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Thread: Flatwound guitar strings

  1. #1
    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Flatwound guitar strings

    I have been using flatwound mandolin for many years and love the tone and feel of them. I would love to use them on guitar as well. Does anyone have any experience using flatwounds on acoustic guitar? I tried a set one time but found out after I got them (description wasn't clear on the web site) that they wee for electric guitar. I liked the sound but they were very soft and "rubbery" feeling. Probably intended for string choking. Has anyone tried flatwound strings that are specifically designed for acoustic guitar.
    Larry Hunsberger

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    Registered User Doug Edwards's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    I've used the D'addario Flat Tops on my resonator guitar and pleased with them. Although they are not true flat wounds, they have less string noise and can be played with a slide.

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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    I have a friend who has migrated to playing mostly jazz, using flat-wounds on an electric arch-top. He still plays flat-top at a weekly jam and decided to put flats on the dreadnought because he loved the sound and feel of them. It didn't work at all for him, very dead sounding, tone was really TOO fundamental.

    At the Strings and Beyond website, the only flat wounds listed under acoustic guitar are the TI George Benson's. I don't recall George playing any purely acoustic stuff, so they night really be aimed at electric arch-tops. An interesting experiment if you're looking for a more fundamental tone might be to try some of the gypsy jazz strings. I don't know if they'd feel any smoother, though.
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    To my ear, a primary difference between typical flat-top guitar tone and typical arch-top mandolin tone is that guitar benefits from having lots of overtones/harmonics, while mandolin benefits from minimizing the harmonics & emphasizing the primary. Thus, most mandolin players tend to favor thicker picks than guitar players do, as light picks tend to excite more harmonics than thicker ones. With such a small body, it would be easy for mandolin to overload the harmonics, maybe even to the point of "shrill".

    Flatwound strings tend do the same thing as a thick pick: emphasize the primary and supress the harmonics. Thus, it's most likely that flatwounds and flat-top guitars don't really go together.

    Jazz players with their archtops, OTOH, DO tend use more of a primary-heavy sound, so flatwounds make sense there. But jazzers rarely strum those shimmering, maybe even wispy, chords that sound so lush in singer/songwriter mode.

    FWIW, I DID use flatwounds on my '62 Fender Jazzmaster way back when and loved 'em, but that was mostly playing bass-heavy rock rhythm, and the Jazzmaster was made for flatwounds! Haven't yet tried 'em on mandolin, although I have some of Ted E's Jazzmando JM-11s waiting.

    (Not to start a war but: Why bluegrass guitar players favor a heavy pick is a bit beyond me. Yes, they get max volume and a "pure" tone, but IMHO lose some of the edginess that might allow them to cut thru the mix, given a lighter [that is, "medium"] pick).
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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    I understand the reasons why flatwounds shouldn't work for flat-top acoustic guitar, and they're valid reasons. My only reason to want to try them is for the same reason I use them on mandolin (at least one of them). I hate the sound of finger callouses scraping against the round windings. I have seen the TI flatwound strings for acoustic guitar, but they are wound with bronze, which I generally don't like. If that is all that is available, then I will try them. I just thought I'd see if anyone knew about any other flatwound strings I wasn't aware of. Thanks for the responses.
    Larry Hunsberger

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    Registered User i-vibe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    like you MB, i'm a fan of Thom's and D'Ad's flatwounds for mando. i keep fw's on my GUILD 66 STARFIRE II ...D'Ad Chromes, tho i have tried and loved Thom's on their too. I'll sometimes suit up my thinline tele w flats too. but for some reason i STILL can't sound like ed bickert!

    i alternate FW's and RW's on my other archtop ac/el's.....a big 17" Peerless Monarch and smaller 15" Eastman CE15. As would be expected there is a serious dropoff in in acoustic volume when they're wearing flats.

