Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!
Jun 9, 2018 - 6:43:25 PM
Players Union Member



80 posts since 7/7/2012

I play Plectrum and would like to experiment with Nylon strings, and have read several posts on the forum. I understand that there are several types, the Chris Sands Classic Banjo Strings, Nylgut and various types of nylon. However, to start, I need to know what diameter strings to use. I currently use the following: 12, 15, 20, 26 (or 28). I understand that nylon strings are thicker and will require a different bridge. Here are my remaining questions:
1. How do I know what size strings to convert to?
2. Is there a good source to compare the different types of nylon strings for sound, durability, etc?
3. If I don’t want to change my nut, or make the slots wider, is there some adaptation I can use so I can go back and forth between nylon and steel?
4. Any other advice
Thanks, Mitchell

Jun 9, 2018 - 7:05 PM

34 posts since 3/19/2018

I am currently using gut strings and a maple bridge from Clifford Essex, my Banjo is a Zither .
On their website they list strings for the Plectrum Banjo. or give them a call
P.S They did make Plectrum Banjos ,perhaps you already know this.



Jun 10, 2018 - 2:02:30 AM

50 posts since 10/30/2017

I can't seem to find these Chris Sands nylon banjo strings.

I'd like a set if anyone can point me in the right direction!

Jun 10, 2018 - 5:12:33 AM



11153 posts since 2/7/2008

Buy a set of Nylgut or other for 5 String and set the 5th string aside?

Nylon strings take a fair bit of time to get tuned up to pitch and stay there after stretching, I would have  2 banjos set up for nylon and steel.

Jun 10, 2018 - 10:00:02 AM
Players Union Member



80 posts since 7/7/2012

Thanks for the collective wisdom. I contacted Clifford Essex, and they indicated that Chris Sands strings were made by the Picato string company in Wales, they went out of business a few years ago. They also suggested that the the classical banjo 4th string is silver wound on nylon, if you strike it with a plectrum it will soon wear out. They suggested their nylon tailpiece which is here: However, are there any other options? And, like others, they suggested a non-ebony capped simple maple bridge.

I was wondering what to do about the nut. I don’t want to commit my banjo to nylon yet, and therefore do not want to change out the nut. Would simply placing the strings on the existing nut, and using a capo to hold them in place, for now, work? What do people do if they want to go back and forth and experiment?

Also, I see that there are multiple string gauge options. What would give the fullest warm sound? What is suggested for using a plectrum?


Jun 13, 2018 - 2:17:30 AM

50 posts since 10/30/2017

When I first tried nylgut I didn't file the nut to see if I liked them first. They stayed in place just fine but I didn't like the feel of them.

I use nylon strings now and have cut the nut to suit since I know I like em.

I have a no-knot tailpiece one one banjo and I've cut a slot in a cheapo tailpiece to comfortably fit nylon strings. I'll post a photo in a bit.

Jun 13, 2018 - 2:21:07 AM

50 posts since 10/30/2017

It's a 5 string by the by

Jun 13, 2018 - 7:40:12 AM



168 posts since 7/6/2004

A few years ago, I decided to put nylgut strings on one of my 5 string banjos for the purpose of playing classic style. Being that my banjo is an older model made by Ome, I ended up having to send it to Ome and had them set it up for those particular strings. The action was way too high after I put on the strings. They did a great job and that banjo is exclusively my classic banjo. As for plectrum style, I would think the tension might need to be a bit higher for use with the flatpick. I never thought about nylon strings for plectrum, but it might be pretty neat.

Jun 13, 2018 - 8:30:10 PM
Players Union Member



80 posts since 7/7/2012

Thanks both. Bobbie, I see you have modified your tailpiece. What do people think of the floating tailpiece that Clifford Essex makes? And Jackie, when you say increased tension, do you mean for the head? Thanks, Mitchell

Jun 14, 2018 - 1:54:55 AM

50 posts since 10/30/2017

Yeah, it was the cheapo tailpiece that came with my main banjo which I tried putting nylon strings on and couldn't get them to feed through the holes and stay on the posts because my loops were too big.

I drilled a line of holes then cut them with a dremel. I finished it off with a file.

Works a treat!

Edit: I have no experience with the Clifford Essex tailpiece but those boys have been in the gut/nylon business for a century so it can't be bad!

Just bear in mind that there's no adjustable down pressure on that thing so the tone you get from it is not adjustable as far as I can tell.

The beauty of modifying one of those cheap ones is you can adjust the pressure on the strings to find the tone you really like before making a big investment.

Edited by - bobscene on 06/14/2018 02:08:15

Jun 14, 2018 - 11:36:50 AM

4055 posts since 9/21/2007

There is historical precedence for using the equivalent of gut strings for plectrum. According to documentation it seems that early plectrum players were split about half and half on gut vs. steel. The gut players were using a heaver string than finger players that would last longer. The pick was still hard on them.

I imagine that steel won out because they were much cheaper, easier to find (the war caused a gut string shortage), and would last until they rust.

Alfred Farland used a leather pick with an elastic loop that he could attach to his index finger. He played on Gut strings. Using that arrangement he was able to switch back and forth from pick to fingers until his fingers gave out and he could only play with a pick. He likely switched to nylon (like all of the pros did) after WW2.

With the right setup nylon might be louder than steel. That is the case with fingerstyle 5 string, I am not sure about plectrum.

Jun 14, 2018 - 3:08:53 PM



168 posts since 7/6/2004

Originally posted by mfbrin

 And Jackie, when you say increased tension, do you mean for the head? Thanks, Mitchell

Maybe I used the wrong terminology. I have found that the nylgut strings are kind of flappy, but good for finger picking. I think a flatpick might be kind of rough on the nylgut strings. Depends on one’s style of picking.

Jun 14, 2018 - 4:04:28 PM



212 posts since 7/2/2010

At one time I used Chris Sands' strings, but he must have changed manufacturers because I ran into a lot of breakage problems. I switched to D'Addario Classical guitar strings and all my problems disappeared. Use the following:

4th - NYL030W .030" nylon silverwound
3rd - NYL032 .032" rectified nylon
2nd - NYL028 .028" rectified nylon
1st - NYL024 .024" rectified nylon

These are the same diameters as the Sands' heavy strings.

If your bridge and nut have "V" shaped notches you can use the nylon without changing either one.

I buy single strings from Strings and Beyond (  Use the numbers above in their search bar and the product will come up.

D'Addario also publishes a string tension guide you can use to custom design a string set if you feel like getting into some math:

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories