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Thread: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    It's been a long time since my strings have been changed. I've always used light gauge strings; when I checked my string supply, I found I only have medium gauge. I recently played someone's Eastman, and although it sounded richer than my Alvarez A-100, it wasn't as easy to play, at least partly because the strings were heavier.

    I've read several MC threads on light vs. medium gauge strings, resulting in no real conclusion as to what I should do. Would it make any sense at all to change only the Gs or Es initially, seeing how I like those before trying the rest? Other thoughts?

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    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    “I've read several MC threads on light vs. medium gauge strings, resulting in no real conclusion as to what I should do.”

    That is because YOU are the only one who can decide for yourself. You already have the strings. Make sure the nut slots are wide and deep enough for heavier strings, then try them. Play them and draw a conclusion. Good luck!

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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Sherry, I like a very light action for my old hands and to be able to play quickly. Saying that i use an 11-41. I can get a lower action with heavier strings as they don't wobble as much. I have mandolins with lighter strings on and they play well, but not as good as this one with the heavier strings. I set up my own so can adjust to what I want, Another has 11-38, not really much lighter and also plays well. A couple with 10-36 and they play easy enough and since one is an old Martin it won't tolerate heavier strings and sounds good with them. Your Alvarez may like the heavier strings for sound, lower the bridge some and check the truss rod as more string tension may change the setting needed to keep the neck straight. Try them, you can always go back if you don't like them.
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Give it a shot and see what you think before placing your next order. I used to have a Kentucky that was from just after their move to China and a bit overbuilt. It had much better tone and volume with J-75 gauge strings; just needed them to really drive the thick top. If you’re really worried about it you can unwind the old strings all the way off rather than loosening and clipping them. That way you can put them back on if you hate the heavier strings.

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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Heavier strings with a lighter touch can be rewarding.

  6. #6
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    I've really dreaded this string changing business, even to the point of considering taking my mandolin to a luthier to have it done. Anyway, the strings I have are D'Addario EXP74 and also EJ74-3D (# of sets?). Any knowledge of one over the other?

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    It shouldn't take a luthier to change your strings. This is definitely something you'll want to add to your skill set as a budding mandolinist! There are lots of threads and videos on how to do this. My suggestion to you would be to read up/view some videos, and then just dive in! Like so many practical skills, you will learn best by doing. The D'Addario EXP-74 set should go easily on your model of mandolin, and I very much doubt that any adjustment of the nut slots is required, provided that your Alvarez mandolin is already set up, since models like that are made to accommodate medium gauge strings. In fact, after switching to medium gauge, you may well be able to lower your action a bit at the bridge, without encountering any buzzing, and that should make fretting easier. As a rule, heavier strings mean higher tension and therefore less excursion when plucked, often allowing for lower action.

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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    In college, I had a friend who would pay $5 to change strings on his Martin D41 and $10 to change strings on his Guild 212. Don't be like that guy!

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    OK, so I decided to change my strings. Watched most of a video showing how to do it. Then my husband said he would do it. He changed the E strings, then quit in a rather bad temper. I changed the others, then the Es popped when I was tuning, so I replaced them. All seems to be well, except that one of the Gs is wrapped 4 or 5 times and really buzzes. Will it work itself out or do I need to redo it?

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    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Sherry, another option I think you should consider is GHS Silk and Steel strings or the GHS Silk and Bronze strings. These are a heavier gauge than the light gauge you’ve been using but I’m not sure if they are as heavy a gauge as Medium. That could be determined by comparing specs on the manufacturer’s website. The difference is that the wound strings have a layer of silk wrapped around the core wire. This provides the cushion that is comfortable to your fingers. Having heard your mandolin I think you will like the more mellow tone of the 3rd and 4th strings. The down side to the silk wrapped strings is that they might not last as long as other strings. Anytime you change the gauge of strings on your mandolin it will require repositioning the bridge in order to have accurate intonation. It’s been quite a while since you changed your strings or had a technician check your setup so this would an opportunity. If you don’t know someone that could do this, I bet Gerald or Laurie could recommend someone. Good luck! I really enjoyed the video you posted on fb.

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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

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

    ^^^ These are what I use: La Bella mediums, but they are lighter than traditional mediums and somewhere between lights and mediums in gauge. I have strong hands and a well-setup mandolin, but still find J74s (et al) uncomfortable. YMMV.
    “Never laugh at live dragons.” -Bilbo Baggins

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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Sherry ..... On string changes .. buy a guitar capo and use it to hold the string on the tailpiece while you put it on the post / peg and wind it on..... this "trick" saves all kinds of trouble. Also ..... you can wrap the E and A strings so the tension holds the string in place by wrapping the string back under itself ..... opinions on this vary ...
    Then when you cut the strings off leave enough length to bend the end down. This will keep you from lancing your fingers on the E and A strings.... A string winder that fits mandolin tuners is a nice addition to the process also. Insofar as gauge that is a setup versus hand strength question and we all have to answer that through playing. Kurt Mangan strings is a small company that makes a very good string ... but as always we all develop our preference.... R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    ... buy a guitar capo and use it to hold the string on the tailpiece ...
    Low-tack paper tape might be a quickie substitute; could also help around the neck.

    Sherry, your trepedation is understandable but, in the grand scheme of things, reminds me of some folks' fear of learning to swim:
    Changing strings really isn't THAT hard, costs an hour or less in time and maybe a few dollars worth of discarded strings, leaves you with an unexpectedly valuable skill, and lets you move on with one less thing to worry about. (And ya don't have to get wet!)

