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Thread: Mandolin Pandemic Isolation Mission

  1. #1

    Default Mandolin Pandemic Isolation Mission

    I love playing mandolin. I will give you a bit of background before jumping into my mandolin pandemic isolation mission. Here are a few thoughts/issues I've had with the mandolin and playing in the last few years. I acquired a brand new 2008 Collings MT a while back now. It has been played a lot. From the get go, I had been using PB J74/EJ74 11-40. At one time during these marathon practice sessions, I had issues with tendonitis, now coping to live with them. At the time, I blamed my problems on the mandolin, not on guitar, bass, lap steel or piano. After a few years of not playing mandolin and mustering the courage to start playing again, all the while playing the other instruments, I decided to start slowly with EJ73 10-38. It went well with these strings. I was being careful as well. One day, I had a few old sets of J74 lying around, and decided to give them a try. Right off, I found that the sound was fuller and deeper with the bigger strings. The tension was noticeable. I always found these strings J74 felt tight on my mandolin. I played my friends mandolins sometimes, some of them showed a degree of playability that was ridiculously easy. I was always wanting that playability. I did feel that my strength was getting a bit better with these strings, J74. After a while, I decided to go back to the J73 for the "playabilities" sake. I noticed right away that they were thin, I lost a lot of volume. The chop was just not there, neither the vibratos. Now I had a mission, find a string that gives me the volume and tone that I want, along with the playability that I need. So, this is one of my objectives during this pandemic, to try different types of strings and gauges to learn first hand of all there different particularities along with there strength and weaknesses. From the beginning of this mission, I decided to stick with mediums (11-40), or relatively close to mediums, because that is were I felt I wanted to be in terms of tone/volume and try to find the playability with this gauge.

    First was the D'Addario XT1140. They felt tight and extremely bright. The brightness settled down after a while. The clarity of the strings in the high register was amazing, by the way. But, they always felt tight, got better after some play. My thoughts were enough of Phosphor Bronze, let's try something different. So, I decided on monel.

    Second was D'Addario Monel 11-40 EJM74. I must say that coming from PB to monel, there is an adjustment period. The loss of volume is there but not flagrant. The clarity is still there. The chop is amazing, way better. I realized that dynamics are more controllable. I can play softer way easier with these strings than with PB. I can still play way loud. I feel more wood tones. I am enjoying this. Playability is better as well. They fell a bit more slingy but not drastic. I like these quite a bit. They have been on for three weeks, playing every day, at least 2 to 3 hours. They are holding up quite well. I do feel they get out of tune just a little more than PB, but really not that much, almost not worth mentioning. This small sample size has already shown me that I will move away from PB for a while. I might try other PB, but would like to try other alloys.

    Next up will be Curt Mangan Monels, D'Addario NB and the sleuth of GHS strings.

    This is fun. I do understand that there will never be a perfect, but I do feel that a new love affair is starting with my mandolin. There were moments there I thought I would never play again. No longer will it be the brunt of my musical problems. There is hope....

    P.S. Also, during this pandemic, I did find a great pick for the mandolin, a Bluechip TP60. And I also acquired a Tone-gard, I feel they really do work.
    Last edited by Bilolog; Jun-10-2020 at 12:47pm.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Mandolin Pandemic Isolation Mission

    Welcome! And thanks for the info.
    I'd get the setup checked out if you're having playability issues. Could need adjusting to help you get the most out of the instrument and make it more comfortable to play.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Mandolin Pandemic Isolation Mission

    Interesting research and thanks! Your thread title might also be a good song title.........I was thinking maybe a rambling, nasal-y, "Well honey, I got dem ol' talking mandolin pandemic isolation mission, triflin', no-good for nothing, worthless blues, again!" In the manner of Woody Guthrie or early Bob Dylan.....

  5. #4
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Pandemic Isolation Mission

    try the Thomastik 154ST. They are $50 bucks on sale. The G string is like 33, but they are flat-wound, so they are actually more robust. They have a wound A string, and they really affects the feel!

    They'll take out a bit of punch, but are just so fun to play on!

    I've used Thomastik for years. That said, it's fun to go on flyers! I'm using the EXP 74CM right now, but they are heavier than the standard EXP 74 - at least on the unwound strings.

