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Thread: OM String recommendations

  1. #1
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default OM String recommendations

    I'm really enjoying my new Eastman MDO-305, but I'm interested in perhaps mellowing out the tone a bit. I'm a big fan of Sarah Jarosz's playing style on the OM, which to me is neither mandolin- nor guitar-ish, but similar to both. I read that she uses medium guitar strings because she says she finds OM strings "too tinny." I also know she endorses Elixir Nanowebs, but she doesn't give any details about whether she specifically uses Nanowebs on the OM, nor does she say anything about what gauges she uses.

    I completely understand that no string is going to make my moderately priced A-style sound like her Fletcher Brock GBOM. I just mention her to give an example of the sound I'd like to work toward.

    Any recommendations on strings/gauges that might mellow out the Eastman a bit? I like playing open chords and strums and it's a bit twangier than I really would like. Flatwound vs roundwound, nickel vs phosphor bronze, etc. I'm currently using the D'addario EJ-80's it came with.
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

  2. #2

    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    In the cbom world scale length has a lot to do with string choice. EJ80's were made for 22.75 in scale. You're at 21 (I think) so they may not be optimal.

    At 20' scale, a lot of OM players use light mandola strings but they may cause too much tension at 21.

    Bumping up the gauge a little might give you a richer sound. But do it safely! Consult Eastman for recommendations. Here's the string tension calculator I use:
    http://www.mcdonaldstrings.com/stringxxiii.html
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  3. #3
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    I have cast Allen tailpieces on my mandola, OM and mandocello. These accept ball or loop end strings, so the choices are endless. I currently have flatwound nickel electric guitar strings on my 21" OM and they have a nice mellow tone while still having good volume. I don't remember the brand - I buy my single strings from my local music store a few blocks away.

  4. #4
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    FWIW, I have J72s on my Eastman and it still seems somewhat tinny. Thing is, the Eastman seems to be designed to be heard in a jam or band. As a solo instrument it might not be the best. But it really seems to have a nice punch when played in a group.

    That said, maybe some flatwounds would mellow out the sound to your liking. Unfortunately I'm unable to give any advice on that.

    With the stock Eastman tailpiece, it would be difficult, but not impossible, to use guitar strings on it. You'd need to carefully cut the ball out to turn it into a loop end string.
    1935 Gibson A50, 2018 Collings MT, 1929 Gibson A Jr., 1941 Strad-O-Lin, 2018 Eastman MDO-305, 1950's Californian, 2015 Ashbury Style E OM
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    I make up sets for my Clark OM from Pearse PB singles. 20.5" scale.... .052, .034, .023, .013. The tailpiece takes ball end strings, but one could always remove the balls.

  6. #6

    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by michaelcj View Post
    I make up sets for my Clark OM from Pearse PB singles. 20.5" scale.... .052, .034, .023, .013. The tailpiece takes ball end strings, but one could always remove the balls.
    Well, I also have a Clark OM! And I do the exact same thing. I buy in bulk from Just Strings. If the Eastman is a 21" scale this set may be a tad too much tension, as I think the tension on the Clark is as high as I would want to go.

    Svea

  7. #7
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    Thanks everyone! I'm still "settling in" with the OM, getting used to how it sounds and plays, and what kind of sound I want to get from the instrument. (My wife and I write and play original Appalachian/folk style music, and we do some different things with instrumentation; for example DADGAD tuning on the guitar, etc.) At the moment I think a more mellow sound, a la Sarah Jarosz as mentioned above, is my eventual goal, but for now I'm really having a blast just getting the hang of this underappreciated instrument. I wanted to get the benefit of the knowledgeable folks on here before I make any changes. Further input is welcome. Thanks again!
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

  8. #8

    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    I'm currently playing D'Addario strings on my new Eastman MDO305. I don't find them too tinny, but we all have different ears I suppose.

    Just wanted to give your mention of Sarah Jarosz a big thumbs-up. She just knocks me out. Love her solo work, as well as her stuff with I'm With Her. In fact, I've been listening to the House of Blues performance of the latter all morning. Sarah's songwriting, instrument tone, and voice are all just so haunting and beautiful.

