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December 16, 2010 | Flatwound for octave mandolin and mandola

In a reprise of an article we released last summer, we want to update you on our diligent, behind-the-scenes developments creating acoustic flatwound strings for longer scale mandolin family instruments. Hardly a week goes by without someone requesting information on octave mandolin or bouzouki flatwounds.

Our proprietary JD13 JazzDola mandola strings were made specifically for 16-17" scale instruments. Not only are the confines of the total string length an issue, the silk windings Labella insists are necessary to connect the string windings with its core can affect what instruments will work with these. We've found for example, some of the 17" Weber mandolas with their proprietary tailpieces that attach nearly to the end of the face of the instrument won't fit.

We've been asked to make these available for the octave scale (20-22"), but the problem is not only the discrepancy in length (some will have to complete cut off the silk wrapping at the headstock), but the cost. These are extremely labor intensive, and we don't feel the market will pay the $40-60 street price for a set.

This brought us to D'Addario three years ago. Their strings don't require the silk winding, and generally offer enough slack to fit the longest scale instruments. The recent introduction of the FW74 mandolin strings were what we hope to be the first step in introducing an entire family of D'Addario flatwound acoustic. We've been experimenting with some alternate materials for future incarnations, and test-marketing has also been inclusive of some of the European circles, so progress has been slow. Success of the FW74 would assure market credibility.

Meantime, if you want to build singles sets, we've outlined the steps to converting D'Addario Chrome Electric Guitar string individuals, and are repeating this below. We suggest buying them in the five-packs, as you are almost assured breaking a few in the process of removing the ball. Make no mistake, these will work on acoustic instruments, even though they were designed for optimal magnetic draw on an electric. They also yield a rich, warm string fundamental.

Another interesting development for the 10-string player, we're working on a custom order of single .044 gauge strings that could be added to a standard FW74, giving 11, 15, 26, 36, 44. More on this later.

Click for purchase information for JazzMando Family strings

The solution is really quite simple; D'addario is already making this string in their Electric "Chrome" Series for guitar. We've had great success personally making the strings work for acoustic instruments, but it does involve a little minor surgery removing the balls and leaving the loop.

The CG series can be purchased singly; the plain strings come in packs of 10 and the wound in packs of 5. It doesn't hurt to get spares, as it takes a little skill learning how to snip the balls and still leave the loop intact:

Build your own flatwound string sets

Use a high quality set of wire cutters Balls generally break clean and leave the loop intact

The trick is to use a high quality set of wire cutters, or better, if you have access to a set of shop end knippers, the job is pretty easy. The brass in the D'addario ball is pretty soft, so with a little careful pressure, they generally break clean and leave the loop intact.

These are the gauges the flatwound Chrome singles come in. This is great if you want to customize your own, and since they are guitar scale, you should be able to use these in longer mandolin family instruments like mandola, octave mandolin, bouzouki, and mandocello.

Item # Product
CG020 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 020
CG022 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 022
CG024 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 024
CG026 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 026
CG028 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 028
CG030 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 030
CG032 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 032
CG035 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 035
CG038 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 038
CG040 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 040
CG042 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 042
CG045 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 045
CG048 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 048
CG050 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 050
CG052 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 052
CG056 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 056
CG065 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 065
CG075 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 075
CG080 Single XL Chromes Flat Wound 080

You can read about availability and pricing here: D'addario Chrome Singles

This is the target set for mandolin (similar to the Labella JM11) with the following gauges:
CG024 (loop) or CG026
CG036 (loop)

A set that could function as both mandola and shorter scale octave mandolin sets. (Gauging between these is not all that different among existing mass market offerings.)
CG024 (loop)
CG035 (loop)
CG045 (loop) (possibly CG048)


Build your own flatwound string sets
The origin of a new string: D'addario FW74
JM11 Flatwound Strings
About Flatwound Strings

Posted by Ted at December 16, 2010 10:17 AM

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