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Thread: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

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    Default Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    Hi all,

    I am having trouble getting mandolin strings here. The problem is all strings that come here are imported and they don't come loose. Can I have some alternative to this like using guitar strings. If yes what should I keep in mind before searching for one.

    Thanks in advannce!

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Bhupendra View Post
    Hi all,

    I am having trouble getting mandolin strings here. The problem is all strings that come here are imported and they don't come loose. Can I have some alternative to this like using guitar strings. If yes what should I keep in mind before searching for one.

    Thanks in advannce!
    The answer is yes. You will need to take a pair of pliers and remove the little brass "ball end" fitting from the string leaving the loop in place, assuming you are using a standard mandolin tailpiece that uses loop end strings. I have a luthier friend that buys strings in bulk and always uses guitar strings on his mandolins. I find if you squeeze the brass piece carefully to distort it you can generally work them out of the loop.

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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    The actual string itself is the same, assuming it's the same alloy and gauge. They can vary in length and type of anchor (ball or loop) and are usually packaged in convenient sets, but otherwise they will work on a mandolin.
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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    I'm guessing that Bhupendra could use more detailed advice that I'm not qualified to give. Something along the lines of what specific gauge of guitar string (and what note it is intended for) can be used in what string position on the mandolin. I'm certain someone here knows the answers.

    ron

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    I use guitar strings all the time. The cool thing for me is four of my mando instruments already take ball-end strings. For the loop end tailpieces you have to "neuter" the strings as Mike describes above.

    As far as what gauges to use, the luthier's recommendations are best, if available for your instrument. If not, just look at the package for your current mandolin strings, or look them up on line for gauges. The numbers given are inch diameters, i.e., .010 is ten-thousandths of an inch. Just buy the same diameter guitar strings and you're set.

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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by blueron View Post
    I'm guessing that Bhupendra could use more detailed advice that I'm not qualified to give. Something along the lines of what specific gauge of guitar string (and what note it is intended for) can be used in what string position on the mandolin. I'm certain someone here knows the answers.

    ron
    That's a good point, Ron.

    The big differences include whether there's a little brass barrel (the 'ball') on the end or just an empty loop. You can carefully remove the ball if necessary. The other difference is the material the string is made from. If you're using phosphor bronze strings on your mandolin, you'll want the same guitar string to match it, for example. Strings are measured by their diameter (the gauge). A 0.012" guitar string is the same size as a 0.012" mandolin string. You want them to match up. Guitar strings are sometimes longer than mandolin strings, but just cut off the excess. Strings can be made in other different ways as well. There are round wound, flat wound, ground wound, coated strings...several kinds. You want that to match up as well.

    In reality, for most stringed instruments like guitars, banjos, mandolins, dulcimers, etc., all the strings are fundamentally the same with the differences noted. You can buy packages of 'guitar' strings and 'mandolin' strings, but these are put in sets for convenience. Specialized strings like those for the violin, autoharp, and piano can be very different indeed, but for the most part a guitar string can be used on a banjo, or a banjo string on a mandolin, or a mandolin string on a dulcimer, etc, etc, with only that one small modification.
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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    Considering the request is from deep in the heart of India, I'm going to assume the real question is using guitar strings sets, not just singles. The short answer is the gauging on the guitar sets is not all that close to mandolin, at least buying them economically, even with the doctoring you can do pulling the loop/ball off them to expose the loop.

    If you aren't near stores that sell mandolin sets, the better solution will still be to try to order them mail order, whether single or set. With guitar strings, you'll only have one or two strings compatible, and you have to double the order to get a pair of each.
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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    Need to get the right thickness Example: , E a .010" or .011", etc.,

    the online sellers can ship mandolin strings around the world if needed.
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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Eschliman View Post
    If you aren't near stores that sell mandolin sets, the better solution will still be to try to order them mail order, whether single or set. With guitar strings, you'll only have one or two strings compatible, and you have to double the order to get a pair of each.
    Why would you not just order a year's supply? Shipping on multiple sets would give you more bang for the S&H.

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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Edwards View Post
    Why would you not just order a year's supply? Shipping on multiple sets would give you more bang for the S&H.
    Everyone seems to be making the assumption that the OP can order things off the web. There are certain things that might restrict that like not having a credit card.