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  10. #9
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    She's the reason I got an OM in the first place. She's like nobody else out there as far as the kinds of sounds she's creating with acoustic/traditional instruments. She can pick a regular mando right up there with Thile or Sierra Hull, but nobody I've heard touches her on the OM, especially the GBOM. She really makes it into something unique; not quite flatpick guitar, not bouzouki, not bluegrass mandolin. I've been working on Build Me Up From Bones. I can't match her picking, but I found a strum pattern that sounds pretty cool. Learned the chords by playing the video and watching her hands.
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

  11. #10

    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by jerrycobbs View Post
    She's the reason I got an OM in the first place. She's like nobody else out there as far as the kinds of sounds she's creating with acoustic/traditional instruments. She can pick a regular mando right up there with Thile or Sierra Hull, but nobody I've heard touches her on the OM, especially the GBOM. She really makes it into something unique; not quite flatpick guitar, not bouzouki, not bluegrass mandolin. I've been working on Build Me Up From Bones. I can't match her picking, but I found a strum pattern that sounds pretty cool. Learned the chords by playing the video and watching her hands.
    Right on Jerry! I love Build Me Up From Bones! One of my favorite Sarah tracks. I've thought about working on that tune myself. She's also the reason that I picked-up the OM as well. I remember when I first caught her on her first ACL performance years ago, the GBOM is what really caught my attention. Being primarily a guitar player, that one really sucked me in.

    Thile is the reason I picked-up the mando years ago.

    My current favorite Sarah song is "Green Lights" off of her Undercurrent album.

  12. #11
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    Yes! I love "Green Lights!" "Over the Edge" is another favorite. My wife and I do a cover of "Come On Up To the House" that is largely inspired by her version.

    I think I've hijacked my own thread into a Sarah Jarosz fan club.
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

  13. #12

    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by jerrycobbs View Post
    Yes! I love "Green Lights!" "Over the Edge" is another favorite. My wife and I do a cover of "Come On Up To the House" that is largely inspired by her version.

    I think I've hijacked my own thread into a Sarah Jarosz fan club.
    NICE! Best hijack evar!

  14. #13
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    OK, back to strings. On one of the OM pages on Facebook a couple of people said they were using EJ76's on a 21" OM. Has anybody here done that, and how were the results? Also what about the EFT76 flat tops? Anybody tried them? I get a lot of string squeak. I know it has to do with my fingering style, but wondering if going with some kind of flat top or flat wound string would help.
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

  15. #14
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by jerrycobbs View Post
    OK, back to strings. On one of the OM pages on Facebook a couple of people said they were using EJ76's on a 21" OM. Has anybody here done that, and how were the results? Also what about the EFT76 flat tops? Anybody tried them? I get a lot of string squeak. I know it has to do with my fingering style, but wondering if going with some kind of flat top or flat wound string would help.
    Only way to know is to try a set. Before you do, consider how you'd like the tone of your instrument to change, because flatwound strings typically sound "darker" with reduced high frequency harmonics. At least that was my experience using Thomastik strings on my mandolin during a brief period of infatuation with them.

    I've never tried it on my 22" scale Weber OM because it already has a fairly dark tone. It needs that little bit of "zing" on top from D'Addario J80's (with a substitute .013 on top). If your OM already has a bright tone, then flatwounds might be something interesting to try.

  16. #15

    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    I put flatwounds on my TC OM. It made it sound a lot like a guitar, but still richer because of the chorus effect. I really liked that sound, so I would suggest at least try flats once.

    I restrung it as a four string and had the exact opposite problem, it needed bigger brighter strings for it to sound good, round PB's were fine.

    edit: I used D'Adarrio flatwound singles, for electric guitars, removed the ball ends with needlenose pliers, very easy to do this, and it opens up a world of string choices.
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  18. #16
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    Thought I'd update this thread--this weekend I took my MDO-305 out for an amplified gig. First time I've played a regular gig with it, other than some unamplified backup. My wife and I play original Appalachian/Celtic folk and normally I would have played DADGAD guitar, but I used the OM for the entire set. I was very pleased with the sound I could get backing up her fiddle. I'm using a JJB Marcato pickup--the transducers are mounted on the outside of the top near the bridge using the putty discs that come with it that are supposed to allow easy removal later. I was very satisfied with the sound--it compares very favorably to the K&K internal pickup that a luthier installed in my guitar.

    All that just to provide some feedback to any Eastman OM players looking to amplify and like me, not sure they want to drill holes or otherwise permanently modify their instrument. I was pleased with the sound and signal level of the JJB pickup and everything mounts externally, including the jack. I'm very close to the sound I want from my OM--the EJ76 strings were an improvement; I'm thinking some flatwounds next time may get me where I want to be.
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    also what size/kind of pick you use, this will make a big difference in tone...use a heavier gauge pick and vary the distance between bridge and end of frets, your sweet spot is tucked away just waiting.

