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timacn - Posted - 12/12/2021:  17:51:17

It's quite possible that these are dumb questions. If so, I apologize.
I have the idea in my head that certain types of banjos might be preferable for use with nylon strings. It seems to me that the best nylon stringed guitars that I've heard have been lightly braced instruments with thin tops. I'm guessing that a banjo with a heavy tone ring and rim like a Mastertone or Tubaphone might not be the best choice for nylon strings. I don't know either the physics of sound or instrument construction, but I'm guessing that a nylon string might not produce the same volume or "force" of sound that a steel string would. I also imagine that to generate a sonic force powerful enough to get a heavy rim and tone ring vibrating, a steel string might be necessary. Does that make sense, or am I wrong? Also: can anybody recommend a banjo that sounds particularly good and decently loud with nylon strings? As always, thanks for your help.

Paul Roberts - Posted - 12/12/2021:  18:12:56

I suggest a Gold Tone CC-Carlin 12", which has a 1-3/8" nut that will accommodate wider strings. On the one I have in the classifieds, there's an option for a custom neck-lift and upgraded hardware. I have a BC-350 that I've strung with nylon in standard tuning, wound nylons in baritone tuning, and wound nylon in octave G and A. I find the 12" rim fattens and warms the tone of nylon, and reaches down to pull out lower frequencies. 

It occurred to me you might be talking resonator banjo, in which case you'd want to look at any Gold Tone model with a "W" for wide. 

Edited by - Paul Roberts on 12/12/2021 18:22:53

csacwp - Posted - 12/12/2021:  19:04:09

With a period setup, nylon strings are brighter and louder than steel strings. I don't like them on Mastertones, but the Tubaphone was designed for gut strings, and I think they sound equally good with nylon.

What type of music do you intend to play? Are you willing to adopt a period setup to get the most out of nylon strings? Your answers to these questions will help us point you in the right direction.

timacn - Posted - 12/12/2021:  19:25:18

Thanks, John. What is a "period setup?"

Joel Hooks - Posted - 12/13/2021:  06:54:44

One element that separates a banjo for nylon v. wire is the neck set.

For nylon strings a neck set with zero degrees of angle is best.

When wire strings came along with pick playing, it was quickly discovered that a better setup was to angle the neck back to have lower strings with a higher bridge.

The "modern" banjo is designed around wire strings. Heavy truss rods, geared tuners and extra large frets are all better for wire strings.

You are usually good with any high quality regular 5 string banjo built before WW2 (except Gibson, who's 5 strings were just plectrum banjos with a 5th string) provided it has not been "modernized" or fooled with. New larger frets and gear tuners installed (the tuners can be overlooked depending on the banjo and how it balances), are negatives, but anything funny done to the neck set is the deal killer for me.

Things to look out for are added bits of metal angle or blocks of wood attached to the tailpiece end of the dowel. Extra holes drilled in the rim for the end pin bolt. Or thick shims crammed between the fingerboard and the stretcher hoop. I have even heard of people enlarging the dowel hole to raise or lower the neck to change the angle. These are all things to stay away from unless you are able to reverse them.

"Old time" music, in the current form, has adapted a very different configuration in banjos than anything used in the actual "olden times". Don't expect classic period banjos to play or sound anything like the modern standard of old time banjo.

While geared tuners work fine for nylon, I prefer friction. The very small and low frets used on period instruments seems to minimize buzzing. The lack of a truss rod makes for a more balanced banjo (particularly with clad rims).

spoonfed - Posted - 12/13/2021:  07:20:04

I concur with these answers, definitely zero neck angle to accommodate a half inch bridge and strings that are not too heavy and fat ! I have found my favourite nylon strung banjo to be an old Vega Whyte Laydie, I tried a Clifford Essex Weaver without a tone ring and just did not like it much although it was plenty lively just, never enjoyed the banjo, however I can definitely attest that a tone ring on a well set up banjo will sound great ! If you intend to play old time/clawhammer style then maybe I am way off, as John asked, what style will you be playing ?

davidppp - Posted - 12/13/2021:  12:08:17

NIck mentioned bridges; Joel H. didn't. (He makes some very fine ones: , )  My impression is that a crucial issue is weight.  It's your call what sound you prefer, but the fellows keen on "period set-up" and sound choose bridges that are about half the weight of most of the ones you'll find on steel strung instruments.  That gives volume and pop to synthetic strings and skin heads.  (There are exceptions to that, too.  E.g., Sometimes I really like BArt Veerman's Archie.)

chas5131 - Posted - 12/30/2021:  10:52:02

Any other suggestions for the best banjo being made for classic banjo with nylon strings?

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