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Thread: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

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    Default Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Hey folks, with all the snow, I've had time to do a lot of maintenance on various instruments and as part of that, I've removed 4 strings from my 8 string Eastwood Mandocaster. Amazing how such little changes feel big under your fingers. It's probably 101 type stuff but so far, it seems like the biggest difference is that the setup is far less rigid and that it plays more like an electric guitar - bends and such.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Now you know that you will need one of each.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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    Registered User mandolinstew's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    I did the same thing.I bought the cheap alibaba for the bridge/saddles for another mandolin.I had to put on larger frets and shave the neck,but it plays great now.IClick image for larger version. 

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  4. #4

    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Quote Originally Posted by mandolinstew View Post
    I did the same thing.I bought the cheap alibaba for the bridge/saddles for another mandolin.I had to put on larger frets and shave the neck,but it plays great now.IClick image for larger version. 

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    There's a lot of this same mandolin with different brand names. Here's a pic of my Morgan Monroe. Same as yours except for the name.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    My first true electric was a Gibson EM-150. I had a deuce of a time keeping the pairs in tune, and it really sounded harsh through the PA. So I went with single strings. Much better. I do miss the ringing singing strings, that distinctive mandolin sound. Electric 12-string guitars seem to sound just fine, though admittedly, when we're talking about amazing talents like McGuinn, 'nuff said.

    Some dozen years ago I picked up an Epihone MandoBird four-string, and later upgraded to a Ryder 44 four-string. Somewhere along the line I heard using light gauge strings would make them easier to play. Boy howdy! No kidding. I can get a nearly three-fret bend if I ever want. But most of the time, just a little bend here and there is enough. Can't get that on my amplified acoustic - maybe a half-fret.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Registered User BoxCarJoe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    My Eastwood Airline mandola lost 4 strings a while back. It didn't need them.

    I also turned two Baritone Ukes into 4 string mandolas. (love the wide necks)

    Then I bought a tenor guitar.

    I'm thinking that 8 strings just isn't my thing.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    You realize this is the Mandolin Café and mandolins are typically 8-string instruments.

    I kid, I kid. Over here in the electric area, a lot of this has been discussed and much agreed-upon. What I get, sometimes, from listeners, audience members, is the random comment. You know, like "Sounds like an electric guitar. Why don't you just play a guitar?" Well, if I could make sense of a guitar, maybe I would. But six strings, four fingers - meh. Never could sort out that math. Eight strings of four double courses - makes perfect sense. So I play the music I like and want to hear on the instrument I can play. Is that so hard to understand?

    That said, I still want to have a good-sounding 8-string electric. That's really the sound I want. Well, there are really so many sounds ...
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Agree with everything you said. I have quite a few electric mandolins/octaves and a few mandolas - 4,5 and 8 string models. One thing I really enjoy doing with the 8 string instruments is setting them up so that the lower wound strings are matched with a plain steel string tuned one octave up like a 12 string guitar. (I believe this is called Skeeter Tuning in some areas). It actually seems to work better on the mandolas and mandolins than it does on the octaves, as with octave mandolins the string tension differences between the thick wound string and plain string can fight each other a bit and a get muddy tone. But on mandolins like my Godins, Manns and the reissued Fender 8 string the instruments, they just sparkle when played though an amp like a VOX. I use a Jangle Box pedal and you can get that chimey, Rickenbacker like sound if that is something you like. Not everybody's taste and certainly not a bluegrass sound, but I think it adds a neat dimension to the clean sound you can get out of an electric mandolin. It's fun to be able to play Byrds songs and sound like you really fit in.

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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    My experience playing electric is that the problem isn't making the right sounds as much as it is controlling or eliminating the wrong sounds. A four string electric seems much more manageable in this way. Much more.
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    Registered User mandolinstew's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    I play my electric eight string through a Boss acoustic simulator.It gives it a richer fuller sound.

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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    The other advantage with a 4-string electric is that you can add effects, including a slight detune/delay/chorus to make it sound more like 2 courses.
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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Question Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Consider 4 in CGDA Jazzy, Swing Tradition,

    & 8 in GDAE , to Play your Mandolin parts in a Loud Band..


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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    I had an 8 string like that for a while. If you want to play blues and rock and bend strings, you need a 4 string. Hard to do on a 8 string.

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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Not only hard, even with light strings, but virtually impossible to bend both strings the same amount. That produces a weird-sounding side effect, which may be a bit harsh. That led me to use string bends infrequently on the plugged-in acoustic, and more often than not only when I wanted to make a bit of a freaky sound. That tends to limit one's expressiveness, cramp one's style, which is not what is intended.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Quote Originally Posted by BoxCarJoe View Post
    My Eastwood Airline mandola lost 4 strings a while back. It didn't need them.

    I also turned two Baritone Ukes into 4 string mandolas. (love the wide necks)

    Then I bought a tenor guitar.

