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Thread: Mating strings to mandolin

  1. #1
    Registered User Vincent Capostagno's Avatar
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    Default Mating strings to mandolin

    We know that the combination of mandolin, strings and pick form a unique tone generating system. Every string change I have made has been to a different string and I have enjoyed the sound of my “new” mandolin. I was wondering, consideration of corrosion/longevity aside, if you try to complement or moderate the sound of your mandolin eg. if you consider your mandolin dry, would you use a bright string or a dry one and if your mandolin is bright would you enhance this or use a drier string. And yes, all these terms are subjective

  2. #2
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Question Re: Mating strings to mandolin

    Abundant speculation online because It's easy to do, IMHO..

    My D'jangolin still has the same light nickel wound strings that were on it
    from years ago, because they still sound OK..
    though I have newer plain strings .. the NuTone original ones, the loop was formed
    in the manner that 12 hook Gibson tail piece was made to cope with.. a simple twist, prone to unwinding at the loop.

    Wonder at your Leisure.. it's a long winter until spring equinox..
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  3. #3
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mating strings to mandolin

    I do whatever sounds good to me. If Bright and Bright make brighter and I like it I do it. If bright and dry sounds better to me I do that. What sounds better to you is the question. Whatever it is that's what you do with your instrument.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  4. #4
    Resident Hack
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    Default Re: Mating strings to mandolin

    I'm not sure I would call it complementing or moderating the sound of my mandolin. It's more learning the "neighborhoods" of sounds that come from different combinations. My mandolin's sound will always be rooted heavily in classic bluegrass tone, due to its build. I've been up and down the pick gauntlet and feel pretty confident how the sound will change, if I swap to a particular pick. Once I make it through all the strings being touted by you fine folks, I'll be able to adjust the seasoning of my instrument's sound as whims may (or may not).

    I'm four months into my first instrument with any real tone at all and I trust her to show me which way to go.
    (I'll be hitting my fifth string change this weekend)
    What I play
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  5. #5
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mating strings to mandolin

    Four months in and fifth strong change? Are you playing a lot. Some people go through them quickly. I’m not one of them. I would suggest when trying new strings to at least use the same ones for a month or two. I have only ever switched brands and types quickly when I really really didn’t like the sound. I did have a set once I didn’t really like at first but after the second round I really did like them. The problem was it was such a big change to me from what was on that it sounded off at first.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  6. #6
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mating strings to mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Vincent Capostagno View Post
    We know that the combination of mandolin, strings and pick form a unique tone generating system. Every string change I have made has been to a different string and I have enjoyed the sound of my “new” mandolin. I was wondering, consideration of corrosion/longevity aside, if you try to complement or moderate the sound of your mandolin eg. if you consider your mandolin dry, would you use a bright string or a dry one and if your mandolin is bright would you enhance this or use a drier string. And yes, all these terms are subjective
    As others have implied here, subjectivity is a specialty of the human ear. What sounds just ok to one person sounds wonderful to another, etc... And it isn't really the ears, it's the mind between them that does the interpreting.

    That said, I'll attempt an objective comment here... This is an interesting discussion, but the mandolin, like many stringed instruments, has a nearly infinite array of adjustments that affect tone. Plus, the player's hands, including fretting pressure, fretting position, pick pressure, pick angle, and another infinite array of more discrete techniques, also affect tone. To try to discuss tone generation while limiting the discussion to just mandolin, strings and pick seems pretty futile, because there is so much more to consider.

    Plus, there's much more to sound than just tone, ie: volume, attack, sustain, decay, etc., etc.

    So, perhaps the best way to approach this discussion specifically limited to "tone" is to try to also break down discrete and specific causes and affects. For example, "how do just the strings affect tone?" Or "how does just the pick affect tone?" I don't think we can get there with the mandolin as a whole, but we might be able to address things like "how does the bridge?" or "how does the nut?" or "how do the frets?" affect tone. Although with each of these parts, we'll also have to get into the affects of different types of each of these.

    We might even try to discuss things like "how does the tailpiece?" or "how does a ToneGard?" or "how does an armrest?" or "how does a pickguard?" or "how does a scroll?" or "how does [select your favorite wood]?" affect tone, although all of these and more have been discussed exhaustively without reaching a universally recognized objective conclusion, so again we're probably getting big into issues of subjectivity.

    For me personally, I'd prefer to just spend more time playing the instrument, and trying to polish my technique more and more, in order to produce more pleasing music.
    -- Don

    "Music: A minor auditory irritation occasionally characterized as pleasant."
    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."


    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
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    [About how I tune my mandolins]
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    Registered User tree's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mating strings to mandolin

    New strings, to me, are a (relatively) cheap thrill.

    The way I look at it is, strings wear out so you periodically need to change them. I rarely keep strings for more than a couple of months unless a particular mandolin isn't getting much playing time. I know my strings need changing when tuning and/or intonation becomes aggravating and the strings show oxidation and wear from the frets.

    I like how new strings sound once they're settled, that bright ringing wears off pretty quickly. Since they're relatively inexpensive I will try different sets from different manufacturers just to see how they sound. I have my personal favorites for each instrument, but I don't obsess if I can't get my hands on them - I just use what is available because eventually I'll be able to get my hands on my favorites.
    Clark Beavans

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  10. #8
    Resident Hack
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    Default Re: Mating strings to mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    Four months in and fifth strong change? Are you playing a lot.
    Enough to justify it. I practice daily, have a whole band practice weekly and have been playing long shows most weekends. I go back to EJ74s between each new try, so 3 of the five have been those. They seem to go fairly quick with my playing but changing out the monels before their time was a sad day.

    I don't plan to keep up this pace. It feels worth it to run the spectrum once before starting to settle in for a more regular winter.
    Besides, how will I know what my sweet baby prefers if I don't let her try everything?

    Also, everything Clark says above
    What I play
    2021 Skip Kelley Two-Point
    Eastwood 'Ricky'
    Morgan Monroe RT-1E
    Epiphone Genesis guitars
    Various Basses

  11. #9
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mating strings to mandolin

    I guess I'm the odd guy out. I chased strings at first also but I settled in on a set and ran them a few years and for a change tried something new and found I liked it better. So I tend to stick with what I like. I had a harder time with electric guitar strings. Just couldn't get the feel I wanted and the tone to go along with it. It took a couple of years of messing around to settle in. I was lucky with mandolin to get what I want just about out of the gate.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

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