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Thread: Lighter strings for beginners?

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    Default Lighter strings for beginners?

    Is there a consensus that lighter strings are better for beginners? I have been using medium gauge D'addario J74's mainly because they get good reviews, but as a semi beginner would I find lighter gauge strings a bit easier to play?

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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    Are you talking about mandocello, or mandolin. If MC, yes I would say lighter. I had custom made strings from Newtone (UK) with the low C as .070, not .074. Kept a healthy sound, much easier to play. I even tried .066 and they were too light-buzzed on lower frets.
    Where in NJ? I grew up in Burlington Co, and ended my career in Clifton and Maplewood.

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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    Jim, this is for mandolin, mainly bluegrass. I am in Burlington Co, i have lived here 36 years but was born eastern PA

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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    the bottom line is, do whatever works best for you and no one else. there's no fun in struggling to play an instrument that's ill fitted for anyone, particularly a newbie. it can stifle your playing and creativity, too. playability is always THE most important consideration, because without that cornerstone it will be a struggle to play and improve. learning to play a fretted instrument should be made as easy and as fun as possible. this means the right strings for the player, and a good set up action and intonation for the instrument. i'm far from newbie to mandos and i use ej73's and would never bother with anything heavier. ej73's just work best with my style of playing and my mandos, and so they work best for me. case closed.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveGinNJ View Post
    ...as a semi beginner would I find lighter gauge strings a bit easier to play?
    You could use less force in fretting the strings. You might have to adjust bridge and/or nut to avoid getting a "rattle," since lighter-gauge strings exert less tension on the neck, so it may flex "backwards" a bit and lower the action to where fretted strings hit the next higher frets when the vibrate through their arcs.

    Probably you'd experience some loss of volume. Wouldn't hurt to buy a set of lighter strings, and try them out -- see if you like them better than the mediums. Also, quite possibly, you'd find that there's not a lot of difference in either sound or ease of play.

    Cost of one set of strings is low enough to make the experiment feasible.
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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    Actually you can get a lower action with heavier strings. While lighter strings will fret easier, they need to he higher off the frets. A good setup can be had and heavier strings can play easy with very low action.
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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Actually you can get a lower action with heavier strings. While lighter strings will fret easier, they need to he higher off the frets. A good setup can be had and heavier strings can play easy with very low action.
    Exactly what I was about to say.

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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    Yup ... setup is the thing. Secondly make sure that you are not over gripping , using more force / grip than is actually necessary to note clearly.
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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    I would think that for a beginner it is more important to have good action at the nut.
    Badly cut nuts, where the strings are high off the fret coming out of the nut, make mandolins very hard to play regardless of who you are.
    Get that sorted, along with a nice low action from the bridge height and you should be fine with mediums.
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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    Every time this comes up I remember how my Michael Kelly played out of the box. It is a sad state of affairs when beginners are subjected to such poor playability. So like those above, action is most probably your problem. Get Rob Meldrum's free eBook, and get the few tools needed to make an evaluation, even if you don't tackle the job. When you go into a good shop, should you be so lucky as to have one, and pickup something like a Collings, it's fine playability is more related to the care it got from the factory and retailer than to any materials used.

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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    Thanks for all the replies. After reading the replies my conclusion is that no, their isn't a consensus that lighter strings are better for a beginner. Note that both my mandos have a good setup and I am not try to fix a problem, but rather just looking to help the learning curve and maybe improve my playing speed

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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    Will also toss in that it depends on the mandolin. A couple of mine prefer light strings. And a couple need to have mediums on it to sound best.

    Anyway, it's cheap enough to just try a set or two of light strings. If it helps you get to where you want to go on the mandolin, then great. If it doesn't work out, you're not out much money. Pretty sure I played with lights when first starting out. Just to make it easier on my fingers. And that is after playing guitar for 20 years.
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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveGinNJ View Post
    Thanks for all the replies. After reading the replies my conclusion is that no, their isn't a consensus that lighter strings are better for a beginner. Note that both my mandos have a good setup and I am not try to fix a problem, but rather just looking to help the learning curve and maybe improve my playing speed
    I also doubt whether lighter strings will improve your playing speed either. Lighter strings are slacker and tend to move further than heavier ones which, in my experience, can slow you down as the pick tends to glide over heavier strings more easily.

