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Thread: Easiest Strings to Play?

  1. #1

    Default Easiest Strings to Play?

    Hello, I am a beginner in mandolin with a background in violin. I am in the market for new strings.

    Which mandolin strings are the easiest to play? Easiest on the fingers? And for lack of a better description, most like violin strings? Since I will switch back and forth daily.
    I have lowered my action, which has made my mandolin much easier to play. But I'm looking for that "something extra" to minimize all barriers while I'm beginning.

    If it helps, I have a Kentucky km-172 A-style oval hole mandolin. I am not yet sure what kind of music I will ultimately gravitate to for mandolin. But right now I would say folk, classical, and maybe some Irish.

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    A bit of Physics: Thinner strings reach the desired pitch @ lower tensions..
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    FWIW the most like violin strings are Thomastiks (made by a company famous for their violin strings) but you will pay violin string prices. However, they are flatwound and some players love them. Some classical players lean toward them.
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  5. #4

    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    D’addario makes flatwounds at a much more affordable price than the Thoms. Definitely easier on the fingers.

    Thing is, you have to consider more than the cost of a single set of strings. How much are you going to spend in a year? Once you find a set you like, you’ll end up needing to buy in bulk, both for price and availability, especially when you have more than one mando. Because your local music store may not have flats, and you need matching spares on hand as well as your next set. Juststrings, Elderly, Strings and Beyond are all good, watch for specials and stock up then.

  6. #5
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    Another vote for Thomastiks. I personally find they are easier on the fingers than even the D'Addario flatwounds. But that is just my opinion. Usually, I end up using the D'Addario as they are cheaper.

    If you are willing to try round wound strings, then I would suggest GHS Silk & Steel. They feel nice under the fingers. Then again, maybe I'm just so used to round wound that it doesn't bother me. Again, more expensive than regular strings, but not as bad as good violin strings.
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  7. #6

    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    Thanks for all the responses! Some day I might try Thoms when I am more experienced! I will say, I think my lower tension criteria is more important for ease of play than the "smooth violin feel criteria". It seems the Daddario and GHS flatwounds are a higher guage than some others and thus higher tension? Or are flatwounds lower tension than their roundwound counterparts? If I want to prioritize having a lower pressing power starting off, shouldn't I go with very light guage, round wound strings? What about the GHS ultra light strings?

  8. #7
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    GHS ? (back of the packet) 2 sets, A250 Light the E is a .010" the A240 its an .090" others proportionally thinner too

    Silk & steel [LS250] the E is still an .011" its the D& G that differ from the A260 set..






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  9. #8

    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    FWIW, the quality of the Thomastik's is totally in another class from the average strings most of us play. Like playing jewelry, really. Worth the money, if you can afford it, IMHO. The sound, however, might sound more muted than roundwound strings -- not necessarily a bad thing.

  10. #9

    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    I like Elixir mandolin strings. Not sure what the difference is but the same gauged string feels like it has less tension and easier to play. I used the medium gauge but they make a light set as well. They last quite a while as well. Might be worth a shot.

    https://www.elixirstrings.com/guitar...anoweb-coating

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    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    I use D’addario EJ74, so medium gauge strings. I feel like the lights are easy to push down, but at the same time since they’re so thin, it makes them sharper and harder to do pull offs. Seeing as the GHS and D’addario strings are not that expensive pet set, I’d try a light and medium and see which you like better!

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    You lowered the action at the bridge, but is it high at the nut. You will spend most of your time learning there, and if it is too high above the first fret nearly all the strings you try will feel too hard to play. Heavy strings with a very low action play very nice. Lighter strings need a slightly higher action as they vibrate more. Fret your mandolin on the 3rd fret and look at the space between the first fret and the bottom of the strings. Do this for each string set. If you see space that is at all noticeable have someone lower the strings at the nut, or do it your self. There is a free tutorial here from a member Rob Meldrum, if you send him a PM he will send it to you free. Most all beginner mandolins have this problem.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  14. #12
    Registered User pit lenz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    I don't want to come across harsh or rude but I think you will get used to the different kind of pressure on your fingers after a short while.
    We all did.
    Many good tips above, but there's no shortcut, so don't worry too much about it.

    Wish you a lot of fun on this new (and rewarding) adventure...
    Pit

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    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    Another option for the flat-wound feel is the D'Addario FlatTops (EFT-74). The wound strings are Flat-Topped -- originally wound with phosphor bronze round-wound and then ground flat. They have more of the tone and weight of the old round wound 74's with the flat-wound feel.

    These sets come with a wound 2nd course, which sound great but may not last long depending on how heavily played they are. Because I play a lot I typically replace the 2nd course in the new sets with 2 plain (not-wound) custom ordered D'Addario loop-end strings (.015), in this configuration the set still sounds great and feels well-balanced and it tends to last a lot longer.
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  16. #14

    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    Phileejo (OP):

    Lots of good advice above. I'm new too and have no reason to argue with any of it. However, I thought the advice of pops1 (post 11) was particularly good. Just because you lowered your action at the bridge doesn't mean your instrument is "set up" properly. You say you have a Kentucky 172 (is that 272? That's the oval hole I can find), but you don't say where you got it. If it's from eBay or craigslist or Amazon or a dozen other places, it probably has not been set up properly.

    I had a lot of the problems you appear to be having. I started with a cheap (do I really want a mando?) Amazon special. And of course it had a lot of setup problems. I addressed what I could, but also was sold on the instrument enough to order a nice Eastman through The Mandolin Store. When it arrived, properly set up, I knew that the same J74 strings I questioned on my Amazon special were just wonderful and playable on the Eastman.

    So my advice is to make sure your Kentucky is set up right. Then see whether you really need new strings. I didn't.

    Jim

  17. #15

    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    Thank you all for the great advice! I got th KM 172 mandolin (now discontinued) about 8 years ago from Elderly as package that included a professional set up. As far as I can tell, I think it was set up well, except that the bridge should have been shaved down more. I know this because I used calipers to measure the string height at 12th fret and it was 2.20 mm on E side and 2.34mm on G side. The height adjusters were as low as they could go. To fix this I took the height adjusters out (I marked where the bridge was before this operation), which seemed to lower the strings to the optimal height. Got lucky there. I performed the test pops1 suggested and it looks like the nut is alright.

    I have been using old Daddario light guage EJ62 (10-34) which have been on there for years. I will say that since my original post, I have gotten much more used to these strings tension! Though I would appreciate a smoother feel. I think I may get the elixir strings as they are almost the exact same guage as what I'm playing now, they should be smoother, and also should last longer. I may also get Daddario flatwounds to compare. As well as ultra light GHS strings to feel what lower tension roundwound feels and sounds like (also they are cheap).

  18. #16
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    Mandolins change over years and the parts settle. 8 years ago the setup might have been fine. Very common.
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  19. #17
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    Default Re: Easiest Strings to Play?

    Old strings feel like they have more tension than new ones of the same gauge.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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