Monel Mandolin Light Loop-End
Monel has been around since the early 1900’s and consists of 67% Pure Nickel, 30% Copper, 3% of the magic juice that contains magnesium, zinc and other elements making Monel resistant to salt water (sweat). Monel also has a very unique “earthy” tone and is used on both acoustics and electric instruments. It has built in natural resistance to tarnish and corrosion yet it feels great to the touch and has its own unique tonal color. Monel provides a very rich tone on the neck pickup and this great little growl on the bridge pick up. For acoustic instruments it seems to bring out more the wood sound.
I have these on a vintage Weymann "Mandolute" (their fancy name for a bent-top, round-soundhole mandolin). I'm unsure exactly how old it is, but it could be as old as the 1910-1920 range. I string it with light gauge strings to baby it. The monels are perfect for it, as it behaves kind of like a flat top acoustic guitar tonally (less cutting power, more depth of tone than an arch-top has). Monel strings are very fundamental oriented, they really push the note out there with a minimum of overtones, which really helps my mandolin maintain clarity in an ensemble. In comparison, phosphor bronze strings sound like the note has a blanket of overtones on it. Monels ring out clear and true. I'll be sticking with these strings for my vintage Weymann as long at Curt Mangan keeps making them!
I play a Nugget, made by Mike Kemnitzer, one of the best mandolins in the world. Mike recommends Monel strings for his mandolins and likes Mangan strings. I noticed that my Nugget sounds better when it is tuned down a couple steps, which is similar to lower tension and to using a lighter gauge—less pressure on the top. So I put on a set of Mangan Monel light gauge. They made this already super-loud mandolin even louder, made the tone warmer, and increased the chop a lot. Terrific! Yesterday I put a set on a Collings MT2. Same effect. The improvement is astonishing. You may be playing a mandolin that would vibrate more freely with a lighter gauge Monel string set. With J74 strings, the CollinGs was not acceptable for bluegrass because it didn’t have a decent chop. With these strings, it works fine for bluegrass.
Lots of players (e.g., Sam Bush, Tony Rice) have re-discovered the warmth and durability of Monel strings, popular in the 1930's as "Mona-Steel" but unavailable for many decades. Now Monel is back and Curt Mangan is one of the only string makers in the world to offer Monel mandolin strings in light gauge, appropriate for older and lightly built mandolins. I started with 2 sets. When I strung up my 1935 Gibson A-50 with these beauties, they unobtrusively brought out the old wood's warmth and complexity of tone. Not twangy or metallic, but ringing, rich and powerful. The second set went on a 1995 Flatiron 1N "pancake" style mandolin that just never sounded quite right wearing light gauge bronze. Monel makes that featherweight mandolin strong, warm, resonant and loud - without over-stressing its lightweight construction. Monel is naturally resistant to corrosion (that's one reason why the alloy was used for WWII dog tags), so the strings last far longer than bronze or nickel strings. To my ear, Monel strings actually sound better after a few weeks if they are kept clean. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Now I gotta go play till my fingers bleed!