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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Nylon fishing line strings


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magnuscanis - Posted - 12/09/2007:  18:06:16


Having just converted one of my banjos to fretless, I'm thinking about trying nylon strings on it.

I'll probably see about getting a set of purpose-made nylon banjo strings if I can, or maybe using classical guitar strings. However, I was intrigued by a sentence in Larry Sandberg's Complete Banjo Repair book where he says "A final alternative is to do what the old-timers do, and make yourself a custom-gauged set of strings out of nylon fishing line".

So, I was wondering how many people actually do that, and how fishing line strings compare to "proper" guitar/banjo strings. Are there any particular sorts of fishing line I should try to use or avoid, and what gauges should I go for? Or is it just a silly idea to try that since perfectly good strings are available anyway?

- Magnus

trapdoor2 - Posted - 12/09/2007:  19:23:56


Not silly at all. Quite a few banjo players use fishing line, you'll probably hear from a few. Some like the flurocarbon strings, some prefer to make up their own sets. I would suggest monofilament but it is possible that some of the new fishing line types may work (like Spiderwire). I'm too lazy to sort thru it all.

Classical guitar sets work fine, esp. if you can find a shop that sells singles (so you can buy two high "E" strings, one for the 1st string and one for the 5th). The Savarez "yellow card" strings are well liked. I have a set of High Tension CG strings on my Knowles Minstrel and I like 'em a lot (probably due to the long scale length...29").

I prefer Aquila "Nylgut" string sets (Elderly Instruments sellls 'em).

===Marc

"If banjos needed tone rings, S.S. Stewart would have made them that way."

magnuscanis - Posted - 12/12/2007:  10:20:15


I had a spare set of cheap classical guitar strings knocking around, so I picked up a couple of extra single strings from my music shop (a 1st to use on the 5th string and a 4th so that I could replace all the bass strings on my guitar, which are getting a bit grubby) and put those on. They seem to have worked pretty well, although I'd still like to try out fishing line - partly because it would doubtless work out as a very economical way of stringing a banjo in the long run and also because it just seems like a fun thing to do (or, a more folky solution, if you prefer).

I'm going to go to my local fishing tackle shop and see if either they sell line in short lengths or they'd be willing to let me have a few short (slightly more than 1m) samples of different gauges (or strengths, or however fishing line is measured) to try before I buy a whole reel of anything. I'm fairly sure I've seen some very cool looking flourescent fishing lines, so I'm hoping some of them might work as banjo strings.

- Magnus


Edited by - magnuscanis on 12/12/2007 10:23:01

dhergert - Posted - 12/12/2007:  11:06:56


Hi Magnus,

Here are the specs on the fishing line strings that I use...

First, keep in mind my SS Stewart classic banjo neck is 2 inches shorter than a standard Stewart neck. I tune to standard G tuning. The strings are a little slak, but that is to my taste. These strings could also work for a full standard scale length tuned to standard G.

1st and 5th strings: 20 lb test Trilene XT (#XTVS20-22) .018" green line
2nd string: 30 lb test Trilene Big Game Supreme (BGSQ830-66) .023" steel gray line
3rd string: 40 lb test Trilene Big Game (BGQS40C-22) .024" green line
4th string: 50 lb test South Bend (M1450) .030" (approx) clear white line

I couldn't find the 4th string 50 lb test in stretch and abrasion resistant line at WalMart, so I ran over to a local Sport Chalet and found the South Bend there. Had I realized that South Bend was also available in the other weights (and guages) that I had gotten in Trilene, I might have tried the South Bend also in those weights just to have everything the same. As it sits though, the banjo sounds great (and I sort of like the different colors).

I have some samples of that banjo in my album here if you want hear it. There are also some on my personal websites, they are noted with asterisks after the names of the songs


Best,

-- Don
http://home.att.net/~dhergert
http://mysite.verizon.net/don_hergert

"If you must use your banjo as a snow shovel, do so:
only don't wonder if it sounds dull afterwards."
-- S.S. Stewart catalog, 1896.

magnuscanis - Posted - 12/12/2007:  11:23:26


Thanks, Don.

