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Thread: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

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    Default String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    The Mandolin Cafe has posted the following news release:
    String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Roger Siminoff's paper on string tension with information dating back to the early publications Frets and Pickin' Magazines.



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    working for the mando.... Bluetickhound's Avatar
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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Thats good stuff from Roger, especially for a neophyte like myself who is just getting started. Thanks for sharing!
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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    I look forward to the findings and hope it will say something about A string tension and how to make it not the floppy poor cousin of all the other strings!

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    Epiphonist Masterbilt's Avatar
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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Great information and research, thank you, Roger! Makes me think if the "design flaw" of the traditional two-post mandolin (and archtop guitar) bridges could/should also be addressed by a different/improved bridge design. I am aware that such attempts exist by various luthiers - eg the late Jimmy D'Aquisto's full-contact archtop bridge which can be adjusted with a movable wedge. However, most luthiers seem to stick to the traditional concept with two adjustable posts. Is the reason for this the tonal quality of the 1921 Gibson bridge design, or just tradition?
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    Question Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    I use D'Addario EXP-75 or EXP-74 strings on my mandolin, but switch the pair of A-strings (.016 or .015 respectively) from one set to the other and find it easier to play this way. (eg., .041 ,.026, .015, .0115 or .040, .026, .016, .011). Is this a good set-up?
    Last edited by paulyoung7; Jun-04-2014 at 2:06pm.

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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Thanks all for the nice comments.
    Scapier: Good point; this problem of the step from the plain A string to the wound D string typically poses a problem. The cure is finding the right core/wrap combination for the D string for a better transition from plain to wound, specifically as it relates to tension.
    Masterbilt: Interesting question about the "tonal quality" of the 1921 Gibson bridge design. First, I should point out that when this bridge was first designed and patented, it had an aluminum saddle and the string-to-string timbre was better than that of the ebony saddle. However, the ebony saddle provided much better overall amplitude, tone, warmth, and better bass response. But to your question of "tradition," yes - it is a sound we've become accustomed to, and that makes it right. One great advantage of this two-footed bridge over its one-footed predecessor is that there is one foot sitting over each of the tone bars (and this goes for the H5 mandola and the L5 guitar as well). But having two string pairs sitting over a space and two string pairs sitting almost over the posts is really a poor design.
    Paulyoung7: Great that you are focusing on combining the string gauges that provide the best tonal response for you, and it is unfortunate that you have to break up two string sets to get the one set you need. In our focus on a string announcement we're going to make in a few days, we took a straight up approach and got down to the core and wrap wire combinations to get the ideal down-pressure loads. While selecting gauges is one choice folks can make, as I pointed out in the article, there are several ways to prepare a wound string to come up with the same overall gauge. While each of these different combinations will achieve the same note when the string is brought up to pitch, each core/wrap combination will exert a different longitudinal tension and lateral down-load at the bridge, which results in different timbre from each of the string pairs. What we've been testing and shooting for is the ideal core/wrap combinations based on down-loads, and finding the right loads for string pairs in the middle of the bridge's saddle vs those pairs near the posts. We're pretty darn excited about the results - hope you will be too.
    (As I think you guys are guessing, we're soon to be announcing a new set of mandolin strings that addresses this very issue, as well as speaks to the difference in the transmission of energy from string pairs in the middle of the saddle compared to those close to the posts.)
    Best, Roger

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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    I'm guessing I'm going to be pretty happy then! I used the FT74s for years mostly because this set had a wound A string. I've since had to go to the unwound A (new F5 Heiden) and I've never been quite happy with the plain string feel and stay-intunability. Have you, Mr. Siminoff, ever experimented with a wound A string in a mix with the J74s or J75s range of gauges?

    Regards,

    Spencer Capier

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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Hey I tried to pre order strings and there was no Canadian Province option. Will you ship to Canada?

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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Spencer… Yes, I have tested strings by setting up a mandolin with many combinations of wound and plain strings, and at least with the plain and wrapped wire combinations available to us today, the use of plain on E and A and wound on D and G seems to provide the best response.

    As to Canada, yes, we ship to Canada (and all over the world). When placing your order, you will have an option for Canada. And, if you have problems you can contact us at "orders at siminoff.net" (where of course, the "at" is an @ symbol) and someone here will help you.

    Roger

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    I really don't have a lot of time to read thru the article in depth but a couple of things come to mind. I re-read for more detail later.

