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Mandolin strings-HELP!

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Kaleea 19 Jan 04 - 01:41 AM
JohnInKansas 19 Jan 04 - 02:50 AM
mooman 19 Jan 04 - 04:50 AM
JohnInKansas 19 Jan 04 - 05:00 AM
GUEST,Ghirotondo at work 19 Jan 04 - 05:24 AM
MickyMan 19 Jan 04 - 05:37 AM
KateG 19 Jan 04 - 05:04 PM
Amos 19 Jan 04 - 05:12 PM
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Subject: Mandolin strings-HELP!
From: Kaleea
Date: 19 Jan 04 - 01:41 AM

Dear friends,
    I have acquired an old "bowl back" Mandolin. This nifty instrument has very old strings which obviously need replacing. They are loop end, but have some soft blue fuzzy stuff at the end near the loop which looks like a tiny round brush--the brush-stuff sticks out in all directions from the actual string. I've never seen strings like this, & they are not the same as violin & such strings which are wound with thread near the end. Does anyone know if these such strings are made anymore? Do I need them? It looks as though the strings are quite close to the top/face where they are looped onto the mandolin & that is why the blue fuzzy brush stuff is on there. There is no plate over the end of the strings on the top as on my other mandolin but there is a carved wooden cut-out edging sort of like a crescent moon which is glued across the base of the top. The strings go between this & the top of the mandolin, & of course just over the edge.
    I have tuned the strings about a 4th underpitch as they don't want to stretch much. I intend to gradually increase the tension, but need new strings to accomplish this, & nobody around here has ever seen the type of strings on this old Mandolin, except one fellow who thought he'd seen strings like that back in WWII in Italy.
    Suggestions? Thanks very much!!

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Subject: RE: Mandolin strings-HELP!
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 19 Jan 04 - 02:50 AM

The fuzzy ends aren't really all that uncommon, although I can't say offhand which brands I've seen them on. The fuzz is supposed to keep the short end, between the hook that the loop goes on and the bridge from "buzzing." It may also help keep the string from diggin in where it comes over the end of the bowl, but doesn't usually come far enough on the string to help that much with the mando construction used now.

Some older mandolins had a fairly long straight run from the hook to the first "break," sometimes over the end of the bowl or sometimes at the bridge. I've seen a very few old (and cheaply made) bowl backs that had the strings anchored to the top - like guitars where they're pegged. The fuzzy would probably be more helpful in a case of this sort.

The fuzzies are somewhat more common on fiddle strings than on those packaged for mando (at least on the cheap fiddle strings I buy), but they show up on both. I don't recall that I've seen the "wrapped" ends, like the fiddle strings you mention, on mando strings, but both kinds are found on some fiddle strings too.

Others may differ, but if the instrument is old, I'd suggest one of the lighter weight string sets for a first re-string, until you've had a chance to "play it in" a little; but I wouldn't worry too much about whether you get the "dampers" on them. If it's very old, or looks like it might be less than "artist" grade construction, you might want to verify that the string length is close to "standard" before you choose your new strings, since some of the old (esp. mass produced) bowl backs were somewhat variable in length.


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Subject: RE: Mandolin strings-HELP!
From: mooman
Date: 19 Jan 04 - 04:50 AM

I agree with John.

These fuzzy-ended strings are still available (I think Martin or D'Addario still make them). I agree also that it would be wise to start with a light set. Nothing heavier than about .10, .14, .22W, .34.W. I think it's still possible to get slightly lighter in some brands which might be wise. If you can't get the "fuzzies" it's not too important. If there's buzz, a little strip of felt will also stop this.



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Subject: RE: Mandolin strings-HELP!
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 19 Jan 04 - 05:00 AM

I'd suspect the D'Addario were the ones I got fuzzies on. They show up on the sale table at festivals quite a lot. They never seem to have Martins in any but heavy gages, which I avoid (dainty tender fingers and all).

Perhaps if I'd change mine a little more often I'd remember what I've got, but it's only been a couple of years and none of them are broke.


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Subject: RE: Mandolin strings-HELP!
From: GUEST,Ghirotondo at work
Date: 19 Jan 04 - 05:24 AM

You can try PYRAMID brand ( I think this is a german brand of strings) which has the "fuzzy" stuff near the loop end. The coloured soft stuff is intended also to prevent scratching your wrist when you play the mandolin standing up, since to hold a bowl-back mando without letting it slip requires some pressure...


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Subject: RE: Mandolin strings-HELP!
From: MickyMan
Date: 19 Jan 04 - 05:37 AM

Enuff with the fuzzies already! I've played mandolin for 25 years and some sets have them, some don't. What probably does matter is that your first pair for this old bowl back should indded be on the lighter side and have loop ends (most still do). Your local music store will probably only have one gauge of thickness on mando strings. You can take your chances but it might be worthwile to catalog shop a little and get something light until you know if your old instrument can take the tension.

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Subject: RE: Mandolin strings-HELP!
From: KateG
Date: 19 Jan 04 - 05:04 PM sells an ultralite set of mandolin strings specifically for old bowl-back instruments. We used them on my husband's old 'tater bug. They worked very well, and didn't aggrivate the instrument's slightly warped neck.

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Subject: RE: Mandolin strings-HELP!
From: Amos
Date: 19 Jan 04 - 05:12 PM

Here's a link to Just Strings which I have found to be a very reliable provider.

I recommend Thomastik-Infeld as some of the best strings made (and a top of the hat to dear Aine for leading me to them) -- if you can find them in a gauge that suits your needs.


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