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Thread: favorite strings for mandola?

  1. #1
    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default favorite strings for mandola?

    I thought I'd ask my question here since there are more specialized instruments and sophisticated players.

    I now have a Collings mandola (YEA!) and it needs new strings.
    What is your:
    favorite flat wound?
    favortie round wound?
    what does Collings put on mandolas?

    I went to the Collings website and found:
    Factory Strings: D'Addario J-76 (.015"-.052")

    So that answers one question. Maybe I'll ask them about the nut spacing.

    I'd also like the strings to be not so close to the edges. It seems that the outside strings, C and A are just as close to the edge of the nut as a mandolin. I feel the edge of the fingerboard when I play in first position. That's not the case with the mandolin.

    Also if you get a new nut, do you consider the type of string before it is made? Or if you go back and forth between wound and flat should the nut be fit for the smaller diameter string set?

    Thanks,
    Doug
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    Registered User Toycona's Avatar
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    I play a Girouard mandola and use J72s most of the time, then occasionally switch to J76, just to see if I notice a difference.
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    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    More results from my string shopping online.

    What is the difference among the D'Addario strings?


    D'ADDARIO EFT76 SEMI-FLATTENED PHOSPHOR
    BRONZE MANDOLA STRINGS
    Loop end, 016 024w 035w 053w
    $18.90

    D'ADDARIO EJ76 PHOSPHOR BRONZE WOUND
    MANDOLA STRINGS
    Medium gauge, loop end, 015 025W 035w 052w. The
    strings are about 37" (95cm) long.
    $8.20


    GHS PF280 BRIGHT BRONZE MANDOLA SET
    Roundwound 80/20 copper zinc bronze, light gauge, loop
    end, 012 024W 034W 048W (2 OF EACH) Wound strings
    are 30" (76.2cm) long, the wound portion is 28" (71.12cm).
    $6.70

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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    String gauges would be dictated by your mandola scale and the feel you like.
    To me the top end gauges (0.015 to .016) seems fairly heavy for a 17" scale; is your scale shorter?

    I prefer phosphor bronze - I guess they're 92/08, and I use regular round-wound ball-end guitar strings (.047, .035, .023), with the ball broken out, and a plain steel .013 A string. These are all bulk generic strings - I don't find "brand" standard strings offer much if any advantage for the expense. My sets come out to about $3/per, although I do buy strings in one-dozen bundles so they can tend to start to oxidize a little with time.
    Jeff Rohrbough
    "Listen louder, play softer"

  6. #5

    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    I switched the strings from D'Addarios to Mangans on my Collings mandolas, and swapped the 12 to a 14.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    You ask about flatwound strings as well; there's not much choice AFAIK other than Thomastik. (But that's okay with me since I like them, and have them on all my mandolas.) The 164s are my go-to set for CGDA tuning, but you should be aware that the part between the silk windings is short, and may necessitate a longer tailpiece, or at least one with the prongs near the leading edge, on certain instruments. There is also the 174 set, which is heavier (and also longer), and which is intended for GDAE tuning, but I think I've read that CGDA tuning sometimes works too, depending on what the instrument will tolerate tension-wise.

    bratsche
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    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    Oh boy, I knew this would be a challenge.

    First the scale length is 15.9" The total length of the instrument is 29 3/8".
    So it is a small mandola and it is not the European big sister version.

    Bratche: is AFAIK a brand name? Or is this internet shorthand... and does this scale length work for 164's? Thomastic - correct?

    And Eddie, I knew you would say something like mix and match guitar strings. Oy, my head hurts. I want it to be simple!

    Does anyone know the difference between D'Addario J76 and EFT76 strings?
    Thanks,
    DougC

  9. #8
    Registered User dulcillini's Avatar
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    Collings puts J-76 on their mandolas at time of build. I switched mine to the J-72. Seems a little easier to fret, but the sound is about the same. Great mandola. I love mine. I also tried the Jazzdola strings on my old mandola and they sound fine too. It boils down to what sounds the best to you and allows for the easiest fretting.
    Michael A. Harris
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    Is AFAIK a brand name? Or is this internet shorthand...?
    AFAIK = as far as I know.

    Does anyone know the difference between D'Addario J76 and EFT76 strings?
    EJ76 are roundwound strings, while EFT76 are flat-tops, wound with larger gauge round wire which is then ground flat so they are supposed to feel like flatwound strings. Both are phosphor bronze.

    Although the gauges are very similar, the info on the D'Addario website says that EFT76 strings have quite a bit higher tension than EJ76.

