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Thread: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

  1. #1
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    Default Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    Last week, I changed strings on one of my Breedloves. It's the American-made Legacy FF, about 8-9 years old. I put on a set of flat wound strings to try them out. Never again.

    I couldn't get a tolerable note our of the E, A, or D strings. The E is unwound, the A & D are wound. There was a tremendous amount of string buzz and no tonal quality at all. I checked the fingerboard and everything appeared straight and normal. All of the frets appeared normal. (I had a fret job about a year ago.) The body still had the proper curvature so that left the bridge. I jacked it up a little with no relief. I jacked it up some more. Nothing.

    I decided it might be the strings. I put a "normal" set on tonight and everything's fine. I did lower the bridge back to it's usual position.

    I've never heard of this kind of problem. Any ideas?
    David Hopkins

    Breedlove Legacy FF; Breedlove Quartz FF
    Gibson F-4, (1916); Blevins Octave Mandolin, 2018
    McCormick Oval Sound Hole "Reinhardt"
    McCormick Solid Body F-Style Electric;
    Recording King Resophonic Mandolin; Slingerland Songbird Guitar (c. 1939)

    The older I get, the less tolerant I am of political correctness, incompetence and stupidity.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    Flatwounds are usually a love it or hate it type of thing. FWIW, most all of the Beatles stuff was recorded with flatwounds....of course, electric guitar and acoustic mandolin are two different things.

    If you are used to roundwound strings, flatwounds will sound duller, quieter, and ring less. However, I find they tend to sound more in tune, and feel nicer on your fingers, IMHO.

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    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    Jeff, this wasn't just different tone, it was no tone. The accompanying vibration against the frets was more than I could take. I did notice that if I moved my fingers around between the frets I could improve it somewhat. Perhaps it was a bad set of strings because I sort of remember trying flat wounds 6 or 7 years ago and while I didn't get any irritating noises, I just didn't like the sound.
    David Hopkins

    Breedlove Legacy FF; Breedlove Quartz FF
    Gibson F-4, (1916); Blevins Octave Mandolin, 2018
    McCormick Oval Sound Hole "Reinhardt"
    McCormick Solid Body F-Style Electric;
    Recording King Resophonic Mandolin; Slingerland Songbird Guitar (c. 1939)

    The older I get, the less tolerant I am of political correctness, incompetence and stupidity.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    My bet would be that the strings are not seated correctly in the bridge and/or nut. If it buzzes even when the string is fretted, then it is probably the seating of the strings in the bridge.

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    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    My bet would be that the strings are not seated correctly in the bridge and/or nut. If it buzzes even when the string is fretted, then it is probably the seating of the strings in the bridge.
    Nope, that was OK, too.
    David Hopkins

    Breedlove Legacy FF; Breedlove Quartz FF
    Gibson F-4, (1916); Blevins Octave Mandolin, 2018
    McCormick Oval Sound Hole "Reinhardt"
    McCormick Solid Body F-Style Electric;
    Recording King Resophonic Mandolin; Slingerland Songbird Guitar (c. 1939)

    The older I get, the less tolerant I am of political correctness, incompetence and stupidity.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    Then the last things to check are where the strings are fixed at either end, and that the strings are tuned to the correct pitch.

    If those things are fine, then search carefully inside your mandolin for half-eaten peanuts.

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  8. #7
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    If your flatwound strings are buzzing at proper pitch, as you report, then the chances are good that they are hitting against the frets as they vibrate. This could occur if they are under lower tension than your previous set, and the action therefore needs to be raised. This could also occur if they have slightly different diameters and are seating themselves just a tiny bit lower in the slots of your nut, or even the bridge. Small differences in position can lead to big differences in sound on a mandolin, as we all know.

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  10. #8

    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    I love flatwounds, I had Max setup my Girouard A build for Thomastik heavy flatwounds.

    The information you gave doesn't tell the entire store, what type of flatwounds, what gauges? I know that Thomastik medium string gauges are more like a light set of phosphor/bronze. And what are your "normal" stings? As stated above, it really sounds like the string guages were too small for your nut and saddle slots.
    Girouard Custom Studio A Oval
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    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    D'Addario, EFW74, .11, .15, .20, .36

    Normally, .11, .16, .26, .40

    The G strings were not a problem; only the other three sets

    This may be moot since I 86'd the strings with no intention of trying the "experiment" again anytime soon.
    David Hopkins

    Breedlove Legacy FF; Breedlove Quartz FF
    Gibson F-4, (1916); Blevins Octave Mandolin, 2018
    McCormick Oval Sound Hole "Reinhardt"
    McCormick Solid Body F-Style Electric;
    Recording King Resophonic Mandolin; Slingerland Songbird Guitar (c. 1939)

    The older I get, the less tolerant I am of political correctness, incompetence and stupidity.

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    Registered User mandolinstew's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    I use flatwounds on a few mandolins but didn't like them on my Breedlove.Very dull sounding.

