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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Tenor banjo strings

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dave7705 - Posted - 02/19/2020:  11:20:18

I decided my sweet sounding Triple X would sound even sweeter with nylon/gut strings. I've tried a set of 5 string banjo nylgut and broke both of the thinnest strings (G-strings for a 5 string banjo) trying to get up to A 440. Tried a set of tenor uke strings with the same result. Does anyone have a suggestion?

geoB - Posted - 02/19/2020:  11:50:09

Aguila, and tune down. Modern strings have done one appreciable thing to the banjo, they have raise the pitch because the strings can take the stretch.

I'm guessing that back before the advent of modern string technology they used gut and they tuned lower.

geoB - Posted - 02/19/2020:  11:51:58

Or perhaps gut strings necessitated the invention of the capo. To tune where no one had tuned before.

pasdimo - Posted - 02/19/2020:  12:40:43

The tenor scale is too long for nylon strings, at least for the 1st and 2nd in CGDA. I tried nylon strings for the C and G, it works but it’s very soft and the strings trend to slide under fingers

Knows Picker - Posted - 02/19/2020:  13:18:41

I got it to work once with aquila classical banjo, used the B string for the A.

It held for about 6 months before it popped, I'm not sure if it was due to the tension or what. After that I switched over to metal strings and brought everything down an octave. Still kind of a work in progress, I miss the nylon strings and may go back

G Edward Porgie - Posted - 02/20/2020:  09:15:58

You'll never get synthetics up to that high tenor banjo "A." They can't take the tension.

Knows Picker - Posted - 02/20/2020:  09:43:19

I used this info from Aguila, my scale length is just a tad over 20 inches.

What is Breaking Point Index?

The Breaking Point Index is the highest frequency a gut string of any diameter can reach at a string length of 1mt. For gut a mean value of 260 is a good reference parameter. For Nylgut, one can generally go as far as 300 Hz/meter. In other words, a 1 meter long gut string will statistically always break at 260 Hz, i.e. about ‘C’. Hence we deduce that the product of the pitch of the treble and by the string length (‘Working Index’) must always be below this value, and it is strongly advised to keep the number below 240. Instruments of the gut string era were always designed to function within these boundaries, and is why instrument families are scaled the way they are, and why re-entrant tunings were used on some instruments.

What is the use of this in practice?
A safe index for gut stringing should not exceed the 240 value. For Nylgut, ~260.

Example I: can I tune a gut strung lute top string to A, with a string length of 62cm in the pitch center of A 440 ?
.62 mt (62cm) x 440 (Hz) = 272.8
The answer is: no, I can’t.
What should the appropriate string length be? A safe index should not exceed the 240 value. 240/440 Hz = .545 mt, so in practice the appropriate string length (at A-440) should not exceed 54 cm.

Example II: can I tune a gut strung lute in G, with a string length of 62cm in the pitch center of A 440 of .62 mt? (62cm) x 392 (Hz) = 243 Hz.mtThe answer is: yes, I can, most definitely if using NNG.

Knows Picker - Posted - 03/06/2020:  04:48:47


I set up a 17 fret Vega tenor last night with Nylgut strings.

The length from nut to bridge is a bit over 20 inches. I used Aquila Nylgut Classic Banjo Medium weight.

I like to use ukulele tuning, GCEA, with the re-entrant G.

Following the legend on the package (which to me is backwards) I used 1st=Red for G, 3rd=Green for C, 2nd=Blue for E and 5th=Yellow for A at 440Hz.

The large 4th=White I don't use at all.

Everything came out with acceptable tension, there is a lot of play in these strings, they seem to take a wide range of possible tunings. I think you could wrangle a few different set ups out of a single set.

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