View Full Version : Looking For String Recommendations

Sep-02-2004, 6:53pm
I have a new (to me) Gibson Florentine that I've been playing the heck out of, and just broke my 1st string on it.

What do others use on their 8-stringers? Coming from the acoustic side of things I'm a little confused by materials and gauge choices? For example, I'm leaning towards a light nickel plated set, but maybe my assumptions are wrong...

Thanks for any advice...

Sep-03-2004, 10:10am
Hi, congrats on the Florentine. #
I have one too, and it's a great slab of an instrument. #The first question is what kind of sound are you looking for? #I have to say that electric strings don't seem to me to change the sound of a mando nearly as much as acoustic strings do to an acoustic instrument. #They have a wide variation in feel, though, and thinner strings are generally easier to bend. #If you go to
www.juststrings.com and look at the glossary for electric guitar and mando and electric mando, you'll get a nice overview of what's out there. #If you go to www.stringitup.com and click on string anatomy 101 you'll also get some nice pictures of the differences in how strings are made. #The Florentine uses loop-end electric strings, which narrows down your choices. #I've used GHS, D'addario, heck I've used lots of strings. #In a pinch I've used acoustic strings, which work, but I wouldn't recommend except in an emergency. #Part of the fun for me was to buy every kind of electric string I could find and see how they felt. #If I had a wish list for a string I've never seen packed for an e-mando, it would be D'addario semi-flat wound loop-end electric strings. #Seriously, you could probably buy every kind of electric loop-end mando strings available today for under $30. #One of the reasons I like other emandos that use ball-end strings is that you can then use any electric guitar strings, and they make a million different kinds of those. #My Florentine EM-200 makes pretty much any string sound okay and sustain forever.
Hope this helps a little. Have fun exploring.

J Clark
Sep-04-2004, 12:32pm
I Guess this is an 8 string Gibson? I don't think I have played a Florentine. I own a 5 string Mandocaster and 4 string Mandobird. Although they aren't 8 strings, I do find that I like using lighter guages on the emandos. I like to do some bends and utilize some of the sustain factor there. So, the last set I put on the mandobird was like 9 for the e, 14 or 15 for the a, 24 for the d and probably 36 for the g. Seems to work for me and get some good sound. Good luck with the string search!! Oh and I also have some pics of the mandos on my website, www.justinclarkmusic.com . Come by and visit, and I have a chat room on there, I'm there alot of times during the week in the evenings. Take er easy.

Sep-04-2004, 2:44pm
Mass of the string has influence on the sound as it moves in the magnetic field created by the pickup. I set the end of the pickup closer to the strings on the E , treble end , than the g end as a result.
Stifling acoustic habits, or being able to switch them back and forth with the instrument helped me,
I used to knock the g on top off its perch on the bridge of my Godin, from too heavy a stroke, so learned to let the Amp do the volume #instead.
most wound strings, unless the winding is steel too, are not sensed by the magneticfield, the mass of the string is raised so as to make the lower tone #,Htz.
core wire diameter is often similar on D and E strings though the tension and pitch are not.

Sep-07-2004, 5:20pm
Just summing up for future reference...

I ended up putting D'Addario J67s (medium nickel) on and am very happy with the sound. In case anyone gets a chance to buy a Florentine/EM-200: do it, it's _so_ much fun. I'm working on a killer version of "I Don't Like Mondays". http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Apr-20-2005, 12:00am
A few months later...

Having played a few other instruments, it seems like the D'Addario J67 G strings on my Florentine ride a bit high on the nut for comfort. I'm sort of torn about what to do:

1) I like the sound and feel of the J67s so I'm loathe to go to a lighter set

2) I'm not sure whether I want a repair guy to file my nut wider/deeper for the J67 Gs.

Anyone else with a Gibson Florentine/EM200 having this issue?

Apr-20-2005, 2:02am
might try a set of TI flatwounds, they are made in fairly light guages (except Stark)
ballbusting guitar strings gives more options, in flatwounds.. not from Austria would be cheaper.

Apr-20-2005, 10:13am
I'm a big fan of flat-wound chromes, even use them on my acoustics. Don't let those little ball things put you off - just crush 'em out of there.

