View Full Version : D'Addario Mandolin Strings

Apr-07-2004, 4:44pm
I put a set of D'Addario J-74's on my Mandolin the other day. I love the sound, but I dislike having to press down hard on the strings because of the Medium gauge. Would I get the same sound I do with the J-74's if I got a lighter gauge set of D'Addario's? Thanks a lot.


Apr-07-2004, 5:33pm
Would I get the same sound I do with the J-74's if I got a lighter gauge set of D'Addario's?
Hi, Brian!

In a word... no. Bear with my over-simplification...

The heavier the string gauge, the more tension (string tightness) is required to hold it at the proper pitch. The greater the tension, the more pressure is exerted by the string down through the bridge and, in turn, onto the top of your mando. The more pressure on the top of your mando, the greater the tendency for it to vibrate and compress the air inside. The more the air inside compresses and vibrates, the "bigger" the sound that comes out of the holes!

Not to bore you with numbers, but...

the tension numbers across a set of J74s run from a low of 19.7 lbs. to a high of 24.6 lbs. If you switch to a lighter set of D'Addario's, say J62s, those tension numbers now run from a low of 15.8 lbs. to a high of 18.6 lbs... on average, a reduction of somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 25 percent in string tension - significantly easier on the fingers (and your mando!), but not as conducive to creating the all-important "vibes" that your mando needs to sound its best. That's why string selection is a give-and-take, my friend.

If you do decide to go with a lighter set of strings, I'd recommend some experimentation - try playing them with a heavier pick to compensate - might get you kinda back in the ballpark soundwise.

Best solution? Work on those callouses!

Happy pickin', Bri!

Ken Sager
Apr-07-2004, 5:59pm
Mandodude is spot on. Another thing to think about: changing string guages may also require an adjustment in the action (bridge height and/or neck relief). Maybe your action is just high to begin with and you're pressing hard because you have to press far?

I dunno, just a thought.


Apr-07-2004, 6:31pm
Thanks, mandodude for your detailed explanation. I will stick with the Medium strings. To Ken, my action is adjusted for the Medium strings, so that's not the problem. I guess it's just my weak fingers! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif Thanks again for your responses! Best wishes,


Apr-07-2004, 7:03pm
So mandodude, would J75 strings give even a better sound, since they create more tension? I've been told that you need to consult the mando maker to find out what kind of strings to use (light, medium, more medium, heavy) because good quality mandos are designed to handle certain tension only, and a heavier gauge string than the mando is designed for may cause damage to the mando (e.g. pull the neck up). Advice is appreciated!

Martin Jonas
Apr-12-2004, 6:35pm
Quite apart from the tension, as discussed by others, D'Addario's light gauge
J62 set is 80/20 bronze, not phosphor bronze as the J74/75, and it sounds
quite different. Nice, but different.

I personally find that the tension of the J74 is just fine, but the J75 is too
much for my playing style (the mandolin, on the other hand, couldn't care less).


jim simpson
Apr-12-2004, 7:47pm
I have used the J74's forever and like them. I have seen mandolins setup with higher action than mine but I get plenty of volume and tone. I did try the J75's once and didn't like them. They didn't seem to improve tone plus they just felt odd.

Apr-13-2004, 9:31am
sometimes I use the FT74 ie. "flat tops". they have almost the same string tension as the J74s but are easier to play. but they do cost alot more. try a set.

Walter Newton
Apr-13-2004, 11:22pm
JAK etc. - I have a Taylor guitar and I know in their literature they say that increasing string tension will only improve tone up to a certain point; too much tension will eventually "close" up the top to the detriment of the sound. I think the only way to find out if, for example, J75's sounded better than J74's on your particular mando would be to try 'em and see.

To your other point, yes super high tension might damage the mando, and you should check with the builder before doing anything crazy (though I think any modern BG type instrument properly set up could handle at least J74s; dunno about antiques, bowlbacks etc).

brian2 - Stick with 'em! Your fingers will strengthen, and you'll eventually learn to press "just hard enough" that they won't feel so bad.