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Thread: String change frequency

  1. #1

    Default String change frequency

    I realize there a wide range
    Some change strings every 3 weeks,
    Others every 6 months.
    I know how often most guitar players (often) and banjo players (less often)
    But mandolin players???

  2. #2
    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    There are several factors that affect how frequently folks (should) change strings. Skin acidity, frequency of play, playing conditions (humidity), and material and type of windings strings are made of.

    I prefer flatwound strings like Thomastik Infield or the D'Addarios. These seem to have better longevity than round wound phosphor bronze or silk and steel strings. If I don't play often they last longer. I typically get 3-6 months from a set of these.

    I use sound or frequency of having to retune strings as a reason to change a set out. If they get blah sounding or I have to retune frequently, I change em. I use this method from Frets.com

    Jamie
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  4. #3
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    like everything else it varies from person to person, how much they're playing, where they're playing etc...I use to change electric guitar strings when I was playing out after 8-10 hours of playing or if having tuning issues. Now since I'm a at-home player I have no big concern with new, old, bright, dull whatever. I just recently changed my mandolin strings after breaking one, had the set on for probably 3-4 months and play with thumb and fingers often which is a mellow sound anyways but I practice/play my acoustic and mandolin alot. So nothing is set in stone just whatever an individual wants.

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    It depends on the player and the instrument. For the oval hole A Jr. it can probably go a year between string changes. Most of the time, try to get about 2 to 3 months on the other mandolins. And that doesn't include experimenting with different strings to see if something sounds better.

    When I was younger and played acoustic guitar exclusively, would often change after 3 to 4 weeks. But also knew folks who would go years between string changes. (I believe Jim Nelson once got 7 years on a set before a string broke).

    My usual method is when the G string sounds too tubby, or it's tough to keep the A strings in unison, then it's time to change.
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  8. #5

    Default Re: String change frequency

    I'm pretty new to this mandolin stuff, but have played guitar since 1961 and banjo off and on since the '70s. My thinking is that mandolin strings should get about the same changing frequency as the others, all dependent on how much action they see.

    For me, with no special acid fingers or environmental concerns, I always thought 3 months was a good basic schedule, earlier if there were unexplainable tuning issues, later if all was cool.

    For whatever it means, I have a Martin 000-15m guitar that doesn't seem to need a thing after 8 months. But when I finally do change the strings, I'll bet I wonder at the revelation.

    Jim

  9. #6
    Registered User Paul Brett's Avatar
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    I use a Moon mandolin for acoustic sessions, on which I use Elixir's, and an Eastman when we plug in, which I string up with D'Addario EXPs. Before Covid I was playing about 3 to 4 gigs, or sessions, per week the mix of acoustic or plugged in would balance out over a month. In general I would change strings every 3 weeks to a month, but rather than doing it to a schedule I tend to hear when it's ready to change. Excessive tuning, and a general dead sound from the G and D string were my indicators.

    During lockdown I've changed the D'Addario's once but the Elixirs still sound OK to me. That said I've been playing the Eastman more at home. On a side note I've a set of Philippe Bosset strings for the Moon whenever it ready for a change, never tried them before but got a set from Kieran Moloney Music in Galway a couple of weeks ago.

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    Default Re: String change frequency

    I change them when they need changing....
    Which is at least once month when I was gigging heavy, but these days not so much, more like 90 days, and that's only if I have been playing it ( been playing "beaters" to keep the high end stuff out of the humidity)
    its about the same for my octaves and dolas
    Mandocellos - more like once every few years
    I have never tried TI strings but I will say I am not a big fan of D'addario- or GHS
    I was into John Pierce for a bit but have lately been really liking Curt Mangan's
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

  11. #8
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    There are some people who just don't like the sound of new strings. I have some friends who barter for old strings, who will offer money for them, and who will tie broken strings whenever possible rather than put newer strings on. If a person keeps strings clean all the time, they can last a long time.

    I like old strings, but I won't tie them if they break (most of the time). I clean them obsessively every time that I'm done playing. My current strings on my main playing mandolin are 3 years old, only because I had to change them after the instrument was re-fretted. The strings on my backup mandolin are 4 years old, they were new from me setting it up when the mandolin was new. My main playing banjo still has the same strings on it as when I bought it about 5 years ago, the previous owner of the banjo told me the strings were about 10 years old at that time. I have a banjo that I built that has strings on it that are at least 5 years older than my oldest son who is playing it now, he's 31 years old. Again, if kept clean, strings can last a long time and sound very good.

    If a person needs to change strings frequently in order to be happy with their instrument, I have no problem with that. For me personally, I think that the tone and volume of an instrument is decided between a person's mind and the end of their fingertips.
    -- Don

    "Music: A minor auditory irritation occasionally characterized as pleasant."
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  12. #9
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    About 3 months on a mandolin if I'm playing a lot, up to 6 if I'm playing less. I always notice quite a difference in sound when I replace them, so if I was playing for money that mattered, I'd make it a point to change them more often.
    -Dave
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  13. #10
    Registered User Tim N's Avatar
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    I clean them obsessively every time that I'm done playing.
    Just wondering how you clean your strings? I generally use Fastfret, but suspect that is not really "obsessive". I have occasionally used meths and a rag, but I'm not sure if this is good for bronze strings? Fastfret also claims to condition the fret board a bit, and is convenient, although the cloth provided is minimalistic...
    "What's that funny guitar thing..?"

  14. #11
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    It’s humid here and I play outside a lot. I also think my skin chemistry eats at strings. I use fast fret and wipe down my strings but they corrode very easily. I change strings about every 3 mo. and actually, if money was no object, I would probably change once a month. If I were a professional, I could see doing it more frequently but as a low income hobbyist, I have come to settle on once every 3 mo. give or take. I use to play w/ T-Is but since corrosion is an issue for me, I have switched to Elixirs. No miracle cure but I can’t justify the cost of T-Is when they corrode so quickly. Elixirs are a good compromise for me.

