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Thread: Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

  1. #1

    Default Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

    Howdy, Everybody.

    About a year ago I had posted photos in the Repair section of my beloved J. Bouvier F-5 clone with a nasty neck break. You all were so generous with your suggestions, with over 40 posts and great insights all the way around. Can't thank you enough. I meditated on it for many months, then stumbled across an old friend who does woodworking. He just sent me a photo of the completed repair about an hour ago.

    This instrument is a cherished member of my family. If I wanted to go all out and give her the best strings on the planet, cost being no object, is there something out there that's really the cat's meow? If the regular ol' D'Addarios I've used for years are cool, I'm fine with that too.

    Thanks again for this forum and all the support. It's deeply appreciated. Will post photo in a day or two.

    Mando & Me

  2. #2
    Registered User
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    Default Re: Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

    Well, at the risk of starting another mega strings discussion, if you stuck with the D'Addarios that long you must like them, so in an immediate sense, they are the best possible. Others may be different, not necessarily better. Quality wise, across the big brands, they're all about the same. The many brands are all made by a couple different companies anyway, although obviously the specs vary.

    Even if most respondents on the thread think a particular set of strings, different from your D'Addarios, is "best possible," it's possible you simply won't like their different sound (or you might).

  3. #3
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

    Each instrument responds differently to the strings available...the splurge would be to buy 10 different sets any try them all to see what your mando likes.

    I bounce around between silk n steel, silk n bronze, flat tops, and monels. They each have a special sound.

    I didn't like tomastics for bluegrass, but they have their place in the spectrum.

    I'm shocked at how limited the mando string world is in comparison to bowed strings, both in material innovation and in price.
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
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  5. #4
    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
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    Default Re: Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

    What Montana Matt said...… Look at

    https://www.juststrings.com/mandolin.html

    Different gauges different alloys different makers …. have fun... be sure to try some Curt Mangan ….. I have found them to be to my taste tonally and they last well. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  6. #5
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

    Well, the most expensive strings you can buy are the Thomastik flatwounds at $55 a set (wow, they've gone up since I used them!). Everyone should try these at least once, because it's an interesting option. I used them for a year before deciding they weren't bright enough to cut through sessions with other instruments. Get the "Stark" (Hard) set if you try them, which is roughly equivalent to medium gauge for other mandolin strings.

    I'm using GHS Silk and Bronze now, a little warmer than J74's on the wound strings, not quite as brittle sounding. These have been my go-to strings for years, but I spent a long time trying just about everything to reach that point. There is no shortcut, because we all have different mandolins with different voices, we all have a different touch on the instrument, and we're playing different styles of music.

    So just to repeat what Montana Matt said -- splurge by trying a bunch of strings to try, and change them before they go dead, so you have a recent memory and aren't just comparing dead strings to new ones.

    Finally, after discovering your preferred strings, do your mandolin a favor by changing strings often enough. That's the real "splurge" on tone quality. I change my strings every 3-4 weeks. More often if there's an important gig or workshop. You'll have to find your own schedule that works best, but don't let 'em go too long.

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  8. #6
    Registered User John Van Zandt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

    There's already two posts listing Silk and Bronze. They're added to my list.

    Thanks!
    Kentucky KM-380

  9. #7
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    Default Re: Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

    I have used the GHS silk and bronze in the past, and liked them. I use the GHS pure nickel now and really like the sound they give my mandolin. That will vary with what you want and the sound your mandolin has to begin with. Just another fun journey to get the best sound you can for your ears.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  10. #8
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

    I used Thomastiks for many years. I actually love them, but. . .

    I was thinking of a change up and now know I like the EXP74cm string set. I like that the unwound strings are a half-tic heavier than the standard EXP74s.

    "Best possible" is sort of a reflection of mood, rather than price - to me!

    f-d
    ˇpapá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

  11. #9

    Default Re: Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    Well, the most expensive strings you can buy are the Thomastik flatwounds at $55 a set (wow, they've gone up since I used them!). Everyone should try these at least once, because it's an interesting option. I used them for a year before deciding they weren't bright enough to cut through sessions with other instruments. Get the "Stark" (Hard) set if you try them, which is roughly equivalent to medium gauge for other mandolin strings.

    I'm using GHS Silk and Bronze now, a little warmer than J74's on the wound strings, not quite as brittle sounding. These have been my go-to strings for years, but I spent a long time trying just about everything to reach that point. There is no shortcut, because we all have different mandolins with different voices, we all have a different touch on the instrument, and we're playing different styles of music.

    So just to repeat what Montana Matt said -- splurge by trying a bunch of strings to try, and change them before they go dead, so you have a recent memory and aren't just comparing dead strings to new ones.

    Finally, after discovering your preferred strings, do your mandolin a favor by changing strings often enough. That's the real "splurge" on tone quality. I change my strings every 3-4 weeks. More often if there's an important gig or workshop. You'll have to find your own schedule that works best, but don't let 'em go too long.
    Folded Path:

    Thanks to you and everyone else. Some great ideas. First I have to see if the repair will hold. This was a particularly nasty break, and the consensus was marine epoxy would give us the best possibility of success. I'm not going to hold my buddy responsible if the repair doesn't last.

    I've got a jam Saturday night and don't have enough time to order any strings online, so will go with my standard D'Addarios for now and then look to others if the break holds.

    Thanks, Everyone!

    M&M

  12. #10

    Default Re: Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

    Everyone is going to have their favorites and that can change over time, but my faves since they were introduced are the D'Addario EXP74CM...great gauge, the sound I want to hear, excellent intonation and consistent.
    Paul Viapiano - Los Angeles session guitarist

    Principal guitar/mandolin
    Los Angeles Philharmonic since 1984
    Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group
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    For remote lessons, please visit:
    www.paulviapiano.com

  13. #11
    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

    I've often promoted the opinion that the best string and pick combo vary by individual mandolin and player and is subject to change. They are also the cheapest way to change your mandolin's voice (pick and string combos). Trying $5-10 worth of different picks from the store and a few varieties of strings is a fun thing to do.

    Personally, I like regular ole j74s and the J74FW. I've used TI strings (warmer and darker than J74s) and I also have used Silk and Bronze strings. I like those fat old Dawg picks, too.

    Jamie
    There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second. Logan Pearsall Smith, 1865 - 1946

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  14. #12
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

    I was using J74 on my old wave A. For a short while some strings broke and I had to go with a lighter set of J's for the A and E and it really changed the sound and was better to me but now I am on the TI Stark set and love them but I am not playing in a jam just at home and although I am doing the Peghead nation beginner mandolin mostly bluegrass I prefer Celtic music. The change in strings also really needed a different bridge. But I would try several sets for several months each and then pick the one you liked for a few years. And even thinking of single strings and making your own set. I have often wondered what the TI Guitar strings bought in singles would work like on the mandolin. They do have the Bebop which is not flat but only for the guitar. Experimenting is fun but beware of the tensions involved.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  15. #13
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    Default Re: Splurging on the Best Possible Mandolin Strings

    Best string, now that is a concept. Got to try to wrap my mind around that.

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