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Thread: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

  1. #1
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    Default String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    Hey Folks,

    There's a similar thread in the General Discussions forum, but it may have a Bluegrass-centric orientation. I'm wondering what folks in this specific music are using for strings and picks (and mandolins if the spirit moves you.)

    I use mostly 10-15-24-36 (GHS A 250). I've been using a rounded Primetone 1.3 pick. I was using the Dunlop Tortex pointed .88mm (green). It's harder to get the triplets and trebles with the primetone, but the overall increase in volume and tone make it worth it to me. I've mostly been playing a 1917 Gibson oval pumpkin top.

    Look forward to seeing what you all are using.

    Thanks.
    Steve

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    I play almost exclusively Irish and Scottish trad these days. I'm sure you'll see a lot of variation here, there really isn't a standard type of instrument or string/pick choice for this music, as far as I can tell. I just use what works for me. Anyway...

    Strings are GHS Silk and Bronze LSB250 .011 .016 .026 .040. I like the slightly warmer tone compared to something like J74's, and I think the .016 A pair stays in tune a little better than the .015 in D'Addario medium sets.

    Pick is a Blue Chip TAD40-1R, playing on the tip. I used the rounded shoulder for a few years, but treble ornaments are easier for me using the tip.

    Mandolin is a Lebeda F-style "Premium Plus", redwood top over maple back and sides. It's not an especially warm or woody sounding mandolin compared to others I've heard. Probably not something a Bluegrass picker would use, and maybe not what everyone playing Irish would like either. But it has great projection, with a strong emphasis on the fundamental note vs. the harmonics. One session I often attend has fiddlers and at least one player of Scottish smallpipes. I can still keep up with them and kick off tunes. Nobody seems to mind the curly bits on an F-style.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    I like the Thomastik 154ST set, 011 015 021 034. I use blue chip TAD40-1R, playing on the rounded ends.
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    Registered User Mike Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    I use d’Addario flatwound strings on both mandolins. The Mike Black for playing with groups in the low to mid level volumes, the F5G for larger, louder occasions. Not that the Black lacks volume, just the nature of the beast. I’ve noted that most mandolinists in the mid-west are playing f-hole instruments. If the instrument sounds good and it is played with some ability and enthusiasm nobody will be negative about the shape of it. Blue chip picks; Big triangles, 80 on the Black, 100 on the F5.
    Mike Snyder

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    I've been using the Curt Mangan Bluegrass Medium gauge strings (.011/.015/.026W/.040W) and really like them, they're much warmer sounding than the D'Addario J74's to my ear. I use Blue Chip TPR35 picks.
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    Registered User liestman's Avatar
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    BlueChip TAD40 on all, Elixir medium strings on most but I also recently love the GHS Pure Nickel Mandolin, .011 ‑ .041, N270 set - lovely warm sound on the lower half of the courses.
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    I'm pretty basic.

    D'Addario J74s and Dunlop 0.88.

    I used to use a lighter pick but have gradually increased it. However, I find that if my pick is any thicker I can't ripple through the strings the way I like to.

    I used to only use a Swedish white Sharkfin pick on all of my instruments for many years. Now I use the 0.88 on my banjo and mando, a Sharkfin on my octave and a lighter Dunlop on my (very loud) Lowden guitar.
    David A. Gordon

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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    Dagger, are those Dunlops the gray nylon ones?
    Steve

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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve L View Post
    Dagger, are those Dunlops the gray nylon ones?
    Aye they are Steve.
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    Registered User mikeyes's Avatar
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    There is no magic formula, just the combination that is optimal for each instrument. Optimal because technique also makes a difference, something the banjo players are learning.

    I've found that if I switch between old time and ITM, that I have to change the pick I use because my technique is different for each genera. I play three different mandolins and have (at least) three different setups depending on the music I am playing.

    My main instrument is a 2003 F-5V Gibson with J74 D'Addario strings that I have not diverged from since I first put them on years ago. Over the years I have figured out how to get a specific sound from my instrument via technique. That sound has changed over the years in spite of the same setup which may reflect the mandolin changing with age and use, but seems to be a reflection of how I play it. The tone changes as I get more comfortable with the instrument but it always goes to the same sound after about a half hour of playing.

    Optimal is my mantra these days as I have figured out that once a reasonable setup is there, I can adjust my playing to bring out the positive aspects of my mandolins. I mentioned how banjo players are figuring this out. The top end banjo players all seem to use a light set of strings which fit their technical skills. Enda Scahill players a very light set but he also plays ADAE. I think that if you are satisfied with your string, pick and general setup that you still enhance the sound by improving technique and focusing on those technical skills that suit your instrument.
    Mike Keyes
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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    Medium EJ74s for strings (except in the summer when I switch over to medium weight coated Elixers) and a hard John Pearse jazz pick on my snake. I've noticed that I eventually wear bevels into my picks so they become slightly more pointed. When I have to play miked, I switch to my f-hole Eastman (I have a bridge mike) with the EJ74s and a blue chip jazz pick, which won't slip when my hands are sweaty.
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    Mandolin Botherer Richard Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    Pick: Bluechip TAD50-1R or TAD40
    Mandolins and strings: Old Wave Oval A with J74s/National RM-1 with FW74s/Taran Springwell with GHS A275s/Gary Nava 2-point with Jazzmando JM11s. After experimentation I’ve settled on those particular instrument/string combinations. The picks are the ones I usually use but occasionally I’ll use others if I feel they work better on a particular piece.

