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Strings Found for Oval Archtop: Gypsy Jazz type but in standard gauges!

McQMcQ Fayetteville, ARNew
I'm slowly working my way back around to playing gypsy jazz after having sold my Gitane DG300 a few years ago. In the end the neck specs and scale were too great for me, and I've had my eye out for a better fit since then. Well, just today I purchased an older Eastman AR800e from Chuck Levins (awesome to deal with, by the way). Some of you here are familiar, but for those not: it's a non-cutaway oval hole archtop that looks similar to a vintage Gibson L4. The scale is 25", nut width is 1.75", and the neck profile is a medium C shape.
Now, I don't expect this guitar to compete with the authentic sound of an actual gypsy jazz guitar, but I would like for it to lean that direction. Therefore, I'd been searching for standard gauge gypsy jazz strings. You know, like a 12-53 set that one would put on a flat top acoustic. Well, I found them! Two, in fact:

"These acoustic strings offer a very brilliant, balanced, lovely and round tone due to their four deep strings coated with silver-plated copper wire."
Available in 12, 16, 24, 32, 42, 52 at
"La Bella’s Silver-Plated sets are made with silver-plated copper wire, hand-wound on a steel core. First introduced by La Bella in the 1940s, this traditional style of string has slightly less tension than bronze or brass wound strings. As a result, our Silver-Plated strings produce a uniquely clean and crisp tone."
Available in 11, 15, 22, 32, 42, 52 at

I'm so curious to try these out! I'm most interested in the Pyramid ones as I've been extremely impressed with their electric strings and specifically how they silver-plate the plain b and e strings. The ones I have appear to be longer-lasting, and I really like the way their plain strings sound compared to Ernie Ball plain b and e strings.

Interesting side note, from this thread ...
Bob Holo wrote: »
I now use Argentine reds on my 1920 Gibson L1 because they're just wonderful on it. The nickel strings of the same gauge feel too squishy and lack bass - so with nickel/bronze strings I have to use a "true medium" (12-53) which is just too heavy for that guitar and dampens the soundboard too much (L0/L1/L2 were lightly built... unlike most archtops they do not benefit from heavy strings) I have a feeling that a lot of the griping you hear about early Gibson archtops is due to people putting 14's on them and then wondering why they sound crappy...)

It's very interesting to learn that these "mona" strings may have been the design of strings intended for this instrument when it was produced because I can tell you for a fact that they sound much better - and that's not just a "gypsy jazz" guy's opinion - and it's not a subtle difference. My brother, who largely plays archtops was just bowled over at how much better the Argies sounded and felt on the L1. The relatively high action (low by Gypsy standards - maybe 2.8mm) all of a sudden made sense... in other words - the high action became very playable. Most important - the volume and tone took a big leap forward.

Very interesting stuff. Thanks for digging into this.

Since the Eastman is not a vintage model Gibson it won't require such low tension, but maybe the same type of strings in a standard gauge will achieve a similar effect. I should note that since the AR800e comes with a floating (fingerboard mounted) magnetic pickup, I don't expect it to sound that great plugged in with silver-plated copper strings. Therefore, I'll also be picking up some Martin Retro monel strings to see how those fare. I've been enjoying them on a flat-top acoustic I have, and monel strings are probably what a Gibson L1, L3, or L4 oval archtop would have come with back in the 20s.

Here's some pics of the guitar that's on the way:


  • Posts: 3,166
    That's a great guitar, congratulations.
    But why not have a Selmer style guitar built with a neck to you specs? I can guess the price is a concern but there are luthiers who can make you a custom guitar at a reasonable price, relatively speaking for this world of guitars.

    That said, I played a same model prior to getting my Selmer style because I was also itching for archtop and thought maybe the Eastman could do both. The Eastman sounded awesome, it was a blonde model.
    But I told myself if I compromise I won't be happy in the end. This was in 2009. I'm still waiting for my archtop. But happy with my Gypsy jazz one.

    I used Pyramid strings for a while, liked the way they sounded but high E and B would break a lot straight out of the fresh pack. Tried getting in touch a couple of times, never heard back from them. So I stopped using them.
    Also used LaBella for a good while and loved them too. Their wound G would also break fairly soon. But their customer service is very responsive and they would sell me individual strings.

    Krivo pickup would be a good way to amplify.

    Welcome back.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • McQMcQ Fayetteville, ARNew
    Posts: 67
    Hi Buco, and thanks for the warm welcome! It's good to be back. :)

    Thank you so much for the feedback about those strings! I notice that LaBella is made in the USA, so living here myself combined with their responsive customer service might end up being the better choice. And about the pickup--I've hardly begun to scratch the surface there, and just checked out some Krivo pics and videos. Wow, it sounds great with Argentine strings! I really don't want to have to use electric strings on the Eastman--the electric part of this is just a bonus. If I decide against having the mounted pickup and electronics (vol and tone under pickguard), then I might go that route.

    Although I have played guitar for over 20 years now, my path towards Gypsy Jazz has been a circuitous one. My entrance into playing it coincided with a time in which I had put the guitar aside and had been playing trumpet and sax for a few years, but had then injured an abdominal support muscle. I wanted to keep playing jazz and always loved this music, so I re-started my guitar playing with one of the most difficult styles out there! In retrospect, it's no surprise that it didn't take back then. I ended up sort of resetting my guitar playing by going back to the songs and style I learned and played for years--Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd mainly. Within the past few months I've explored playing Gypsy Jazz again (I miss it!), and have discovered that having my chops back helps tremendously. Plus, I think having started to learn the technique and songs back then has allowed it to germinate. Probably as musicians we've all experienced that before, right? Work on something, set it aside, and then it's somehow easier when we return to it. Well, it still isn't easy! But the things that felt so new and unusual and uncomfortable back then, like the rest stroke, best practices on downstroke vs upstroke, wrist angle, all seem familiar now like an old friend I'm seeing again that I wish I could have gotten to know a bit better.