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    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by DHopkins View Post
    D'Addario, EFW74, .11, .15, .20, .36

    Normally, .11, .16, .26, .40

    The G strings were not a problem; only the other three sets

    This may be moot since I 86'd the strings with no intention of trying the "experiment" again anytime soon.
    David, not to beat a dead horse, but your flatwound gauges and tensions are significantly lower than the other strings except for your 4th course (G). Those lighter mid-range and treble strings change both the touch and the tone. Your sort of comparing apples and oranges.

    Also, not sure if your flatwounds are nickle or phosphor bronze, potentially another big difference in both touch and tone.

    Your Breedloves may actually have been built with a certain tension and gauge in mind.

    (Disclosure: I use and prefer DA flattops EFT74 4 and 3 phosphor bronze courses with good results, with DA custom gauge SS plain 2 and 1 courses.)
    Last edited by dhergert; Feb-17-2020 at 1:59pm.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    This probably isn't helpful, but maybe interesting for figuring out 'why?'.

    Several years back I used Thomastiks flatwounds and liked them. Out of curiosity, I tried some Pyramid brand flatwoulds of the same gauge. The P-mids were noticeably more flexible even while just holding them out of the pack (sort of like a limp noodle). When installed, there was nothing but buzzing on the wound strings for sure. I can't remember whether the plain strings were a problem.

    My point: String flexibility (probably cause by core size) seemed to let the strings have a wider range of travel while vibrating. I didn't try it at the time, but I now wonder if increasing the relief of the neck would have made a difference.
    Phil

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    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    Don, I believe Breedlove recommended D'As on both of my Breedloves when I first bought them. Mine were made in Bend, OR, and neither are made any longer (or even in this country). While both of my Breedloves are excellent quality, Breedlove (Two Old Hippies) concentrates more on guitars and always has. These mandolins are a distant memory for them so it's tough getting any information.

    I've abandoned my string experimentation. Instead I'm going back to try to figure out why the jellied side of the toast always hits the floor and why giving a horse water is called water the horse but giving a cat milk isn't called milking the cat.
    David Hopkins

    Breedlove Legacy FF; Breedlove Quartz FF
    Gibson F-4, (1916); Blevins Octave Mandolin, 2018
    McCormick Oval Sound Hole "Reinhardt"
    McCormick Solid Body F-Style Electric;
    Recording King Resophonic Mandolin; Slingerland Songbird Guitar (c. 1939)

    The older I get, the less tolerant I am of political correctness, incompetence and stupidity.

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    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    D'Add Flat top, are half round bronze , round wound and then ground flat,... I wouldn't use their A but a plain one instead..
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    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by DHopkins View Post
    ... try to figure out why the jellied side of the toast always hits the floor and why giving a horse water is called water the horse but giving a cat milk isn't called milking the cat. ...
    Sounds like the essential mysteries of life.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

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    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    ... I wouldn't use their A but a plain one instead..
    Yup, the wound A course lasted about a week for me, then the winding broke through at the flatpick area.

    I really prefer plain stainless steel for courses 2 and 1.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

  22. #17

    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by DHopkins View Post
    Last week, I changed strings on one of my Breedloves. It's the American-made Legacy FF, about 8-9 years old. I put on a set of flat wound strings to try them out. Never again.

    I couldn't get a tolerable note our of the E, A, or D strings. The E is unwound, the A & D are wound. There was a tremendous amount of string buzz and no tonal quality at all. I checked the fingerboard and everything appeared straight and normal. All of the frets appeared normal. (I had a fret job about a year ago.) The body still had the proper curvature so that left the bridge. I jacked it up a little with no relief. I jacked it up some more. Nothing.

    I've never heard of this kind of problem. Any ideas?
    This is weird inasmuch as you and Dhergert are both describing “EFW74” specs differently than the ones I get—and I just got a new shipment. Been using them for several years on the Eastie 505. As always, the A is a plain steel .15, not wound. And the D string is .26, not .20. I just put them on, I’m looking at the package. From the negative qualities you describe, I’m wondering if yours were mispackaged, or you just didn’t get the EFW74s you ordered.

    I like the flatwounds, obviously. I don’t dispute that the lower registers sound duller than fresh roundwounds, and a bit less loud, but they don’t crackle or squeak either, are super-comfortable on the fingers, and maintain the same sound and feel characteristics for way longer than the roundwounds. Less breakage too.

  23. #18
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    Default Re: Flat Wound Strings = Noisy Mandolin

    Bill, there was an error on my part. They are .26, not .20.

    From what I gather, the physical properties of the flat wound strings are different to the extent that it caused the noise problems. I'm not willing to "re-setup" my mandolin for them. I wasn't really unhappy with the previous strings. Like I said, it was an experiment.
    David Hopkins

    Breedlove Legacy FF; Breedlove Quartz FF
    Gibson F-4, (1916); Blevins Octave Mandolin, 2018
    McCormick Oval Sound Hole "Reinhardt"
    McCormick Solid Body F-Style Electric;
    Recording King Resophonic Mandolin; Slingerland Songbird Guitar (c. 1939)

    The older I get, the less tolerant I am of political correctness, incompetence and stupidity.

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