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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    Ask yourself this question: Are your And or E strings much harder to fret at the first fret than at the second fret? If so, then your nut is almost certainly too high, which is a common problem with most budget mandolins that have not had a professional setup. As others had already said, changing to lighter gauge strings will result in lower string tension but will not necessarily make playing easier. Not so much as getting everything set up properly. (Besides, heavier string gauges can support a lower action, so there's a bit of a trade-off involved!) Regardless of the string gauges you prefer, fractions of a millimeter at the nut, and elsewhere, can make a huge difference in playability.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    You might try a set of Elixir nanoweb strings. They do make a sets of medium and lights. Although they are the same guage they don't seem to require as much pressure and just seem easier to play. They are coated and seem to last a long time as well.

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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Ask yourself this question: Are your And or E strings much harder to fret at the first fret than at the second fret? If so, then your nut is almost certainly too high, which is a common problem with most budget mandolins that have not had a professional setup. As others had already said, changing to lighter gauge strings will result in lower string tension but will not necessarily make playing easier. Not so much as getting everything set up properly. (Besides, heavier string gauges can support a lower action, so there's a bit of a trade-off involved!) Regardless of the string gauges you prefer, fractions of a millimeter at the nut, and elsewhere, can make a huge difference in playability.
    I don’t think this is confined to budget instruments. Two of the “new” instruments I’ve bought in the last ten years - by Collings and National - have needed exactly this treatment.

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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    sblock, I asked the question because I came across some advice from an online music dealer that recommended lighter strings for beginners. The two mandos I have (a J Bovier and a Kentucky 250) have been set up and the string heights are in accordance with Bob Meldrums book at the 1st and 12 frets

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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    I'll echo what everyone else has said - a good setup will minimize perceived effort with both hands (and helping to relax whole body while playing). Another option is GHS makes slightly lower tension medium strings (11-16-26-40) in their Silk & Bronze or Steel offerings. Those are fun to play with. I've really only had a couple mandolins over the years, even pricey ones, that didn't need further setup/tweaking after receiving them.
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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    it is total nonsense to think that heavier gauge strings will always allow a lower playing action, no matter who is the player, or their string attack, or the kind of music they produce. there are more than a few factors to consider. it must all start with a good setup for action and intonation, using whatever string gauge/tension seems applicable for the instrument's specific user. this may include simple checking and tweaking the nut relief and string relief, the neck truss rod (if present), and the bridge saddle height. it may also include more invasive work such as a full fret level and crown. while it is true that heavier wire will require more tension to come up to pitch,it will also provide somewhat less excursion with the same attack that would be given to lighter string wire. don't exclude the fact that there are multiple good reasons to start a newbie out with lighter gauge fretted instrument strings. for the very most part, the newbie WILL want and do better with easier to finger strings - AFTER a good setup.
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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    I think you should just go ahead and experiment and see if it works for you.

    My background is mostly in guitar and I always thought I needed to use mediums on my D-28 to get good tone. A few years back I was doing a string change and realized half way through I was using lights and rather than waste a set of strings I decided to just give them a try. I found the lights a little easier to play and didnít notice a major difference in volume or tone. And no one I play with noticed a difference either, it still sounded like my D-28. Since then, Iíve stuck with lights.

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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    I have my mandolins set up well, they play easy. I don't really feel the difference between my ff hole mandolin with 11-41 strings and my Martin with 10-36 strings. Both fret easily, the Martin has a little higher action as it is needed with the lighter strings moving more, but really doesn't feel easier than my other mandolins with heavier strings. I also have one with 11-39, not much lighter, but I also don't notice that it plays easier than the 11-41 mandolin. I think getting use to how hard or little to press to get a good note has more to do with it. Most beginners press too hard on any gauge string. Nut setup is critical and mine are lower than most specs I read. Doesn't move much there, doesn't need to be much above the first fret. In fact it can be less than when fretting at the first fret and looking at the space at the second fret. Setup, Setup, Setup is so critical to easy action.
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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    I consider myself a beginner and I have 1 mando set up with lights and the other 2 with mediums. It seems I can get a better tremolo with the lights . That being said.. I am still learning
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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    My 10-38 set , mandolin , is also lower action , which is definitely easier on the finger tips,..

    But bluegrass seems to need projection , which means heavier strings
    you can pick harder .. to sound louder or up to the same level as the banjo..



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    Default Re: Lighter strings for beginners?

    My opinion only:

    Yes, try light gauge strings, and set your action "down" a bit, as you begin to learn. Your fingers need to develop strength and a fretting hand that hurts due to medium strings and higher action isn't going to be conducive to "motivation to play".

    As you progress, try mediums and see if you can HANDle them.

    But I have NO qualms about light gauge strings, and prefer them myself.

    Again, my opinion only.

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