    I'm thinking that 8 strings just isn't my thing.
    I played mandolin for quite awhile. Then went to mandola. Then to tenor guitar. Then strung my mandolin to CGDA. Then got rid of my picks. Now am dropping to 4 strings on the dropped mandolin. I play mainly by myself lately but even with other folks (before isolation) it is in small room settings without any bluegrass. Sometimes we plug in....but not normally. I get much more enjoyment out of all of my instruments finger style. Do whatever makes you happy.

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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Quote Originally Posted by lenf12 View Post
    Now you know that you will need one of each.
    Lot of truth in that!


    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    I do miss the ringing singing strings, that distinctive mandolin sound.
    I agree completely. Personally, I only play an eight-string electric for that reason. However, I certainly get the appeal of a four-string when I hear Sam Bush or Ronnie McCoury shred on them.
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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    I heard using light gauge strings would make them easier to play. Boy howdy! No kidding. I can get a nearly three-fret bend if I ever want.
    Does using lighter strings cause any problems with the neck? Do you have to adjust the truss rod? I'd like to try lighter strings.

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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Quote Originally Posted by BoxCarJoe View Post
    I also turned two Baritone Ukes into 4 string mandolas. (love the wide necks)
    I'd like to do this to my baritone. Which strings did you use?

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    Registered User BoxCarJoe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Quote Originally Posted by cunparis View Post
    I'd like to do this to my baritone. Which strings did you use?
    On both I use guitar strings.
    The A D G E strings to get C G D A. The tension feels very good.

    one has nylon classical guitar strings D'Addario EJ27N
    The other has Ernie Ball Earthwood Silk and Steel 2047 (extra soft)

    Very different sounds.
    The Nylon is like a classical guitar and the steel is like a Mandola.

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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Quote Originally Posted by cunparis View Post
    Does using lighter strings cause any problems with the neck? Do you have to adjust the truss rod? I'd like to try lighter strings.
    Not that I've noticed. Didn't adjust anything. Just strung her up and sailed away.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Quote Originally Posted by BoxCarJoe View Post
    On both I use guitar strings.
    The A D G E strings to get C G D A. The tension feels very good.

    one has nylon classical guitar strings D'Addario EJ27N
    The other has Ernie Ball Earthwood Silk and Steel 2047 (extra soft)

    Very different sounds.
    The Nylon is like a classical guitar and the steel is like a Mandola.
    Thank you for the info on the strings. I read so many different string recommendations that I didn't know where to start. I like the nylon sound so I think I'll try the D'Addario if I can find them.

    I didn't think one could put steel strings on a baritone uke? It's not too much tension? I have a pack of Martin silk & steel, could I use those? They seem comparable to your Ernie Ball strings and since I don't have a guitar I would probably never use them. They're 20 years old so I hope they're still good.

    Ernie Ball: .010, .014 .020, .028, .040, .050

    Martin: .0115 .014 .023 .028 .038 .047

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    Registered User BoxCarJoe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Quote Originally Posted by cunparis View Post
    Thank you for the info on the strings. I read so many different string recommendations that I didn't know where to start. I like the nylon sound so I think I'll try the D'Addario if I can find them.

    I didn't think one could put steel strings on a baritone uke? It's not too much tension? I have a pack of Martin silk & steel, could I use those? They seem comparable to your Ernie Ball strings and since I don't have a guitar I would probably never use them. They're 20 years old so I hope they're still good.

    Ernie Ball: .010, .014 .020, .028, .040, .050

    Martin: .0115 .014 .023 .028 .038 .047
    The D'Addario's are their "plain vanilla" nylon strings so they are easy to find.

    They tune up easily with low tension so I think the Martins would be OK.

  26. #23

    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    Quote Originally Posted by BoxCarJoe View Post
    The D'Addario's are their "plain vanilla" nylon strings so they are easy to find.

    They tune up easily with low tension so I think the Martins would be OK.
    The store didn't have the D'Addarios. He said they have been waiting since Jan 3 for a shipment but with Brexit the border crossings is delayed (covid too I suppose) and none of the stores in Paris have received items coming from the UK.

    The only thing they had was some D'Addario Folk black. The tensions were very close so I got it. But I decided to give it a shot GDAE first and so far it's working well. I have a tenor in CGDA with the Aquila strings so maybe it makes more sense to have the baritone in octave GDAE? What do you think?

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Question Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    I'm confused about a nylon string topic in an electric (steel string, Magnetic pickup) typical .. section..
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    Default Re: Pros/Cons - 4 vs. 8 strings

    The chat got to the notion of turning a baritone uke into a four-string mandola - and that was what you thought was weird?
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

    Furthering Mandolin Consciousness

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    North Florida Mandolin Players Social Group

    Lucinda Williams and Eric Von Schmidt (who would have turned 90 5/28/21), the night devotee met hero (and both my heroes)

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