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String Gage Question

MandobartMandobart ✭✭ Mandolin, Octave Mandolin, Mandocello, Fiddles

Hi everyone - I've been gone a long time! No particular reason. Sorry to hear D'jangofest NW has been cancelled. One of many pandemic casualties.

I hope you all are well. I can't complain - as an essential worker I'm still employed.

I've been playing and practicing a lot more lately. I have an Eastman archtop (originally an MDC805 mandocello which I've converted to an AR605) that I've always used 13's on. I like Newtone archtop strings, Martin Retro Monel and the D'addarrio nickel-bronze were pretty good too.

Yesterday I strung her up with Ernie Ball aluminum bronze. A really different, but good tone. It got me thinking I'd like to try them on my Altamira M20D. I've always used gypsy jazz specific 11's on this guitar - it came with Argentine 10's originally.

How heavy a string gage is recommended for a sel-mac copy? I'm thinking 13's, which are considered medium for most guitars, could be too heavy. Are 12's also too heavy? Thanks!

Comments

  • ScoredogScoredog Santa Barbara, Ca✭✭✭✭
    edited June 16 Posts: 646

    Do you want to bend and vibrato, that's a heavy gauge, at least for me to do those with.

  • MandobartMandobart ✭✭ Mandolin, Octave Mandolin, Mandocello, Fiddles
    Posts: 98

    Further Google searching revealed a thread here from '08 strongly advising against the use of 13's or even 12's on a GJ guitar.

    My Eastman was originally built for 8 strings - 4 dual courses. Its braced pretty heavy. After I bought it I got a custom 10 String mandocello, so I got a new nut and bridge - presto its now an archtop guitar. I have the original bridge and nut to convert it back if desired later. Anyway, it takes heavier strings to really drive it I found.

    My question now is does anyone use different (non-GJ specific) strings on their GJ guitar?

  • mac63000mac63000 Tacoma, WANew Geronimo Mateos Jazz B
    Posts: 143

    I feel like I've seen a few threads that touch this and the general consensus is you don't want to use too heavy of a gauge on these guitars. An archtop is a pretty different design and a heavier gauge really helps drive the tone through the top for it to resonate. I would be worried about heavy strings putting too much stress on the top of a gypsy guitar.

    String action/bridge height is going to come into play as well when chosing string gauge. I feel like low action is the widely preferred setup these days so I can see people thinking the solution for their guitar is heavier gauge to get more tone/volume, when really they could use a bit of height in the bridge to solve the issue.

    I've had argie 11s for a while and decided to change things up and get experiment with 10s. I have too bridges with slightly different heights so I can also experiment with different height and tension combos.

    At the risk of straying from the topic of the thread, I recently put higher tension strings on my les paul and simultaneously raised the action... I've never heard it sound so good!

    vanmalmsteenPassacaglia
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,882

    I would think 13s would damage the top on a Selmac. Archtops are a LOT more structural that Selmacs and stiffer.

    mac63000Passacaglia
  • Posts: 2,783

    13s would definitely put a lot of stress on the top but besides that it just wouldn't sound good. At some point you're overdriving the top and getting diminishing returns.

    mac63000Passacaglia
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 100

    You can look up the tension (in pounds or kgs) for various strings and gauges. I wouldn't go beyond the tension of a set of Argentine mediums ("011s"). If you have a short-scale GJ guitar you could maybe add a little more tension, but not much.

    mac63000
  • mac63000mac63000 Tacoma, WANew Geronimo Mateos Jazz B
    Posts: 143

    Not a ton of variables to safely play with unfortunately... I'm just trying to imagine what 13s would feel like on such a long scale length. I just imagined SRV picking up a selmac :D

    Buco
  • Posts: 2,783

    I tried 11s on my guitar several times. It pushes more volume but at the expense of tone. Whenever I thought maybe I was just imagining it, I'd string it up with another set of 11s and same thing happened. Louder but some of the magic was gone, put 10s and all is back. I imagine with 13s this effect would only be amplified. Now my guitar has the top thinner than usual and it's lighter than usual too so that's a part of the reason it doesn't do well with 11s. But most are 4.5 lbs tops. Did you ever hold an archtop that's 4-4.5 lbs?

    mac63000Passacaglia
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • pmgpmg Atherton, CANew Dupont MD50R, Shelley Park Custom, Super 400, 68 Les Paul Deluxe, Stevie Ray Strat
    Posts: 124

    One of my gypsy jam buddies uses .13s and even .14s on his Saga GJ guitar - but has ongoing issues with the neck. I agree with other comments that GJ guitars are not designed to handle higher tension strings that an .11. I think the genre also encourages more string bending and vibrato that would be possible with heavier gauge strings.

    I'm always interested in jamming with experienced jazz and gypsy jazz players in the San Francisco - San Jose area. Drop me a line. Bass players welcome!
  • edited June 23 Posts: 916

    I think, on a 14-fret to the body neck, .10s will give you 125lbs of force, .11s will do around 155lbs (I think), and so if you go higher than that, you're talking trouble, in my opinion.


    I don't know about silk&steel strings, but there are calculators on the internet for Bronze strings:

    https://tension.stringjoy.com/

    mac63000Passacaglia
    ---
    Jon Austen, Portland, OR
    playing since 1997
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