    I don't know of any flat's that are made specifically for an acoustic gtr. please keep us posted if you come up w anything interesting... i'd be interested to possibly try 'em on my old HARMONY archtop.
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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    The only thing I can find is Thomastik-Infeld George Benson custom set. They're flatwound with nickel. The TI web site says they are for electric or acoustic but I found them at Just Strings and they have them listed as electric guitar strings. Maybe I'll give them a try just for the heck of it. If I don't like it, I'll give up on the idea and just use what works.
    Larry Hunsberger

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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    I'm rather sure my Old Wave has D'Addario FT74 strings. (I lost the string cover and forget...) These are round-wound during construction then the surface is ground almost flat. They're Interesting because the A-string is also wound. The change in tone (not pitch) going from adjacent wound to solid strings seems more gradual between the wound-A and solid-E than it does between wound-D's and solid-A's.
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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    I know all about the wound A string. I used Thomastik flatwound strings on my mandolin for many years. Unfortunately, I hated the sound of Flat Tops for mandolin when I tried them. I am really looking for flatwound strings for guitar, but it seems there aren't any made specifically for acoustic guitar.
    Larry Hunsberger

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    Registered User MandoSquirrel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    Thomastick has hybrid sets for acoustic guitar with flats & rounds, but, depending on the gauge, they vary from only one to two or three wound per set. Makes no sense to me. I once found a bronze set from Galli that was light flats for acoustic guitar, may have been from Big City Strings.

    If you don't like bronze wounds anyway, you may as well try the George Benson TI's or the D'Addario Chrome flats. Pyramid and, I think, Optima, also have non bronze flats for guitar. Elderly carries them.
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    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    D'addario Acoustic Guitar Flat Top Phosphor Bronze wound strings are "Semi-Flattened", whatever that means.
    I have not tried these.

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    Registered User MandoSquirrel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    It means someone took a grinder to them & tore off all the goodness.
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    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    Ouch!

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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    GHS makes a bright flat that is a round wound string ground to a semi flat. It might be a good choice for an acoustic guitar as they will have more highs and not be so dead sounding.
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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    GHS makes a bright flat that is a round wound string ground to a semi flat. It might be a good choice for an acoustic guitar as they will have more highs and not be so dead sounding.
    I can't find any info on that model. Can you tell me where you found it? It sounds like the D'Addario Flat Tops. I hated those mandolin strings, but if the GHS set for guitar is made from anything other than bronze, it might be worth looking at.
    Larry Hunsberger

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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    The GHS Bright Flats are like D'Addario's Half Rounds, ground like the Flat Tops. A milder grind is the Burnished Nickel, which I liked on electric guitar as being a bit longer-lasting than normal round wound. Still a fairly bright string, though with a smooth feel.

    I think you want neither, and might try their Precision Flats, which should approximate the D'Addario Flat Wound. On D'Addario's web site they don't say what material is used, but the package color implies chrome steel ribbon wrap. An interesting-looking jazz string might the GHS Compound wrap, which uses multiple layers like flat wound, but is still round outer layer, I think. Darker tone, but still a bit squeaky, although I would bet the outer wrap would be a thinner gauge wire, since it is not making up the entire wrap depth, and it should squeak less than regular round wound.

    If you're willing to buy singles you can get a stronger bottom than a jazz set would yield while not being too heavy on top.
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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    Well, I'm using D'Addario FW74 flatwounds for my mandolin. I love them.

    I looked at the GHS Bright Flats for guitar on the GHS web site and they are designed for electric guitar. I know they can be used for acoustic, but they are designed differently. However,I seem to be very low on flatwound choices for acoustic guitar and I might just try the Bright Flats. No harm in trying. Since they're not made with bronze, I might be more open to them.
    Larry Hunsberger

    2013 J Bovier A5 Special w/ToneGard
    D'Addario FW-74 flatwound strings
    Custom Wegen TF180 w/no bevel
    Weymann&Sons bowlback
    Ibanez PF5
    1993 Oriente HO-20 hybrid double bass
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    can't find any info on that model. Can you tell me where you found it? It sounds like the D'Addario Flat Tops. I hated those mandolin strings, but if the GHS set for guitar is made from anything other than bronze, it might be worth looking at



    I am a GHS dealer and have ordered them for one of my customers for an electric slide guitar. Ask any GHS dealer they can order them for you if they don't carry them. If you can't find them send me an email and i will get you some.
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    Fix-R-Up-R Jake Wildwood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    Word to the wise: regular electric flatwounds generally sound yucky on acoustic guitars whether they be archtops or flattops.

