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Nylon Banjo Strings

03 Apr 01 - 03:26 PM (#432320)
Subject: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: GUEST,j.marcus

There is a company called Aquila that makes synthetic strings they call Nygut. They say it sounds like gut but has the reliability of nylon. They are willing to make strings for 5 string banjo (which I need,)but they need information that I don't have. They asked for the following information: "I have gauges of Nylgut from .36mm to 1.04mm in 120cm lengths, so we should be able to come up with something. Do you have any idea of what the tension should be? Also, what is the string length? Any guesses about gauges? I'll be happy to work with you to try and fit some strings, and I can calculate gauges and tensions easily, and sometimes can cross reference from current string informat ion."

Does anyone out there have this information? Alternatively do you know of a company that makes nylon strings for 5 string banjo. Many thanks

03 Apr 01 - 03:54 PM (#432351)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings

Why not use nylon guitar strings? I use steel guitar strings on my banjo. .010 (electric guitar light guage) for first and fifth strings, .013 (guitar medium) for my second string, .017 (guitar second) for my third and an UNWOUND HAWAIIAN GUITAR third (.026) for my 4th. Unwound strings don't go dead, the on on my banjo has been there at least 15 years and it still works.
you can get nylon monofilament fishing line in all kinds of guages. Using the foregoing as a guide, experiment until you find what you're looking for.
Joel Walker Sweeney, the inventor of the 5 string banjo was a classical guitarist and used classical guitar catgut strings on his banjo. Gut strings were still in use in the 1930's.

Good luck

Jody Gibson

03 Apr 01 - 05:00 PM (#432421)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: GUEST,fretless

See also the thread on banjo strings/nylon from last September:

03 Apr 01 - 05:15 PM (#432440)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: Uncle_DaveO

Seems to me the data for banjo strings are dictated by what's expected:

Assume a 26 inch scale (nut to bridge distance). Tension is whatever is necessary to bring that length of string to pitch, which in the G tuning is G'DBDG with steel strings. Perhaps they would want to plan on the tuning being maybe a whole step or step and a half lower for nylon/gut.

Length of the whole string will be greater than the length of scale, of course, but that's no surprise to a musical instrument string company.

Dave Oesterreich

03 Apr 01 - 05:24 PM (#432448)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: mousethief

Okay, I've just got to ask. I'm not a banjo player. How does a banjo strung with nylon or gut strings sound -- I mean how different is it from one with steel strings?


03 Apr 01 - 05:51 PM (#432466)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: Butch

La Bella makes a set, but there are others as well.

If you want nylon, before you calculate string diameter, you need scale length and desired tuning. Also, are you playing fretted or fret free banjo? This will make a difference.

The LaBellas are a little loose for my taste. You might want to call the Music Emporium or vist the web site at They offer three different nyllon sets that should suit your needs. But know your tuning and scale legnth first. I believe these sets are English and of very high quality.

03 Apr 01 - 08:16 PM (#432600)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: GUEST,Les B

My advice would be to talk to Elderly Instruments in Lansing, Michigan. They sell several banjos equipped with nylons and should know the guages and lengths.

DaveO - My sense is that the nylons were/are tuned about two steps lower than the standard gDGBD tuning for steel strings (in an open E??).

Mousethief - from listening to a group called Dr. Horsehair on a CD titled "Wizard Oil," the nylon/gut strings have a softer, mellower, klunkier sound that is quite attractive. Bob Flescher (sp?) who is playing banjo on the CD has won at Galax several times and is an expert. He is playing with bass, guitar, bones and tambourine - and is using a Civil War era banjo. It's worth a listen.

03 Apr 01 - 08:33 PM (#432606)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: mousethief

Thanks, Guest Les.


03 Apr 01 - 08:47 PM (#432610)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: Cap't Bob

I have purchased strings from Aquila both gut and nygut. However I used them on my ukulele so I can't help you with the gauge for banjo. The nygut do have a sound very close to the gut strings. I plan to use the nygut on my classical guitar the next time I order strings.

Cap't Bob

03 Apr 01 - 09:55 PM (#432643)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: Uncle_DaveO


With nylon or gut, the tone is quieter, less piercing, more "tubby", which is much admired by many banjoists.

Guest, Les.B:

Two steps lower? I think more probably two frets, that is two half-steps lower. Two full steps lower would be, say for a string tuned B in steel, A flat in nylon or gut; that's four frets, quite a throw down, seems to me.

Dave Oesterreich

03 Apr 01 - 10:55 PM (#432678)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: Les B

DaveO - I think you're right ! My old brain wasn't working too well - I almost said two "stops" equating it to a photographic lens. Sorry.

04 Apr 01 - 09:32 AM (#432939)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: GUEST,jmarcus

Many thanks to all who answered.

04 Apr 01 - 05:09 PM (#433277)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: GUEST,jmar

I found nylon banjo strings at for $2.85 a pack.

04 Apr 01 - 06:55 PM (#433347)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: Luke

I've been playing my Nechville electric banjo's tuned down two whole steps. it's really wonderful to have sort of a baritone banjo. But my Mike ramsey large pot regular makes it just fine as well. It really sounds fine. I want to put some big old tubby gut strings on it.


31 Jul 03 - 10:05 AM (#994149)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: Uncle Jaque

That's right - the old Minstrel Banjos were tuned a whole 2 to 2 1/2 steps lower than our modern "Bluegrass" 5-strings.

In 1865, Frank CONVERSE was tunig his banjo:

4th: A
3rd: E
2nd: G#
1st: B
5th: "...An octave above the 3rd string."

I have seen period instructionals reccomending tuning to Ab, or in some cases to whatever note seems comfortable to sing.

Funny thing; after tuning down to the old "Low Bass" tuning, the old "C-F-G7" chord progression fits the mid-1800s FOSTER and other Minstrel songs to my vocal range perfectly, whereas they just didn't seem to work up there in the "modern" tuning.   Sort of like these songs were written just for the 5-string banjo in that tuning... which, in all probability, they were!

You will have a hard time maintaining pitch on a banjo with friction pegs, as most of the period instruments used (they had machine heads then, and most guitars used them - but not many banjos did for some reason) if you try to tune up to "bluegrass" pitch. Too much tension.

I had my banjo set up with nylon for quite some time, and liked the "plunketty" sound they produced - but have since moved up to "real" gut and there is a difference. If you are going for historical authenticity, then gut IS the way to go!

I get mine from "Boston Catlines" in MA; they are not cheap, but top of the line. If you hang them up and treat them with spar varnish or laquer prior to mounting, they will last a lot longer.

NEVER use picks on gut strings!!! Fingerpick only.

For excellent reproduction Minstrel instruments, go to:
WUNDER Banjo Co.

And feel free to check my Civil War Reenactor's Music forum @:
Civil War Reenactor Musician's Forum (Delphi)
Where there is a section for period instruments.

25 Oct 08 - 07:25 PM (#2476118)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: GUEST,Owlkat

Cher Y'all,
Here's a blast from past. Nylon banjo strings in plainspeak. Get a set of light-gauge classical guitar strings. You want/need/must/have/can use the first, second, third and fourth strings, and one more first string for your drone or octave string or fifth string. Easy as cake, simple as pie.

09 Oct 09 - 07:54 PM (#2742486)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: GUEST,Geoff Nyburg

Hobgoblin sell a set of nylon strings for a 5 string.