Presumably the relationship between lb test strength and string diameter (or other factors affecting the pitch/tension relationship) would vary considerably between different types of line, but the general principle would be that higher poundage (or whatever the term is) would give lower pitch for the same length and tension?

If I'm understanding my physics correctly, the same strings that you use on your short scale banjo would be at a slightly higher tension (i.e. not so floppy but probably not broken) to get the same pitch on a standard scale length like mine (I'm pretty sure it's close to 26", in any case, though I haven't measured it recently). Is that right?

Finally, for now, are nylon strings (fishing line or otherwise) generally fairly receptive to retuning once they've settled down from their initial stretchiness, or are they better left in the same tuning/pitch for long periods? On my steel-strung banjos I quite often use a number of different tunings during any one playing session.

- Magnus

dhergert - Posted - 12/12/2007:  11:49:30


Hi Magnus,

You're welcomed... Here are some answers I can provide...

quote:
Originally posted by magnuscanis
Presumably the relationship between lb test strength and string diameter (or other factors affecting the pitch/tension relationship) would vary considerably between different types of line, but the general principle would be that higher poundage (or whatever the term is) would give lower pitch for the same length and tension?


Yes... I'm not a physics expert, but the issue is avoiding buzzing; in my case I wanted as little buzzing against frets as possible, which probably wouldn't be so much of an issue for you with a fretless. The lower tension that produces the bass D note, for example, needed to be offset by a higher pound-test string that would resist wild vibration. On the other end of the spectrum, the higher tension that produces the high D and G notes needed to be offset by a string that would allow that kind of tension without breaking.

quote:
Originally posted by magnuscanis
If I'm understanding my physics correctly, the same strings that you use on your short scale banjo would be at a slightly higher tension (i.e. not so floppy but probably not broken) to get the same pitch on a standard scale length like mine (I'm pretty sure it's close to 26", in any case, though I haven't measured it recently). Is that right?



Yes, again... To me slack strings on this banjo sound pretty good. They provide a lot of good plunky tone, yet if I dig in they can be pretty loud. I do have the action pretty high, about 3/16" at fret 20 (the last one on this neck), but the strings are easy to play and it works nicely. I haven't tried the same strings on my other banjos, but expect they would behave similarly well -- the two inch difference shouldn't make much difference with these strings.

quote:
Originally posted by magnuscanis
Finally, for now, are nylon strings (fishing line or otherwise) generally fairly receptive to retuning once they've settled down from their initial stretchiness, or are they better left in the same tuning/pitch for long periods? On my steel-strung banjos I quite often use a number of different tunings during any one playing session.



These strings are very resiliant related to using them with different tunings, however I have found that they are extremely sensitive to temperature changes. I play this banjo often in different departments at my church, and when I go from one room to the next I almost always have to re-tune, just due to the small differences in temperature. I have experienced the same with some other classical strings, though, so I suspect we're talking about the nature of nylon.

A note on this, I use the friction tuners that came with this Stewart in ca. 1889. It'd be nice to have machine tuners, however there is a certain charm to be able to use some of the first friction tuners that ever hit the banjo market, so I leave them on. Happily, I've learned to get along pretty nicely with them.

Also, this banjo came to me with a ca. 1899 Elite tailpiece (like a No-Knot) and I'm using that as is. These strings work very nicely with this tailpiece.

P.S. I really like using an unwound 4th string, its low, plunky tone adds character to songs. I think you'll get a kick out of that too.

Best,

-- Don
http://home.att.net/~dhergert
http://mysite.verizon.net/don_hergert

"If you must use your banjo as a snow shovel, do so:
only don't wonder if it sounds dull afterwards."
-- S.S. Stewart catalog, 1896.


Edited by - dhergert on 12/12/2007 12:11:03

backtothefuture - Posted - 12/12/2007:  17:38:16


There is a on (I think his user name is jasperhappy ....can't be certain but could look it up) and he has packaged his own specially selected, color coded fishing line strings for banjo-ukes. If you are interested, he might be about to supply you with longer lengths to suit you. His strings seemed to work ok, but not the greatest as he will admit.

