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Thread: OM string recommendations?

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    Celtic Bard michaelpthompson's Avatar
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    Default OM string recommendations?

    I've had my OM a couple of months now, and it's sounding like it's time for new strings. My local music store had ONE package of D'Addarios, so I bought them, but I'm also looking for ideas on what other people play. The strings that came with this one sound kind of phosphor-bronze, but no idea of the brand or anything. My luthier said they were pretty light, like .10 to .42 or something. The D'Addarios are somewhat heavier than that.

    I'm also considering stringing this in octave pairs like a 'zouk, except with the lower string on top and the higher string on the bottom. I like the chorus thing, but I want to keep the bass sound predominant. Any ideas on that are welcome.

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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    Lucky you! I've had my OM for less than a week and it already needs new strings - although I have renovated the bottom two pairs by cleaning them in an ultrasonic cleaner.

    Strangely, I asked an almost identical question last week. You'll find it lower down as "New to OM" and I received some very helpful replies. Whilst I've been playing OM for less than a week, I've been playing guitar and mandolin for 40+ years so I do have transferrable skills with respect to string gauges.

    Most people seem to make up sets of strings from singles which can be an expensive way of going about it (especially in the UK), however, the market for OM strings seems rather limited and I think you'll find there's only d'Addario and possibly GHS availabe. The d'Addarios come in a single gauge and, as the Gold Tone has a 22"+ scale length, I suspect they'll be fine unless you particularly want to go lighter/heavier. My OM is only 20" so needs a heavier set + it takes ball-ends so I've not much choice other than to go for singles.
    Ray

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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    My OM has a 22.75" scale. It has an Allen TP, which is a really great addition to an OM, because it takes both loop- and ball-end strings. It has allowed me to get access to a wider range of single strings (guitar strings) to experiment with. I've found that with my OM tuned with unison courses, the E doesn't have quite the power of the A or D courses, so I like to go up from the 12 on the D'Addario set to a 13. Also, even though the 46 G course delivers the sound, it feels a little "flabbly" in terms of playability, so I have tried a 52 there, although that seems too much. I may try a 49 or 50.

    I experimented with octave bass courses at one point. I had a thread on it and there was another thread recently on the same topic. I experimented for a while and finally had a new nut and saddle created to accomodate the different gauges and different intonation. I decided to go with the higher string on the top, because in my experimentation 1) It felt more comfortable in terms of playability. When the lower string was on top, it felt like I was wanting to push it off the top of the fretboard. and 2) When I tried the bass on the upper side, it kind of "shielded" the higher pitched string on the downstrokes and it seemed like I was hearing almost all bass. I even tried octave stringing on the A course for a short time, just to see how far I could take the concept.

    Ultimately, I changed back to unison courses. The octave course thing was fun, but limiting. It was OK for rhythm, but did not work as well for melody. Also, I felt like it took my very full-sounding OM and made it sound thin. I feel like it works better on a longer scale, like with bouzouki, than it does on an OM. Just my two cents.

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    Celtic Bard michaelpthompson's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    That's actually encouraging to me John, as I play almost exclusively rhythm. Most of my playing is accompanying an Irish pub band. I switched from guitar (because every bloke and his mother plays guitar) to mandolin and I loved it, but my band mates thought it lacked depth on the bass side. I got the OM to compensate for that, and so far it seems great. But it's almost all strumming along with songs, so your experience may actually point to positive results for me.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    The best gauge for your instrument and playing style will depend on scale length, so you may or may not get lucky with a pre-packaged set.

    I play a 22.5" scale Weber Yellowstone F OM, and I've been using D'Addario J80's with a substitute .013 on the E's like John (great minds, etc.). If you look at the tension of the strings in that set, the E's are much lower tension than the other strings for some reason. Using a .013 E restores balance across the strings. You may need to go with a heavier gauge set across the board, if you're using a shorter scale OM.

    On the unison vs. octaves question: My personal preference is unisons, especially for ensemble playing like a session where you need to be heard, and to hear yourself. You'll have more effective volume that way, compared to splitting the pick energy across two pitches. You'll also have that characteristic "Chorrnng!" sound of an OM, with two strings that are close but not perfectly in tune. I think that's a sound that cuts through better in a loud session. Stringing in octaves gets closer to the sound of a 12-string guitar, especially if you're using a flattop OM. It's a pretty sound, but doesn't have as much punch.

    YMMV, and this is one of those personal taste things. So if you're unsure, just try stringing in octaves on the lower strings and see if you like it. Strings are cheap.

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    Celtic Bard michaelpthompson's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    I looked over that other thread Ray, and it does have some very interesting information in it. Somebody said that a guitar string and a mandolin string from the same manufacturer are going to be the same string, so now I'm curious. Would standard mandolin strings also work on my OM? I looked at that Juststrings.com site that was mentioned for bulk strings, and the loop end mandolin strings are 40 inches long (wound) or 42 inches (plain steel). So if I get the right gauge of standard mandolin strings, would those work just as well on my OM? It has a scale length of 22.5 inches, and a total length of 33 3/8 inches, so the length would seem sufficient.