    Heck, you could even end up being the hero when your accomplices need help!
    - Ed

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    Our mistakes weren't quite so easy to undo
    But by all those roads, my friend, we've travelled down
    I'm a better man for just the knowin' of you."
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Given potential for shortages in string availability with the pandemic I’ve been putting off string changes for a while, but finally couldn’t take it anymore. Monday I did 2 mandolins and two guitars, a couple of days ago did my tele, got the banjo yesterday, and now just have the OM to do today. The point: Once you get some experience and get your system down, this won’t be a daunting task at all. I have actually made it so far this week without drawing blood from a poke or scratch, which is outstanding for me, lol! (Probably just jinxed myself for the OM change).

    Rather than leaving slack to wind, I’ve been pulling the strings taught and wrapping them on the posts before passing through the hole. Wrap inside to outside and bend the end of the string back inside (towards the middle of the FB) after you pass it through the hole to lock it. With wound strings I only wrap once, which leaves a nice, clean look without too many wraps, and I’ve never had a slippage failure (at least to date, and I’ve been doing it this way for 2-3 years now). I’ll wrap the unwound strings 2-3 times. This technique also minimizes the number of tuner turns needed, which is nice if you’re not using a stringwinder.

    If you’re having buzzing issues a set up check may be in order, or have one of your more experienced friends check it out. And let us know how it turns out!
    Chuck

  18. #15

    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Hi Sherry,

    Medium strings shouldn't play any harder than lights as long as the instrument is set up for them. Changing from lights to mediums may require slight adjustments to the truss rod and/or bridge height. What you'll likely find is that the mando will have a fuller tone and be louder with the same amount of picking energy. Speaking of which, if you haven't moved up to picks in the 1.4 range yet, you'll want to try them with medium strings. If you think you'll stay with mediums, have a luthier fine tune the set up for that gauge. BTW, nut slot depth is incredibly important in how playable a mandolin is, way more so than with a guitar. A lot of lower priced instruments don't come stock with a good set up, so you just have to plan that additional expense.

    In regards to E strings, I've found it important to manually put 4 wraps around the post BEFORE putting the string through the hole and kinking it, then wind it up to tension. The other strings are not sensitive about his. Enjoy those new strings!

  19. #16
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Roy View Post
    Speaking of which, if you haven't moved up to picks in the 1.4 range yet, you'll want to try them with medium strings.
    I hadn't thought about needing a different pick! The one I've liked is a red Big Stubby. If the size is on the pick, I can't read it!

    It seems I miss out a lot by not being around others who play mandolin. That's why I count on you guys so much.

    I'll see how my practice goes this afternoon. Will probably see a luthier tomorrow.

  20. #17
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    I hadn't thought about needing a different pick! The one I've liked is a red Big Stubby. If the size is on the pick, I can't read it!

    It seems I miss out a lot by not being around others who play mandolin. That's why I count on you guys so much.

    I'll see how my practice goes this afternoon. Will probably see a luthier tomorrow.
    I see you’re in Irving. I’m curious what luthier you use?
    “Never laugh at live dragons.” -Bilbo Baggins

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    I see you’re in Irving. I’m curious what luthier you use?
    The only one I know of is Bryan at Murphy's - right down the street from me.

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    Registered User Lucas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    I've really dreaded this string changing business, even to the point of considering taking my mandolin to a luthier to have it done. Anyway, the strings I have are D'Addario EXP74 and also EJ74-3D (# of sets?). Any knowledge of one over the other?
    The EXP74 are the same as EJ74 except that the EXP's are coated strings. And yes, the 3D stands for 3 sets.

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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Give Elixir Nano Web a look. I love them and they seem to last a long time. I use their medium gauge.

  24. #21
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    The only one I know of is Bryan at Murphy's - right down the street from me.
    Murphy’s is a good shop ran by good people. I’m down the road in Euless, not many exits from there.

    If you ever want to try someone else, I highly recommend Kerry in Hurst.

    http://kerrysguitarshop.com/
    “Never laugh at live dragons.” -Bilbo Baggins

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  26. #22
    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    I didn't know until my mid-fifties that you can actually pay someone to change your strings. The obvious advantage to having a good mandolin luthier change them is that he/she will look over the mandolin well, make necessary tweaks, clean and polish it a bit, and suggest any repairs that they see are needed. This is a good thing to get done once a year, if you can. Also, if they are good at setups, they can watch you play for a few minutes and adjust the action for the strings and the way you play.
    Tom

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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    I changed strings on a mandolin and guitar yesterday, and while I don't change strings often I do find it relaxing. There are a couple easy tricks, and it's like learning to ride a bike, or as someone said, swim. You may end up enjoying it too.

    Re strings, I'm pretty sure your hands will get used to playing heavier strings. It's like anything else, stick with it a little bit. You may enjoy the sound and advantages other have noted about heavier (non-light) strings. For me I've settled on Straight Up Strings mediums, like the balance and slightly heaver E string. Anyway, have fun with it.

  28. #24
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    OK, so I just got back from the Luthier. He tuned my mandolin, said the action was good and cannot be set lower, and sent me on my way. No charge. (That buzzing G string just needed a major tightening.)

    I had no cash on me, but I want to give the luthier something. I'm thinking $10. Is that a reasonable amount?

    Next I'll research picks for medium strings. Thanks to Rob Roy for the 1.4 suggestion. I didn't like what I saw at Murphy's, so will check out some of the Forum posts. There must be thousands related to picks!

  29. #25

    Default Re: Possible Transition from Light to Medium Strings

    Yes there are pick threads that can keep reading for days. One reasonable pick that a lot of players find second only to the $30+ picks is the Dunlop Primetone. I'm partial to the 1.4 or 1.5 smooth finish large triangles. Build those calluses !

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