    As far as custom builds for my scale and neck preferences, my budget was under $1000 US and I didn't see anything out there close to that. I almost held out for another Gitane or Cigano, but I've been playing and own mostly 25" or 24.75" scale guitars. I love my Telecaster at 25.5" but not as much for lead playing, certainly not anything speedy, and otherwise it's used for alternate tunings and with a capo. I spent time playing Gypsy Jazz on my cheap 24" scale Gretsch Jim Dandy, my 25" scale Eastman AC312 (000 style mahogany), and my 25.5" Telecaster. And as usual, the 25" scale was the most comfortable and I played best on that scale.

    Aside from Gypsy Jazz, I have also been very much into early acoustic blues, ragtime, folk. I'm excited about how the Eastman AR800 might also be a good choice for when I want to play those styles, too.

    Check out these vids of a Gibson L1 (first two) and L3 (second two):

  • McQMcQ Fayetteville, ARNew
    edited May 2017 Posts: 67
    Well, my strings should arrive tomorrow. I ended up not ordering the LaBella 700ML strings on the advice of who said that particular type from LaBella is currently experiencing buzzing. But I do have the Pyramid 307 set coming, and I figured what the heck and also got some Galli GSB11. They seemed to be the most traditional Gypsy strings with largest gauges and hex core, that added stiffness of which I wanted with a short scale guitar. That said, I expect they'll be floppy and won't drive the top enough. It will be fun to find out, though. Between those two, I might learn something that will lead me to the Lenzner Fisoma (12-50) F2000 M, which seem to be only available here.

    In the meantime I restrung the AR800 with D'Addario PB custom lights. While I had the strings off I did some maintenance and took a closer look at the guitar. I was surprised to discover it's parallel braced with two tonebars, just like the vintage Gibson oval archtop models were. I also measured the scale length at a curious 24.5 inches (12.25 inches from nut to 12th fret).

    Here's a vid showing the inside bracing of the AR800:

  • Posts: 3,166
    I tested and used Lenzner Fisoma too and liked them. I think I remember them sounding warm and smokey also having more overtones than Pyramid with​ the letter being more fundamental sounding and punchier which is what I wanted for this genre. I then found that John Pearse has all those qualities of Pyramid without QC issues.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • McQMcQ Fayetteville, ARNew
    edited May 2017 Posts: 67
    I just changed out the strings on the Eastman from D'Addario EJ26 custom lights to Galli GSB11 mediums, which reduced the total tension by almost 10 lbs and yet the difference in volume was negligible. The Gypsy strings sound more like they belong on this guitar. Sweeter with shimmer but no harsh overtones, more dynamic and responsive, and sounding more like Gypsy Jazz overall. I'll try the Pyramid eventually, but I'll probably be leaving these Galli GSB11 strings on for a while! I'm very pleasantly surprised.

    D'Addario custom light
    137.14 lbs at 24.5" scale
    83 dB measured at 2 feet with 3mm Wegen pick, Minor Swing rhythm

    Galli GSB11
    129.11 lbs at 24.5" scale
    82.6 dB measured at 2 feet and 80 dB at 7 feetwith 3mm Wegen pick, Minor Swing rhythm

    Edit to add a couple of things:
    Just in case someone is looking at these dB values and thinking "what??" I'm not sure if the dB values are accurate, as I simply used an iPhone app called "Decibel 10th." I've been through a few dB apps and that's my favorite free one. An actual dB measuring device may have yielded different values. However, it worked for the sake of comparison.

    I recorded a couple of clips using the iPhone "Voice Memos" app, just to see if I could hear a difference from the other side of playing. Although it is more apparent when playing, even with the humble iPhone mic the differences are there when played back on the phone itself, as well as on two different external speaker systems. Notable, I think, is the overall balance in volume between the low, mid, and high strings. Gypsy Jazz strings are sort of top-heavy, bottom-light compared to the gauges of standard flat top and arch top strings. I think for this guitar to lean more towards the Gypsy Jazz genre, rhythm playing especially needs that string balance to sound "right."

    11 - 15 - 22 - 32 - 42 - 52 (D'Addario EJ26)
    11 - 14 - 23 - 30 - 39 - 47 (Galli GSB 11)
  • McQMcQ Fayetteville, ARNew
    Posts: 67
    Just played a bit with the new gypsy jazz strings on and for the first time I'm feeling the AR800 vibrate against me when I play. While the volume didn't improve greatly, to me this is a good sign that the strings are paired well with the guitar.

    I have the action at the 12th fret at just under 3.0 mm for the low E and a hair above 2.0 mm for the high e. My low E is buzzing a bit now in the middle frets, so I'll let the strings settle in for a couple of days and then check the relief again. Right now the neck is almost completely straight--definitely less than .010 inches there right now because of the lighter strings. Usually I would prefer that, but for this Gypsy picking I'll need a bit more relief than what's currently there and will probably end up setting it at .010 inches.
  • Posts: 3,166
    It'd be interesting to know how it worked out in a longer run.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
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