    If I do try the octave pairs, what gauge would I use for each one? Would I make one string standard OM tuning and the other one standard mandolin tuning? I'm a bit confused, as the gauges mentioned for OM seem to be very similar to those used for standard mandolins. There's not a 2X difference by any means.

    I do have a friend who plays 'zouk, who says she uses an E string on the A course, an A string on the D course. Not sure what she uses on the E course. Some people do the octave thing only on the A and E, others do the D as well. I don't know if anybody does the G course in octaves, but since I want to keep the bass line in this, I'm not really sure I want to go that far right now.

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    Marbhna Luimni Eddie Sheehy's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    For heavier-gauge strings use the D'Addarion J72 or J76 (they are mandola strings but will fit the OM).

    J72 - 14, 23, 34, 49
    J76 - 15, 25, 35, 52

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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by michaelpthompson View Post
    I looked over that other thread Ray, and it does have some very interesting information in it. Somebody said that a guitar string and a mandolin string from the same manufacturer are going to be the same string, so now I'm curious. Would standard mandolin strings also work on my OM? I looked at that Juststrings.com site that was mentioned for bulk strings, and the loop end mandolin strings are 40 inches long (wound) or 42 inches (plain steel). So if I get the right gauge of standard mandolin strings, would those work just as well on my OM? It has a scale length of 22.5 inches, and a total length of 33 3/8 inches, so the length would seem sufficient.

    If I do try the octave pairs, what gauge would I use for each one? Would I make one string standard OM tuning and the other one standard mandolin tuning? I'm a bit confused, as the gauges mentioned for OM seem to be very similar to those used for standard mandolins. There's not a 2X difference by any means.

    I do have a friend who plays 'zouk, who says she uses an E string on the A course, an A string on the D course. Not sure what she uses on the E course. Some people do the octave thing only on the A and E, others do the D as well. I don't know if anybody does the G course in octaves, but since I want to keep the bass line in this, I'm not really sure I want to go that far right now.
    A string is a string whatever instrument its sold to be used for, its simply a matter of finding/using the right gauge, the correct fitting (ball or loop) and appropriate material. The only other thing to bear in mind is its length. I would have thought that standard mandolin strings would have been too short for an OM - especially one with a 22"+ scale length - but it seems that the ones from "juststrings" are OK. Its unusual for the length of string to quoted so its certainly worth checking if you're looking elsewhere.

    I've no experience with octave gauges but you should be able work it out using one of the on-line string tension calculators creatively. If you know the tension of the lower string, try various sizes of octave until you get one which gives more or less the same tension for the note you want. Yes, you would end up with an instrument tuned as an OM with three parallel lower strings tuned like a mandolin. The difference comes in the scale-length. To get the higher notes you will have to use thinner strings [than you would on mandolin]. You could simply wind them up tighter but they are likely to break before you get there.

    Unfortunately, I'm with the others in thinking that fitting octave strings would lessen the power of the instrument for the use you're intending to put it to.

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    Registered User otterly2k's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    As others have said- the best string gauges will depend on the scale, your playing style, and your particular instrument. I believe there is a sweet spot where the strings are at an optimum thickness and tension to drive the instrument's best sound. Too thin and it feels "flabby"... like you have to push too hard to get the volume you want. Too thick, and it just feels like cables under your fingers and can overdrive the top... hard to describe, but you'll know it when you hear/feel that your instrument is maxxed out. Experiment with that, making very small changes each time you change strings, and see what feels and sounds best.

    And to answer your other question - yes, as long as the strings' total length is long enough, bulk mando (or dola) strings will work on your OM. The strings aren't really different... it's just a matter of knowing the gauges, what type of ends you need, and how long you need. Make sure you measure from tailpiece to tuning post (and add some for a few turns around the post).

    FWIW, pre-packaged mando sets are often cut shorter b/c they are being marketed for mandos. The bulk or single strings are generally longer, even at the same gauges, I assume b/c the manufacturers know that these might be used on a wide variety of instruments, including those with a longer scale.

    Re: tuning in octaves- here's another vote for staying in unisons. If for no other reason than that it's harder to tune and stay in tune with octaves. Even if you play mostly chords, I think you'll find that there can be a lot of variation in intonation from the low to the high octave when they are side by side like that. In unison pairs, you can adjust the saddle compensation or bridge angle and dial in on the best spot. But when you have a low and high paired like that, they won't have the same best spot... at best, you have to compromise. Personally, I like the sound better too. Like with 12-string guitars, it's fun for a few days and then I find it's not worth the trade-offs.

