After research and excruciating decision-making, you have finally come to a decision on which mandolin you want to buy. You go out and get it and start practicing and maybe at one point or another, just like with guitars, ukuleles or any strings instruments, you realize that you want to experiment or upgrade with some of the accessories.
Strings, are the most important accessories (and to be honest they are not really accessories, you can probably play without accessories but I really doubt there is a way around strings) so you want to research and learn more about various strings out there and find out which one fits best for your mandolin.
Well, my friend, you are in for a ride because it might seem like an easier choice than when you were deciding on the mandolin but unfortunately finding the best mandolin strings is not simple at all.
What Are The Best Mandolin Strings
Deciding on mandolin strings is complicated due to the factors you have to consider when choosing one and I do not mean complicated in a bad way. You get more options and though it might seem like a painful process, you get more choices which is a good thing (duh). There are a few things to keep in mind:
Mandolin String Gauges
If you ever had a guitar or any other string instrument before, you will know that gauge is one of the most important factors to consider when buying your strings. There are three main types of gauges: light (less tension on the instrument, brighter sound, easier to play, great option if you are a beginner), medium (perfect golden mean between characteristics of light and heavy strings), and heavy (deeper sound, better volume, but harder to play with and boy oh, boy if you are a beginner those strings will destroy your fingers). I would definitely suggest getting light or at least medium gauge strings if you are a beginner unless you are sure you want the sound of heavier strings and can cope with how much harder it is to play with them.
Mandolin String Materials
Basically tone of your instrument. The most popular metals for mandolin strings are probably phosphor bronze, standard bronze, stainless steel, etc. Phosphor bronze creates bright timber, while stainless steel will create a darker tone. So determine what sound you prefer and then go look at which material fits your requirements the best.
Mandolin strings are made by wrapping wires around a core (which most of the time is made of steel). Since cores are rarely different, what matters is the wrapping material. It affects not only playability but also the tone and the feel of the string. It is also important to mention that wrapping will affect the corrosion of the string, but it also depends on the coating on the outside of the string. Depending on the wrapping you can get a brighter or more mellow tone.
It is important to consider guides as the first step to finding the right mandolin string, or basically anything out there you can buy, but no matter how many guides you read actually experimenting with one or two or five different strings is the surest way to understanding your needs and requirements. Maybe you bought a great mandolin string set that created a mellow sound but at some point, you realize you want a brighter sound or heavier string. It is always better to learn through experience rather than through other people’s information. When you were buying a mandolin it was probably impossible to go around and experiment with a lot of different designs and types but strings do not cost that much so you can buy several with very different specifications and see which fits you the best.
In the current market that always sells the best this and the best that, it is easy to follow the basic guides or lists and believes that something that is great for a lot of people will be great for you. But if you are serious about mandolins you will sooner or later realize that it is impossible to find “the best mandolin strings” because the concept is really relative to every individual. I hope that some of the points that I have made here or the list of strings with their specifications will be of some use to you but in no way am I saying that this is the ultimate guide or you will definitely find something amazing only by looking at those factors. Experiment, experiment, and experiment as much as you can because that will be your guide to finding the right strings for you and ultimately lead you to find your sound and style.