    Patrick

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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by PseudoCelt View Post
    AFAIK = as far as I know.


    EJ76 are roundwound strings, while EFT76 are flat-tops, wound with larger gauge round wire which is then ground flat so they are supposed to feel like flatwound strings. Both are phosphor bronze.

    Although the gauges are very similar, the info on the D'Addario website says that EFT76 strings have quite a bit higher tension than EJ76.

    Patrick
    Thanks Patrick,

    I just got an email back from Collings and they say that they have not experimented much with Mandola strings. So we are doing some valuable research here!

    I don't want 'quite a bit higher tension' with thoes EJ76 strings. In fact I've learned that a little less tension helps to mellow out or quiet a loud instrument.

    My Collings MT Mandola is pretty loud even with the old J76 strings. So I'm understanding now why GHS strings for mandola are offered in a lighter gauge.


    GHS PF280 BRIGHT BRONZE MANDOLA SET
    Roundwound 80/20 copper zinc bronze, light gauge, loop end, 012 024W 034W 048W (2 OF EACH) Wound strings are 30" (76.2cm) long, the wound portion is 28" (71.12cm).
    $6.70

  12. #11

    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    I found that the strings Collings provides are a bit too heavy and cut off a lot of the sound. The Mangans have a lot more "spring" in them and you get a bit more volume. The gauges end up being 48, 34, 24, 14. The 12 is a bit too light and sometimes will create a harmonic as the bridges are set up for 15's.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    I found that the strings Collings provides are a bit too heavy and cut off a lot of the sound. The Mangans have a lot more "spring" in them and you get a bit more volume. The gauges end up being 48, 34, 24, 14. The 12 is a bit too light and sometimes will create a harmonic as the bridges are set up for 15's.
    Do you mean J76 strings that Collings provides? (And no longer available, the new is EJ76 or maybe 72...)
    I assume the 12 is the A string. What do you use for the 14? I usually don't order individual strings.

    Also I wonder if the 'spring' comes from less pressure from lighter gauge strings?

  15. #13

    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    Do you mean J76 strings that Collings provides? (And no longer available, the new is EJ76 or maybe 72...)
    I assume the 12 is the A string. What do you use for the 14? I usually don't order individual strings.

    Also I wonder if the 'spring' comes from less pressure from lighter gauge strings?
    Yes, these are the strings that came on the mandolas that I purchased from Collings. Curt Mangan will make sets up for you if you call made up of whatever gauges you prefer. I have just been buying 14 singles from him and just throwing the 12s (A strings) in the drawer. My next box of strings I will probably order 12 sets of the custom gauge.

    As for the "spring", this is a quality of the Mangan strings overall, even the guitar strings. They are much more lively.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    First the scale length is 15.9" The total length of the instrument is 29 3/8". So it is a small mandola and it is not the European big sister version.

    Bratche: is AFAIK a brand name? Or is this internet shorthand... and does this scale length work for 164's? Thomastic - correct?
    Yes, I meant "As Far as I Know"

    I measured the strings that are on one of my 17" scale flat top mandolas. There is approx. 20.5" inches of flatwound string between the silk wrapping at either end. And there's only about 1.5" of wrapping at the loop end. That should give you an idea if they'd work for your instrument. Yes, these are Thomastik 164s, and the package says "Alto mandolin", not to be confused with the thicker 174 Mandola set.

    bratsche
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by bratsche View Post
    Yes, I meant "As Far as I Know"

    I measured the strings that are on one of my 17" scale flat top mandolas. There is approx. 20.5" inches of flatwound string between the silk wrapping at either end. And there's only about 1.5" of wrapping at the loop end. That should give you an idea if they'd work for your instrument. Yes, these are Thomastik 164s, and the package says "Alto mandolin", not to be confused with the thicker 174 Mandola set.

    bratsche
    "Measure before you buy" it says at Elderly Instruments. And indeed, I am going to measure because it seems too close to guess on my Collings MT, a "carved top mandola". Here is what they said:

    THOMASTIK 164 MANDOLA SET
    Strings are chrome flatwound over a steel core, medium tension (only) 013w 019w 028w 045w, usually tuned ADGC, treble to bass. They are 30.5" long, 20" between silked ends. The head-end silk covers about 9" of wire, so the distance from the loop to the end of wound wire is about 21.5" . This can work for flat-topped Celtic style mandolas, but probably NOT CARVED TOP mandolas. Measure before you buy. Labelled Alt Mandoline by Thomastik.

