To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
19 messages

Nylon Banjo Strings

26 Jul 03 - 07:50 PM (#991240)
Subject: Nylon Banjo Strings

I'm building a fretless banjo, and I want to put nylon strings on, but I've yet to find any source for the guage of the string. I know Labella makes a "classical set, but one of the strings is wound, and it will take forever to get them up to the Yukon Territory in northern Canada, anyway. What are the equivalent gauges in nylon guitar strings?
Thanks Muchly,
Marty in Whitehorse.

26 Jul 03 - 08:11 PM (#991250)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: GUEST,Allan S.

I am not sure about this but there was someone in south western Connecticut many years ago Paul something or other who used different thickness of nylon fishing line to string a banjo. I am not sure if it was fretless or not. but if I remember It worked quite well. Hope this helps.

26 Jul 03 - 09:24 PM (#991275)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: Deckman

Stuff a sock in it! Really, just roll up a sock and push it between the brace and the bridge. It'll make any banjo sound like it's got nylon strings! Hope this helps, Bob

27 Jul 03 - 01:05 AM (#991333)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: GUEST,sorefingers

Ask for Gut Strings instead, that might help.

27 Jul 03 - 01:42 AM (#991336)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: DonMeixner

That was Paul Cadwell I believe and he is mentioned in Pete Seeger's Banjo Book. So are the size equivilents for strings made of fish line. I'd just but nylon guitar or lute strings.


27 Jul 03 - 01:46 PM (#991517)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: Mary Humphreys

I have just looked out my last set of LaBella nylon banjo strings - and there is no indication at all of the gauge of the strings.Same applies to their gut strings. Quite different from metal strings! Anyone know why ?

27 Jul 03 - 04:07 PM (#991561)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: CraigS

Nylon comes in many different varieties, so gauges have much less meaning. That's why gauges aren't quoted.

If Guest tells me the scale length of the banjo, and how he wishes to tune it, I'll do some calculations and work out what classical guitar strings to use.

27 Jul 03 - 06:05 PM (#991604)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)

I dunno about gauge, but I just acted on the advice of Jim of the duo "Suzanne and Jim" and ordered a set of Chris Sands heavy gauge nylon strings from Elderly Instruments. They came promptly and sound wonderful!

27 Jul 03 - 09:19 PM (#991687)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: Jon W.

If all else fails, this might help: Arto's string calculator

28 Jul 03 - 08:26 AM (#991884)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: hurdy_gurdyman

I've built several fetless banjos and have found that nylon weed whacker line can make excellent strings, especially for the heavier non wound bass strings.

28 Jul 03 - 12:11 PM (#992021)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: Owlkat

Hey Craig,
The banjo neck is a normal length, about 19 inches, and from nut to bridge is about 27 inches. Tension is not an issue; they are, after all, nylon strings. I can't remember how I strung another nylon stringer I use to have, but that was about 30 years ago. Go figure.
Thanks for everybody's input, except that one about the sock.
Marty in Whitehorse.

28 Jul 03 - 02:31 PM (#992121)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: Geoff the Duck

I would start by assuming that a nylon guitar string sold to tune to a B would be a likely choice to use for a B on a nylon strung banjo. Any fault in my logic, Craig?
Following my first assumption, I would make a set from the first four guitar strings, plus an extra first, to use a banjo 5th string. I would then listen to how it sounds/plays, and revise my theorem accordingly.
Geoff the Duck.

29 Jul 03 - 04:17 AM (#992481)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: Owlkat

Thanks Geoff, I'll give it a shot.

29 Jul 03 - 03:42 PM (#992710)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: oombanjo

I'll go along with animaterra, Chris Sands medium are my choise.

29 Jul 03 - 06:02 PM (#992854)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings

I don't remember what guages of monofilament fishing line Paul Cadwell used but he used between 10 and 50 pound test; thinner for the higher strings. His banjo was made for him by Fred Van Epps and had a fretted, scalloped fingerboard.

29 Jul 03 - 06:24 PM (#992875)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: CraigS

No, Geoff, it's not that simple. The scale on banjos varies from 23.5" for a short plectrum to over 28" for a honky 5-string, and I still don't know what tuning the man wants. A steel guitar scale varies from 24.7" to 25.5", depending on the maker. A classical guitar may vary from 24.7" to 26.8" - it depends on the maker, and the intended purpose of the guitar. For a short-scale classic, you buy high tension strings, for a long-scale classic, you buy low-tension strings - the gauges are to some extent irrelevant as the composition of the nylon varies between string manufacturers. The advice here is to buy a set of low-tension classical guitar strings, discard the lowest (thick) string, and use the others in the expected order, ie. use the guitar strings 2,3,4,5 as banjo 1,2,3,4, and the guitar 1st string for the fifth string, then tune the whole thing a semitone flat (ie. tune to F# rather than G) to reduce breakages. If you want to tune to G, try to get flamenco strings, which are the lowest tension available (and are ALL wound - nylon on nylon for the high strings). If you can get a kosher set of banjo strings by mail order, go for it, but don't go for the heavies or the tension will beat the sustain. An inch is about a semitone around the fifth fret, but when you're down at the nut end, that semitone is closer to two inches on a long scale banjo, so you can't draw direct analogies like GtD is suggesting. You can probably get a second opinion from a PM to catspaw49 - that is, after he's told you to put the banjo in the dumpster and buy a guitar (good advice).

30 Jul 03 - 12:33 AM (#993066)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: catspaw49

Y'all really ought to try some of the old threads.........

Here's one to try.

Here's another

There's an awful lot of info on the 'Cat that's worth looking for. Lots of knowledgeable folks have posted here in the past. Everyone can add their own new ideas, but looking back at old threads can add that much more to the mix. Give it a try next time.


30 Jul 03 - 08:08 AM (#993257)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: BanjoRay

Superb nylon strings rated by many to sound almost like gut strings but which are much longer lasting are Clawhammer Cannonballs, marketed by Mark Horowitz (with whom I have NO connection. He can be emailed for details at

30 Jul 03 - 10:43 AM (#993374)
Subject: RE: Nylon Banjo Strings
From: RangerSteve

If I remember correctly, Paul Cadwell used 5 pound test line for the first and fifth strings, 10 lb. for the second, 15 for the third and 20 for the fourth. He also advised stretching the strings before putting them on the banjo by hanging them from the ceiling and tying lead sinkers to the other end. When they stop stretching, they're ready to use.