I just bought a Deering Goodtime tenor open back, 17 frets, which turned out to have pretty light strings on it (probably suitable for playing trad jazz). What strings should I get if I want to play Irish tunes using GDAE-tuning? Is there any special set with thicker strings for Irish tuning on the market?
GHS has several Irish tenor banjo sets available through a variety of vendors including Elderly and Janet Davis. The J-63i set is a little light for a short scale banjo, but it might work with your banjo. It will certainly be better than the cgda set that is already on it and it has less tension than the standard set.
Most GDAE banjos thrive with the same gauges as mandolins use, 40 30 20 10 or some variation of those sizes. You can get Octave Mandolin sets that will work too (they are long and you get two sets.)
You can also put together your own set by getting guitar strings in the gauges that Mike mentioned above - if the tailpiece on your Goodtime won't accomodate ball end strings you can just pop the wee ball thing out. Just make sure you get a wound "A".
I'm sure you'll hear a million opinions on this- I'll add my uneducated 2 cents as well :)
I'm a new player, and have only tried 2 sets on my 17-fret GDAE axe.
First I tried the D'Addario Irish Banjo set J63-i that others have mentioned in .012, .016, .024, and .036. This set worked, but I wasn't crazy about the tone on my 17 fretter. Some fretted notes seemed muddy, and 'out of tune'. This string set was very inexpensive (under $5) and sounds a little better on my other banjo (which is a 19 fret model).
A few days ago I saw a post where someone recommended D'Addario "Chromes', which are a flat-wound Electric Guitar sting. He swore by them, and I thought 'why not?' and gave them a shot. He had recommended some pretty heavy weights, but I went a bit lighter for my first experiment with these. I ended up with Chromes in 042, 032, 022 and a PL014 plain steel string (for the E). I got them from stringsandbeyond.com for about $15 including shipping.
I gotta say, I am really liking this combo. I had to file out the slots a bit for the G and D, but it was worth it. Good volume, and great tone! Muddiness is gone, and the whole banjo seems much more 'in-tune' with itself. Sound is more mellow and less twangy, which is what I wanted.