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    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    In order to make the 164s fit on my different 17" scale flat-tops, I had to either provide a certain type of tailpiece or change out the ones that came on them to something with the prongs farther forward. This also may be necessary on a carved top mandola, even with a shorter scale, if you're intent on trying them. All of my mandolas, except for the one that was built for me, came with round-wound brass strings, and they all sound like entirely different instruments with flatwound strings. It was a worthwhile effort, as that sound is more pleasing to me, obviously, but of course YMMV (your mileage may vary).

    bratsche
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by bratsche View Post
    In order to make the 164s fit on my different 17" scale flat-tops, I had to either provide a certain type of tailpiece or change out the ones that came on them to something with the prongs farther forward. This also may be necessary on a carved top mandola, even with a shorter scale, if you're intent on trying them. All of my mandolas, except for the one that was built for me, came with round-wound brass strings, and they all sound like entirely different instruments with flatwound strings. It was a worthwhile effort, as that sound is more pleasing to me, obviously, but of course YMMV (your mileage may vary).

    bratsche
    Yes, I think there will be a big change in the sound with flatwound strings. My Collings MT mandola seems really responsive and clear and probably would really amplify that change. I like flatwound strings on my mandolin so I'm gonna make an effort to find some for the mandola. Maybe you could send me an old string? Send me a note O.K.?

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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    For flatwound mandola strings you could also try Dogal ,costing less than Thomastik. http://dogalstrings.it/mandola.aspx
    The ones you need for CGDA tuning at the link I posted are the 'Contralto' options.The 'red tag' are chrome flatwound while the 'linea verde' are bronze flatwound which sound a bit more sweet and mellow than the chromes.
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    ♪☮♫ Roll away the dew ♪☮♫ Dan Krhla's Avatar
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    I have a Gypsy from Walt. He recommended Ernie Ball acoustic single strings (48 48 36 36 22 22 12 12). The ball ends make for super easy string changes on his funky violin wanna be custom TP. My luthier is trying to make the OM more playable with some adjustments etc, and we just recently switched it to D'Addario EJ80s and it's working fine. Loop end is hell on string changes but ultimately a better TP is in the plans.
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    I just put some D'Addario EJ76 medium strings on my Collings Mandola. They feel like really stiff guitar strings. Collings must put light gauge strings on the new ones because I can't believe that anyone would like the mediums. They are much louder but it is not necessary. They come off as soon as my Curt Mangan strings arrive.

    I love the GHS PF280 Light strings but the C is not as responsive / lively as I'd like. Maybe a .49 would work?

    The GHS PF280 Light gauge: 12-24-34-48

    Mangan strings are: 12-24w-34-48

    EJ76 medium gauge: 15-25-35-52 yikes!

    Well, to be fair I should compare these to D'Addario's EJ72 Light gauge strings: 14-23-34-49

    Didn't Mandobar like a .14 on the A string?

    Also I'm still trying to find a source for Dogal or Thomastic flat wound strings in America. Ones that fit my 15.9" scale length Collings Mandola.
    Last edited by DougC; Sep-20-2015 at 9:25pm. Reason: more info is good thing
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    Registered User mandolinstew's Avatar
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran View Post
    For flatwound mandola strings you could also try Dogal ,costing less than Thomastik. http://dogalstrings.it/mandola.aspx
    The ones you need for CGDA tuning at the link I posted are the 'Contralto' options.The 'red tag' are chrome flatwound while the 'linea verde' are bronze flatwound which sound a bit more sweet and mellow than the chromes.
    I went to Dogal website and see that they have nylon strings for mandola and mandolin

  27. #22

    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    I like the 14 string instead of the 12 on the Mangans
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

  28. #23
    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    I like the 14 string instead of the 12 on the Mangans
    Since the EJ72 lights have a 14, I was wondering if you had tried them?
    What do you prefer about 14 over 12?

    D'Addario seems to sound a bit too metalic and 'jangly' but I've used them on guitars for many years and I have a lot of respect for them. I guess nowadays the competition and quality is a little higher. And I have years of experience to draw on in choosing strings. Now we have mandolincafe.com and we can compare notes. Very cool.

    I'm giving them a careful listen before the Mangan strings arrive.
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  29. #24

    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    I use the EJ76s on my '21 H2, and I really enjoy the tone. They're pretty tight, but with a quite-low action they're still very playable.

  30. #25
    rock in rôle Paul Statman's Avatar
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    Default Re: favorite strings for mandola?

    I use (E)J76 replacing the .015 with .016 for a more 'solid' A string sound on my 'dola, a 16" scale Eastman MDA615.

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