how big of difference can strings have on the tone of a mandolin?
how big of difference can strings have on the tone of a mandolin?
I think strings can make a big difference...flats vs. round wound, nickel, bronze, steel, thickness, etc.
Not merely type, but gauge.
Gibson F5 'Harvey' Fern, Gibson F5 'Derrington' Fern
Distressed Silverangel F 'Esmerelda' aka 'Maxx'
Northfield Big Mon #127
Ellis F5 Special #288
'39 & '45 D-18's, 1950 D-28.
The 2 posters above are absolutely correct.I've always thought (rightly or wrongly) of the strings as the 'engine' that drives my mandolins,& of myself as the driver.You could also think of the pick as the gas ('petrol' for us folk in the UK). String thickness, material & construction ('wound' either 'flat' or rounded) or plain can make a huge difference to the tone & feel of your instrument.
I use D'Addario J74's on my 2,but several months ago i decided to try some Black Diamond strings 'just to see' if they were as good/better/worse ...... The bottom line - they made my mandolins 'feel' tight when playing them,a strange sensation really, & the sound also felt constricted. The BD's were exactly the same guages as the J74's & the windings looked identical under a magnifying glass.Theoretically,you might expect them to sound very similar,but far from it !. I feel that you should maybe try a few different brands of strings of a gauge that suits you.When you've found a brand & gauge that brings out the tone that you're looking for or which pleases you the most,stick with them,
Weber F-5 'Fern'.
Lebeda F-5 "Special".
Stelling Bellflower BANJO
Tanglewood TW-1000SR Guitar
Tokai - 'Tele-alike'.
There is a definite difference and not a subtle one either, depending on which strings you put on so you really have to try them out and give them a good playing on your own mandolin as string sets will work differently on different instruments.
For my mandolin I seem to have found; coated strings - loud and bright, don't change much over time; flat tops - sweet and mellow; Ribbon wound - similar to the flat tops, far easier to play but a less full sound.
Like others have said the gauge also makes a big difference, my ribbon wound strings were lighter gauge then my flat tops so you might have expected them to drive the top less anyway.
Hornet's nest time... I can feel the heat already but these are my opinions, everyone is welcome to theirs.
As has been mentioned there are differences between brands, gauges and material/wind type that should be considered separately. There is also the issue of set up
I often have customers coming in with what I think is going to be a great sounding mandolin when I see it come out of the case. Then it sounds quiet and uninspiring. This is usually for one or more of three reasons, Thomastik strings, very light gauge and very low action.
Very low action makes for easy playing but decreases the break angle of the strings over the bridge and reduces depth of tone and volume. Gauges of 34/32 to 9/10 also make for easy playing but again reduce depth of tone and volume. Thomastick strings in my opinion are best suited (and probably made for?) classical/bowl back mandolins. I don't think they work for carved top/back mandolins. The first time I came across this was on a Rigel. I have had many Rigels and know what to expect from them tonewise (and I love the Rigel tone), this one sounded dead. BUT and there's always a but.. on one occasion Travis Finch brought in his Rigel with Thomastik strings and it sounded great! .. every rule has an exception..
Of course there is also the question of age. Old strings will under-perform and may not stay in tune very well.
On different brands with the same gauges I'm afraid I haven't experimented much but some do have strong preferences. When differences are subtle I worry about the time taken to change the strings and then holding the tone of the old ones in the memory, this also often means comparing an old set of one to a new set of another. I have found that I don't like nickel strings.
So I guess the simple answer to your question is they can have a big effect. Everyone will have their opinions and preferences and advice will give you some pointers but there is no substitute for trying yourself and finding out what suits you.
I change any mandolins that come in used with them from Thomastiks to J74s and use them generally in my store, but my personal preference is J75. I think my preferences spring from playing a cheap mandolin for many years with high action and not knowing it could be adjusted! It seems that preferences often spring from what folks are used to. I also tend (tended) to blame any difficulties in playing on my ability rather than the instrument/set up/strings.
The Acoustic Music Co (TAMCO) Brighton England
Over 150 mandolins in stock.
I don't think strings affect tone at all. In fact, I don't know why people bother to put strings on mandolins.
not at first but as you become more atuned to your mandolin, little differences became enormous. also depends on which sort of music you want to play. d'addario j-74 strings on my mandolin sound fine for bluegrass but anything else sounds like goth heavy-metal.
I find that strings can make a tremendous difference. Experiment with a few different strings to find which you like best on your instrument for your genre of music and style of playing (and for your own taste). Also try different picks. These things really do change the sound of the instrument. This experimentation is not just important for getting the best sound for your music, it's also a lot of fun!
Putting a new set of the same strings on an instrument greatly improves the sound, strings reach a point where they don't sound good after being played too long.
I find that my favorite strings for bowlbacks are Dogal Calace roundwounds RW92 or RW92b. Sweet and bright to my ears on most of my bowlbacks.
I recall many years ago trying them on my snakehead after people in my orchestra were so excited about them. I think I left them on for a week and could not stand the tone.
I actually did play an old Gibson that had them on and I did like the tone -- I suppose part of it depends on the particular mandolin and part on your taste in tone.
Mark this date: A consensus on the forum. (so far )
Strings make a difference.
“Sharps/Flats” ≠ “Accidentals”
[QUOTE ... I find that my favorite strings for bowlbacks are Dogal Calace roundwounds RW92 or RW92b. Sweet and bright to my ears on most of my bowlbacks.[/QUOTE]
my loar LM-600 and mid-missouri M-4 have calace RW92 (medium) strings - anything else sounds poor in comparison. they're more expensive but they produce a clear, fullsome, well-rounded sound - as opposed to acute and metalic - they're long-lasting and very comfortable to the touch.
