Results 1 to 19 of 19

Thread: How long is a piece of string?

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Hampshire, UK
    Posts
    35

    Default How long is a piece of string?

    I know I've answered my own question in the title but I'd like to ask:

    How long do your strings last before they need to be replaced?

    I ask because I'm a very happy new owner of a Hathway short scale bouzouki that I bought at the end of January. It was fitted with New Tone strings and they began to deteriorate after a few weeks. No bother, thought I: after all, I'd no idea how long they'd been on the instrument. And besides, Paul threw in a set of replacements. So I fitted them.

    Now, about six weeks later they're showing real signs of age, particularly the E strings which have developed an audible ting that's different from the expected bouzouki twang. Is this within "normal" life expectancy?

  2. #2
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Ardnadam, Argyll, Scotland
    Posts
    1,440

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    So much depends on the player and his/her style of playing, and on the personal chemistry of the player too, so "normal" life-expectancy is very hard to define.

    Some folk generate more acid in their fingers which can corrode the strings faster. How much do you play and how hard do you pick?
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheOldBores

  3. #3
    Registered User Colin Lindsay's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Tandragee, Northern Ireland
    Posts
    414

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shan Andy View Post
    Now, about six weeks later they're showing real signs of age, particularly the E strings which have developed an audible ting that's different from the expected bouzouki twang. Is this within "normal" life expectancy?
    It's funny but it takes about that long with me before I feel that new strings have bedded in properly; when new they can be very bright and twangy but they settle in after a while and I reckon a month / six weeks has them bedded in nicely, to where they've lost that new brassiness and are now mellowed down a bit. I always restring any new instrument to my own preferred brand and tension, so no matter what they're fitted with, once it arrives with me they're off and replaced. I replace them once they start sounding 'dull', which varies between instruments - my guitar strings (Martin) have been fitted for about four years now and I only noticed last night that they're not as accommodating as they used to be, so they'll be replaced within a week or so. My Fylde bouzouki is coming up on two years now (D'Addario strings) and they still sound good. I'm not playing as much as I did a while ago, due to a house move and a lot of on-going renovation work, but once I get a bit of free time I'll see how the strings on other instruments are bearing up.
    My Bulgarian tamboura is on the same strings that I put on it when I bought it three years ago, and my Oud has never been changed as I'm still plotting string sizes for it - the sole exception to my rule of restringing new instruments, as I want to get a feel for it first.
    As John says, it all depends on how much you play, and your individual style.
    "Danger! Do Not Touch!" must be one of the scariest things to read in Braille....

  4. #4
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    22,908
    Blog Entries
    52

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    My general rule of thumb is that as soon as I suspect the strings need changing (for what ever reason), I change them. If a string breaks I quickly change it to get back in the action, but that evening I will change all the others as well. Its normally something on the order of three times a year, for the amount of playing I do, and how I play.

    Also the type of strings is important. Some of the flat wound and coated strings last much longer.

    I haven't done any experiments, but I think it matters if you wipe your strings down when you put your mandolin back in its case after playing.

    And, of course, folks that rotate through their stable of mandolins are not going to wear out any particular set as fast.

    Some folks have much more corrosive skin chemistry, and that makes a huge difference as well.

    It is probably nowhere more true that YMMV.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  5. #5
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    22,908
    Blog Entries
    52

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    I had to learn myself that lasting a long time is not the most important thing about a set of strings. The criteria is how they sound.

    I find it is not uncommon that a set of strings will be too bright when brand new, and take a week or so of playing before wearing into the tone I love. Then I can usually expect on a run of something like 10 weeks of great sound, sometimes a lot more, depending on a whole lot of variables, (including my tolerance for strings past their prime).
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Gainesville, FL
    Posts
    2,364

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    I used to use J74's but switched to Elixir nano coated ones and they last me waaaaaaaaaaaay longer than the J74's.

  7. #7
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    22,908
    Blog Entries
    52

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Gies View Post
    I used to use J74's but switched to Elixir nano coated ones and they last me waaaaaaaaaaaay longer than the J74's.
    Same with the Thomastik Infeld. They last much longer than J74s.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  8. #8
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    St. Paul, MN
    Posts
    695

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    Just changed the J72's on my Eastman octave because I installed Rubner tuners. They had been on for just under a month. Probably 60 hours or so of playing time. Still sounded good, but the new set is a lot brighter. Almost too bright. Hopefully they'll mellow out some in the near future. Otherwise, might have to use a slightly heaver pick during practice.

    FWIW, the strings on my A Jr. got were changed after a year. Those were regular D'Addario lights. For that instrument, I want a fairly dull, dark tone.
    2018 Collings MT, 1910 Gibson A, 1929 Gibson A Jr., 1941 Strad-O-Lin, 2018 Eastman MDO-305, 1950's Californian, 2015 Ashbury Style E OM
    http://ericplatt.weebly.com/
    https://www.facebook.com/LauluAika/
    https://www.lauluaika.com/

  9. #9
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    0.8 mpc from NGC224, upstairs
    Posts
    9,755

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    I have developed a regular routine of cleaning (1) the strings after playing and of changing them after 2 months. I like it bright&brassy, and dull tone and slowly rising risk of breakage in mid-play (2) had me gravitate to that schedule.

