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Thread: Tendonitis and string gauges

  1. #1

    Default Tendonitis and string gauges

    This could be a bit of a DUH question and I understand that there are lots of things that go on here but in very general terms, all things being equal, would you folks image there to be less stress with lighter strings? I was thinking of trying EFW74s since I am playing a lot of chord melody stuff anyway, so a good experiment, at least. I've been playing Medium monels (Curt Mangan) and I love them but the G string is a 41. On the EFW74s, the G is a 36 and the D and A strings are lighter, too. I have to imagine this would result is less wrist stress and would welcome any feedback. Trying to strike a balance between challenging new shapes and "do no harm."
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  2. #2
    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    It is very common for overuse injuries to come on when someone ups their workload and/or muscle force used in their practice by a good amount in a short period of time. Has happened to me several times over the years, many times doing more chord melody practice! You really need to look at your left hand position, the amount of force you are using in your hand, etc. to make sure it is not more than normal. Maybe look at the instrument setup to make sure it is as good as it can be.

    Often we need to ramp up this type of practice slowly over a few weeks worth of time, so our muscles and tendons can adapt more gradually. If needed, I can go into this in more depth in a different answer.
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    It is very common for overuse injuries to come on when someone ups their workload and/or muscle force used in their practice by a good amount in a short period of time. Has happened to me several times over the years, many times doing more chord melody practice! You really need to look at your left hand position, the amount of force you are using in your hand, etc. to make sure it is not more than normal. Maybe look at the instrument setup to make sure it is as good as it can be.

    Often we need to ramp up this type of practice slowly over a few weeks worth of time, so our muscles and tendons can adapt more gradually. If needed, I can go into this in more depth in a different answer.
    Thanks a lot, Pete. I know the setup is good and I check it often and tweak as needed. I did experience this same issue mid-Pandemic, when I was playing a lot every day, so yes, I think that is the primary culprit here and I do try to look at hand position and self-critique, as much as I am aware enough to do so. Stretches do come, over time, and it's a good exercise (literally) to swap a different, less challenging version of the the F7b( or D7#9, etc. Though I still want the first choices to work, of course.

    I think my thumb position is an issue too. For some shapes, there's just no way, unless I bring the thumb around to the back of the neck, like with fingerstyle guitar and that seems to exacerbate a tendency to clench down harder, etc. etc.

    I'll throw these lighter strings on and see if there's any forgiveness and meanwhile, thanks for the reply.
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    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    I switched from J-74's to J-73's several years ago because of arthritis, and found that the lessened string tension helped. It turns out that i like the tone better too.
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  7. #5

    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    Quote Originally Posted by John Rosett View Post
    I switched from J-74's to J-73's several years ago because of arthritis, and found that the lessened string tension helped. It turns out that i like the tone better too.
    Thanks, and interesting. I just jotted down the gauges for the 73s, 74s, the EFWs and the Mangan Monels. The last three all have the same gauges EXCEPT for the bass string which drops from 40 to 36 with the EFWs. So that seems like a good first experiment. I do like bass though. Might be tough to give up on that. Thanks for weighing in.
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    I’d consider thomastik infields, especially if you’re playing chord melody. Easiest playing strings IMO.

  9. #7

    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    Quote Originally Posted by mjbee View Post
    I’d consider thomastik infields, especially if you’re playing chord melody. Easiest playing strings IMO.
    OK, thanks. I have heard about them over the years. I just put on these EFWs and already can tell that I like them, so when they go, I'll give your suggestion a try. They aren't cheap so I'll have time to save up :-)
    Last edited by shaundeane; Nov-20-2021 at 12:58pm.
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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    The core thickness on the wound strings plays a big part in the feel of the tension. I know the old Gibson Monels said the G was 41 or 42, but it played much lighter to my feel. Found out later the core was thinner than many PB strings and the winding thicker.
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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    A good way to practice new voicings for me is bounce back and forth between two chord voicings, one i know well and a new one. I just BARELY touch the strings on both, keeping all un-needed tension out of my left hand.
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  13. #10

    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    A good way to practice new voicings for me is bounce back and forth between two chord voicings, one i know well and a new one. I just BARELY touch the strings on both, keeping all un-needed tension out of my left hand.
    Thank you! Great suggestion.
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    D'Addario flatwounds have slightly lower tension than a set of regular mediums, going by their website. Thomastik go even lower. I do notice a difference between the EFW74 and Thomastik both in sound and feel. I need to

    String tension for comparison -

    D'Addario EJ74 - G - 24.48, D - 23.36, A - 19.26, E - 23.25

    D'Addario EFW74 - G - 19.33, D - 22.97, A - 12.26, E - 23.25

    Thomastik Stark (heavy) - G - 17.6, D - 17.6, A - 18.7, E - 21.8

    Hope this helps.