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    Default Re: String change frequency

    I’ll go with tmsweeney’s opening line - I change them when they need changing.

    The problem is that this is one of those issues where there are too many variables to give a difinitive answer. It depends on an individual’s body chemistry, the length of time the strings have been on the instrument (how many mandolins you have to go at), the make of string, the way you play, the sound you want and the instrument itself.

    Generally, I change mine when I think a particular instrument would sound and play better with a new set of strings.

  16. #13
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    There are some people who just don't like the sound of new strings.
    As I said, on a previous thread, I change my strings about once a year, whether they need it or not. Now, I have to thank Don for giving me a rationale.

    Actually, I tend not to notice that my strings are dull, but after recently changing strings on two mandolins and a banjolin, I have to admit that they all sound better to me.

    There are some people who just don't like changing strings.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  17. #14

    Default Re: String change frequency

    I like trying different strings, so I tend to change them pretty frequently. Add to that, I just got a new mandolin, so I’ll probably go through 3 or 4 sets this month.

  18. #15
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    When I was in a duo playing gigs I'd change them "when they needed it," which could be anything from every two weeks to once a month depending on the gig schedule.

    After the duo was retired and in the Before Times, I was playing in local Irish/Scottish trad sessions. There is one particular session focused mainly on Cape Breton/Scottish tunes, led by a player of Scottish border pipes and a passel of fiddlers. So I would change strings a few days before that particular session, just to be heard at all in the mix. In the abstract, I feel that my mandolin ideally needs new strings every 3 weeks, based on intonation drift more than loss of tone. But I was stretching it to once a month to be ready for that session.

    I can't attend any pub sessions now under the pandemic, but I still change strings at least once a month. I'm playing at home either alone, or with my fiddler S.O. where I'll get the stink eye if my intonation is off.

  19. #16
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    If I am playing a lot I will change strings every two weeks.
    Generally I change them when the strings lose their tone, or the trebles start sounding weird or have tuning issues.

    I change guitar strings more frequently.
    I would change acoustic guitar strings once a week, to keep that bright tone.
    On electrics I would sometimes change them after every gig, but generally once a week.
    My electrics seem to have dead strings after one show.

    I say, change the strings when you don't like the way your mandolin sounds.
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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    I will share I ruined a set of new EXP-74's in an hour. My stringband was playing at a small festival in the Summer. It was in the high 90's and we were on a stage facing right into the Sun. I had just put the set on a few days before. My hands were sweating so much that it was dripping off during our set. The next day I looked at the strings and they were discolored.

    Mostly my string change frequency depends on on the instrument and what I'm doing with it. I have a Parson's flat top that is my beater and around-the-house practice instrument. I change strings once a year on it, because only I ever hear it. I have a Rigel I play at church. I have EXPs on it and I usually change three times a year, before Christmas, before Easter and then once between Easter and Christmas. I have an Old Wave oval I put EJ62's on. When I play with an old-time string band, will change before a major gig. I will change more often if I see or hear any issues.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    I’ll go with tmsweeney’s opening line - I change them when they need changing..
    I change them when I think they need changing. If I am not sure if they need changing, I change them. If I even suspect they need changing I change them. If its been more than a season (three months) and I am bored, I will change them.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

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  24. #19
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    I should add that I have a wholly different view on changing underwear!

  25. #20

    Default Re: String change frequency

    Gotta say, I never got the "ritual" string changing thing.........

    As a repairman, sure, if it has 25-year old strings on it that are rusty -- I change them for the customer. Bound to be an improvement over rust.

    Otherwise, for my own playing/enjoyment -- if it has strings on it, I play 'em until they break -- then I don't have a choice. I will add, I have such a light touch I almost never break them....

    I will admit, part of it comes from being jaded working around salesmen in a music store, who loved to "sell" strings and their virtues. Mostly, I saw this as unnecessary and just another way to hear themselves talk......same with picks, polishes, straps and other doo-dads.......

    OTOH, if you want to discuss the virtues of mahogany vs rosewood, I'm your man......

    Like I have said before, no offense intended, I realize for many a weekly trip to the music store, maintaining that connection, talking "shop" and the ritual of string changing is a big part of the hobby.....

    For me, music is about something else......

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  27. #21

    Default Re: String change frequency

    This doesn’t apply so much to mandolin, but on any instrument where you’re bending strings, changing them frequently helps prevent excessive fret wear.

  28. #22
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    Otherwise, for my own playing/enjoyment -- if it has strings on it, I play 'em until they break -- then I don't have a choice. I will add, I have such a light touch I almost never break them....

    I will admit, part of it comes from being jaded working around salesmen in a music store, who loved to "sell" strings and their virtues. Mostly, I saw this as unnecessary and just another way to hear themselves talk......same with picks, polishes, straps and other doo-dads.......

    OTOH, if you want to discuss the virtues of mahogany vs rosewood, I'm your man......
    To me, one of the joys of playing both mandolin and fiddle is that I can go the the music store and see no accessories that I "must" buy. I feel for guitar players, faced with hundreds of items from excellent picks and strings to cute doodads. I have nothing against good strings or picks though, whatever works best for you.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  29. #23

    Default Re: String change frequency

    I change every 3 months
    I like the volume and "bite "
    Of new strings !

  30. #24
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    depends .. Nickel wound don't corrode like Bronze wound will..
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  31. #25
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    Default Re: String change frequency

    I switched to Elixir Nan Web strings....they last about 4 times longer than the D'Addaios I had been using.
    ss

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