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Thread: Light or Medium strings?

  1. #1
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    Default Light or Medium strings?

    So, what makes you determine if you go with light or medium?

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    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    Experimenting

  3. #3
    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    Sometimes the instrument or style of playing dictates your choice.

    Its recommended on my flat top to use light gauge strings, same with most bowl backs.

    If your playing loud music, like bluegrass, an arched top mandolin will be able to withstand the weight of a heavy gauge string.

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    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    I have an Eastman 314 oval hole coming, and I know they come with medium strings.

    Iím wondering if I might get along fine with light, since I only play at home. Curt Mangan monels are on my list at some point to try...

    There are a lot of Eastman owners here, do most of you stick with medium, or go to something else and why?

    I love experimenting, and plan on it, just trying to learn from others as well.

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  6. #5

    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    When I used to own two Eastmans when they had just hit the market, I set them up for ultra-light strings. They weren't heavily overheated, so they did well in terms of volume, and were playable all the way up the neck for chord-melody.

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    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    You may find lighter strings easier on your fingers, which can help your playing.
    David A. Gordon

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    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    I used EJ 74 and 75 gauges on the 315 I used to own. It played/sounded good with both. My first mandolin was a Kentucky 675-S that was built just after they moved to their China factory and was a bit overbuilt. It really responded to J75s; the difference in tone/volume was easily noticeable.

    That said, no reason to not try some lighter gauges if you want. EJ62s are probably too light for an arch top (though Iím sure there are those that will disagree), but EJ 73s would probably work OK. The 314 should also be able to handle heavier gauges without structural worries.
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    Quote Originally Posted by Medley12 View Post
    I have an Eastman 314 oval hole coming, and I know they come with medium strings.
    After acquiring my previously owned Eastman 615, I made an inquiry to Eastman as to recommend gauge. Response: j74, (medium). Light strings might work OK, but they could make the sound less full.
    Girouard A
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    Eastman 615-tweaked

  10. #9

    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    I have no idea why the word "overheated" replaced the intended word "overbuilt" in my post, but what's done is done....

  11. #10
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    In principle, there is more energy stored elastically in a heavier gauge string, when it's plucked by a given amount, than a lighter gauge string. So, all else being equal, a heavier gauge string should be louder, since it can put more energy into acoustic vibration. But alas, it's not that simple, and everything is otherwise equal, because:

    1) Heavier strings need to be placed under heavier tension to achieve the same notes (frequencies). They are therefore stiffer to pluck. If you manage to deflect them a bit less when you hit them with a flatpick, you will impart less energy to them. Therefore, depending on your playing technique, you may not achieve the energetic boost that heavier gauges offer, in principle, compared with lighter gauges. In fact, you might even achieve a louder volume with a lighter string, due to greater pick deflection. And of course, not all mandolins can tolerate heavier strings. On top of that, different gauges may require different setups, inclduing the height of the action, and that can place a limit on volume, too.

    2) It's not just about the initial energy imparted to the vibrating string. That vibrational energy needs to pass through the bridge and into the top, causing vibrations of the mandolin top, back, and especially inside the air chamber. This energy is ultimately radiated into the acoustic sound field around the instrument. The more energy in the sound field, the louder the sound. But a lot of the initial energy in the vibrating string is lost (to heat, via damping)! The efficiency with which the string vibrational energy is passed to the sound field is complicated, and related to the acoustic impedance of the various parts, as well as the air chamber. The impedances can change with different gauges of strings, as well as with the frequency. It might turn out that sound is produced somewhat more efficiently with heavier, or with lighter, string gauges. This depends on the individual instrument.

    3) You may discover that "playability" is more important to you than volume. Different gauges of strings will feel different.

    And, of course, I have just written about the volume/loudness. There will also be differences in tone, and that's a whole 'nuther topic!! You many discover that you care more about mandolin tone than volume, and this dictates your choice. Or, you might want to strike a compromise.

    The bottom line is what everyone has already said: You just gotta try out different gauges to find out what works best for your playing on your particular mandolin. If you own a modern F4/5 or A4/5 type of mandolin, you could start experimenting with the "medium" string gauges of the D'Addario J-74 set (available in several varieties of different windings, and from several different manufacturers as well as D'Addario), and then go up or down from there (e.g., J-73, J-75). But if your mandolin is a bowlback or a lightly built flat-top, you would be well advised to stay away from heavier gauges, because these mandolins are not built to handle that kind of tension load.

    Have fun experimenting!

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    Much depends on your style of play and your instrument. The lighter the top the thinner the string. A thicker top needs a heavier string to drive it IMO. The older the fingers the thinner the string. Alas this is indeed the case .. .. .. I can still play with .115 sets but I can play longer with .11 sets. So.... how loud do you want to be , how hard do you want to have to play? How low do you need your setup to be comfortable? R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    Wow Sblock, thanks. I had to read that a few times but I feel like I learned a few things from it.
    UsuallyPickin- ya, I am a soloist, donít need the volume. And, I know I would like the feel of the lighter strings with these old, neuropathy (chemo) challenged hands.

    The 314, an oval hole, will ship with mediums. I will play with those for a bit while I get comfortable with the mandolin. Make sure I really have a good understanding on the tone that Iím getting from it. Then on the first string change I may try lights and at that point maybe I will be able to better discern which one I prefer

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    Medley12 .... When you figure out the gauge you want to play on try some different alloys bronze phosphor bronze monel stainless and pick thicknesses. Enjoy the journey.
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    I will! Thanks, having a blast with picks right now..lol.

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    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    There is also the fact that heavier strings can have a lower action than lighter strings. Because of the tension they don't move as much for the same force applied as lighter strings. With a lower action it can play quite easy, if you don't strike them hard they can be really easy to play. Since the action to achieve this is low there is a need to keep adjusting to keep it that way. A little humidity and it raises, dry out and it lowers. If it raises it plays harder, dried out may buzz. I use 11-41 with my older hands and keep the action really low, I am willing to chase it to keep it that way as I like the sound, and I don't have to play hard to get what I am after in sound. This only works with a good fret level and setup.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  17. #16
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Light or Medium strings?

    https://www.stringsbymail.com/la-bel...-38-16934.html

    ^^^ I've tried just about every type of mandolin string on the market and have settled on these La Bella mediums. They are "medium" but fall somewhere between lights and mediums, and certainly feel lighter than J74s, et al. They cost a bit more than most US-made strings, but I think they are worth it. YMMV.
    ďNever laugh at live dragons.Ē -Bilbo Baggins

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