    Also, FYI: I've been looking for a flatwound with the same ring/volume/sustain as the mandolin TIs but for a guitar, but even TI seems to not make a set like that. If they did, I'd use it in a heartbeat on my old (acoustic) archtop. I'm loving them on my F2.

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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Jake Wildwood View Post
    Word to the wise: regular electric flatwounds generally sound yucky on acoustic guitars whether they be archtops or flattops.

    Also, FYI: I've been looking for a flatwound with the same ring/volume/sustain as the mandolin TIs but for a guitar, but even TI seems to not make a set like that. If they did, I'd use it in a heartbeat on my old (acoustic) archtop. I'm loving them on my F2.
    Regular flatwounds would not sound great on an acoustic guitar, the GHS are roundwound strings ground to have a flatter feel and lower finger noise. They are called Brite Flats
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    Registered User Kip Carter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    Well yesterday I took my mandolin to my local luthier because it was time to replace the strings. I had a new set of Thomastik Flat wounds to put on it and he and I had discussed that when I was ready to change strings that he would do the 'rest' of the setup he had started on it. I had originally taken it to him to lower the action at the nut. At that time he checked the frets and did a quick setup because he had a lot of work in the shop and didn't want me to be without it for long. It made the mandolin very much playable at the nut end but action was still high down at the 12th fret.

    Long story shortened... I'd done a little work on the bridge because the saddle wouldn't allow it to be lower as far as it needed and the feet were not making good contact with the body. My guy said I had done a very nice job on fitting the bridge and all it really needed was to have the Thomastik put on. So we sat and talked and I strung em up.

    One word.. WOW!

    I'm interested in trying out some of the others that have been mentioned in this thread but now have a quandary as these are nothing short of amazing tone and feel. Well worth the money I paid for them. I may have to wait till I have a second mandolin before I can try another brand as my inexpensive Ibenez 511 and Thomastik Flat's are a very sweet sounding match!

    I also got to play several other mandolins while there including a beautiful $2,700 Collins that left me in a total state of lustful MAS.

    In summary: was a great visit to the local luthier and i'm extremely please with the Thomastik strings.

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  22. #22
    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    That's wonderful. I have used flatwound strings on my mandolins for years and wouldn't use anything else. The Thomastik strings are very expensive, but you can probably only change them once a year, actually making them quite a bargain.

    Just so that you know, however, this particular thread was about flatwound strings for guitar, a quest that I have long-since given up on.
    Larry Hunsberger

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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    Would it be possible to have a set made for a small custom order? If JazzMando can have sets custom from La Bella, I can’t imagine it would be that hard to make a couple strings more. I might be totally wrong here though, I’ve never worked with this kind of stuff.

  24. #24
    Mandolin Botherer Richard Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    Another guitar set is Rotosound's "Top Tape" monel flatwound . I play an acoustic archtop guitar and have a Top Tape 12, 16, 24w, 32w, 42w, 52w set to try on it next time I change strings (I have a new set of Cleartones on so it will probably be a while yet). Those gauges sound like they are made for acoustic playing rather than electric or jazz. I use flatwounds (FW74s and JM-11s) on my mandolins and will be interested to see how the Rotosounds sound on the guitar. They aren't expensive either.
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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatwound guitar strings

    What I have found, both from experience and from comments on this thread, is that flatwounds generally don't work well on flat-top guitars. They are great for electric and arch-top guitars, but it appears the way the strings attach at a fixed bridge as opposed to a floating adjustable bridge has an effect on the response. As much as I love the flatwound sound, it appears as though it just doesn't sound that good on a flat-yop guitar (or a flat-top as I meant to type). After much research, I tried a set of flatwound strings from GHS. Initially, I loved them, but soon found I had difficulty getting any decent punch from them. I also had a heck of a time keeping them in tune. The low E was so soft, it would go sharp just fretting it, and it was far worse if I used a capo. It wasn't worth it for me. I ended up using a set of medium Elixer's. I might try a set of silk and steels or some other sort of non-bronze string at some point in time.
    Larry Hunsberger

    2013 J Bovier A5 Special w/ToneGard
    D'Addario FW-74 flatwound strings
    Custom Wegen TF180 w/no bevel
    Weymann&Sons bowlback
    Ibanez PF5
    1993 Oriente HO-20 hybrid double bass
    Small body guitar converted to octave mandolin

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