    The conventional two-posted mandolin bridge has a design flaw in which the inner A and D pairs sit on a relatively flexible portion of the saddle and are further from the bridge posts than the outer E and G pairs. This anomaly can be compensated for by adjustment in the strings' downloads; it is something we've been focusing on for the past two years, and will announce our solution in mid-2014.
    Of course, the new string sets you are designing would be suitable for the std adjustable Gibson style bridge. The reference to violin bridges reminds me of Red Henry's experiments with mandolin bridges based on violin designs. So, the question is which do we change the bridge or the strings, or, for that matter in mandolin design the arch of the soundboard or the bracings?

    I also wonder about a few string manufacturers who actually use round cores vs. hexagonal and whether that makes any sort of difference.
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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Roger,

    Shipping to Vancouver for three packs of strings is $31.

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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I also wonder about a few string manufacturers who actually use round cores vs. hexagonal and whether that makes any sort of difference.
    DR makes round core strings (unfortunately not especially for mandolin, though). Especially their 0.026 D-strings feel softer than hexagonal core 0.026s.

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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Quote Originally Posted by NewsFetcher View Post
    [/URL]
    Hmm, I wonder you could put a pickup on that thing and play it like a diddley bow?

    BTW: FW strings FTW.

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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Just preordered three sets and shipping to Canada can be way cheaper if you request it my fellow Canucks. Really keen to try these out! So great to see this level of thought for the fretted instrument crowd. I've always had a wide selection of sets and individual strings for my violin so this feels like a big step forward. I will give a detailed review when they arrive in a month or so.

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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Jim,

    Malcolm Newton .. Newtone Strings ... winds his strings over a round core. I've been using them on my arch top guitars for years and love them. He does make mandolin strings as well:http://www.newtonestrings.com/.

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    Would there be any benefits to using these on a Traditional Brekke bridge? Considering it has a solid saddle post connecting both adjustment screws? I wouldn't think that it would but I'm not the expert.

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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Jim: Two good points… I do believe that we should continue to investigate the ideal bridge for the mandolin. As to "changing the bridge or the strings," clearly both should be focused on. Realizing that there are tens of thousands of the Gibson-style two-footed adjustable bridge that have already been fitted to the soundboard and slotted to the user's preference, we realized that trying to change all those would be like pushing a boulder uphill. So we took a straight-up approach and focused on improving balance by changing the strings. Again, I absolutely agree that we should continue to look at new bridge designs.

    Regarding round vs hex core wire, yes, it absolutely makes a difference and maybe it deserves me writing another article for Mandolin Cafe, but round-core wound-strings typically provide a warmer timbre and less warbling (varying) tone. Hex core wasn't introduced for better tone - it was intended as a solution for a better locking wrap of the winding on the core wire. And, the winding on round core strings is more prone to unraveling or loosening from usage. (As I think you all know, the plain strings in all mandolin sets are round - not hex - wire.)

    Scapier: I checked with Kali and she said that you and she communicated about a better shipping solution for you as an international customer - thanks for the order.

    Michael: I have not tried these on the Brekke bridge, so I really can't comment. It will be great to learn from folks who do try our strings on the Brekke bridge.

    General comment… I've received a few calls and emails about folks wanting to use our Straight-Up strings on one-piece bridges, such as those used on the early A1, A2, A4, and the F1, F2, and F4 mandolins prior to 1921. While they will certainly work, I do not recommend this string set for one-piece bridge designs. Our entire focus was to develop a set of strings based on their download and relative location on the saddle. One-piece bridges need a very different set of loads and corresponding gauges.

    Thanks all for the great input and questions… Roger

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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    In Rogers words, he tested many string combinations on a single mandolin. Wouldn't testing on several hundred mandolins be better data collecting? Testing 1000 string combinations on a single mandolin tells you nothing about the string combinations. It tells you about the single mandolin.
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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Noting the anniversary of this feature published here in 2014.

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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    Noting today's anniversary of this great feature article!

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    Default Re: String Tension: What It Means and How It Became Important

    This article on string balance is priceless, many thanks.

    Here is the key takeaway for mandolinists using traditional two-post bridges:

    "We learned that for mandolins and mandolas with two-post bridges, the string downward loads should be at least 10% to 12% greater on the outer pairs than they are on the inner pairs"
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