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Banjo: Does string size make a difference?

25 Oct 05 - 07:09 AM (#1590369)
Subject: Tech: Does string size make a difference?
From: Naemanson

I recently made another foolish instrument purchase. I bought a six-string banjo while in Whitby. One of the problems with it is that regular guitar strings for the E, A, and D strings sound too clunky. I would like to use smaller gauge strings. Can I do that and still tune them to the standard guitar tunings?

25 Oct 05 - 07:25 AM (#1590373)
Subject: RE: Tech: Does string size make a difference?
From: GUEST,CamoJohn

Yes, you can, though there will be less tension in the strings which can be problematic in some instruments where string tension affects the instrument's rigidity.

The weight and thickness of strings affects the way they vibrate. Tightening a thicker/heavier string compensates for this, but there are limits. Similarly, a lighter/thinner string will need less tension and there will be a point in either case where either the string snaps or there is so much slack that the string vibrates against the neck/frets.

There are ranges of strings available for guitars - from extra light to extra heavy, so buy some cheap ones and experiment as to which ones suit you the best.

Hope this helps


25 Oct 05 - 07:35 AM (#1590377)
Subject: RE: Tech: Does string size make a difference?
From: Pied Piper

Strings have to have a minimum tension too produce a single pitch, bellow this string, after picking drops in pitch and slowly climbs back to it's ideal low amplitude pitch.
Instead of a "ding" you get a "doying"


25 Oct 05 - 07:50 AM (#1590391)
Subject: RE: Tech: Does string size make a difference?
From: Clinton Hammond

Why would you put guitar strings on a banjo?

If you want something to sound/tune like a guitar, buy a frigg'n guitar...

25 Oct 05 - 07:55 AM (#1590394)
Subject: RE: Tech: Does string size make a difference?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker

i bought a 2nd hand goldtone 6 string electric banjo..

and the strings are about 9 -> 55
[as accurate a my digital caliper can get]..

dont know if these are the factory fitted gauge,
or as changed by previous owner..
the bass E tends to get a bit dull and indistinct aroud the 12th fret..

dont know if this is normal for this kind of instrument..
or a result of compromise angling the bridge for best overall intonation..

maybe its just an old set of strings..

so if i get replacements do people advise i stick with this string gauge.. ?

BTW.. i prefere thin flexy plectrums

25 Oct 05 - 08:08 AM (#1590398)
Subject: RE: Tech: Does string size make a difference?
From: Leadfingers

The 'quality' of the instrument will make a lot of difference to the sound with different string weights . I have a Short Scale Tenor which
SHOULD be strung with fairly light guage strings and tuned like a Viola , but to make it easier to play in sessions I have it tuned same as Mandolin / Violin , and hence have heavier guage strings on . FORTUNATELY it still rings well , so its just a matter of trying out which strings work with the tuning you are using on YOUR instrument .

Incidentally , Johnny St Cyr , who played 'banjo' with King Oliver and Louis Armstrong in the nineteen twenties often played a six string banjo tuned like a guitar .

25 Oct 05 - 08:21 AM (#1590402)
Subject: RE: Tech: Does string size make a difference?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker

mines tuned in G minor most of the time
with bottom E dropped down to D

25 Oct 05 - 12:29 PM (#1590575)
Subject: RE: Tech: Does string size make a difference?
From: Jon W.

For a fixed bridge instrument like an acoustic guitar, the string size makes much more difference because the bridge has to be properly compensated (distance from the nut increased slightly from the theoretical scale length, to make up for the string stretching slightly as it is fretted), and that distance will change with changes in string gauge. For a banjo or guitar-banjo, (or most mandolins) you can slide the bridge around to compensate it for the strings you've got on it. Keep in mind also that, disregarding other considerations, lighter strings are generally easier to play than heavier ones.

25 Oct 05 - 02:10 PM (#1590661)
Subject: RE: Tech: Does string size make a difference?
From: Claymore

As one who has played the Goldtone 750 for years, as opposed to the 500 which is the model I suspect you have, go pick up some Peavey stainless steel "Matched 11s". Then try and get a 58 stainless for the bass E.

Next, tighten up the head until the strings are off the middle frets to prevent a buzz. Don't go too tight on a mylar head or try one of the Fyberskin thicker heads. Try adding a small round piece of rubber backed carpet in the resonater to mellow out the twangy part of the upper stings while keeping the mellow bass notes.

The instrument works very well at contra dances as a foil for the 5 string or tenor banjo. Using the bass notes, you can do rolls and bass runs which set up their melody.

Spend some time with the resonator off and plugged into an amp if you are going to use the pick-up as sensor placement is everything. About 3 inches down from the top edge of the interior rim and as close as you can set it without picking up face buzz from the head works for me.

It does not work well as a single pick instrument, but works very well picked with finger picks, folk style (especially with plastic instead of metal finger picks).

As noted above, if you tune the high E perfectly using an electric tuner and then fret the same sting one octive higher, it should read about the same. If it is sharp, move the brige back a little and try again until the soundings are about the same at both frettings. Then do the same with the bass E . The result should look as though the high E end is closer than the low E end of the bridge to the top nut. Good Luck!

25 Oct 05 - 08:19 PM (#1590796)
Subject: RE: Banjo: Does string size make a difference?
From: Naemanson

Thanks for the help!