String gauges are a matter of personal choice. The smaller the gauge the less the tension, but conversely, the more precise you have to be with fretting to get good notes. My recommendation is to keep the tension across the string set fairly even. That is, if you go to a lighter C or G string, do the same with the A and E.

Apr-20-2005, 10:36am
I haven't had your problem with my EM-200, JM, and like you I'm hesitant to do something to the instrument that I can't undo. Maybe you should try some different G strings, by some single pairs in different gauges and see if the thinner strings make the problems go away. If the problem remains, then you probably will have to do something about the nut. You might want to remove the stock nut and keep it, and have another nut cut to your specs. That way you could always return the emando to stock. How are you winding the G strings at the tuners? If the strings always slip off in the same direction -toward the E strings, for example, you might try winding the G strings around so that the tuners pull from the outside edge instead of the middle. If the strings slip off in either direction this won't help.
Last questions: Are you tuning to a tuner? concert A=440 cycles per second? If you're tuning lower then of course the strings aren't going to be as tight. Also, are you using a thinner pick, and where on the string do you do your picking?

Apr-20-2005, 10:38am
Oh yeah, have you tried adjusting the bridge?

Apr-20-2005, 10:48am
The problem isn't string tension or even height off the bridge. It's the G strings when I'm playing close to the nut, which is most of the time. Since they sit apparently so high on the nut, fretting them on the 1st few frets requires a lot more force than it should. My current theory is that the current net setup, sometime in the last 50 years http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif, was done for a lighter set. I think I'm going to try the D'Addario steel lights, which aren't really that much lighter except for the G. It's just a pain to mail-order a single pack of strings because shipping is such a large fraction of the cost.

Apr-20-2005, 11:41am
I always used the D'addario nickels on my EM-200. They are good strings and last a while.

Ok sorry for posting here but perhaps I can mention that I've been trying to sell an EM-200 for a while. I post it once in a while when I get the energy but can e-mail pix to serious potential buyers. It's jsut sittign in my closet and I play my Schwab 4 string for electric.

What's your opinion(s) on a fair price these days. It's a mid-fifties has some finish checking but is a real player and comes with OHSC.

Apr-20-2005, 12:14pm
I hear what your saying, but everything works together. Is the action high everywhere? Is the action high in the middle of the fretboard? You might try adjusting the truss rod. I thought when you said they were riding high that the strings were popping out of the nut grooves. Sorry. If you can decreas the bow in the neck without causing a lot of buzzing, that might help. Otherwise, you're going to have to deeping the grooves on the G or shave the nut where it attaches to the mando. What do the first 4 frets look like under the G string? I just think you should look at everything to make an informed decision before you make a permanent change. Tell us what happens...

A fair price for an EM-200 in good shape with all original hardware? My guess is $1800-$2200. YMMV.

Apr-20-2005, 12:14pm
"deeping"? should be "deepen" above...

mando bandage
Apr-20-2005, 12:29pm
The problem isn't string tension or even height off the bridge. It's the G strings when I'm playing close to the nut, which is most of the time. Since they sit apparently so high on the nut, fretting them on the 1st few frets requires a lot more force than it should.

I had the same problem with an accoustic, and T-I Starks solved it without nut work.


Apr-20-2005, 12:46pm
TI's on a EM-200 Florentine is absolute magic!!
Highly recommended. Have no fear.

Apr-20-2005, 1:02pm
Thanks for the suggestions! I greatly appreciate the input.

FYI, I'm pretty sure it's not a relief thing. I look at the instrument sideways and everything looks right. I have my acoustic mandolin in the shop right now for a relief issue so I've had to fall back to the electric. But I'm very sensitized to this sort of thing now.

Apr-21-2005, 10:31pm
Once again replying to myself...sigh..

Question to other EM-200/Florentine owners: Are your frets fairly low? Mine definitely are. I don't have any problem playing them and the height is very even down the fretboard, but it's much lower than my (much newer) acoustic. I was just curious if this just an old electric characteristic.

