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A Thorough Guide to Mando-Guitar Strings [2021 Edition]

If you’re looking for more information about mando-guitar strings, this post is for you!

Although I’ve covered similar information in my post about banjitar strings, I’m excited to discuss this same concept in the context of the mando-guitar.

Goldtone Mando-Guitar String Gauges

Goldtone is one of the most prominent mando-guitar manufacturers.

They are also one of the only manufacturers of strings made specifically for the mando-guitar.

In light of this, I consider their string gauges as the standard for mando-guitars.

For reference, see their string gauge for the six and twelve-string mando-guitars below:

Instrument/String Type
6th String
5th String
4th String
3rd String
2nd String
1st String
Acoustic 6 String Mando-Guitar
.052
.032
.024
.018
.012
.008
Instrument/String Type
6th String
5th String
4th String
3rd String
2nd String
1st String
Acoustic 12-String Mando-Guitar (extra light)
.052
.032
.024
.018
.012
.008
String pair
.018
.014
.010
.018
.012
.008

Besides the extra light string set for the 12-String mando-guitar, Goldtone also has a custom light string set with the following gauges:

Instrument/String Type
6th String
5th String
4th String
3rd String
2nd String
1st String
Acoustic 12-String Mando-Guitar (custom light)
.054
.045
.032
.024
.013
.009
String pair
.024
.018
.011
.024
.013
.009

Although Goldtone sells a six-string electric mando-guitar, I didn’t find strings for it on their site.

That said, super-light electric strings from your favorite manufacturer should work just fine on this instrument.

I actually have super-light elixirs on my acoustic six-string mando-guitar.

I’ll discuss this more in the next section.

Standard and Alternate String Gauges for the Six-String Acoustic Mando-Guitar

In the table below, I list Goldtone’s six-string mando-guitar string gauges compared to similar string gauges for Elixir string sets, my favorite string manufacturer.

String Type
6th string
5th string
4th string
3rd string
2nd string
1st string
.052
.032
.024
.018
.012
.008
.042
.032
.024
.016
.011
.009
.047
.039
.030
.023
.014
.010

I prefer Elixir strings because they have a coating that preserves their sound and string life.

Thus I initially switched out Gold Tone mando-guitar strings on my Gold Tone F-6 mando-guitar with super-light electric elixirs (middle row of the chart above) because of their similarity in gauge to Goldtone’s strings.

Although they have been easy to play and haven’t broken, electric guitar strings just don’t resonate as well as acoustic strings.

Furthermore, since the mando-guitar is already a small instrument compared to the guitar, you likely want every volume advantage you can get.

And electric strings simply don’t provide the volume I wanted from the instrument.

So the next time I restring my instrument, I will probably use Elixir extra light acoustic guitar strings even though they are a bit heavier of a gauge compared to Goldtone’s strings made specifically for the mando-guitar (as you can see in the chart above).

That said:

generally, if you put strings on your mando-guitar with gauges close to Goldtone’s acoustic mando-guitar strings, your instrument and strings should be able to support the tension of standard mando-guitar tuning: EADGBe (one octave higher than standard guitar tuning).

The Importance of String Gauge

String gauge is one of the most important factors in deciding which strings to use on your instrument.

Certain players prefer higher gauge, others prefer lower gauge.

In my banjitar strings post, I discussed the difference between Stevie Ray Vaughan and Billy Gibbons.

Both players are obviously monsters of tone, yet they couldn’t be more different in the types of strings they used.

The primary idea is that they both knew what they were comfortable with and applied it to their guitars.

In the case of the banjitar, the instrument has a nice lower end to it so the strings applied to it should lean towards the lower-end.

The same can be said about the tunings.

In the case of the mando-guitar, it has a much brighter sound by nature particularly because standard tuning is one octave higher than standard guitar tuning.

This is a key difference that influences the choices made for mando-guitar strings.

We want strings on the mando-guitar that explore the higher tone of the instrument and make it ring out nice and clear.

In general, this is part of the reason why strings made specifically for the mando-guitar like Goldtone’s are lighter gauge strings.

Lighter gauge (thinner) strings can typically handle more tension (higher tunings) than heavier gauge (thicker) strings.

Lighter gauge strings also put less strain on the instrument than heavy gauge strings.

As I noted in the chart above, Goldtone’s standard mando-guitar strings are “eights.”

For those unfamiliar with this short-hand terminology, string gauge is often abbreviated to the gauge of the first string times 1,000.

In the case of the mando-guitar, the first string’s gauge is .008 inches meaning these strings are eights.

