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Thread: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

  1. #1

    Default De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    I recently had a De Meglio restored... The luthier put on these:

    Labella Bluegrass and country Bronze wound
    .009 .012 .021w .036w

    Is it low tension enough or do you always want that .032 at the end? The new fingerboard is beautiful and shows how putting a new ebony fingerboard on those old DeMeglios can improve it structurally. It plays at 1.75 mm at the 12th fret... But should I be nervous about these strings? I'm going to switch back to Dogal but would it be safe to wear down these strings?

  2. #2
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    I would have thought that those gauges should be OK for a structurally sound de Meglio. Compared to most other old Neapolitans, de Meglio mandolins are fairly sturdy. I know one player who always uses d'Addario J62 on his de Meglio, and with gauges of .010 .014 .022w .034w those have a higher total tension than the set you have on yours. Whether the La Bella set gives you the best sound is a different question and depends on your tone preferences. Try a few sets while you're getting to know your instrument before settling on one.

    Congratulations on finally having made the jump to a decent bowlback! De Meglios are great and I'm sure you'll enjoy yours!

    Martin

  3. #3

    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Grazie `uaglio! I ordered some Calace soft tension strings, HOPEFULLY the luthier shop sending the mandolin from England will have the tension down when sending the strings, so I'll slip those babies on right away. The action at the 12th fret is 1.75 so everything is damn clean to play, it was just the strings I was nervous about.

  4. #4

    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    I'm so nervousss though waiting for it to come in from England, I'm praying to god and almost in tears that he loosened up the tension so it doesn't warp in transit here and I can swap strings ASAP

  5. #5
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Quote Originally Posted by MandolinoNapoletano View Post
    I'm so nervousss though waiting for it to come in from England
    Out of curiosity, who did you get to do the restoration?

    Cheers, John.

  6. #6

    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    I wouldn't worry all that much: the strings you describe aren't all that heavy and, in any case, warping (usually) takes years; a single trip across The Pond shouldn't cause any trouble. Also, a brand-new fingerboard adds at least some resilience to the overall structure of the instrument.

    Besides, Dogal Calace "dolce" strings aren't all that much lighter than the ones you have on right now-- I forget the exact gauges, but their G's are pretty hefty, from what I recall. Finally, as Martin writes, de Meglios (one of which I, too, once owned) are sturdy little creatures.

    In short, not to worry. Enjoy your new/refurbished baby!

    Cheers,

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

  7. #7

    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Tavy View Post
    Out of curiosity, who did you get to do the restoration?

    Cheers, John.
    Moseley's violins did the restoration, and what a beautiful job they did from the photos they sent. I have photos before during and after the job was completed. If you would like to see, let me know. They made a new bridge saddle and nut with a new fretboard with the original inlays transferred over from the old fretboard. They do have a couple other De Meglios they are going to restore, and I would definitely check into it if you're looking for a nice playing nice sounding classic italian instrument.

  8. #8

    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Quote Originally Posted by vkioulaphides View Post
    I wouldn't worry all that much: the strings you describe aren't all that heavy and, in any case, warping (usually) takes years; a single trip across The Pond shouldn't cause any trouble. Also, a brand-new fingerboard adds at least some resilience to the overall structure of the instrument.

    Besides, Dogal Calace "dolce" strings aren't all that much lighter than the ones you have on right now-- I forget the exact gauges, but their G's are pretty hefty, from what I recall. Finally, as Martin writes, de Meglios (one of which I, too, once owned) are sturdy little creatures.

    In short, not to worry. Enjoy your new/refurbished baby!

    Cheers,

    Victor
    Just wondering if you can explain to me Victor, the De Meglios are listed as having ruck like tone ports. What does that mean and what exactly is a tone port?

  9. #9
    Mandolin Botherer Shelagh Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    I had a De Meglio bowlback for some 20 years and for almost all of that period it was strung with standard 10-34 bronze strings without any adverse effects at all.

    I've not heard of the term "ruck like tone ports" but De Meglios typically have the side ports shown in the photo in this link:

    http://z.about.com/w/experts/Antique...o-Mandolin.jpg

  10. #10

    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Yes, Richard is right on target. These "tone-ports", however, strike me as more a thing for the eye than for the ear; I don't know, in other words, what real, substantive effect they have on the actual projection of de Meglios. Others, (physicists, engineers) on board may be able to shed more light on this matter.