    1 - without that, I'd have to change after 3 weeks
    2 - I hate changing strings under field conditions, i.e. in a session.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  10. #10
    Registered User Reinhardt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Location
    Dublin Ireland
    Posts
    203

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    I change my bouzouki strings about every 6 weeks. I personally like that nice new bright and lively tone. I just think it makes the instrument more responsive and easier to play. I use Daddarios phosphour bronze which in my experience are just fantastic. I make up my own sets which is a bit more expensive than I'd like but I've discovered a great new site "Strings and Beyond" in the US. They occasionally supply strings post free to Europe. This results in the strings being half the price I normally pay here in Ireland so I buy in bulk (have 3 bouzoukis!!).

    I agree with a previous poster re the individual chemical make up of musicians hands. some react pretty badly with strings!! I had an experience of that a few weeks ago in a session. I brought my Mandolin along which had really bright and fairly new strings on. Gave it to a pal who played it solid for about an hour. The strings were as dead as a Dodo when I got the mando back later that night. Couldnt believe it!!

    I used to use nicle wound strings on my bouzoukis which werent bad. I used to boil up the wound strings for about a minute and they were almost as good as new when I put them back on. Doesnt seem to work as well with bronze strings though!!

    John

  11. #11
    en kunnskapssøker James Miller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Payette, Idaho
    Posts
    301

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    Am going with the title... twice the distance from the middle to one end.
    • Seagull S8 • Weber Y2K6 • David Hudson Bloodwood Didgeridoo (C#) •

  12. #12
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Hampshire, UK
    Posts
    35

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    Quote Originally Posted by James Miller View Post
    Am going with the title... twice the distance from the middle to one end.
    But which end?

    More seriously, how do you go about cleaning strings?


    Given that I'm playing for about an hour a day, and probably haven't developed a particularly delicate technique, it seems I'm at the lower end of reasonable. So anything that prolongs string life is a good thing.

    Thanks for all the replies

  13. #13
    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Capitol of MI
    Posts
    2,684

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    For me it depends on how much I've played. If I play a couple gigs, the strings may only last 3 weeks. If not, then they might last a couple months. I haven't found that cleaning them makes a significant improvement.
    Never say "bouzouki" to a TSA agent...

  14. #14
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    0.8 mpc from NGC224, upstairs
    Posts
    9,755

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shan Andy View Post
    More seriously, how do you go about cleaning strings?


    Given that I'm playing for about an hour a day, and probably haven't developed a particularly delicate technique, it seems I'm at the lower end of reasonable. So anything that prolongs string life is a good thing.

    Thanks for all the replies
    Cleaning agent and tish towel.
    First wet a spot of the towel with agent and distribute on all the strings (important: also between bridge and tailpiece). Let that solve the dirt for a minute. Then wipe it all with a dry patch of the towel, removing dirt and agent.
    I use Dr Duck's Ax Wax, works well and smells pleasant. Ballistol does the same job. I tried Dunlop string cleaner for a while but found it kills the tone faster than not cleaning at all would.

    P.S. it's all demonstrated here.
    Last edited by Bertram Henze; Apr-13-2018 at 8:17am.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  15. #15
    en kunnskapssøker James Miller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Payette, Idaho
    Posts
    301

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    Lil green scratcher pads work for me, with the grains. Microfiber cloth works great for the undersides of things. Do not play with dirty hands! Go wash your paws before playing the mandolin!

    Measuring from the middle does not matter which end.

    Luv my Seagull
    • Seagull S8 • Weber Y2K6 • David Hudson Bloodwood Didgeridoo (C#) •

  16. #16
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Hampshire, UK
    Posts
    35

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    Quote Originally Posted by James Miller View Post
    Do not play with dirty hands! Go wash your paws before playing the mandolin!
    I'll make sure I bear that in mind

  17. #17
    Registered User Roger Moss's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Charlottesville Va
    Posts
    1,049

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    When I read this header, I thought you were trying to pose a conundrum, like "How high is 'up'?" I was excited about reading a long list of Zen koans.
    When the sun beats down and I lie on the bench, I can always hear them talk.
    Me, I'm just a lawnmower - you can tell me by the way I walk.

  18. #18
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Sweetwater, Texas
    Posts
    3,191

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    Watching Bertram's string cleaning video was way more entertaining than reading a long list of Zen koans. High drama and comedy. Serious documentary. Has a bit of everything there.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN
    ------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Collings Mandolins | MandoCymru
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

  19. The following members say thank you to Mark Gunter for this post:


  20. #19
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    High Peak - UK
    Posts
    2,500

    Default Re: How long is a piece of string?

    I've also found that strings tend to last longer in the winter than the summer; possibly due to sweatier hands.

    Although it won't affect the unwound strings, wound strings from Newtone can either have hexagonal or round cores. The hexagonal ones are brighter than to round ones and Newtone tell me that the latter have a slightly warmer, played in, tone.

    As for cleaning strings, I can't ever remember bothering to do so. When they sound off, I simply change them.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •