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Jun 14, 2018 - 6:40:49 AM

wisch

USA

6 posts since 10/11/2006

I'm looking for a recommendation for strings for my fretless banjo. I play a couple of steps below standard pitch so not to tax the tuners. I enjoy the lowered pitch sound. It suits the banjo. Should I purchase gut strings? I appreciate your help.
Thanks,
Mike

Jun 14, 2018 - 7:37:03 AM

307 posts since 8/7/2017

I went from fishline to La Bella #17 on my DIY fretless (David Carver kit) and like them. I too play lower, 5 semitones (tuned to A instead of D for instance). Since #17's are nylon, they are not affected by humidity changes, if that is a concern. The 4th is wire wrapped, sounds nice. I've never played gut, so can't advise you there.

Jun 14, 2018 - 7:51:19 AM

dbrooks Players Union Member

USA

3411 posts since 3/11/2004

The Nylgut Minstrel strings work well for me (and many other on the Hangout).

David

Jun 14, 2018 - 7:59:54 AM

67 posts since 9/14/2007

Michael
Listen to “Betsy Liken” on my media page. It will give you an idea of what Nylgut minstrel strings will sound like on your fretless.

Jun 14, 2018 - 8:11:23 AM

wisch

USA

6 posts since 10/11/2006

Dan,
I searched the Banjo Hangout media for your tune. Is it in the video library or MP3 library?

Jun 14, 2018 - 8:13 AM

wisch

USA

6 posts since 10/11/2006

Found it. Thanks.
Mike

Jun 14, 2018 - 9:06:43 AM

mbuk06 Players Union Member

England

6488 posts since 10/5/2006
Online Now

I prefer the feel and sound of old steel strings on my fretless. I play my fretless daily and so far have never replaced the strings, and don't find them tough on my fingers as much of the time I use my nail to note and only selectively use the pads of my fingers to occasionally deaden the sound. As a comparison with nylgut/nylon here is what steel strings sound like on my (Mac Traynham short scale) fretless:


Edited by - mbuk06 on 06/14/2018 09:07:45

Jun 14, 2018 - 10:39:42 AM

AndrewD

United Kingdom

1405 posts since 4/29/2012

I use Nylguts on my fretless banjos simply because they were both built for gut over 100 years ago. If had a modern banjo with geared tuners I would most probably use standard steel strings light or medium gauge. So it also depends on whether your fretless is vintage or modern.

Jun 14, 2018 - 12:08:04 PM

7663 posts since 2/22/2007

I don't quite get the "tax the tuners" part, as the purpose of the tuners is to pitch the strings where you want them to sound and if not up to the job---replace them! (unless you have some rare antique?) So the questions should be, how do you want to sound and which do you prefer to play? Steel and nylon/gut do not sound the same or play the same, so decide how you want to sound and then whip your banjo and your technique into submission!
A great source for comparisons is Dan Gellert, who almost always plays fretless on both steel and gut. His technique is his own----good luck picking up Dan's little tricks!---- but you can hear the same player using both mediums which may help you pick a direction.

Jun 15, 2018 - 4:27:54 AM

mbuk06 Players Union Member

England

6488 posts since 10/5/2006
Online Now

The references above to date of manufacture are important and highly relevant. Vintage banjos with friction tuning pegs were designed for gut strings and should not be fitted with steel strings. Plenty of folks do - but apart from the addition tension steel strings put on the neck, the tendency for slippage of steel on friction pegs is really impractical. 

My American-made 5-string fretless is modern and set up to handle steel strings or nylon. However, I also play 5, 6 and 7-string English fretless banjos. These are vintage instruments with ivory or wooden fiddle-style tapered pegs that were intended for gut strings originally and my preference is for high quality nylon guitar strings rather than nylgut. Brand is a matter of personal choice; my recommendation are Savanez strings with rectified trebles. In regard to the sound I'm after their feel, tone and durability is a step up in quality from nylgut. Finding your ideal gauges/tensions does require experiment - there is no one-size-fits-all answer and on less standardised vintage instruments can vary significantly from banjo to banjo.

The idea that the string options on a fretless are limited only to steel or nylgut is a myth.

Edited by - mbuk06 on 06/15/2018 04:42:29

Jun 15, 2018 - 8:23:04 PM

wisch

USA

6 posts since 10/11/2006

quote:
Originally posted by banjo bill-e

I don't quite get the "tax the tuners" part, as the purpose of the tuners is to pitch the strings where you want them to sound and if not up to the job---replace them! (unless you have some rare antique?) So the questions should be, how do you want to sound and which do you prefer to play? Steel and nylon/gut do not sound the same or play the same, so decide how you want to sound and then whip your banjo and your technique into submission!
A great source for comparisons is Dan Gellert, who almost always plays fretless on both steel and gut. His technique is his own----good luck picking up Dan's little tricks!---- but you can hear the same player using both mediums which may help you pick a direction.


Jun 15, 2018 - 8:28:11 PM

wisch

USA

6 posts since 10/11/2006

What I meant on taxing the tuners was that the closer to standard pitch, the harder to turn the pegs. Also the strings go out of tune rather quickly. The 5th string tuner is especially tight. Does that mean I should replace the tuners or is there an oil that would loosen them up?

Jun 15, 2018 - 11:52:56 PM

mbuk06 Players Union Member

England

6488 posts since 10/5/2006
Online Now

Michael, are there small screws on the tops of your tuner buttons? These can be tightened or loosened to adjust the ease with which the pegs can be turned.

Jun 16, 2018 - 11:14:20 AM

5571 posts since 3/11/2006

If you have either friction pegs or mechanical friction tuners (which have an adjustment screw) I'd recommend Nylguts, either the minstrel set (for E or D pitch) or the classical set for standard pitch.

If you have geared tuners either steel or Nylgut.

I would not use steel with friction pegs or friction tuners because they are more difficult to tune.

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