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Thread: Private frugality

  1. #1

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    By way of group therapy: my name is Victor, and I'm a cheapskate!!!

    I had meant to change strings for a while but, every time I thought of doing so, someone would invite me to a friendly sightreading-session, or I had a rehearsal, etc., etc., so I would postpone the restringing for another day, not wishing to inflict the twang of brand-new strings on my friends and colleagues.

    Well... to make a VERY long story short, I just DID replace the Lenzners I had on my Calace, three YEARS (!!!) after I first put them on. Yes, the bronze-wound bottoms had gotten a bit tubby and dull, but intonation was still 100% accurate, there was no rusting, no A-course winding coming apart... no symptoms, other than of course reduced brilliance. No excuses either, though, considering it takes me no more than 15-20 minutes to change strings, provided I have my trusty, JUST-right-sized pliers and a wire-cutter on hand...

    I take solace in a favorite anecdote of Pablo Casals, one of my personal heroes: he used to say --always with a wink-- that strings sounded best just before they snapped of old age and wear and tear; he coupled this with a deft parallelism to his own playing, and the nonagenarian wisdom he had brought to his music-making. Now... I won't say that mandolin strings sound best when 3 years old. I will say, however, that quality strings are worth the expense and trouble of procurement. I recall *ahem* less-than-quality strings going false after a mere 2-3 months of daily use.

    Needless to say, YMMV.

    Cheers,

    Victor
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  2. #2
    Registered User Steve Davis's Avatar
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    No need to rush into these things.
    Steve Davis

    I should really be practicing instead of sitting in front of the computer.

  3. #3

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    Indeed. If there's one thing I try to avoid, it's rash decisions.
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  4. #4

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    My name is Patrick and I'm a cheapskate.

    My dobro strings are getting ripe too, but they're a nice coated set and stay in tune. Until the G string winding goes, I think I'm gonna keep 'em. As for the Eastman, I've got some Jazzmando flatwounds on order for it and I got them so that I can keep 'em on for a long time, since it's my beater.

  5. #5

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    Ah, I knew there were more of us out there!
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    I'm a cheapskate too, Victor. Or perhaps, just lazy or even, a very lazy cheapskate. That's why I like the JM11s and TI strings so much on my instruments (aside from nice tone and feel), the longevity is great. Those 20 minutes spent changing strings may be better spent with frivolity like beer, a good book, or a pleasant nap.

    I will admit, when I finally get around to changing those old strings I am quite pleased with the fresh sound after a day or so.

    Jamie
    There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second. Logan Pearsall Smith, 1865 - 1946

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    I'm Chuck, and I'm also a cheapskate...

    My mando (Sam Bush Gibson Strings) and banjo (Earl Scruggs signatures) strings have been on since before Christmas, and my main guitar strings (Elixirs) have been on since sometime in Early February, I think.

    The banjo doesn't see as much play time as it used to, but the other's are played very regularly. I did recently change the strings on my beater guitar, though, and I've gotta admit that after the first night it was worth the effort. As long as they stay in tune and aren't unwinding, I usually roll with it.
    Chuck

  8. #8
    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    When they look more green than bronze, it's time.
    Never say "bouzouki" to a TSA agent...

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    I am not so sure about my cheapskatedness -- I do have a large stash of imported quality strings that I had delivered to a friend when she visited her dad in Germany. However, I would have paid a lot more for them now with the exchange rate.

    I think that changing strings for me is more of a question of lazyness and lack of time. Which would I rather do -- change the strings or actually play the instrument?
    Jim

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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by
    "When they look more green than bronze, it's time. "
    Certainly. Especially fuzzy green.
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    ...but if they are fuzzy green in the winter, perhaps they would help cure colds....




    Dena

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    I'm definitely not a "cheapskate", in fact I have difficulty even spelling that word. I have another ailment, I'm a "spendthrift." I buy the finest strings and change them frequently, perhaps too often. I have the same problem with shoes - buy expensive and too many.

    Ilene

  13. #13
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    I have the same problem with mandolins - buy expensive and too many.
    Jim

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  14. #14
    Registered User mandomurph's Avatar
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    Here's two extremes I heard at some festival workshops:
    Jerry Douglas said he changes strings after about every 3 hours of playing. A professional bluegrass mandolin player, whose name I can't recall, said he only changes strings when they break.
    mandomurph

    Joyful pickin'!

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    I'm both cheap and expensive; used cars, thrift shop clothing and minimal expenditures for the more ephemeral sort of thing. But I like good musical toys and have paid dearly for them. To that end, I've found that if you have enough mandolins, and string them with good strings, you can go years between string changes. I almost broke down and restrung a mandolin last week, but couldn't bring myself to do it. The first week of playing is a real pain.

