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Thread: Really light strings, anyone?

  1. #1
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    Default Really light strings, anyone?

    I used to use a set of 11-40 strings, but when I went back to playing more guitar I found those to be too heavy to manage during my limited time with my mandolin.

    I tried a set of 10's for a bit and more recently a very light set of 9-32 strings. I really expected these to be too light to generate much tone, but I've been pleasantly surprised with how good they sound. I can really dig in with my pick or lighten up for various flavors. Thile is known to use light strings and a low action and of course he gets great tone.

    At the same time, the light strings are a bit harder to keep in tune and I find that I'm pushing the G strings off the top edge of the fingerboard. To keep using this set I'd need to adjust my technique.

    Let me know if you've embraced lighter strings and your experience with them. Anyone using a custom-gauged set? Any sets I might should try (staying somewhere between 9-10 on the E's)?
    Passernig #42

  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    You used those on your Passernig? The only mandolins I used ultralights on are my vintage bowlbacks. I have used light gauge on my National but otherwise on the carved top mandolins I always use regular/J-74 or equivalent gauge.

    I have heard some folks who like the tone of silk & steel for a lighter touch.
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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    I use .009 but have the G at .034 for my slightly longer 14.25" scale. Mainly it was to prevent neck bowing but I am comfortable with them. They do induce greater care in fingering accuracy.
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    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    You used those on your Passernig? The only mandolins I used ultralights on are my vintage bowlbacks. I have used light gauge on my National but otherwise on the carved top mandolins I always use regular/J-74 or equivalent gauge.

    I have heard some folks who like the tone of silk & steel for a lighter touch.

    Yep!
    Passernig #42

  5. #5

    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    You used those on your Passernig? The only mandolins I used ultralights on are my vintage bowlbacks. I have used light gauge on my National but otherwise on the carved top mandolins I always use regular/J-74 or equivalent gauge.

    I have heard some folks who like the tone of silk & steel for a lighter touch.
    +1 for the silk and steels.
    Gunga......Gunga.....Gu-Lunga

  6. #6
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    I've gone lighter, I guess I could go lighter still.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/s...+gauge+strings
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Crowder View Post
    Thile is known to use light strings and a low action and of course he gets great tone.
    Not sure where you got the impression that Thile plays light strings.
    His strings are 11.5-40.
    His preference is for a slightly heavier E and A set than on the J74s.

    J74: .011; .015; .026; .040
    Thile's J74CM: .011.5; .016; .026; .040

    His set is basically the E and A from the J75s, and the D and G from the J74s.
    He has also started raising his action higher, as he was finding that he was over driving the mandolin with the lower action.
    Raising the action gives the mandolin a better tone with more volume.
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  9. #8
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    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    10-14-24-38 works well for me. Sometimes I will use a 10 1/2 and/or a 40 nickel. I might mention that nickel wound strings have a slightly lower tension than bronze.

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    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    10-14-24-38 works well for me. Sometimes I will use a 10 1/2 and/or a 40 nickel. I might mention that nickel wound strings have a slightly lower tension than bronze.
    Is that true because of the winding? It would seem to me the winding would have no effect on tension, unless the core would for some reason have to be smaller. Is the nickel larger so the core has to be smaller to achieve the same diameter string?

  11. #10
    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    If the winding metal is lower-mass at the same thickness then the string will be at a lower tension for the same pitch. The determining factors for pitch are mass and tension. Silk and steel are lower tension at similar thickness because they weigh less. Nylon strings can be very thick and low tension.
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  12. #11

    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    I saw an article years ago that Chris used Elixir light strings on his Dude.
    This was posted when he switched.

    “I switched from Elixir not that long ago. I had horrible luck with the D strings.
    I was breaking a D string just about every Punch Brothers set. So I did a blind tasting of different strings with the boys on the bus, the guys in Punch Brothers, and the D'Addarios won out every time. It's kind of that industry standard thing, you know, 'that's what mandolin strings should sound like.' And I think David Grisman is partly responsible for that. I mean, no one pulls better tone than Grisman, and J74s are part of that tone. I'm using EXPs and I have D'Addario modify them ever so slightly for me. I like a hybrid of McCoury and Grisman gauges: .0115 and .016 for the E and A, and .026 and .040 for the D and G. I feel the coating on the EXPs cuts down a little bit on noise.”
    " Practice every time you get a chance." - Bill Monroe

  13. #12

    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    Sorry to invade this discussion with a different subject but I don't know how to start a new thread. I am in my 70's and have not picked up a guitar for almost 50 years. Even then I was a novice. I tried 2 6 strings recently(steel and nylon) and no longer have the strength or flexibility to make chords especially on a wide neck. All I want to do is strum along to singing old folk and rock songs(Elvis, Everly Brothers, etc.) I have started researching 4 string tenors mini guitars. Not sure I would be happy with ukulele sound but would consider. I am seeking advice. Am wondering about; mini vs. cigar box, easiest to play, nylon strings on a mini?, can I get away with most songs only using 2 fingers?, guitar brands and models, anything else to suggest? Thanks in advance, OldJoe

  14. #13
    Registered User Tim N's Avatar
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    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    Old Joe, you might do better to ask on the "Tenor Guitar" section of the Cafe, which you'll find written in blue on the initial Cafe side if you scroll down a bit.The folk there would be glad to advise you. When you get to that page, you should see a "start new thread" option in black, top left. Click on it and carry on - or you may find a relevant thread that's already running if you're lucky. Good luck.
    "What's that funny guitar thing..?"

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    I use a parlor guitar with a 12 fret neck and tune down a full step

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  17. #15
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    OldJoe, you may already be aware of this, but there are some guitar makers who make a much narrower neck than others. I have a Takamine G330 model from the early 90s and it has a very narrow neck, so much so that it is uncomfortable for me to play for any stretch of time. I bought it when I was a kid and my hands were smaller then. It's pretty easy to find this model used, and they are generally well made and affordable. I'm sure many other Takamine models used or still use this same neck size. And as pops1 suggested, tune it down and then you've taken a lot of tension off the strings (and made those high parts in the Everly songs much easier to sing).

    Hang in there, and best wishes.
    ...

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  19. #16

    Default Re: Really light strings, anyone?

    Thanks Tim. I will do that. Another symptom of old age - technology challenges!

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