    Also- if you do go with octaves, you should expect to need a nut cut to those gauge specs. The notches for thicker strings may not serve the thinner strings properly.
    Karen Escovitz
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    Celtic Bard michaelpthompson's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    OK, now all of a sudden my intonation is off. I figure the bridge must have been bumped, but I don't know which direction. If I tune all the strings correctly (GDAE), they are not quite half a step sharp at the 12th fret. So which way to I move the bridge to correct this?

    And before you ask, it was playing qite well and the intonation had been set a month or so ago by a luthier. Then suddenly I got it out for a gig and when I tried to tune it up, all the strings showed fine open, but if I played an open chord, it was awful. And I haven't tried the octave pairs yet.

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    Marbhna Luimni Eddie Sheehy's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    If the note is Sharp at the 12th move the bridge aStern...
    If it's Flat at the 12th, move it Forward...

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    Celtic Bard michaelpthompson's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    Well, that's embarrassing, but a relief. Wasn't the bridge at all. I just need new glasses. Didn't see that # next to the G when I was tuning. This Planet Waves NS mini headstock tuner has a lot of good points, but the size of the sharp and flat symbols is apparently not one of them.

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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    Will these mandola strings fit on 26 inch OM?

    Thanks

    Robert VanLane

    Quote Originally Posted by Eddie Sheehy View Post
    For heavier-gauge strings use the D'Addarion J72 or J76 (they are mandola strings but will fit the OM).

    J72 - 14, 23, 34, 49
    J76 - 15, 25, 35, 52

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    Marbhna Luimni Eddie Sheehy's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    I put them on a 21" scale and don't remember them being "close"... I guess you'd have to measure the top tuner to the tailpiece and ask Elderly if they would measure them for you for a fit... Those gauges might be a little 'stout' for a 26 incher though...

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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    I have a OM that I converted from a small body guitar. The scale length is 23.875". I used light gauge (.012 - .044) because it's not the most solidly built guitar and I didn't know how much tension it would take. I converted it at the and of last summer and got my strings from eMando.com. You can get their OM strings in either loop or ball end. The ones I bought are nickel wound and they are the only set I have had on since I did the work. 8 months they have been on now and they still sound great. The nickel lasts much longer than bronze, and I feel has a warmer tone.
    Also, the set I bought is available in octave pairs as well. Here is a link to the site.

    http://www.emando.com/shop/strings8va.htm

    The link says they are for electric OM, but they work great for acoustic as well. The nickel just works better for magnetic pickups.
    You have to remember to select the gauge and loop or ball end in the payment area.
    Larry Hunsberger

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    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    Most people seem to make up sets of strings from singles which can be an expensive way of going about it (especially in the UK), however, the market for OM strings seems rather limited and I think you'll find there's only d'Addario and possibly GHS availabe.
    Ray, take a look at the Newtones offered by the Eagle Music shop, they offer a "pick your own gauges" option for mandolin strings (4 plain plus 4 wound) for the same price as the regular packs. Unfortunately they don't officially do that for dola's and OM's (2 plain and 6 wound). I've been trying to hassle them into making that an official option on their web site, but until they do, if you email them and ask nicely they should let you pick a custom set - they did for me anyway - it's probably just lack of demand that's keeping it from being an official option, so you know, if a few of us hassle them

    Anyway, my point is, the Newtones are nice strings actually, the ones they stock are all extra-long too, so even the mandolin sets are actually long enough for the longest conceivable 'zouk!

    Come to that, that they're not so very far away from you for a visit should you be going up that way - though I can't imagine why anyone in the lovely Peeks would want to go to Huddersfield for a day

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    Default Re: OM string recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tavy View Post
    Ray, take a look at the Newtones offered by the Eagle Music shop, they offer a "pick your own gauges" option for mandolin strings (4 plain plus 4 wound) for the same price as the regular packs. Unfortunately they don't officially do that for dola's and OM's (2 plain and 6 wound). I've been trying to hassle them into making that an official option on their web site, but until they do, if you email them and ask nicely they should let you pick a custom set - they did for me anyway - it's probably just lack of demand that's keeping it from being an official option, so you know, if a few of us hassle them

    Anyway, my point is, the Newtones are nice strings actually, the ones they stock are all extra-long too, so even the mandolin sets are actually long enough for the longest conceivable 'zouk!

    Come to that, that they're not so very far away from you for a visit should you be going up that way - though I can't imagine why anyone in the lovely Peeks would want to go to Huddersfield for a day
    Hi Tavy - I live more or less half way between Eagle Music and Newtone Strings although there's a big hill between us and Huddersfield.

    I've not tried Newtones - at least for more than a decade when I took a set off a guitar soon after I put them on (nuff said). I noticed that Eagle were selling a single grade OM set and, from what you've said, I assume they're making them up themselves. Newtone don't actually list a set for OM so its a bit difficult to work out what they'd charge. I may email them both and get a price.

    My ultimate intention, when I've settled on what gauge to use, is to try Nanowebs. I bought a second hand Santa Cruz "F" guitar two and a half years ago which had them on and they're still on it. I've thought about changing them several times but they still sound fine.

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