    I've heard of folks who change strings before every gig; I've also heard of a professional violinist who hasn't changed strings in several years. He gives me hope.

    So far I've never had to replace a set of Dogal Calace strings; I have one instrument strung with Lenzners that might benefit from a change, but I'm going to wait until a string breaks. I'm fortunate that my hands do not corrode strings, so I may go to my grave without having to change another string. But it'd annoy me knowing that I still had a dozen unopened sets of strings sitting in my toolbox. I may have to alter my departure time to take those into account.

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    I'm with you Bob, changing strings (especially mandolin) is my least favorite thing to do. My little electric screw driver tuning button attacment has made this a quicker process when you really must change the strings. The days of endless experimenting has given way to adapting myself to whatever is in hand. I also rarely change my violin strings (plain gut), my fingers don't sweat and the strings seem to last forever (for me).

    The 18th century neapolitan mandolin is another thing though, the brass A string breaks if you look at it too hard...(its suppose to be tensioned just below breaking point, this is definitely true).




  17. #17
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    Viktor you lucky dog!

    Your experience not only shows that quality strings really have a positive effect. It also shows that there are people out there, that donīt seem to rust down strings the way other people do.

    I also like quality strings. Yet I wear out a stet of strings per gig/practice session/day... I would very much like string changing service to go with the bulk strings that I buy, and for the same price, too .

    But since I am a lazybone and a cheapskate to boot I only change strings when I canīt bear the tone of the used up strings.

    To my great relief I seem to be in good company (concerning wearing out the strings). David Grisman wears out a set of strings in one show (as he admits on a concert video with Doc Watson), Jerry Douglas has been mentioned, I am sure, there are others.
    Olaf

  18. #18

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    As with all other aspects of life, "different strokes for different folks". I suspect, for example, that my friend Jim would need a veritable truckload of strings, were he to restring ALL the wonderful instruments he has in his collection; I only have one at this point (at least "one in every port", as it were )

    Bob, if strings in one's reserve may contribute to one's longevity... BUY MORE IMMEDIATELY, my friend! In fact, I would be happy to send you some of mine; I won't be needing them for another decade-or-so...

    As for myself, I am a confirmed case of incurable chordal parsimony. Again in the spirit of group therapy, I don't mind telling the world that the strings on my bass --an instrument I play daily, professionally, and thus far more than the mandolin-- date back to... *drumroll, please*... 1987. Never sounded better...

    Cheers,

    Victor

    P.S. Olaf, what an absolutely STUNNING image, that soundhole-with-picture-inside! What instrument IS that, anyhow?
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  19. #19
    Registered User Jonathan Peck's Avatar
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    ....you can change the strings? Oh man, why didn't anybody tell me that!!
    And now for today's weather....sunny, with a chance of legs

    "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." - Abraham Lincoln

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    I remember the guy who got the mandolin in tune and then superglued the tuners in place. Never have to worry about tuning again. Sadly a true story.

  21. #21

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    ... and I thought it outrageous that the previous owner of my bass had had the soundpost nailed into place from above, THROUGH the instrument's top!

    By way of follow-up, my newly-but-VERY-belatedly changed strings are already mellowing out. I am giving them a good whacking with Carlo's "Washing-Machine" tremolo drill, something I can do for mindless hours on end, while thinking of other things-- such as mandolin music I would eventually like to play.

    Besides, my stellar performing career on the mandolin is such that I don't expect to be playing in public for another 6-9 months, by which time the new strings certainly won't be all that new at all any more...

    Cheers,

    Victor
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  22. #22
    Professional History Nerd John Zimm's Avatar
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    You definitely aren't alone Victor. I haven't changed my strings since my son was born and he just had his third birthday. Maybe I'll try to change them before he starts playing.

    -John.
    Ah! must --
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    --Francis Thompson

  23. #23
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Gotcha beat. My 1880's Autoharp has some of the original strings, which makes them almost 120 years old. Of course Autoharp strings aren't rubbed against steel frets or corroded by perspiration, but still that's a long time for a string to persevere. Since it's no longer possible to get wound low-octave Autoharp strings properly sized for Mr. Zimmermann's smaller models, I'm sticking with them for the foreseeable future. Maybe they'll celebrate a bicentennial some day.
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  24. #24
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    I play strings long after they go dead to avoid paying for new ones, but also to avoid the hassle of changing them. Of course in my experience strings last far shorter a time than the times mentioned above--round wound uncoated strings seem to last about a day or two, flatwounds longer but still weeks rather than months. I do change strings when I play shows or record.

  25. #25

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    I tend to buy strings deliberately for their longevity. In the case of round-wound carbon steel on mandolins, that's great because I actually like their mature sound. In the case of composite basses on guitar...well, they do last a much longer time than others.

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