  20. #18
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    I've been experimenting with various picks as well. Kinda settling in on Dunlop .88's, which seems to be a popular choice. It feels good and stays put in my fingers pretty well. I may try a slightly thicker just to see the difference. Also working on finding my sweet spot. It's amazing how much difference those two things make on a mandolin or OM vs. a guitar.
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

  21. #19
    Registered User Isaac Casas's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by jerrycobbs View Post
    Thought I'd update this thread--this weekend I took my MDO-305 out for an amplified gig. First time I've played a regular gig with it, other than some unamplified backup. My wife and I play original Appalachian/Celtic folk and normally I would have played DADGAD guitar, but I used the OM for the entire set. I was very pleased with the sound I could get backing up her fiddle. I'm using a JJB Marcato pickup--the transducers are mounted on the outside of the top near the bridge using the putty discs that come with it that are supposed to allow easy removal later. I was very satisfied with the sound--it compares very favorably to the K&K internal pickup that a luthier installed in my guitar.

    All that just to provide some feedback to any Eastman OM players looking to amplify and like me, not sure they want to drill holes or otherwise permanently modify their instrument. I was pleased with the sound and signal level of the JJB pickup and everything mounts externally, including the jack. I'm very close to the sound I want from my OM--the EJ76 strings were an improvement; I'm thinking some flatwounds next time may get me where I want to be.
    Hi everyone!

    First time ever writing here, although I've been following the site almost daily for about 5 years now from Barcelona, Spain. Awesome community!

    I also bought the Eastman MDO-305 OM about 10 months ago and, even having changed from the D'addario EJ-80 it came with to the EJ-72 (because of cafe members' reccomendations that I read back in the day), I still feel like the sound that I'm getting is not what I'm looking for. Still too "floppy" and "weak". Of course it may just be that, although a great instrument for the price, it's not a 4K OM, but since you're talking about string gauges for the same mando that I have I though I'd ask. Btw, living in Barcelona I have NO POSSIBILITY AT ALL to try a bunch of mandolins in a store. In fact, I've never played another OM...

    So, the question is, Jerry (or anyone else), were the EJ76 a significant improvement from the EJ72? Did you need to make bridge or nut adjustments? Could the increase of string tension be a problem?

    Thanks a lot, everyone!

    Isaac

  22. #20
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    I went from EJ80's to EJ76's. Have never played EJ72's on it. I don't consider myself very attuned to the fine points of the differences, but the 76's seem to have less buzz and a fuller, richer sound, to my ear at least. D'Addario has a string tension calculator on their website on which you can input the scale length of your OM and quickly swap between D'Addario string sets or vary individual strings. Even though several other people had recommended the EJ76's, I ran it through the calculator to make sure nothing was way out of line. They were close enough that I didn't need to make any nut or bridge adjustments. I'm pleased with the sound so far although at some point I think I'd like to try some flat-wounds, as I tend to slide around between chords more than I should.

    FWIW, when I bought mine I played it alongside a $4,000 Weber, and recently was back in the shop and played the Weber again after owning my Eastman a few months. To my ear the Eastman more than holds its own sound wise, and personally I like the finish and neck shape better on mine than on the $4,000 instrument. Things could change tomorrow, but so far mandolin envy has not been a problem.
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

  23. #21
    Registered User Isaac Casas's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    Thanks a lot for the quick answer Jerry! I'll definitely try the EJ76's next time I change strings. I think it'll get closer to the sound I'm looking for. And it's good to know your opinion on the comparison with the Weber, although I think I'm suffering a very clear case of "mandolin envy" every time I look at the classifieds anyway!

  24. #22
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    Yeah, one reason I went with the JJB externally mounted pickup was because I didn't want to drill into my new instrument and I really didn't have the extra funds to pay a luthier to install one. But the other reason was "just in case" I got the bug to try something different I could transfer the pickup to another instrument. But so far I couldn't be happier.
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

  25. #23
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    Default Re: OM String recommendations

    When I first got this Weber Black Ice Octave I'm not sure what strings were on but they had been there a while, so I put a set of GHS PF285s on and it sounded good, but I always thought the strings felt just a little loose, and the intonation seemed a bit off at times. I just put on some Curt Managan's 12-22-32-44 Phosphor Bronze, what a difference! It seemed to me the Curt Managan strings are not as long as the GHS in the first place? I dunno, anyway I do really like these Curt Managan's on my 20" Octave.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

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