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Thread: Problem E strings

  1. #1

    Default Problem E strings

    I am wondering if there is anything I can do to my 2nd A style build that will improve weak sounding E strings. I have great sustain, nice deep base and good tone on the other 3 courses. But the E strings just seem anemic. Is there anything that I can do? I started with GHS pure nickel strings, but they sounded dead. I changed out to GHS A270's phosphor bronze and it woke up. Sounds really good except for the E's.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Problem E strings

    How about some details on --
    Top style, wood type and source, and graduations
    Top Recurve details
    Fingerboard support overlay of top
    Kerfing type and cleanness of kerf to top join
    Tonebar placement and shaping
    Nut type
    Bridge type, time you spent fitting the bridge to the top
    Truss rod type
    Fingerboard material
    Finish type and layers

    All of these items will impact treble response.

    Steve

  3. #3
    Mandolin & Mandola maker
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    Default Re: Problem E strings

    First thing I would do is to check the fit of the bridge to the top. It must be as close to perfect as you can get it. If that does not change any thing you can make changes to the treble by using a different wood for the saddle, or make a Red Henry style of bridge. It is difficult to fix these sorts of problems once the mandolin is finished. I have tried all sorts of woods and most don't work (don't sound good enough), but Brazilian Rosewood, Rock Maple and Tasmanian Blackwood do. Rock Maple will certainly give you a brighter sound, as does Tasmanian Blackwood, but they may go too far in that direction, especially the Maple. You can't really confine the changes just to the E string, it will affect all the strings to to a bigger or lessor degree. Brazilian Rosewood gives a smaller improvement in the treble and I would start with that if you can get a small piece. It has more of a subtle increase in treble sparkle. I have some wood that was sold to me as Brazilian Rosewood that I have used occasionally, and it works brilliantly, usually making the improvement I need. However, I am suspicious it is not Brazilian Rosewood because although it smells like Brazilian, it does not have the so characteristic sickly sweet small of Brazilian Rosewood. It is some sort of rosewood (not Indian), but what it is I don't really know, and I only have one piece, but it is more than enough to last me out. Might be a case of suck it and see with whatever woods you can get your hands on. And read up on what Red Henry has done on bridges. I was involved in that right at the beginning.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
    http://www.petercoombe.com

  4. The following members say thank you to peter.coombe for this post:

    Rdeane 

  5. #4

    Default Re: Problem E strings

    Top style, wood type and source, and graduations
    A style, AAA Red Spruce from Smith Creek mandolins , graduated as close as I could to the Loar F5 graduations
    Top Recurve details
    A style, no recurve
    Fingerboard support overlay of top
    Fingerboard support made from hard maple
    Nut type
    Bone
    Bridge type, time you spent fitting the bridge to the top
    Cumberland Acoustic standard ebony bridge. Fitted as well as I could, and a local respected luthier did final fitting along with set up
    Truss rod type
    Stew Mac single action
    Fingerboard material
    Ebony (radiused)
    Finish type and layers
    2 thin coats of shellac (1st coat 2 lb cut, 2nd 1 lb cut)
    Followed with thin 10 coats of Tru Oil

    The new string set really helped a lot. Perhaps I'm just expecting too much from a just born mandolin, my second build. I'm sure I made lots of mistakes that I don't even know about. If it never gets dramatically better, I'm still pretty happy with it overall.

  6. #5

    Default Re: Problem E strings

    Quote Originally Posted by peter.coombe View Post
    First thing I would do is to check the fit of the bridge to the top. It must be as close to perfect as you can get it. If that does not change any thing you can make changes to the treble by using a different wood for the saddle, or make a Red Henry style of bridge. It is difficult to fix these sorts of problems once the mandolin is finished. I have tried all sorts of woods and most don't work (don't sound good enough), but Brazilian Rosewood, Rock Maple and Tasmanian Blackwood do. Rock Maple will certainly give you a brighter sound, as does Tasmanian Blackwood, but they may go too far in that direction, especially the Maple. You can't really confine the changes just to the E string, it will affect all the strings to to a bigger or lessor degree. Brazilian Rosewood gives a smaller improvement in the treble and I would start with that if you can get a small piece. It has more of a subtle increase in treble sparkle. I have some wood that was sold to me as Brazilian Rosewood that I have used occasionally, and it works brilliantly, usually making the improvement I need. However, I am suspicious it is not Brazilian Rosewood because although it smells like Brazilian, it does not have the so characteristic sickly sweet small of Brazilian Rosewood. It is some sort of rosewood (not Indian), but what it is I don't really know, and I only have one piece, but it is more than enough to last me out. Might be a case of suck it and see with whatever woods you can get your hands on. And read up on what Red Henry has done on bridges. I was involved in that right at the beginning.
    I'll check out the Red Henry bridges. Thanks.

  7. #6
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Problem E strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Rdeane View Post
    I am wondering if there is anything I can do to my 2nd A style build that will improve weak sounding E strings.....I started with GHS pure nickel strings, but they sounded dead. I changed out to GHS A270's phosphor bronze and it woke up. Sounds really good except for the E's.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.
    As you may know, the plain steel strings (A's and E's) are pretty much all the same metallurgically regardless of the brand or type of string. About all you can do is go to a heavier gage after the build.

  8. #7

    Default Re: Problem E strings

    I would play around with strings. Without having the instrument in hand itís hard to make recommendations. From my experience instruments are overdriven more often than underdriven when someoneís having tonal issues. Youíll be surprised how changing one course can change the rest. Some things I would try: lowering the G to 38, lowering the A to 15, increasing the E to 12. Try these changes one at a time, not all at once. Once you settle on the your ideal string gauges then I would get into different bridges if needed.

  9. The following members say thank you to Patrick Toole for this post:

    Rdeane 

  10. #8
    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Problem E strings

    Pictures would be helpful.

    Steve

  11. #9

    Default Re: Problem E strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Sorensen View Post
    Pictures would be helpful.

    Steve
    Attachment 187786

  12. #10

    Default Re: Problem E strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Toole View Post
    I would play around with strings. Without having the instrument in hand it’s hard to make recommendations. From my experience instruments are overdriven more often than underdriven when someone’s having tonal issues. You’ll be surprised how changing one course can change the rest. Some things I would try: lowering the G to 38, lowering the A to 15, increasing the E to 12. Try these changes one at a time, not all at once. Once you settle on the your ideal string gauges then I would get into different bridges if needed.
    I am going to try to put some 12's on the E strings. That may help.

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