  15. #12

    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    It does help, thank you. Of course, I need to experiment with them. The EFWs I put on are definitely easier on the fingers and (so far), seem less stressful but who knows? Maybe I'm subconsciously adjusting my technique a bit too. I haven't played them that much but I do seem to notice a loss of some sustain or perhaps "power," for lack of a better term (compared to the monels). If the answer ends up being, "go with the FWs until things improve," and I can keep playing, then that'll be a pretty good outcome.
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    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    This is not about string gauges and I am probably preaching to the choir but I found this statement by Steve Kaufman extremely valuable. Ever since he told me I repeat it anytime it may apply:
    "Press the string down and then loosen the pressure until there is string noise. Then apply pressure until the string noise is gone. That's the pressure you ought to put out while fretting a string".
    I found out that many times you press down a lot harder than needed. Disobeying the advice will show in divots in the frets and fretboard, out of tune strings etc. This advice should prevent injuries also.
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    I agree with grassrootphilosopher...Sharon Gilchrist offers similar advice. And she offers some very good advice about left hand placement, tension etc in her Intermediate Bluegrass Mandolin course on Peghead Nation. Might be worth a look.
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    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    worth remembering that when Gibson Co. was in its heyday (1900-1925) with mandolins the strings used were of lower tension and thickness than they are today. I imagine Loar F5s did not see a .40 G string until the 50's... although I could be off on this. my main advice is to stop playing whenever you experience pain. also, using one's thumb on the back of the mandolin neck should be avoided unless it's absolutely necessary for a chord shape. I know a lot of folks come to mandolin from guitar and so they are used to this approach, but I avoid it whenever and however I can.

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    Flat fingerboards give me left hand tendonitus regardless of the string guage.

    When I switched to radiused fingerboards, it goes away, regardless of how heavy the strings I use are. My norm are J74s and they give me zero hand issues as long as there is sufficient fingerboard radius. Setup is everything....

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  21. #17

    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    Flat fingerboards give me left hand tendonitus regardless of the string guage.

    When I switched to radiused fingerboards, it goes away, regardless of how heavy the strings I use are. My norm are J74s and they give me zero hand issues as long as there is sufficient fingerboard radius. Setup is everything....
    Thanks, setup is perfect and these are radiused. Max Girouard excels in the playability department.
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    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    Yes, setup is extremely important (concerning your health, your instruments health and a healthy tone).

    My experience: My expensive mandolin came to me new in 2006. I had a fretjob and a setup done about 3-4 years later. From then until 2018 I did nothing but change the strings. In 2018 - after a somewhat not regularly playing that mandolin - I found myself in a scratchband at a festival. My mandolin sounded great as usual but boy howdy the string action was killing me. After that I researched and found Brad Lairds setup tips (http://www.bradleylaird.com/blog-art...st-lesson.html). Thanks to them I changed my mandolins setup to where it plays beautifully and sounds awesome without me trying to be a Hulk-impersonator.
    Olaf

  23. #19

    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    Quote Originally Posted by grassrootphilosopher View Post
    Yes, setup is extremely important (concerning your health, your instruments health and a healthy tone).

    Brad Lairds setup tips (http://www.bradleylaird.com/blog-art...st-lesson.html). Thanks to them I changed my mandolins setup to where it plays beautifully and sounds awesome without me trying to be a Hulk-impersonator.
    I agree, and have that ebook, too. I keep a set of feeler gauges nearby so I can keep the action dialed in pretty well. It's amazing how much it moves over the seasons here in New England. I saw that quote again the other day which came from Peter Rowan, I think, that a new instrument thinks it's still a tree for the first couple of years, then settles in and that makes sense to me.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    Quote Originally Posted by shaundeane View Post
    This could be a bit of a DUH question and I understand that there are lots of things that go on here but in very general terms, all things being equal, would you folks image there to be less stress with lighter strings?
    Please indulge my digression. If it does not apply, maybe it will help someone else.

    I have told this story a few times. Many years ago now, I started having extreme pain in my left wrist and index finger, and back of the hand. I do not have enough experience to reliably discriminate between tendonitis and other ailments, it just hurt, and after about half an hour of playing I had to put down for a while. And if I pushed my self (because the joy of the jam exceeded the pain) I really paid for it.

    After an unrelated full check up, it was discovered that I had diabetes. I corrected my blood sugar though diet and medication, and in a week, all the pain was gone. As if it never happened. To this day I can play for hours without pain or fatigue.

    I am not suggesting that is the answer, far from it - my only suggestion is that sometimes things ain't what they feel like, and I would not want you or anyone to miss a correct diagnosis. Please have a professional weigh in, if only to rule out some of the more severe if less likely ailments.

    If this is not relevant here, my apologies.
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  25. #21

    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post

    If this is not relevant here, my apologies.
    Very thoughtful of you, my thanks (and from others, I expect). Thankfully, this is not an issue for me. I have many others So far, though, the move to the flat wounds and dropping the saddle down a bit, seem(s) to be helping. Each time I do a tweak like either of these, it only reinforces how important the basics are: setup, posture, etc. Hope you have a great holiday.
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  26. #22
    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    No apologies needed. There is a lot more than what anyone may think that has an impact on your body, pain and all. It could be that you're over acidic, or there's something wrong with your liver, stuff like bechterev's disease may have something to do with it. Pain can have the most different sources. It helps to stay in touch with yourself.
    Stay safe.

  27. #23
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tendonitis and string gauges

    Isn't that an inflammation of the tendons? a bit of Ibu & rest , cold wrapping tried?
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