    And the phrase "ruck like tone ports" reminds me of a polemical treatise I once read, inveighing "domic societal polarities" against (or caused by?) "post-intelligentsia neoterisms"-- and all this, mind you, while the topic was the music scene in 18th-century, German-speaking courts!

    I thus don the cloak of stern disapproval upon such verbal shenanigans, entirely eschewing obfuscation and gratuitous grandiloquence in favor of post-aesthetic lucidity, and say to you that... I don't know whether those funky, little holes on de Meglios make a darn bit of difference in the sound, or not.

    Cheers,

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

  11. #11

    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    String gauges/tension is not excessive, my only concern would be bridge compensation and string length... so often the modern strings don't intonate properly up the fingerboard on short-scaled mandolins. Case in point, I have an original Embergher 5bis on loan here and the original bridge (with Embergher compensation) has yet to find a set of strings that intonate correctly up the fingerboard.

  12. #12
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Richard: Have you tried Optima Goldin strings on the Embergher? I've been using them for a few years on my (much more modest) Embergher and it intonates fine, at least for my ears. I first tried them on a recommendation from Ralf Leenen.

    Martin

  13. #13
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Walz View Post
    String gauges/tension is not excessive, my only concern would be bridge compensation and string length... so often the modern strings don't intonate properly up the fingerboard on short-scaled mandolins. Case in point, I have an original Embergher 5bis on loan here and the original bridge (with Embergher compensation) has yet to find a set of strings that intonate correctly up the fingerboard.
    Get a new bridge made compensated for your favorite strings. Put the old bridge in the case for posterity but that bridge is made for the older strings and may not work for the ones you like or whatever is available.
    Jim

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  14. #14

    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Jonas View Post
    Richard: Have you tried Optima Goldin strings on the Embergher? I've been using them for a few years on my (much more modest) Embergher and it intonates fine, at least for my ears. I first tried them on a recommendation from Ralf Leenen.

    Martin
    Now where will I find Optima Goldin strings? Thanks for the recommendation...!

  15. #15

    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Mandolin shipped in today, and it is BEAUTIFUL!!! GREAT LOW ACTION and amazing tone. It is in PRISTINE condition! However there is one buzz when i pluck an open G too hard or pluck an E on the second fret, F on the third fret, of the 4th string. I just think it's like this because since the action is low you gotta change your playing to a bit softer, because the harder the pluck the more vibration to hit a fret on the low action. Neck is dead straight and the intonation is perfect. Any comments as to the buzzes?
    Last edited by MandolinoNapoletano; Aug-14-2009 at 8:02pm. Reason: additional details

  16. #16

    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Meh it's only on the new strings and they are bronze country bluegrass, tomorrow I get my Calace strings and I think all will be well since the intonation is perfect plus it's only when I pick very hard.

  17. #17
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Quote Originally Posted by MandolinoNapoletano View Post
    Mandolin shipped in today, and it is BEAUTIFUL!!! GREAT LOW ACTION and amazing tone. It is in PRISTINE condition! However there is one buzz when i pluck an open G too hard or pluck an E on the second fret, F on the third fret, of the 4th string. I just think it's like this because since the action is low you gotta change your playing to a bit softer, because the harder the pluck the more vibration to hit a fret on the low action. Neck is dead straight and the intonation is perfect. Any comments as to the buzzes?
    That's probably a question best addressed to the luthier who set it up, but... the G should never really buzz when played open... provided you're certain that there is no user error (see http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Luth...technique.html). For untra-low actions (less than 1.5mm at 12th fret) then pick action becomes especially important if you're to avoid fret-buzzing. Other than that you really need to handle the instrument yourself to diagnose a buzz.

    Just a wild idea: you could double check that no fixtures and fittings have worked loose in transit, could be something rattling in simpathy with those low notes... also that any felt dampeners are still in place and doing their job...

    HTH, John.

  18. #18

    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Tavy View Post
    That's probably a question best addressed to the luthier who set it up, but... the G should never really buzz when played open... provided you're certain that there is no user error (see http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Luth...technique.html). For untra-low actions (less than 1.5mm at 12th fret) then pick action becomes especially important if you're to avoid fret-buzzing. Other than that you really need to handle the instrument yourself to diagnose a buzz.

