|"I've just played a set, I can't forget the time or place I put 'em on..." (to steal from McCartney..) but I kid you not whatsoever: I am seriously in love with a set of strings.
Go ahead, call the men in the white coats, exile me to the backyard,
mention my name only in whispers amongst the family, I don't give a ....!
OK, 'love' is perhaps not the correct word, but AWE certainly
is an appropriate expression to describe my state of mind
when I put on and played a set of THOMASTIK 'Chromstahl-
bandumsponnen (Chrome -Steel flat wire wound) strings.
The Austrians gave us Freud (Man, I'm CRAZY about these strings!)
and Mozart (I could write a symphony about these strings),
the Lipizzaner or Spanish Riding School (I tell you, I'm
jumpin' for joy over these strings !) as well as the Sacher-Torte
(playing on these strings is a piece of cake! ) and now they
come up with some kookoo string maker (who, I find out,
has ONLY been around about 90 years or so) that makes strings
which are just wonderful! ........
Wonderful? These strings are so good they're SCARY!
It's like playing on a velvet fingerboard. I play a 1914 Gibson A-0 which has been tended to over the years by such Philadelphia Luthiers of note as John Zeidler (R.I.P.), Frank D'Lucia (R.I.P.) and Jack Romano (still kicking, but we're working on it...), so it's set up about as well as any mandolin can be, but these strings just take the experience of playing a fine instrument and enhance it to an almost inexpressible degree. I really never thought that strings could make SUCH a difference.
Feel: A touch just like velvet. I've played the best 80/20 or pure Bronze strings I could find for 25 years.. a couple extra bucks for a really good set was never too much to pay, but these are unbelievable for smooth action and touch.
Tone: Incredible, especially for a smooth-wrap string. While they are not as 'brash' or 'immediate' as a set of J74's, the sound is full, rich and vibrant. On a mandolin like my A0 (which is an exceptionally well-voiced box) they make a MAJOR difference, especially on Celtic tunes.
Sustain: Excellent tonal quality and there are NO SQUEAKS or buzzing upon detache. You could slide on these all day and never hear it.
Intonation: Almost all strings I've played have lost it above the tenth fret, becoming tinny or 'choke-y' the further up the neck you got. I had the mandolin into a Luthier once for this and was informed that the nature of the spiral-wrapped string induced the sound, not the instrument, so I just put up with it and stayed low on the neck to improve the sound. Not No More, Isadore! I am happily working from the nut to the 18th with no noticeable decay in the sound quality... Can you tell I'm definitely in love, here?
Appearance: Well, what can I say... sit down somewhere with a set of these on the box and every fiddle player with classical training sits straight up and says, "What the HELL?"
Longevity: Here's the most important financial part of the whole piece. I put my first set on in May ( kept them wiped down after every performance (Hell, I wiped em off after every SET!) and they sounded just as nice when I changed them in mid-July as they did outta the envelope. I'd normally have used six to eight sets of D'Addario's J-74 mediums in that time-frame. I used to change strings before each performance or after about six hours of playing time. The first set had almost 55 hours on them and they sounded just fine to me... I only changed them because a rough spot on my bridge broke the surface wrapping of the "G" string set..
They are, in short, probably the best set of strings I've ever had under my hands and they more than live up to their reputation. Each package carries the names of artists who play and presumably endorse (...I should be so lucky...) them, most of whom I'd never heard of until I started looking them up on the internet. All MAJOR performers and seriously famous in their own fields. Well, it's obvious that they know what they're talking about (and now, so does Mrs. Brennan's little boy!) when they say these are the thing to use.
Their strings for bowed instruments ARE legendary, but they ALSO make strings for Electric Bass, Guitar, Mandola, Mandocello and the lowly mandolin. Also, the CEO of the company is a performer and artist in his own right, aside from making these little beauties, and he appears on their website cradling a N'apolitan'-style (Bowl-back or 'Tater-bug to you folkies) Mandolin... what's not to like about this picture?
