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Thread: Octave tuning/string tension question

  1. #1

    Default Octave tuning/string tension question

    Hey all! Iím new around here, so if this isnít the place, let me know!

    I just got an Eastman MD0-305, and I have a string question. It came with the EJ80 strings, which Iím happy enough with. I want to tune one each of the G and D strings up an octave, into mandolin range. I know that tuning is done sometimes, but I'm not sure how...

    I have a set of EJ76ís that fit and are intended for that octave, but Iím nervous about just putting one on and cranking it up to pitch. Will that tension change break anything, or run the risk of it on a brand-new instrument? (Iím coming mostly from the classical bowed string world, where even going a whole step up on tuning is a scary prospect, not to mention strings cost over $100 a setÖ)

    So the set up would be G2(EJ80) G3(EJ76), D3(EJ80) D4(EJ76), and standard A3 and E4 in the EJ80s.

    Let me know what you think!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Octave tuning/string tension question

    A useful rule of thumb is that the high octave string of a pair is usually no more than half the gauge of the low string, and often a little below half the gauge if using a plain steel string. I'm not sure what the gauges in your sets are, but that would be a reasonable sanity check before you try it.

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    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave tuning/string tension question

    As Martin says, the higher octave string of the pair is around half the diameter or gauge of the lower octave string. You need string which is made to be tuned to that pitch - G3 rather than G2 in your case. Trying to bring one of the strings up in pitch by a full octave will snap the string long before you get it to pitch.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave tuning/string tension question

    I've used and recommended the "halve the diameter, double the frequency" thumb rule here for over 10 years and done it on over 5 different instruments with no issues.

    Here's an even simpler way that I've also done and recommended multiple times here:
    Get two sets of strings of your choice. Use an A from set 2 paired with your G, tuned up to one whole step below A to G an octave up. Use an E from set 2 paired with your D, tuned up to one whole step below the normal E to D an octave above your "regular" D.

    The usual caveats of the nut and saddle slots being too big for the octave pairs apply. Once again this has never been an issue for me - but most of the instruments I've used octave pairs on have zero frets vs conventional nuts.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave tuning/string tension question

    I octave-strung the lower two courses of my Octofone, using strings as follows;

    4th course G .045 wound/.018 plain
    3rd course D .030 wound/.016 plain
    2nd course A .020 plain (both)
    1st course E .011 plain (both)

    Works pretty well. The Octofone is quite short-scale (21") for an octave mandolin, and I may tweak those gauges in the future; thinking about a heavier "high octave" string for the 4th course -- maybe wound, I dunno. Octofones are crazy lightly built, so I'm cautious about string tension; I've already had to have a carbon fiber stiffening bar installed in the neck under the fingerboard.

    I'd assume your Eastman is more sturdy. I like the sound of the octave pairs for chording, but they're a bit weird for melody playing -- the jump from the D strings to the A strings means the melody note may slip down an octave.

    Always fun to try, though. Good luck!

    Later: just realized the Eastman has the same 21" scale as my Octofone; surely a better-built instrument, though.
    Last edited by allenhopkins; Oct-05-2021 at 4:11pm.
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave tuning/string tension question

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    I like the sound of the octave pairs for chording, but they're a bit weird for melody playing -- the jump from the D strings to the A strings means the melody note may slip down an octave.
    I found the same problem when I briefly tried octave strings my OM when playing melody. The original melody line was fractured too much by jumping back and forth.

    Also, I think you lose some of the distinctive punch and "growl" of an OM when the double course strings are not at the same low pitch. You only have half the volume and resonance on those lower notes.

    That said, it's mostly a concern when playing solo melodies. It can work well if most of what you're doing is chordal backup along with other instruments. The "zing" of the octave strings helps to cut through the mix.

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    Default Re: Octave tuning/string tension question

    I tried this with my 305 - and changed back again fairly quickly. If I remember correctly, I just used strings 1 step above the standard A and E strings for the high G and D - so if eg you use an 11 for the Es, try a 12 for the octave G. It's an interesting sound, and tuning wasn't as big a problem as some older topics here suggested it might be - but I agree with other comments above, particularly making tunes sound odd.

  10. #8

    Default Re: Octave tuning/string tension question

    I’m a big fan of the octave pairs sound. I would go heavier than other suggestions here—try .20 on the G and .18 on the D. I use that on my Trin College OM. You won’t do any damage, and the heavier gauges will fit better into nut and saddle slots which presumably are cut for the standard wound-pairs.
    I’m having some string#rattle issues with the TC, not sure if it relates to the octave-pairing, but it didn’t sound that way the first several months I had the oct- pairs on.
    It’s a cheap and non-risky thing to try; just swap the strings and if you generally like the feel and sound, you can look into permanent setup changes (reslotting) to tweak it, later.
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    Mandoline or Mandolin: Similar to the lute, but much less artistically valuable....for people who wish to play simple music without much trouble óThe Oxford Companion to Music

  11. #9

    Default Re: Octave tuning/string tension question

    2009 Eastman 505
    2011 Collings MTO GT
    2008 Toyota Sienna
    Stihl MS261C

    Mandoline or Mandolin: Similar to the lute, but much less artistically valuable....for people who wish to play simple music without much trouble óThe Oxford Companion to Music

  12. #10
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave tuning/string tension question

    It can be an Irish Zouk feature, a friend does that.
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