Dennis

Check out my song called "The Banjo Hangout" here:
http://www.banjohangout.org/myhango...485#comments

raybob - Posted - 12/12/2007:  20:30:23


There used to be a fellow that was on BHO from Wisconsin (around Green Bay I think) that would put together sets of flurocarbon strings for people. A couple years ago he just stopped posting...

Ray

"If you come to a fork in the road, take it."

bvh - Posted - 12/13/2007:  06:24:14


Hey Raybob...........I think Dave Brown was his name, and I sent him money, for a couple of sets, of his strings, and never heard another thing. It's like he dropped off the face, of the earth. I found some information, on him on the net, and got a phone number, or two. I called the numbers, but nobody answereed ,or they were out of service, I can't remember now. I didn't mind the money, but I really wanted to try those strings. I have, since, gone to all gut strings,on my gourd banjos, so I 'm really not interested anymore, but that was strange.

bvh

banjeaux bob - Posted - 12/13/2007:  10:11:13


Bernunzio Vintage Instrument carries La Bella nylon strings. Mike Gregory makes up sets of strings from fishing line for his various home made banjos.


Gottagobye ~ Bob

BAZ - Posted - 12/13/2007:  19:37:36


I used fishing line on my cookie-tin banjo but couldn't get it to stay in tune very well. All this talk about fishing line makes me want to experiment with it again. I use nyguts on my fretless tackhead and really like them. It took them about a week or two to stretch out but they hold tune very nicely.

scpaul - Posted - 12/14/2007:  02:07:20


The fishing line strings sound really cool, but they also sound pretty expensive unless you REALLY WANT a lifetime supply of strings

I just bought 6 sets of LaBella nylon strings for under $20 from Janet Davis Music

dhergert - Posted - 12/14/2007:  03:20:42


That's really true, this was fairly expensive compared to just buying a set of strings... I did it because I wanted to experiment. I got small spools at the beginning, large spools for the final group, and for testing I got more variety than I'm using for just these banjo strings; I probably paid in excess of $50 for all the strings I experimented with, but I'll never need either nylon strings or fishing line again.

That said, these strings also sound very good. I prefer their tone to the La Bella that I got at first and in particular I love the sound of the non-wound 4th strring. I've not tried NylGut, but my understanding is that they don't last very long, and in my experience neither do the La Bella.

The fishing line strings I'm using seem to last forever, the current set I put on about 2 years ago now, and they're still live and strong. I just wipe them down with a damp cloth every month or so to get the carbon off of them (they seem to attract some sort of carbon soot from the air), and they stay resiliant and loud.

Best,

-- Don
http://home.att.net/~dhergert
http://mysite.verizon.net/don_hergert

"If you must use your banjo as a snow shovel, do so:
only don't wonder if it sounds dull afterwards."
-- S.S. Stewart catalog, 1896.

dbrooks - Posted - 12/14/2007:  08:51:41


Good information on nylon string alteratives. Thanks for the specs, Don.

As for Nylgut not lasting a long time, I think that is true for the wound 4th string. The windings tend to break at the fret in the first position (especially, frets 2, 3, 4). The rest of the strings last a long time, in my experience. I recently purchased some single 4th strings from Bernunzio. I also tested some unwound 4th strings for Aquila. They worked fine but I prefer the wound 4th string on my old banjos.

La Bellas were totally unsatisfactory to me. They were thinner, quieter and the 4th string came unwound even sooner than Nylguts.

I may try fishing line someday.

David

banjogud - Posted - 12/14/2007:  09:27:15


I used nylon fishing line 50lb test on my three string Akonting,...being that the pole is also made of bamboo,..I don`t know whether to play it , or go fishing with it !

I tried La Bella nylons on my gourd banjos, and they are too soft and mushy on those low tension instruments. I swithched to nylgut minstrels with great success.

The La Bellas seem OK on my fretless with the mechanical tuners,..I tune it right up to an open G tuning.

