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Thread: Questions about strap button and octave pairs

  1. #1

    Default Questions about strap button and octave pairs

    Hello, I was hoping to rely on the collective forum wisdom for two questions:

    1. My octave mandolin has no strap button. I am currently using a strap around the neck of the instrument. I am contemplating putting a strap button on the OM. Pros? Cons? I would have to do the work myself so please do not tell me to contact a good luthier... it isn't an option in St. Pete, FLA.

    2. I would like to experiment with octave pairs, but have a question as to how to accomplish this. Is the general rule to take an extra a and e string and use those in lieu of unison g and d strings? Then tune the non-wound strings an octave higher?

    I know that these are newbie questions. I also tried to ask as clearly as possible without touching string numberings or the whole issue of up / down, high / low. I know that it can quickly become confusing even asking a basic question. Thanks. I appreciate all the help!!!

  2. #2
    Registered User zoukboy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions about strap button and octave pairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Andyesquire View Post
    Hello, I was hoping to rely on the collective forum wisdom for two questions:

    1. My octave mandolin has no strap button. I am currently using a strap around the neck of the instrument. I am contemplating putting a strap button on the OM. Pros? Cons? I would have to do the work myself so please do not tell me to contact a good luthier... it isn't an option in St. Pete, FLA.

    2. I would like to experiment with octave pairs, but have a question as to how to accomplish this. Is the general rule to take an extra a and e string and use those in lieu of unison g and d strings? Then tune the non-wound strings an octave higher?

    I know that these are newbie questions. I also tried to ask as clearly as possible without touching string numberings or the whole issue of up / down, high / low. I know that it can quickly become confusing even asking a basic question. Thanks. I appreciate all the help!!!
    1. It is totally OK to put a strap pin on the neck heel. If you buy the type used on electric guitars with the woodscrew it is a fairly easy install. You will have to drill a pilot hole for the screw though.

    2. I recommend starting with an extra E and A string as those tuned a whole step lower to D and G will be less tension than the strings you are replacing, but ideally you would use gauges for the octave strings that are the same as the strings you are replacing. This is easy to do with an online string tension calculator, like this one:

    http://www.bangzero.org/stringtension/

    Also, I would put the octave string as the "lower" of the pair (looking at the front of the instrument with the neck pointing up to 12 o'clock, the string that is on the right of the G and D pairs) so that it is the 2nd string of the pair to be plucked on a downstroke. This is the way Greek bouzoukis, Renaissance lutes, and Rickenbacker 12 string guitars are strung (rather than the opposite, with the octave string on the left, which is the way most American 12 string guitars are strung). What this does is give more of the lower, fundamental note on a downstroke and it works better for tune playing IMHO. Opinions differ on this point but try it and see what you think.

    Also, if you decide you love octave pairs on the G and D pairs you will need to have a new nut and saddle made for your instrument - a nut that will fit the thinner octave strings and a saddle on which those strings are intonated differently.
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Questions about strap button and octave pairs

    Wow. Thank you for answering my questions. This is a huge help. My instinct would have been to have strung the OM like a 12-string guitar, but I think I will take your advice and try the lower pitched string first followed by the higher octave string. Thanks again!! This is why the Cafe is great!

  5. #4
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions about strap button and octave pairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Andyesquire View Post
    1. My octave mandolin has no strap button. I am currently using a strap around the neck of the instrument. I am contemplating putting a strap button on the OM. Pros? Cons?
    Its totally up to you. I generally go in the direction of not changing things - so a mandolin without I tie on the neck, a mandolin with I use it. If you have a strong preference, go with that. Nothing inherently wrong, or right, about either way.

    I would have to do the work myself so please do not tell me to contact a good luthier... it isn't an option in St. Pete, FLA.
    Are you sure. I was down there a few years back and there were a lot of bluegrassers, and even a jam in a music store that catered to bluegrassers. And more than one real nice music store. I would think someone would know someone.
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  6. #5
    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions about strap button and octave pairs

    put a bit of (green) felt inbetween the strap button and the instrument, imo...
    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions about strap button and octave pairs

    Strap button, no problem. Not seeing your instrument I would offer to pick a central location, where there is plenty of wood. Orient it so the weight of the instrument will keep the strap on rather than pull it off. Look at the grain pattern before drilling the pilot hole to prevent splitting. Lubricate the screw threads with parafin.

    Octave pairs - I've done this on four OM's and mandocellos. Simple statics dictates that if you halve the string diameter you can double the frequency and maintain the same tension. This is real easy with ball-end strings as every music store carries a full range of sizes. It also works to use an A string as an octave G and an E as an octave D. Tension will be a little lower, but it will be playable and sound fine. To me the higher octave pair sounds better on the treble side; that is as I pick down I hit the low string first and then the octave higher.

    Yes if I weren't lazy I would replace the saddles and nuts on these instruments for the lighter gage on the higher octave strings. But I don't have any problems with too low action or buzzing, so I have left these original.

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    Default Re: Questions about strap button and octave pairs

    Hint !!! after you drill your pilot hole, rub the threads of your screw with some beeswax, or even ivory bar soap, before attempting to screw it in…. OOOPPS Mandobart beat me to it..so much for speed reading.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Questions about strap button and octave pairs

    Thanks again for the help, everyone. I have decided not to do the strap button for now. Tie around the neck is working fine.

    And I ordered a few sets of strings and will experiment with octave vs. unison tuning.

  10. #9
    totally amateur k0k0peli's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions about strap button and octave pairs

    IMHO the ordering of octave pairs depends on what you want to emphasize. I'm used to USA and Mexican style 12-string guitars etc, also my fretted 12-string Cümbüş, where the high string is on bottom. My Kala KA6 6-string tenor uke has its 1st and 3rd strings doubled at octaves too, with the same arrangement. That top course drove me nutz because the high note was totally drowned by its lower mate. Not real significant when strumming, but I'm a fingerpicker. So I flipped that top course and am learning to 1) pick at the high string near the bridge to emphasize it, and 2) pick out bass-lines with my index finger.

    My point being that whatever string you hit first on your main up and down strokes will be emphasized. If you want to be bass-heavy, put lower strings toward the outside of the neck, or higher strings on the outside if you want a brighter sound. And where you pick -- near or far from the bridge -- dramatically alters the joint tone.
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  11. #10
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    Default Re: Questions about strap button and octave pairs

    Keep in mind that individual strings are relatively cheap, so it doesn't hurt to experiment.

    With the tail ends uncut, you can swap octave locations after a while; most bends or kinks will be above the nut anyway. Eventually, you might want properly-sized nut slots, but I'd do a LOT of experimenting before committing to that. (Converting to narrow octave slots requires a new nut; re-converting to unison just requires a nut file).

    FWIW, I'm in the "normal" 12-string-guitar-hit-the-octave-string-first camp. But I've never had the urge to convert my Rickenbacker - it's all good!
    - Ed

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  12. #11

    Default Re: Questions about strap button and octave pairs

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    Keep in mind that individual strings are relatively cheap, so it doesn't hurt to experiment.

    Yes. It's octave pairs for now, but I likely will go back to octave unison. The multiple voicings of the instrument was a huge advantage that I wasn't expecting... being a newbie.

    Having the octave pairs further differentiates from a traditional mandolin. I am not playing with any group, just an occasional jam. I could see having to pick a side in the future. At that point, I might upgrade bridges, etc.

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