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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    Swagat and Namaste, Bhupendra. You absolutely can. If you have to buy full packs of guitar strings, try to choose the one's that give you as many of the desired gauges (sizes) as possible. A couple of twelve-string guitar sets (if available) would be a great place to start, as there are twice as many strings in each and any good match is doubled. Otherwise you are looking for (x2): .011" (0.279mm plain wire), .016" (0.406mm plain wire), .026" (0.660mm bronze wound), .040" (1.016mm bronze wound) or lighter, this is a fairly heavy set. These could come from either electric or acoustic guitar sets. As others have said, you will then need to very carefully destroy the ball-ends while preserving the loops in the string-ends to attach them. Indian classical music string-players tend to typically twist-up their own strings from spools of bulk (plain) wire, so a shop that caters to them might be able to be of some help to you for twisting you up at least some plain wire strings of the proper size and length.
    Last edited by Fretbear; May-07-2012 at 6:46am.
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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    I'm no luthier, nor one with vast mandolin knowledge, but I am going to try to play one for a moment.
    Since the OP is in India, would it make sense for them to find strings for some of the traditional instruments that are found locally?
    I do not remember the video link, but I seem to remember that there was a video posted with a very talented young boy playing what was called a mandolin, but was more like a short scale six string electric guitar.
    Would the strings available for this instrument be what the OP has in question, or could this be a good alternative to packaged specific mandolin strings?
    I ask for help on this one due to my lack of knowledge on the subject.
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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    I think that's a very good idea. We certainly have seen a lot of posts about these instruments here; if they are as popular as they seem to be, there must be strings available at stores there. And as has been suggested, strings can be used that are intended for other instruments and packaged as such. Just follow the gauges that Fretbear listed so conveniently in British and metric system measurements and you should be fine. In case you hadn't noticed, those are the measurements for D'Addario J74 strings, probably the most popular type. You can see these and many others at sites like Strings And Beyond and Just Strings and many others - whether or not you are able to order from these sellers, you can still do your research there.

    And please, let us know what you come up with and whether our suggestions have been helpful. Otherwise people will keep posting more and more and never stop!
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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    Thanks every one!

    I got some guitar strings with with gauge specification mentioned in above posts. It appears it would be very difficult to remove the ball in these strings as the twist seems welded in some way and the ball has too much of metal to be just chopped . I am wondering if I can just cut away the end and try to make my own loop. If nothing will work I will consider ordering it online in bulk.
    Unfortunately mandolin and its accessories are not readily available on local shops here. I couldn't find even a teacher for learning . Just relying on books and some online help at places like this.

    Thanks all for your support.

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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    Hello,
    The 'ball ends' are actually very brittle.
    If you have a pair of small side snip pliers you can carefully crush one side of the ball, it will break into pieces and then you can simply poke the ball out of the loop.
    Cheers
    Oliver

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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Bhupendra View Post
    ...I am wondering if I can just cut away the end and try to make my own loop. If nothing will work I will consider ordering it online in bulk...
    I have made a loop in a violin E string that broke near the existing loop, and it worked fine. You can maybe get away with doing that for the plain steel wire strings (A and E). For nickel or brass-wound strings (G and D), it won't work for many reasons: the winding metal will unravel after you cut it, the resultant loop will be too big to fit on most tailpieces, you can't wind it tight enough to stay intact. Time to hit Juststrings. If you can post here and can get mail and have credit card/paypal, you ought to be able to order from them online.

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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    The ball that the string I got had was not at all brittle it was a dense metal ring . No way I could have just chopped that away. May be other strings have ballls thar can be removed with pliers. But I still was able to remove it. The twisrt was covered with a kind of cloth which I removed and untwisted it just enough to pull the ball out (though I couldn't have untwisted more without damaging the string).
    I dont know whether this will create any other problems like unwinding of the upper layer .All these Experiments were with .026' electric guitar's string.

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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    I have sometimes made a loop in a ball end string by threading the string through the hole in the ball and pulling it all the way through. It helps if you have a needle nose pliers to get the resulting loop small as possible, to reduce the possibility it will slip once you have tuned it up. Of course, one may well wonder, if one has a needle nose pliers handy, why not just use it to work the ball out instead? I have no idea - I think the last time I did this I had already broken one string doing this at a gig, and I was using my last spare, and did NOT want to risk breaking it.
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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    I have sometimes made a loop in a ball end string by threading the string through the hole in the ball and pulling it all the way through.
    I can't see doing that on a mando G string and have it fit on any tailpiece I have, especially the Gibson stamped style.

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    Default Re: Can I use guitar strings on mandolin

    Well, this is something I've had to do now and then to replace a broken string and get through a gig, with no other recourse. Naturally, that would have been an E or A string. I am just thinking of any possible solution to help Bhupendra, who seems to be having quite a hard time with this. It seems to me it should still work with a G string, and if not, bend the tailpiece hook a bit. That may sound a bit extreme, but the key thing is to get eight strings onto your instrument, however it can be done (without causing permanent damage of course). And if it means leaving the tailpiece cover off, so be it. At least it'll be a full set.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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