I more recently acquired a Pecoraro/Embergher (Lenzner strings) and have been more or less devoted to playing only it; it has the most satisfying mando sound I've ever had the pleasure to produce. The other day I pulled out the L&H again and found the G and D strings thumpy and vague. This may be due to wrong expectations on my part, or may be L&H payback for being ignored? However, I'm thinking to change strings and will be curious about where you end up. Thanks.

    Joe

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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    10 ~ 36 bronze , adequate? I use lighter strings on a couple mandolins ..

    Wonder if corrosion was a factor when left un played for a year or so?
    writing about music
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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    Hello. I have been using the Lenzner Consort strings on my L&H Pro A which Brian Dean rehabbed, at his suggestion, and the wound A has unique quality I like a lot...it offers depth of tone that the plain A does not have. These may be ordered from Hendrik Van Der Broek in the Netherlands. I usually keep them on until something breaks, although sometimes they go out of whack after a season. If you have the interest I would include those in your journey. They are more round that flat, but more flat than round. I also use these on my 1883 Calace, which Brian did a comprehensive reconstruction on a few years ago.

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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Foster Reed View Post
    Hello. I have been using the Lenzner Consort strings on my L&H Pro A which Brian Dean rehabbed, at his suggestion, and the wound A has unique quality I like a lot...it offers depth of tone that the plain A does not have. These may be ordered from Hendrik Van Der Broek in the Netherlands. I usually keep them on until something breaks, although sometimes they go out of whack after a season. If you have the interest I would include those in your journey. They are more round that flat, but more flat than round. I also use these on my 1883 Calace, which Brian did a comprehensive reconstruction on a few years ago.
    Are those the sames as these? If so, they are available in the states.

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    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Foster Reed View Post
    Hello. I have been using the Lenzner Consort strings ... These may be ordered from Hendrik Van Der Broek in the Netherlands.
    It's my understanding that Lenzner is no more and that the Consort strings are now available from Optima, as noted by Louise NM, or Fisoma.

    Hendrik Van Der Broek used to have an Ebay page, but the old link (ca. 2005) to it does not work.

    Am I wrong about Lenzner?

    Does Hendrik Van Der Broek still exist?

    Thanks.

    Joe

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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    For a short while, recently, I got all excited about Dogal Calace strings on my L&H model A - but I have returned to TI Mittels. To me the other strings don't bring out the uniqueness of an LH. But I really enjoyed the experimenting and got it out of my system. It's like everything mandolin: you have to try everything yourself to see what makes YOUR ears and hands happy.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Bartl View Post
    CelloMando, I'll be interested to hear what you settle on for the L&H. I have an L&H A model on which I put TI mittels some months ago ... and was very happy with them. However, I more recently acquired a Pecoraro/Embergher (Lenzner strings) and have been more or less devoted to playing only it; it has the most satisfying mando sound I've ever had the pleasure to produce. The other day I pulled out the L&H again and found the G and D strings thumpy and vague. This may be due to wrong expectations on my part, or may be L&H payback for being ignored? However, I'm thinking to change strings and will be curious about where you end up. Thanks.

    Joe
    Hi Joe -
    I have experienced that same "sense of thumps" thing - when returning to the LH after playing a more "grassy" mando or a non-German bowlback. For me I have begun to realize that every time I switch between the mandolins I own I need to play the new one a sufficient number of days to "get in the groove" with it. After a few days the mandolin in my hands becomes the favorite of the day and I enjoy it completely. BUT I have to give my brain time to escape thinking that the current mandolin should sound like yesterday's "favorite". Not sure if I'm being clear? At least that's my theory. Sometimes theories have annoying potential flaws though. In this case the flaw is that I have not been able to put my Collings down for more than a day (unless of course we talk about the Octave Mandolin drug!).

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by ~CelloMando~ View Post
    I'm currently studying some fiddle tunes & old time music as well as classical. I'm studying the standard rep (Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Leone, Barbella, Calace, etc.) as well as some more contemporary 20th/21st century music. There are some great modern chamber works with mandolin that I have discovered. I'd like to branch out and learn blues and jazz on mandolin as well.

