Strings for a beginner

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Strings for a beginner

Postby Chiselteeth » Wed Apr 26, 2017 9:36 am


I'm new to both the forum and the mandolin. I've been playing Uke for a while and wanted a new instrument. Chose the mandolin because of the violin style tuning (I used to play).

I've bought a low cost one to start with and obviously it won't have come with the best strings. I'm happy to buy a fit new strings, my question is this:

What are the best new strings for a beginner - in particular I would like ones that are slightly less painful than the ones fitted. I'm really feeling the pain! At this point I'm not too concerned if the strings give less volume (my neighbours probably wouldn't mind that either!) I'm just looking for something easier on the fingers while I sit there practicing chords over and over again....
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Re: Strings for a beginner

Postby colirv » Wed Apr 26, 2017 10:35 am

Any steel-strung instrument is going to feel painful after a ukulele! And as a rule the cheaper the instrument the harder (and more painful) it will be to play.

What will make it more painful is higher action or heavier strings. The action could well be poor on a cheap instrument, but probably not easy to improve (unless the bridge is adjustable). Going for lighter strings might well help, depending on what strings are currently on it. I use D'Addario medium gauge strings (.011-.040). IIWY I'd probably look for any strings marked "light gauge" or with gauges .010-.034 and pick the cheapest!
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Re: Strings for a beginner

Postby Ray(T) » Wed Apr 26, 2017 11:36 am

People agonise over the choice of strings but, as a person who has been playing since before d'addario started making strings (circa 1974), my advice would be to stick with whichever of their phosphor bronze strings take your fancy. That said, the pain may not be entirely down to strings. If the mandolin isn't set up correctly, any set of strings could prove painful.

For starters, ignore anything the dealer told you about the care and attention given to setting it up before you bought it. I have bought several very expensive (you don't want to know!) instruments from new and every one has needed attention. The usual culprit is the nut. They are inevitably left too high and this will make fretting painful.

The way to test this is simple. Compare, by eye, the distance you have to press a string down for it to hit the first fret with the distance you need to press it to hit the second fret whilst you're holding it down at the first. My bet would be that the former will be greater than the latter which means your nut is too high. If so, it would be worth your while taking it to someone to have it set up properly. You could do it yourself but take too much off and you'll need a new nut. There are, however, other things which a set up may identify.

Mentioning no names, I recently spent three and a half grand on a new mandola. The nut was too high, there was too much relief on the neck, two of the upper frets needed levelling and the bridge needed modification so it would go lower. Don't, therefore, expect perfection on a relatively cheap instrument straight out of the box!
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Re: Strings for a beginner

Postby atticus » Wed Apr 26, 2017 3:41 pm

I began 4 years ago, aged 53. I feel your pain!

I was recommended to get a small pot of Vaseline and rub it into my fingertips after playing. It helps a bit. Your skin will harden over time.

Interesting point by Ray(T). I am waiting for my new Breedlove mandolin. I shall look out for that. I don't see any point trying any such adjustments on my Ozark 2001.
beginner - with my own mandolin custom made by Bogdan Dobraszczyk
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Re: Strings for a beginner

Postby Ray(T) » Wed Apr 26, 2017 9:13 pm

I would have thought vaseline would soften calluses rather than harden them; which is what you want. My advice would be to simply wipe the blood off and keep playing. Trust me, it does get better! Thomastic strings might help but at approaching £50 a set you might want to put up with the pain.
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Re: Strings for a beginner

Postby Dave Hanson » Thu Apr 27, 2017 6:11 am

If you use vaseline on your fingertips they will never harden and develop callouses.

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