    Just a wild idea: you could double check that no fixtures and fittings have worked loose in transit, could be something rattling in simpathy with those low notes... also that any felt dampeners are still in place and doing their job...

    HTH, John.
    I took it to a luthier today and he was amazed at the job well done, he said with low action you just gotta watch your picking, and I have learned to successfully do that... I was so used to ###### action and having to dig out the tone that I treated this instrument the same way and it was a mistake.... Maybe i'll do a video if anyone is interested.

  19. #19
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Quote Originally Posted by MandolinoNapoletano View Post
    I took it to a luthier today and he was amazed at the job well done, he said with low action you just gotta watch your picking, and I have learned to successfully do that... I was so used to ###### action and having to dig out the tone that I treated this instrument the same way and it was a mistake.... Maybe i'll do a video if anyone is interested.
    Glad you got that sorted, +1 from me on the video, it's always interesting to hear how these old instruments sound... there's so many different luthiers who built these, it's hard to sort the good from the bad!

    Regards, John.

  20. #20
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Walz View Post
    Now where will I find Optima Goldin strings? Thanks for the recommendation...!
    Sorry to sidetrack this thread but I suppose it is relevant to all./ I got these strings (and other European-made ones) from SaitenKatalog in Germany. I believe that Martin referred me there a few years back.
    Jim

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  21. #21
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Sorry to sidetrack this thread but I suppose it is relevant to all./ I got these strings (and other European-made ones) from SaitenKatalog in Germany. I believe that Martin referred me there a few years back.
    Yes, indeed -- Saitenkatalog is the place to get them, especially if you're in Europe (which I believe you are, Richard). Their prices are very good, their selection is second to none, and shipping is reasonable. Also, for those who make up custom sets by mixing and matching, they sell single strings with little uplift over the full set price. If I remember right, Alison Stephens uses (or at least did so at one stage -- she may have changed now) a Hannabach E, a Thomastik A and an Optima Chrome D and G on her Embergher, and Saitenkatalog makes that easy.

    One note on the Goldin strings: the description at the Saitenkatalog link given by Jim is wrong. Goldin is Optima's name for 80/20 bronze, so these are bright-bronze wound strings, not silver steel. They are polished after winding, like the d'Addario FlatTops or Lenzner/Fisoma bronze strings, so they have a much smoother feel than a round wound string.

    Optima also make polished mandolin strings in Chrome Special, Chrome Nickel and Silver-plated Steel, all available from Saitenkatalog, so if you normally prefer steel strings over bronze strings, you may want to try those instead. I like the warmer tone one gets from the Goldin.

    Martin

  22. #22
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Yes, I did not look at Saitenkatalog's description. Here is the page from Optima. I also checked my sets and here are the gauges:

    E .010
    A .013
    D .023
    G .036
    Jim

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  23. #23

    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    80/20's won't work on classical short scale mandolins, at least they didn't some years ago when I was experimenting.

  24. #24
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Walz View Post
    80/20's won't work on classical short scale mandolins, at least they didn't some years ago when I was experimenting.
    Goldin (aka "Tombak" or "Rotmessing"/"red brass") isn't quite 80/20, it's more typically 85% to 90% copper and therefore a bit darker than, say, a J62 set. I gather from German jewellers' web sites that the name is partially because the colour is similar to gold but mainly because this particular alloy happens to have precisely the same thermal expansion coefficient as gold. That's not very relevant for musical strings, but useful for jewellers as it means that one can put a thin layer of gold onto a piece made from goldin and it will stay in one piece regardless of temperature changes.

    Embergher himself used something along those lines, too: the strings sold by the Embergher shop were a bronze or brass alloy, and I seem to remember Ralf saying that the Goldins were the closest you get now with commercially available strings. I'm not so sure it's a matter of winding material alone: I think the polishing is a fairly important part of it, too, and again I believe that the Optimas (and the Lenzners for that matter) are similar in this respect to the original Embergher strings. They certainly feel very smooth under the fingers compared to a roundwound string.

    Incidentally, here is the original discussion on the Goldin strings, with contributions from Ralf and from Alison.

    Martin

  25. #25

    Default Re: De Meglio Bowlback Strings Question

    Do you think A'Addario EFW74 would be too risky on a 1900 DeMeglio EFiglio Bowl back?
    It's in very good shape and all bracing is solid.
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