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The great mandolin string odyssey continues

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: MandoBlog, News, TweedBlog. Tags:

I still haven’t settled on a replacement for my beloved but tragically delicate nickel-wound Ernie Ball mandolin strings. I think I’m pretty close, though. I tried D’Addario’s stainless steel strings, but I did’t find them completely satisfactory. The only guague available is an .011 to .040 set, which is too heavy for my tastes. The tension on the strings is all about 23 pounds, I prefer to keep the tension lower because of some old problems with tendonitis.

The stainless steel strings were also too bright for my taste — I prefer a darker tone. With that in mind, I put a set of D’Addario nickel-wound mandolin strings for last night’s show at the Charleston, and I was pretty happy with the results.

The nickel-wound set comes runs from .011, .014, .026, .039. I removed the .011s and replaced them with .010s for the ‘e’ string. The result is that the tension for all the strings except the ‘g’ string is below 20 pounds. That makes it much easier on the hands than the stainless steel set.

The tone is pretty good. Balanced, full, and sufficiently loud on my primary live mandolin. Equally important, I played a 3-hour plus show last night with no tuning problems and no string breakage.

By the way, D’Addario publishes a string tension guide on their website, which is very helpful. More string companies should do the same.

Previous posts
The great mandolin string odyssey, part III
The great mandolin string odyssey, continued
Why I won’t use Ernie Ball strings any more


The SuitBass, part II

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: GigBlog, TweedBlog. Tags:

Paul is threatening to bring the SuitBass out to the Charleston tonight for the third set. Come on by and see this thing in action. Music starts at ten.

Previous posts:
Paul’s new SuitBass


Gene Autry sings Nobody’s Darlin’ But Mine

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: TweedBlog, video.

Tomorrow Tangleweed is doing a performance at the Harold Washington Public Library in Chicago to commemorate the 100 anniversary of Gene Autry’s birth. With that in mind, here’s an early Gene Autry clip, from a 1936 film that has entered the public domain. You can still hear a powerful Jimmie Rodgers influence in his singing here. He hadn’t yet fully transitioned to the mellower singing cowboy voice he used later in his career. Gene is accompanied by the Sons of the Pioneers.



Phil Ochs sings Joe Hill

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: TweedBlog, video.

There’s not a lot of great footage of Phil Ochs out there, so every little clip is very much appreciated. This is a clip of Phil singing his tribute to the legendary wobbly Joe Hill, from a Swedish TV special in 1968. Phil looks a little worse for the wear here, but he’s in fine voice, and it’s a very good performance.


The great mandolin string oddyssey, part III

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: MandoBlog, TweedBlog. Tags:

I’m in the middle of a switch away from Ernie Ball mandolin strings towards another brand. D’Addario is one of the few manufacturers who make their own strings, so I’m trying their mando strings for our next few gigs.


The worst mandolin tailpiece ever?

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: MandoBlog, TweedBlog. Tags:

I’ve been using a new National RM-1 resonator mandolin for virtually all our gigs for over six months now, and I’m generally happy with it. I find the tone to be solid for both rhythm and lead playing, and the volume is unmatched in any mandolin I’ve ever tried. There is one major annoyance with the RM-1, though: the tailpiece.


Paul’s new SUITBASS

By Scott. Filed under: TweedBlog. Tags:

Paul's SuitbassEver the innovator, and also working towards a truly travel-friendly bass, Paul Wargaski rolled out Beta Version 1 of his SuitBass at rehearsal last night.

Yes, that’s a vintage wooden suitcase complete with f-holes, a custom bridge, and a re-purposed neck from a dead bass in Paul’s shop.

I’ll let him add any other key details in the comments below, but I wanted to post this picture while it was still fresh.

And yes, the thing sounds freaking insane (i.e. definitely needs a better pickup/pre-/amplification solution than we had last night), but it sure is fun to look upon, and I have no doubt Paul will work out the kinks in due time.


Save net radio: the final stretch

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: News, TweedBlog.

Unless Congress acts, thousands of internet radio stations will go offline this weekend. If you haven’t already contacted your Senators and Congressperson, please take a few moments to do so. For more information, please visit

My Chicago Tribune op-ed on internet radio was quoted in the Idaho Statesman this morning. You can read the article here:

It looks like internet radio may have a temporary stay of execution. From Wired Magazine, via

A coalition of webcasters have worked out a deal with the recording industry that could temporarily stave off a portion of crippling net radio royalties set to take effect Sunday, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

The deal is not final but creates a window for webcasters to continue broadcasting while a more lasting solution is sought. Webcasters have said the fees would effectively force many services that personalize individual channels for listeners to close shop by the end of the weekend.

Read the full article at