I could go on and on (although, for a quarter, I might just shut up...) about these strings.
They're expensive (with a capital "E" ) but I gotta say that they're more than worth the money.
Get them at www.mixedcompany.com and "say hey" on Doug McAlexander for me. (Maybe I can get a 10% discount because of the blurb?)
You can get ALL your instrument string needs there - if they ain't got it, either they'll get it or you don't need it.
Dr. Thomastik-Infeld from Austria Katalog 154 fur Mandoline - LIGHT (soft) gauge.
Cost? LIST is $60 about. That's right. $60.00! mixedcompany sells these for $32.80 or close thereto. BEST PRICE I'VE FOUND!!!
Yeah... they're expensive. (but they're worth Every Friggin' Penny!)
AND: Someone else agrees! (2006-05-10)
I bought a set of Thomastik strings for my mandolin on the strength of your endorsement (or should I say “raving” about them). Bit of a mission getting them over here (New Zeland!) but they arrived and I fitted them last night.
WOW.. what a cool set of strings.. like playing the fiidle.. great tone and playability.. I just love these strings. I can’t see me using anything else from here on in.
Many thanks for taking the trouble to write about them. Wouldn’t have purchased them otherwise.
Hey I bought mediums-- could you tell me what you think of the other gauges.. do you lose a lot of volume or control with the light gauge? What do the heavy strings sound / play like?
Anything you can add would be appreciated.
Many thanks once again.
HERE'S something I keep forgetting about !
As performers, we change strings a bit more often than most folks so that the sound keeps bright and entertaining....So, what to do with the often slightly used string sets? Darryl Purpose (FINE Folksinger and all-around musician) has started a project to get those second-hand stringSETS to musicians in underdeveloped regions of the world where a set of strings may have to last three years or more, just because food happens to be more important. If you want to, DON'T throw out that used set of strings, but mail them to the "2nd String Project". You can read about it HERE.
8/12/02 Update: I'm trying the light version of these strings on the mandolin for the first time... never used 'lights' before as they just wouldn't drive the top sufficiently for the volume I wanted....
OH BOY! WHAT A JOY!
Now I have volume and an even SOFTER touch on the fretboard, plus I have the ability to 'choke' notes... something I could never do before with 'medium' gauge strings. I like these strings better each gig I play!
The medium set made it through two incredibly hot (temperature-type hot) gigs at the Bethlehem MUSIKFEST on 8/04 (97 degrees F.) and 8/10 (95 degrees F.). I was sweating like a pig all over the instrument (on-stage temps were probably about 15-20 degrees hotter than ambient due to the lights) and my hands were actually WET. Each of us had a little semicircle of wet stage in front of us when we were thru the set.... it was no-lie HOT up there! Didn't faze the strings a bit, and that set is now my reserve set while I try out the aforementioned light strings for a while.
Philadelphia Folk Festival has been and gone.... it was VERY hot and VERY humid but the
strings I put on back on 8/12 took it in stride and I have been playing them ever since,
thru all of Festival (appx 32 hrs of playing in 100% humidity) and then several gigs, a lot of
rehearsals and another weekend festival. AND.... NO BLISTERS! I did crack a callus, but
that was from other reasons: the strings were as easy to play as butter and I got a LOT of
interest from other musicians (all except the fiddlers... they already knew about 'em,
but I did turn a few heads).
This set is still sounding good (10-11-02) and I'm just as happy as I was before.
4-22-04 Averaging about 35 hours a set... these things have changed my style and attack
for the bettter... I keep getting compliments from audiences and other musicians about the
sound and smooth legato in the Irish stuff. Love 'em.
1-05-05 Still using Thomastiks and still just as happy with them! Wotta great set of strings!!
3-24-06 Still using them, though the price sure has gone up!
value for the money.
|S T R I N G S
(now THERE'S an inspiring subject, eigh?)
|At Godfrey Daniel's: March 2002|
|Have experience with Thomastik strings ?
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