There are a LOT of rabbit holes to go down via the archives and a lot to read, and I'm doing my damnedest to research before asking questions. However, despite all the hours of digging and reading, I'm coming across a fair amount of dead ends and outdated answers. In short, my 17 fret tenor banjo uke conversion comes down to strings. I've read threads regarding GCEA tuning on the tenor banjos, but not much regarding nylon strings using said tuning. Sadly, some of the string options that interested me are no longer made in 2019, so I feel like I'm back to the drawing board.
The only option I'm really finding is to use the Aquila 23U Baritone Uke strings designed to be tuned up to GCEA, as the string length should fit the banjo. I really couldn't tell you anything about octave notes versus tension strengths versus string gauges, so I wouldn't even be able to fathom a guess as to which individual classical strings to use. I'm considering high G and low G options. I also have scribbled down something about Aquila Reds, but what I find looks to be for a standard uke length. What am I missing? Are there any other options readily available, or is the 23U set my only answer?
I bet that a standard 5-string set, minus the bass string, will be just what you're looking for. If the 1st and 5th strings are not the same gauge, use the lighter of the two for the A. If they are the same, no big deal, as the G and A are just one step apart.
I am not familiar with that Aquila baritone/tenor set, but would expect it to be at least a little higher tension than you want. For a given note at a given scale length, a banjo generally works best at a lower tension than what would be used on an instrument with a wooden soundboard. Sometimes a whole bunch lower.
Here is what I did for that tuning. I installed a Labella nylon five string set. I didn't use the 4th from the set. I used the 5th for the 4th string. It tuned up just fine for re-entrant GCEA on my 17 fret Wurlitzer from the 1920s. So the strings were installed 5th for g, 3rd for C, 2nd for E and 1st for A. That leaves me with an unused 4th from the 5 string set. Tension is fine. Sound is great. The high g for the 4th sounds similar to a 5 string.
Wow Dan, I was typing as you answered and we were suggesting the same approach.
Edited by - Kevin B on 07/16/2019 15:16:40
Great minds, eh, guys? So a typical nylon banjo set will allow me to get it up to the same GCEA pitch as a standard banjo uke? I'm familiar with guitar strings coming in right/medium/heavy gauges, but is the Labella set just a standard gauge? It sounds like this may be a good route to go, especially if you've had good luck with it, Kevin. If I want a non-reentrant tuning, will this set allow me to make it a low G, or would that require a different string? I guess I had assumed that a typical banjo string set wouldn't allow for the amount of tension needed for the retune.
The bass string should be fine for a low G.
La Bella's used to be very light gauge. I'm told they are made a bit heavier now than they used to be, but I imagine they are still what you'd call light gauge. Probably a good place to start. That or Nylgut "classic banjo" light gauge. Not the "minstrel" set, which is much heavier, intended for lower tuning..
Thanks, Dan. Sounds like that's the way to go. Both sets look pretty easy to find. I guess the answer was deceptively easier than I anticipated. I'm okay with that. So, using the La Bella gauge I see online it would look like this, then:
Low G = 25 wound (Or High G = 19)
C = 28
E = 22
A = 19
Do I have that right?
Yes, the Labella set you described is the set I use. I went with high g though. One added bonus is the original friction tuners hold just fine. I'm thinking these strings are real easy on the neck too compared to steel.
I got it to work on a short scale tenor with a low G, I used the Aquilla Classical banjo set, or maybe two sets.
I dont remember exactly how I did it, it was over a year ago but they are still holding up fine.
Not too floppy, not to tight, even tension all around.
Thank you, gents, for your input. I think I'm going to start out with the La Bella strings. I figure if I don't care for the low G, I can always swap out that 5th string to make a high G. Your help is quite appreciated!
Well now I want to try it with a re-entrant G.
What? Out of short scale tenor banjos!
Why i guess I will "need" to start shopping again!
I go GCEA on a Tubaphone 17 fret, but I use steel strings.
20-21" scale -- A: .0105 (or .010) E: .012 C: .015 G: .022 wound or .011 plain for recumbent tuning.
I went the route of the La Bella strings, as you recommended, Kevin, using the low G for linear tuning. I like it! It gives the banjo a real old-timey sound to me, and yes, the friction tuners work just fine. It's nice having the extra string in case I want to try the reentrant tuning, too. Thanks for the feedback, gents!
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