    Old Wave Oval A
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    Eternal Beginner Seamus B's Avatar
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    Quote Originally Posted by Jill McAuley View Post
    I've been using the Curt Mangan Bluegrass Medium gauge strings (.011/.015/.026W/.040W) and really like them, they're much warmer sounding than the D'Addario J74's to my ear. I use Blue Chip TPR35 picks.
    Hi Jill - I'm interested in experimenting with other strings and want to follow-up on your suggestion of the Mangan strings. Am I correct that you have these (the 90832):
    https://lordofthestrings.com/en/mand...or-bronze.html
    Eastman MD305 - set-up by Simon Mayor.

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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    Richard, how are you enjoying your Springwell?
    Steve

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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    J74s for the Sobell, lighter set of D'Addarios for the 1922 Gibson F4 and tortex orange picks.... try to keep things simple so that I can actually get what I need easily and regularly.

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  27. #16
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    Quote Originally Posted by Seamus B View Post
    Hi Jill - I'm interested in experimenting with other strings and want to follow-up on your suggestion of the Mangan strings. Am I correct that you have these (the 90832):
    https://lordofthestrings.com/en/mand...or-bronze.html
    Yes, those are the ones!
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    Eternal Beginner Seamus B's Avatar
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    Great thanks! - interesting that string labelled as bluegrass are especially good for ITM! I will try them out and see what I think.
    Eastman MD305 - set-up by Simon Mayor.

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  31. #18

    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    I like J74s and a Fender heavy pick on my '24 snakehead which is well suited for Irish stuff.
    I like J75s and Dunlop Primetone 1.5 big triangle (brown) on my Ellis A5, a good all around instrument.
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  33. #19
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    Hey Baron - why do you prefer the Fender heavy for your Gibson? Do you find it suits Irish music better? I use the Primetone 1.5 with the raised sculpted grip to help with my slowly improving pick position. It is much janglier than my previous less pointed picks, which I don't mind, but I was wondering if the Fender is a bit warmer?
    Eastman MD305 - set-up by Simon Mayor.

  34. #20
    Registered User Nick Quig's Avatar
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    Mandolin - Big Muddy M-3
    Strings - D'Addario EJ67... great bright tone!..I change the As for .016
    Picks - I'm very fickle when it comes to picks!..at the mo my favourite is the Pickboy Meta Carbonate 1.00mm
    thin but rigid..great tone for ITM.

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  36. #21
    Registered User Kalasinar's Avatar
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    On my Eastman MD504 I’ve found I like LSB 250 GHS Silk and Bronze the most, which are 11-16-26-40. On my Weber I am in the process of experimenting. When I obtained it it had 80/20 bronze strings which I quickly changed to J74s as a starting point.

    In terms of Picks I prefer gauges between 1.2mm and 1.5mm. Current favourites include Blue Chip TAD60-1R, Red Bear TT-Heavy, Gravity Gold Tripp, Wegen TF140, Dunlop Primetone Large Tri 1.4mm, V-Pick Large Lite, Hawk SB, Clifford Essex ‘Buffy’ and Hense Cream Speedy Triangle 1.4mm. I rotate them according to what sound I want at the time, but the one I play most is the Gravity Gold Tripp. It pulls fantastic volume and tone.
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  38. #22
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    For years, I have used D'Daddario J62 - 80/20 bronze 10-14-24-34 (and a Jim Dunlop .73mm). I notice most people choose considerably heavier gauges than me, but my mandolin is fairly lightly built and these strings give it quite a bit of punch. Perhaps other mandolins need heavier strings to get them moving.

    I have tried the GHS set that Steve L mentions (which match the J62 gauges fairly closely), but ultimately went back to the D'Addarios.

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  40. #23

    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    If anyone has posted them, I would be really interested to hear some audio/video recordings of a blue chip (maybe a TAD?) being used to play fiddle tunes. I am highly considering a blue chip, myself. I mostly play fiddle tunes, so it'd be nice to hear.

  41. #24
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    Fiddle tunes - would irish trad tunes qualify under that category?
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  42. #25

    Default Re: String And Pick Gauges For Irish/Scottish Trad

    I guess I might have been painting a broad stroke, you're right.

    But I'd be happy to hear a blue chip example of anything in the Irish realm

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