Yes, they make a big difference, but don't judge the strings when you first put them on. I don't like the sound of new strings - they are too bright for me. It really takes a day or two before they warm up. I think alot of people here play J-74's. I like the J-75's. A very slightly bigger sound, but they seem to last alot longer than the 74's. They are both great strings on my mando, but I'm going for a hard-core bluegrass sound. I don't know nuthin' about other style preferences.
EXP75s for me all the way on both my mandos - essentially coated J75s. I have tried out most of everything else out there and for me and what I play, nothing else is full and thumpy enough. If strings are the engine of a mando then these are like a cummins turbo diesel. I put exp74s on once and my band thought I dropped off the face of the earth. Only problem with the 75s is most stores around here don't carry them, I've taken to ordering them in bulk...
- 2004 Macica A
- 1952 Selmer Centered Tone
- Eastwood electric mandola
(and lots more)
My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain
I'm still amazed by how much more of a tonal difference different strings make on a mandolin than they do on a guitar.
Same with the pick used.
Given that, as a gross generality, mandolins are about half the length, width, & depth of the average guitar (including scale length), that sort of means that: HALF the vibrating string mass is being used to excite a soundboard of the ONE-QUARTER the area (.5l x .5w) that encloses ONE-EIGHTH of the air volume (.5l x .5w x .5d) on mandolin compared to guitar. In other words, a mandolin's strings would seem to be a much larger percentage of the instrument's mass than a guitar's strings are.
Or wait! Maybe it's even a bigger yet difference, considering that the mandolin's string courses are doubled. The mass of vibrating high E string is thus VERY SIMILAR on both mandolin and guitar (guessing that most E strings are between .010 and .012 on either instrument), even though their soundboard, internal volume, and total mass are radically different.
But that's just me. Maybe someone who actually has a clue will chime in?
"What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman
factors , tension and mass ..
writing about music
is like dancing,
I feel strings make a large difference. I've been playing for 20 years and have had a couple gibson flatirons, a handmade mando from a late old Friend of mine, another luthier made by doug odell mando, and some chepies. I found the J75s worked for me for longetivity, and sound. I was getting a good bluegrass sound with the J75s. A fellow I know and cafe member Danny talked me into getting into the Gibson Bill Monroe strings. I tried them and have been hooked every since. I seem to get that monroeish sound out of my good mandolin with this set. I get brightness and that nice bottom end. I am a hard core traditionalist bluegrass player, so that's my aim for the sound. Also on the D28 Martin, i just use Martin SP4200s. I get that signature martin tone. I use Clayton ultem picks on the guitar and BlueChip TP50 on the mando. The BC works pretty good on the guitar too. If you've not tried a bluechip pick, do yourself a favor and get one. I feel they do as advertised, smooth playability, good attack, the whole 9.
Sorry to get off topic here, but to return to the OP's question, my mandolin is a good example of the difference that strings can make in tone. I have a 2006 Breedlove Quartz OF. With bronze strings on it it is terribly bright and metallic-sounding. If roundwound strings were my only choice, I would have never bought it. But with the FW-74 flatwound strings it has a beautiful, warm, dry tone that is very close to my ideal sound. I tried roundwound stainless steel, phosphor bronze, vintage bronze, silk and steel, silk and bronze, and bronze flat-tops and the flatwound were the only string that gave me the tone I was looking for.
Don't hesitate to try everything you can afford. Try a set. Leave them on for a month or two, then try something else. Eventually you will find a good match for your mandolin.
2013 J Bovier A5 sunburst w/ToneGard
D'Addario FW-74 flatwound strings
Custom Wegen TF180 w/no bevel
1993 Oriente HO-20 hybrid double bass
Small body guitar converted to octave mandolin
[QUOTE=mandobassman;1058643] But flatwound strings sound incredible on many mandolins, including carved tops. QUOTE]
I agree with Larry. I have tried several different strings on my Weber Custom Vintage A (which is a carved top) and absolutely love the sound it has with JazzMando flatwounds. I'm sticking with flatwounds on that mandolin! Try a variety of strings, it's the only way to decide which you should use. Besides, it's fun!
Strings have the second biggest impact on tone, after the player
the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world
Remember that when we talk about tone, it is both subjective AND objective. The "objective" is that using machines, etc. we can most definitely find differences in sound wave forms, amplitude (loudness), attack, decay, overtones, etc. from the type and gauge of string used, along with, especially, technique, pick, size and shape of sound holes, types of wood, bracing and carving, scale length, ToneGard, etc.
The subjective, which is what most of us posters talk about, is "how it sounds to us." That's fine when discussing "relative sound" such as saying that Thomastik strings don't ring as sharply and loudly as J 75 strings. But for general comments about "goodness" of sound, keep in mind that everyone's ears are different. "Most" posters on this forum are probably males over 40 years old -- and we are losing our high end hearing. Something that sounds bright and snappy to us might sound "brittle and brassy" to someone else; something that sounds dull to us might sound "bright and snappy" to someone else. Plus, the audience hears it differently from the player.
Keep that in mind when reading postings; that doesn't mean that these postings are "inaccurate" because no matter how you hear sound in an Absolute sense, we are still capable of making Relative judgments about the brightness, sustain, attack, and loudness of various strings when compared against each other.
(I made the "mistake" of putting Thomastik strings on a "not very bright" old Harmony Monterrey. I wanted a "jazz" sound. The tone sometimes seems "kind of dull" but sometimes it is actually very pleasant, not at all good for bluegrass, but almost like "pure tone", a sweet, very round tone. So I could compare that to how that mando would sound with J 74 strings with some accuracy, but as to how it sounds in an Absolute sense, well, everyone's ears are different.)