Life is like a banjo,..ya never know what you`re gonna get !

..wellll,..I got me a skillet an I got no lid,.....
my ashcakes taste like sh


CageyK - Posted - 02/26/2008:  22:02:44


Howdy,

How long do the fishing line strings last before needing a change?

How "stretchy" are they? I understand Nylguts and others can be a bit difficult in this regard. Curious how the fishing line handles it. I'd guess they don't stretch much.

Thanks in advance.

CageyK

dhergert - Posted - 02/27/2008:  03:52:17


Hi Cagey,

As metioned earlier in this thread, the fishing line strings I'm using have been in use for about 2 years now. They are still bright and loud and produce good tone. I still just wipe them off with a damp cloth every few weeks, which noticably brightens their tone.

Best,

-- Don
http://home.att.net/~dhergert
http://mysite.verizon.net/don_hergert

"If you must use your banjo as a snow shovel, do so:
only don't wonder if it sounds dull afterwards."
-- S.S. Stewart catalog, 1896.

mwc9725e - Posted - 02/27/2008:  07:10:27


quote:
Originally posted by dhergert

That's really true, this was fairly expensive compared to just buying a set of strings... I did it because I wanted to experiment. I got small spools at the beginning, large spools for the final group, and for testing I got more variety than I'm using for just these banjo strings; I probably paid in excess of $50 for all the strings I experimented with, but I'll never need either nylon strings or fishing line again.

That said, these strings also sound very good. I prefer their tone to the La Bella that I got at first and in particular I love the sound of the non-wound 4th strring. I've not tried NylGut, but my understanding is that they don't last very long, and in my experience neither do the La Bella.

The fishing line strings I'm using seem to last forever, the current set I put on about 2 years ago now, and they're still live and strong. I just wipe them down with a damp cloth every month or so to get the carbon off of them (they seem to attract some sort of carbon soot from the air), and they stay resiliant and loud.

Best,

-- Don
http://home.att.net/~dhergert
http://mysite.verizon.net/don_hergert

"If you must use your banjo as a snow shovel, do so:
only don't wonder if it sounds dull afterwards."
-- S.S. Stewart catalog, 1896.



Expensive? I got 220 yard spools, and the 4 spools ( use the same one for 5th & 1st strings ) cost me about $30. That seems awfully cheap to me.

dhergert - Posted - 02/27/2008:  13:14:46


Well, yes, except I bracketed my testing and got a number of spools other than the ones I eventually decided to use. What I need to do now is get another half dozen classic banjos to put these strings on, then it would pay for itself...

How's that for BAS logic ?

Best,

-- Don
http://home.att.net/~dhergert
http://mysite.verizon.net/don_hergert

"If you must use your banjo as a snow shovel, do so:
only don't wonder if it sounds dull afterwards."
-- S.S. Stewart catalog, 1896.

mwc9725e - Posted - 02/28/2008:  07:18:11


quote:
Originally posted by dhergert

Well, yes, except I bracketed my testing and got a number of spools other than the ones I eventually decided to use. What I need to do now is get another half dozen classic banjos to put these strings on, then it would pay for itself...

How's that for BAS logic ?

Best,

-- Don
http://home.att.net/~dhergert
http://mysite.verizon.net/don_hergert

"If you must use your banjo as a snow shovel, do so:
only don't wonder if it sounds dull afterwards."
-- S.S. Stewart catalog, 1896.



Heh, looks like I benefited from your R&D expenses, I just had to buy the ones you recommended. If you'r ever in Charlotte, I owe you a dinner.

dhergert - Posted - 02/28/2008:  12:59:36


Hi Bill,

Thanks, Bill... In the mean time, I'm elated that you and others are enjoying the strings. That's what it's all about.

Best,

-- Don
http://home.att.net/~dhergert
http://mysite.verizon.net/don_hergert

"If you must use your banjo as a snow shovel, do so:
only don't wonder if it sounds dull afterwards."
-- S.S. Stewart catalog, 1896.



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