Apr-21-2005, 11:15pm
Hey JM, I pulled out my EM-200 to try and make amends for all of the extraneous info I posted earlier. #My frets are all low, even up and down the fretboard, with the most noticeable wear on the first 5, mainly on the E side of each fret. #The G strings I have on board are .039s from a set of D'addario J67s. #The nut on the G side is very close to 1mm high, measured from the fretboard at the first fret on the G side to the top flat part of the nut. #The .039 strings protrude from their notches between 1/4 to 1/3 of the width of the string above the flat of the nut. #My first fret plays just a little bit hard at the G#, and my neck has a fair amount of relief, so the action gets progressively higher up to about the 7th fret, where it levels out.

On every emando I have, the worst intonation is the first three frets on the lowest string. #If you play a five string, it's hard to press down hard enough to make the note ring without pushing the string sharp. #On an 8 string, you have to fight the height of the nut and the width of the string right there. The low frets don't help. Luckily, how often do you have to play a g sharp? #On other emandos I have played, the frets are much more prominent, making them easier to fret, but hard to slide up and down between notes.

Apr-21-2005, 11:52pm
Thanks, Mike, that is really valuable! You're using the same Gs as me and seeing a similar issue re low G intonation due to the nut and the string thickness. I've ordered a set of the D'Addario lighter steel strings with a .034 G to see if they sit lower in the nut and lessen the fight required.

My acoustic has been in the shop lately due to a relief and intonation issue, so I'm really sensitized to it on my electric. It's really good to know that my instrument is configured the same as other peoples.

Apr-22-2005, 10:01am
2) I'm not sure whether I want a repair guy to file my nut wider/deeper for the J67 Gs.

For cryin' out loud, it's only a nut! Maybe what's on there isn't even the original one. #Save it untouched if you must, and put a new one on it and cut it to whatever you need for good playing action. How's it going to affect you if you ever need to replace something like a pot, knob or the pickup? #Either you own the instrument or it owns you. If it's the latter, then go all the way and protect your investment and put it in a hermetically sealed display case.

The heavier the strings, the better the tone will be. So if you're going to do bending, what tradeoff between bending ease and sound quality will you accept? You could also start building up finger strength so you can bend with the same gauges you'd use on an acoustic. I bend strings on my acoustics, so it's convenient for me to just keep the same action/setup on the electric 8-string so I don't have to adjust the RH attack.


(Perhaps I'll put on something slightly lighter (.010 instead of .011, etc) next time I change them to see how much of difference it makes in the various areas)

Apr-22-2005, 10:20am
My "nut issues" are mostly from seeing the less than attractive nut work done on my wife's guitars. I know how a nut is supposed to be configured even if I'd cut off my own hand with a nut file. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif It's not so much the instrument owning me as seeing decent work lessened. If the lighter G doesn't do it, then I'll just buckle down and find someone good to lower the G slot.

Apr-22-2005, 12:06pm
I have to disagree with Niles, which makes me nervous. What if the nut is absolutely stock and to spec? What if cutting it lower on the G Changes the action? Have you ever had a nice instrument worked on and it never played as well again?

Try the lighter gauges and anything else that's not a permanent change before you file the nut down. It's not a question of who owns who, it's a question of being sure that what you do will fix the problem to your satisfaction. String manufacturer, type, and with are all personal preferences.

Apr-22-2005, 4:07pm
Good Grief! (http://siggy.chem.ucla.edu/VOH/30C/munch_scream_sm.jpg)

Jim Garber
Apr-22-2005, 4:37pm
Are you playing with the original bridge on your EM200? I tried it with that bar of metal and there was too much sustain for my ears. It is in the case pocket now but I play it with a std wooden bridge top and it has a great sound without all that ringin in my ears. Intonates better also.


Apr-22-2005, 5:00pm
Still using the original metal bridge. I find that sustain is really dependent on how I play and I can almost always use it to my advantage. Sometimes it gets a little out of control, but I'm always getting better at harnessing it for good instead of evil. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Apr-24-2005, 10:10pm
I agree with replacing the metal non-compensated bridge with ebony and I also agree with "Good Grief" It's just a nut, a $4 piece of bone, If it's slots are too narrow or high, put on those reading glasses and file'er down 'til it's right. I also much prefer 4 strings on my EM-200, You get two sets for the price of one, plus you can use med-heavy gauges for the big tone and still have half the tension for vibrato abd bends.