    I started with a Northfield Calhoun with regular phosphor bronze strings, and my worry is that the flat wound strings won't be heard as easily in an ensemble. But I like your advice, I'll go with the sound I like best and see what happens after that.

    Also, by split tuning I meant using different brands for different courses, not splitting strings within one course. I've put the 24k gold strings from Optima on my Calhoun, and I love the sound. More brightness & sustain than the phosphor bronze. I would highly recommend them. As an added bonus, the gold strings conduct electricity much better than their counterparts which makes playing with an EBow much more feasible...
    Congratulations on the new instrument! Does your Style C have the short or the longer scale? Mine is a short scale, and I've settled on TI mittels, but the G and D strings seem a little tubby to me. I know that in the bowed string world splitting strings is pretty common, but I haven't heard of anyone doing that on mandolin.

    If they make a light enough gauge, I think silk and steels would be a good choice. I think those are made by GHS. Let us know what you come up with, and meanwhile, lets see a picture.

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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    The most common string exchange on a LH is probably to swap out the TI E-string for a Hannabach E-string ala Caterina Lichtenberg and many German players.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    My instrument is the longer scale, it is 13 5/8 inches. Right now I am trying the Optima soloist set which comes with a flat wound A for the top two courses, and the Optima Black Label for the bottom two courses. The Black Label strings are polished chrome. My instrument is currently getting a fingerboard plane & a re-fret so, the jury will be out for another week or so until I get my hands on it again.

    The Embergher consort strings are an interesting choice, I had thought those were designed for an Italian bowl back. The Lenzer strings are now manufactured under the Optima brand as far as I can tell. The link from Louise is the right one, I believe. I could also experiment with the bronze strings, I'd be very curious to see how they sound.

    I'll post an update when I settle on a particular set. Heres a picture of the new ax:
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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    What I get are the Fisoma 80/20 Bronze Lenzner Consort, from
    hendrikvandenbroek@hetnet.nl
    I buy three sets at a time. Good travels !

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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    CelloMando - I am curious as to how you like the sound produced from this LH (I wish I could tell you what the strings are):

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HXtUG68ivY8#

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    CelloMando - I am curious as to how you like the sound produced from this LH (I wish I could tell you what the strings are):

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HXtUG68ivY8#
    What a sound! I keep going back to listen to that. Just beautiful...

    I don't know, but they sure look like a fairly heavy gauge phosphor bronze bluegrass set. Maybe Mandolin Brothers wouldn't have done that, but when i bought my style C from a very well known dealer, it was strung with J74s. That one appears to be the 13" scale, so maybe is more forgiving?

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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    What a sound! I keep going back to listen to that. Just beautiful...

    I don't know, but they sure look like a fairly heavy gauge phosphor bronze bluegrass set. Maybe Mandolin Brothers wouldn't have done that, but when i bought my style C from a very well known dealer, it was strung with J74s. That one appears to be the 13" scale, so maybe is more forgiving?
    I am glad you like that sound. Listen to the lower strings over and over - maybe that will help solve the mystery? Right at the very last I think he hits the g-string and is has that softer non-bluegrass sound - making me think they might actually be TI's - but I really have no clue! Remember, however, that there are varying opinions by many good luthiers on the Cafe as to using strings with too much tension on the L&H's. I don't think that the case is completely closed on that interesting question. But some might say J74's may damage your mandolin - others will disagree. It's a tough call so as not to risk damage. But if you ever get yours to sound exactly like that, please let us know. I think it may be more than just the extremely good skills of the player, but that is of course also a part of it LOL.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Collings A (MT2-V)
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia
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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    i couldn't get the J74s off quick enough. That was a long time ago.

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    Default Re: Best strings for a Lyon & Healy type C mandolin

    The strings in the Frank Solivan video can't be TIs—they don't have the black winding at the ends. Whatever they are, they look to be on the heavier side.

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