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thicker strings on Deering A-scale Parlor banjo

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Feb 23, 2020 - 12:30:13 PM
7 posts since 2/23/2020

Hi, y'all!
Banjo in question is a Deering A-scale Parlor banjo with resonator. Just fine as is, bright and perky - but I am looking for a particular sound.

On guitar I tend to be happiest noodling the deeper sounds, as I'm a metalhead at heart. I'm looking to get a similarly deeper tone out of this portable sized instrument - in some way. I love the arrangement of the strings on the banjo, and I'm fairly certain that a simple switch to a bass of any kind would leave me unhappy for multiple reasons. I love the twang of the banjo and the fact that, as a reluctant drummer due to travelling, I am playing a stringed drum that can also be thrummed gently at will. (The sheer variety of analogue sound potential is the key allure of the banjo, me thinks...)

Based on research and common sense, I have only learned that one should not string a banjo with too-thick a set of strings lest it warp the neck, etc.

I happened upon the Acoustic Micro Bass by accident, and I would love strings like those on my little banjo. Goal: small banjo with lower register.

Even just getting to a standard G tuning so I can follow basic written instruction would be helpful. I have misplaced the guidance on how to do this, but I believe the particular sized strings are a key component!

So, I ask - are there articles in this forum or elsewhere that would help me customize this machine and I foolishly overlooked them? The lack of results per my keywords suggests they were not helpful search terms, so any help is appreciated.

Suggestions such as "get a longer-necked banjo" would also be helpful, though even my tenuous understanding of physics leads me to believe more is possible with my current, precious little sound toy.

Thanks a bunch!

R

Edited by - birdbohannon on 02/23/2020 12:44:01

Feb 23, 2020 - 12:56:48 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

23215 posts since 6/25/2005

If you’re tuning an A-scale to G, you will need thicker strings. They won’t warp the neck. If you like the deeper tones, tune it down to F. You might want to look at using all-wound strings at that lower pitch—steel or nylon. Strings are cheap, so experiment. Don’t assume a packaged set will suit your needs. Mix and match with singles until you find your sweet spot.

Feb 23, 2020 - 1:35:33 PM

7 posts since 2/23/2020

Bill Rogers Thanks for the reply; I figured I could mix and match, was wondering the max range. The suggestion to tune to F is wonderful.
Many thanks :)

Feb 23, 2020 - 4:51:29 PM

2090 posts since 12/31/2005

The Goodtime Parlor standard tuning should be G. There are A scaled banjos on the market, but I don't recall Deering making one. I have a Parlor (now called GT Jr.), and it is in G. I think it would benefit from thicker strings. With that short of a scale, tuning down to F could be a challenge, but experiment away. They strings are pretty loose as it is at G, but I think there are lights on right now.

Are you wedded to that particular instrument? You will likely have better results with something in a larger scale length. The shorter the scale, the thicker the strings you have to have in order to get lower tones, but there is a point of diminishing returns.

Feb 23, 2020 - 8:33:20 PM

341 posts since 7/28/2016

I have a Deering Parlor and I can't keep it in tune or keep the intonation good unless I use the heaviest gauge strings I can find. Right now there are no strings at all on it. I'm doing a re-fret on the first 3 frets. My first attempt. Even though pricey I'm going to go with heavy gauge Ohm when ready.

Feb 23, 2020 - 11:08:15 PM

3 posts since 1/18/2020

Got a great set after talking to the owner of gold tone. Slap these babies on tune GDGBD like a regular ole banjo. Will cost 8 bucks . Go to your local shop and show them this list

.16, .20w, .24w, .34w, .16v hg

Feb 24, 2020 - 4:36:56 AM

5259 posts since 12/20/2005

I applaud you for searching for a tone you have in mind. It can take some experimenting, for sure.

Maybe I am wrong, but those gauges look very heavy for G tuning. Like Bill said, strings are cheap. If they don't give the sound you are looking for, keep at it till you find the right ones. They are out there.

Let us know how it turns out.

Feb 24, 2020 - 4:39:22 AM

7 posts since 2/23/2020

Brian Murphy The former owner may have been the one to customize the tune to A-scale, she stays in tune just fine as such.

It's the best banjo I can afford for a few more years, so yes, I am wedded to it - travel-size and all.

Thanks, y'all!

Feb 24, 2020 - 4:48:43 AM
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2090 posts since 12/31/2005

I would check with Deering before going too heavy with the gauge. Not sure what those tuners can tolerate, or the neck. Also, at some point you would have to re-slot the nut and bridge. Maybe try a medium gauge set, but going too radical may cause real damage. Why not try for a trade in the Marketplace?

Feb 24, 2020 - 4:56:11 AM

341 posts since 7/28/2016

I've had the parlor banjo for about 5 years with heavy strings and no problems other than a re-fret on the first 3. Deering does recommend medium but they didn't work for me. I also did not have the stock tuners, The previous owner had planetary geared banjo tuners put on not the guitar tuners that it comes with. Don't know if that makes a difference or not. I'm pretty sure the tuners were put on by Deering.

Feb 24, 2020 - 6:28:06 AM

2090 posts since 12/31/2005

Glenn, did you have any issues with but or bridge going to heavy gauge? Any modification?