The difference in gauge between strings tends to follow a similar pattern, with the gauge of the first string generally indicative of the subsequent strings’ gauges: light, medium, and heavy.

I’ll discuss light, medium, and heavy strings in the next section.

Light, Medium, and Heavy Strings Relative to the Mando-Guitar

As I mentioned above, a light gauge first string typically means lighter gauge second through six strings too.

For that reason, another shorthand way to decribe string gauges is with the terms light, medium, and heavy.

As I’ve mentioned, light strings tend to have a brighter and higher sound.

Some people find them more appealing than heavier strings, like Billy Gibbons for example.

Lighter strings typically encompass string measurements of tens and lower.

Medium strings have a healthy balance: rich, heavy and meaty lower end and a lighter high end.

Medium gauge strings are often around the measurements of elevens.

Finally, heavy gauge strings have a dark rich sound often used more in heavy metal music as it uses such low frequencies.

Heavy gauge strings are usually twelves and above.

However, plenty of guitar players mix and match string gauges.

For instance, BB King is a good example of a hybrid custom gauge string user in his playing.

BB had a very thick, heavy sounding guitar tone.

His signature custom gauge strings are essentially tens but with a 0.052 on the low end, which is not standard for medium gauge.

Since he wanted that rich lower end, he thickened his lower strings on his instrument.

.052 is actually the sixth string gauge of Goldtone’s mando-guitar strings too!

This means that, although strings one through five are lighter gauge in Goldtone’s mando-guitar string set, this string set doesn’t quite follow the pattern of light strings.

In other words, Goldtone’s sixth string gauge doesn’t follow the typical pattern of eights or light strings because of its heavier sixth string.

String Coating

Not all strings have protective coatings because many guitar players don’t like the way coated strings feel or sound.

However, I love the way the coated strings both feel and sound!

Plus, the coating can preserve the sound of a string for years!

I once didn’t change coated strings on one of my guitars for 10 years!

And those 10-year old coated strings still sounded better (to me) than uncoated strings.

My favorite string manufacturer, Elixir, has the following coatings and descriptions:

String Coating
Polyweb
Nanoweb
Optiweb (electric only)
Tone
Warm
Bright
Crisp
Feel
Slick and Fast
Smooth
Natural

You can listen to the sound difference of strings with different coatings here.

6 vs 12 String Mando-Guitars

Before I conclude this article, I wanted to briefly discuss the difference between a 6 and a 12 string mando-guitar.

As you probably guessed or already know, their primary difference is the pairing of the strings.

This is essentially the way a traditional mandolin or a 12 string guitar works.

Each string is doubled: the higher strings doubled up with the same string/note while the lower ones pair with an octave.

For example, taking the tuning of a mando-guitar, we have EADGBe (but one octave higher than the standard guitar).

The first three strings pair with a string that matches its pitch, while the lower strings pair with a string of its octave.

All together, we essentially have: EeAaDdGGBBee.

In using these paired strings, the mando-guitar emulates the sound of a traditional mandolin (which has paired strings) but in the tuning of a guitar but one octave higher.

So it achieves sounds that match a traditional mandolin better.

That said, the strings on the 12-strings match the 6-strings of a mando-guitar in terms of gauge.

Both are ligher gauge string sets in order to get that beautiful light high end of the instrument.

In the context of the mando-guitar, this is what is so appealing about the instrument in the first place.

Goldtone’s set here uses two sets of eights, one is suited to the natural pitch of the instrument, and the other serves as octaves to the bass strings.

Like I mentioned, this is to make the mando-guitar sound more like a traditional mandolin.

Traditional mandolins use paired strings as well, though 8 instead of 12.

A traditional mandolin tunes like a violin does: GDAE.

The pairing of the notes makes a traditional mandolin tune GgDdAaEe — 8 total strings instead of 12.

Likewise, the traditional instrument has the same beautiful higher end that its guitar hybrid does.

So the strings used would stick to the lighter gauge guidelines.

Given this information, which strings should I get?

If you’re willing to spend a bit more on your mando-guitar strings and buy strings from a manufacturer other than Goldtone, I recommend these Elixir strings for your six-string acoustic mando-guitar.

I string all my guitars and guitar hybrids with this set.

You can also buy individual Elixirs here to further customize your string setup if you’d like.

Also, know that Goldtone doesn’t seem to sell strings for their electric mando-guitar, so you’ll have to buy strings from a different brand (I recommend these Elixir electric strings).

And of course, you can buy strings directly from Goldtone for you six or 12-string acoustic mando-guitar.

Conclusion

I hope this post has helped you think through string choices for your mando-guitar.

let me know if you need more direction with your mando-guitar string choices in the comments!

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