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Custom strings for odd instruments

Q: I'm considering building a mandola sort of instrument (scale @ 18 maybe 20 inches) I'm to lazy to learn new chords and scales so I was wondering if it could be tuned the same as the bottom four strings on a guitar (dgbe) can regular mandola/mandolin strings be tuned to guitar pitch.

A: I would love to set up your guitar. Give me a call at 785-841-0277 or 785-331-6000 for an appointment.

There is a fancy formula for figuring out what string to use. The variables are string length, guage, and tension, and pitch. You want to find a string guage that at your chosen scale length will take about 28lb of pull to bring it up to the pitch you desire. You need the string to be pulled to about 80% of breaking tension so that the pull on the mollecular bonds makes it act more like a fluid than like a rod. You could hypothetically, get any pitch out of any string guage by varying the length and tension. Or, get any pitch out of any string length by varying the guage and the tension, etc. In the real world there are limits. No 30" long string can be tuned higher than a guitar high E. It will break. If you make the string thicker it will be stronger, but it will take more tension to pull it up to pitch and it will break. If you make the string thinner it takes less tension to pull it up to pitch, but it is weaker and it will break. If you are trying to tune your high mandola string to a guitar E you are fine. If you try to tune it up to a mandolin E it will break.

The easy solution is to call the J. D'Addarion Company and ask them to build you the proper set. They will do the math for you. Once you know the strings you need you can buy them anywhere.

Steve Mason