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

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

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Mandolin Pandemic Isolation Mission

    You can have a lower action with heavier strings. You may try to lower your bridge. My mandolin plays great with 11-41 GHS pure nickel. I am close to 3/64" on the G string at the 12th fret and less on the E string. For me 2/32" on the G is too high and I can feel it when I play. I do have to be more persistent and watch the string height as weather changes with the seasons. I carry a gauge to measure with me and have no problem changing when I feel it high or winter dryness lowers it to buzzing slightly. It has made all the difference for me to keep the sound and playabality easy.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Mandolin Pandemic Isolation Mission

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    You can have a lower action with heavier strings. You may try to lower your bridge. My mandolin plays great with 11-41 GHS pure nickel. I am close to 3/64" on the G string at the 12th fret and less on the E string. For me 2/32" on the G is too high and I can feel it when I play. I do have to be more persistent and watch the string height as weather changes with the seasons. I carry a gauge to measure with me and have no problem changing when I feel it high or winter dryness lowers it to buzzing slightly. It has made all the difference for me to keep the sound and playabality easy.

    indeed ....all of this from pops1 .
    I use the j74s replacing the 15's with 16's . perfecto and a nice low action that maintains all the meat .
    i have used the GHS set above also . yes ...just lower the action slightly and you CAN have it all !

  8. #7

    Default Re: Mandolin Pandemic Isolation Mission

    I just took off the D'addario Monel strings. I must say they held up quite nicely. They probably could have stayed a little longer, but I think it was time to try another set of Monel strings, the Curt Mangan.
    Before I get into the Mangans, I wanted to thank all the fine posts on this thread. I made a few adjustments to the neck, the relief and the string height, about a week ago, with the D'addarios on. I kept them on for another week afterwards. It made quite a difference. I must say it didn't need much tweaking to make a fairly significant change in playability.
    Here are my first fresh observations of the Curt Mangans 11-40. Not that it is important but the Mangans are quite long right out of the package. I'm used to D'addarios, they never come this long. Once installed, I quickly noticed that they were brighter then the D'addarios right off the bat. I'm trying to remember the sound of the D'addarios newly installed but I remember mostly the feeling. In comparison these Curt Mangans feel a little louder and brighter. I can feel the bass notes resonate and makes my mandolin sound pure in the lower register. They are a very fine string. Surprisingly, I don't know exactly why but they feel looser, not as tight as the D'addarios. They seem easier to play. The chop is great. Single notes make my mandolin ring like a bell. I'm curious if they will hold up. I do feel I'll need a little tweaking of the neck again. One thought I had, "Are they the same dimensions as the D'addarios?" Some folks say first impressions are important, if they are, I would say Curt Mangans, for now, get the nod. I'll probably have to try the D'addarios Monel strings again just to make sure. Don't get me wrong D'addario Monel strings are a fine string and I wouldn't mind trying them again, I most likely will.
    I'll repost when I take the Mangans Monel strings off. Next up will most likely be the D'addario NB 11-40. I want to try the NB, but I believe the monel strings made quite an impression on me. An added bonus of the monel strings, I never have dirty hands or the smell of steel. Not that I was looking for that, but it's quite refreshing in this age of overwhelming hand washing.
    Anyway, the Mandolin Pandemic Isolation Mission continues......Stay safe and Never Surrender friendly pickers.

  9. #8
    Registered User Chris Bowsman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Pandemic Isolation Mission

    I also recently got back into playing mandolin. Also just tried the D’Addario Monel strings. I used to use 11.5-41 strings, as my old Eastman needed them to sound good. I went with the Sam Bush set on one mandolin, and NB 11-40 on the other to ease back into it, with much lower action than I used before. The new to me mandolins are a 25 year old Sparks and a 4 year old Gibson F-5.

    For awhile, I enjoyed the effortless playability, but I quickly went to NB 11.5-41 with higher action on the Gibson. It’s still lower than I used to use, but the volume and tone is much better than with the 11-40 strings. Last night, I swapped out the 11 and 14 on the Sparks for 11.5 and 16, and immediately loved the sound and feel. I think it’s getting NB 11.5-41 on the next string change. I like the Monel, but the Nickel Bronze just has something.

    I’ve also found that PB strings (plain or coated) make my hands peel and crack. The NB and Monel do not.
    2016 Gibson Doyle Lawson F-5
    GHS PF270 11-40
    Dunlop 500 .96mm

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