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Thread: Easy playing strings

  1. #1
    Registered User Ed McGarrigle's Avatar
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    Default Easy playing strings

    I’m working on a tune (Drowsy Maggie) that requires barring the D and A strings at the second fret. Unfortunately, my arthritic old fingers are having a tough time of it. So, I’m wondering what is the current state of the technology in terms of string tension? Should I switch out to Old fashioned silk and steel strings or is there another more modern alloy option ? FWIW I play a Calhoun with Northfield light gauge strings. Thanks
    Sorry, probably should have posted in Equipment but I don’t know how to move it

  2. #2

    Default Re: Easy playing strings

    I've found Curt Mangan Monel strings to be quite low-tension and soft to the touch. They also come in light gauge. Might be worth checking out.

    GHS Silk and Bronze are fine in terms of tension. They sounded noticeably quieter to my ears, though, so not great if you're looking for a wide dynamic range. They also only come in one gauge (medium).

    GHS Silk and Steel sounded too tinny, as I recall.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Easy playing strings

    Based on my own experiences, I recommend having a set-up with the goal of perfecting your frets and string action. I'd also dial out all relief, leaving the neck flat. I'd string with a set of GHS A240 Ultra Light Mandolin Strings .090-.032. I normally set my action at the 12th fret at .012" on the D and G, and .010" on the A and E.

    Your Calhoun should be a dream to play after this.

    Good luck!
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    Playing a funky oval-hole scroll-body mandolin, several mandolins retuned to CGDA, three CGDA-tuned Flatiron mandolas, two Flatiron mandolas tuned as octave mandolins,and a six-course 25.5" scale CGDAEB-tuned Ovation Mandophone.

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    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Easy playing strings

    Barring is tough. Have you tried playing those notes with one finger tip?

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    Default Re: Easy playing strings

    Silk and Bronze have the same tension as phosphor bronze, they are not like silk and steel. +1 on lowering the action. I have heavy strings on and with arthritic hands can easily play a bar chord. Fret level is important if you want to get a low action. My G string is 3/64 and the E is just showing the line on 2/64's. I am very fussy and can tell when humidity raises the action, it bothers be. If the humidity varies where you are at be prepared to chase your action. I measure it when I feel it is not right. Of course when it drops some it will buzz and you will know to raise it.
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  6. #6
    Registered User Ed McGarrigle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Easy playing strings

    I just ordered a set of the Curt Magnan light Monel strings and a set of Curt Magnan extra lights from Just Strings. Itís time for new strings anyway and a good opportunity to give a Cafe sponsor a try. Iíll have to bring it in to a shop for adjustments as I wouldnít know what Iím doing. Thanks to all
    Ed

  7. #7
    Registered User BrunoS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Easy playing strings

    Another option you might consider are flat wound strings, I had experience with the Light(Weich) and Medium(Mittel) Thomastik strings, they have significantly less tension than normal round wound strings. There is a significant change in tone however (and on the positive side also no more of the typical string squeaking when sliding).
    I'm hoping the image gets attached correctly, I compiled a tension chart of the three gauges from Thomastik, D'Addario EJ74 and Elixir nanoweb, that should give you an idea...
    Click image for larger version. 

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Question Re: Easy playing strings

    A thinner string reaches pitch at a lower tension [physics] that may make it easier playing, as will a setup letting the action be lower with out buzzing.
    After sending a couple of mine off for re-fretting, they also got a fingerboard hump leveled out ,
    and they came back easier to play with the left hand fingering at least ..
    my skill still pedestrian.
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Easy playing strings

    A heavier string will vibrate less than a lighter string. Lighter strings will play easier, to a point, but the action has to be higher as they vibrate more from less tension. I play 11-41 with a very low action and it plays like butter. Tonight I was playing a d tune in f to use closed position to strengthen fingers after less gigs, and noticed it was hard to play. I checked the action and it was maybe 1/120th higher, lowered it and now it plays great again. Humidity can change how easy something plays and it is slow and subtle and you may not notice. I notice the E is harsher sounding, and the G is deader. I also notice the feel on my hands. I have a gauge and use it often to keep my action where I like it and it makes a huge difference in sound and feel.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  10. #10

    Default Re: Easy playing strings

    Just to note, I never have to raise my action to use ultra-light strings. Some of my ultra-light-strung instruments (mandolins and mandolas alike) have adjustable bridges, and some have just one-piece bridges. Some don't even have truss rods. Once each is dialed in, I've never had to fuss with the action.

    Maybe I've just been lucky that the wild temperature and humidity swings here haven't caused me problems....
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    Default Re: Easy playing strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Explorer View Post
    Just to note, I never have to raise my action to use ultra-light strings. Some of my ultra-light-strung instruments (mandolins and mandolas alike) have adjustable bridges, and some have just one-piece bridges. Some don't even have truss rods. Once each is dialed in, I've never had to fuss with the action.

    Maybe I've just been lucky that the wild temperature and humidity swings here haven't caused me problems....
    It would definitely depend on where your action is to begin with. Most folks set at 2/32" at the 12th fret, I set mine at 1/32" at the 12th fret. It is much more temperamental, but I like the way it plays and sounds and am willing to deal with the extra effort to make it play that easy. At 2/32" you would most likely not have to lower or raise if you don't mind the changes in string height due to humidity changes. Here it can change 1/32" to 2/32" over the course of the summer/winter. Maybe it's my mandolins, but it is more than one that changes. The change alone is more than I keep my action and I am not willing to play it that high.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  13. #12
    Registered User Ed McGarrigle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Easy playing strings

    So, I bought the Calhoun directly from Northfield. I’d assume it was set at 2/32” if that is the conventional thing. If I put on the extra lights I’d not likely need to make an adjustment but might need to? If I have to raise it a bit do I sacrifice the softer touch? I wouldn’t expect to do anything with the light gauge strings as light gauge is what it comes with. I’ve had it for a 1 1/2 year in the Chicago area. Rainy today but it’s kept in pretty average surroundings
    Ed

  14. #13

    Default Re: Easy playing strings

    I suggest just changing tge strings and seeing how it goes. Northfield does good work, so the set-up is probably great.

    Good luck!
    ----

    Playing a funky oval-hole scroll-body mandolin, several mandolins retuned to CGDA, three CGDA-tuned Flatiron mandolas, two Flatiron mandolas tuned as octave mandolins,and a six-course 25.5" scale CGDAEB-tuned Ovation Mandophone.

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    ************** Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Easy playing strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed McGarrigle View Post
    Iím working on a tune (Drowsy Maggie) that requires barring the D and A strings at the second fret. Unfortunately, my arthritic old fingers are having a tough time of it. So, Iím wondering what is the current state of the technology in terms of string tension? Should I switch out to Old fashioned silk and steel strings or is there another more modern alloy option ? FWIW I play a Calhoun with Northfield light gauge strings. Thanks
    Sorry, probably should have posted in Equipment but I donít know how to move it
    I recommend trying a set of La Bella lights. They come in "silver plated" and regular phosphor bronze. I have never tried their silver plated strings, but I play their medium PBs and they feel much lighter than any other traditional medium string to me. They also sound really great. Their lights might feel even lighter than what you are currently using. It's worth a try. Good luck, and all best wishes in finding what you need.

    https://www.labella.com/?s=mandolin
    ...

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