Feb 24, 2020 - 7:59:51 AM
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341 posts since 7/28/2016

I do use a compensated Moon bridge but I think I was using it before the heavy strings. I didn't have to modify the bridge or nut.

Feb 24, 2020 - 8:02:45 AM
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341 posts since 7/28/2016

Also I found that the banjo was so loud and "brash" (if that is a word) to begin with the heavy strings didn't mute the sound to where it changed the sound very much.

Feb 24, 2020 - 11:10:14 AM

16 posts since 9/1/2017

Heavier strings should do the trick. I have a C-scale 5 string that I have strung up with Aquila nylon minstrel strings, and it's tuned to Open G. (Minstrel strings are normally for tuning a 26" scale banjo down to open D or E.) Same theory applies with steel, although those 16s for the 1st and 5th listed above seem a little *too* heavy for open G on an A scale...

Feb 24, 2020 - 2:19:13 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

12348 posts since 8/30/2006

Warning, safety cones and threshold approaching. You have the wallpaper in a shoebox. I love seeing people hot rod the spec banjos, there is something missing at the jams for sure. That's the tell.

The neck and hardware are like the wheels and tires.

The rim is like the motor. when you want a new motor, contact me. then you can use the strings recommended.


 

Feb 24, 2020 - 2:26:04 PM

517 posts since 10/21/2012

The Deering Parlor banjo has no truss rod. However, because the neck is short and sturdy, Deering says that the neck is not in danger of warping when used with medium strings. They do not claim that the neck is in no danger if you use heavier strings. It will probably be fine, as many of us get away with heavier strings, and it's not an heirloom banjo you are risking, but Deering thinks there is some risk. Source: Deering's web site, and my own email communication with Deering.

I take the risk. My Deering Parlor has had medium-heavy strings on it for about 3 years, and it's fine. I use a sponge to suck up some of the overtones and let the melody notes come out and play, but that reduces the volume of an already quiet banjo; the heavier strings get me some of that volume back.

Feb 27, 2020 - 10:46:16 AM

7 posts since 2/23/2020

Great to see more responses on the thread. Lots of tasty info nuggets.

Currently my miniature Deering banjo is very well set-up, as is, and I am mostly fantasizing as yet about the next set of strings. Um, I mean researching. The potential of having to alter the (nut) to allow larger strings to fit seems like a gentle reminder not to get too radical (cause, if it ain't already broke, don't 'fix' it).

@Helix meaning that the tuned head is like wall-paper over a shoebox, where the shoebox is how flimsy the stock rim is?

@mreidsma the goldtone microbass strings almost look like gentle gooey nylon, that's the kind of thing I had in mind , thanks for the spot on recommendation with the "Aquila nylon minstrel strings" - intuitively seems right on target with my goal + won't oxidize...

WayneConrad
-thanks for the confirmation/hint that the lack of truss-rod is offset by the proportional stoutness of the rig - trully an admirable characteristic in this portable instrument... the neck was my main concern with any greater tuning forces - as my guitar experience has taught me - warping from humidity would probably be the biggest factor relative to how "divergent" I'd be willing to get with this banjo (humid Chesapeake Bay summers).

-Question: bridge force into head is my next concern now that the neck has the go-ahead. Is it probable that the stock guitar-style tuners won't stay taut / tuned at the point where the head would be injured? I am interested in known *early* signs of material fatigue/sounds while tuning, etc

-feeling like banjo is definitely my music spirit animal that I've been in search for for years. Lots of support here, it's great!

Thank y'all for sharing your experience and advice.

Feb 27, 2020 - 11:25:27 AM

517 posts since 10/21/2012

quote:
Originally posted by birdbohannon

-Question: bridge force into head is my next concern now that the neck has the go-ahead. Is it probable that the stock guitar-style tuners won't stay taut / tuned at the point where the head would be injured? I am interested in known *early* signs of material fatigue/sounds while tuning, etc

-feeling like banjo is definitely my music spirit animal that I've been in search for for years. Lots of support here, it's great!
 


The banjo is such a wonderful, unique instrument!

I've noticed no difference in how the tuners behave with heaviers strings, nor any problems with the head.  After I put on heavier strings, I did re-tension the head to get the sound I want, but I don't know whether the head ended up having more or less tension than before, nor did it ever seem to me that the head was under undue tension.  The tuners don't slip or otherwise give me any trouble.

Feb 28, 2020 - 3:06:11 PM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

12348 posts since 8/30/2006

Oops , I used a slang term meaning extra pressure for sales form without proper content.
The Polish is something like you are drinking tea from a shoe, I know that'll get some banjo notes, but
If I take time to poke fun, then some should take more time to laugh a little.

The imports always out feature some domestics. Made in USA means something to us all. Trees grown in USA would be cool.

Confer with Wayne Conrad, up above, he has one.

Mar 20, 2020 - 2:07:25 AM

3 posts since 1/18/2020

I'm sorry I misread this post and thought you had a gold tone TB100 . That banko does have a truss rod and the deering does not.

Mar 20, 2020 - 6:11:17 AM

7 posts since 2/23/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Rk-earring

I'm sorry I misread this post and thought you had a gold tone TB100 . That banko does have a truss rod and the deering does not.


Was curious about the confidence in specificity!  Glad you found what works for your intentions, and were happy to share the love.  :)

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