I'm looking for a recommendation on strings and, if there are " better bridges" a good bridge for a 5 string banjo. As of right now I have stock strings and bridge. A medium or medium light are what I'm looking for.
I think the best basic string set as a starting point is the GHS PF-150 set which has string gauges of 10-12-14- 22(phosphor bronze wound)-10., The phosphor bronze winding on the 4th string gives that string a gritty sound, often referred to in banjo circles as "growl". I change the 5th string to an 11 on banjos I build, but if you just start with this PF-150 set you won't go wrong.
As for the bridge, that depends on what your neck angle is and what you want your string action to be. My advice would be to get one of the bridge makers on this forum, and there are quite a few good ones (perhaps they will pipe up and offer their services), to make you a bridge, and please, don't get an off-the-shelf generic bridge other than to use as a template to decide what height you need to get the right action, then throw it away. The bridge is very important and can mean a lot in terms of the sound and playability of your banjo. There are a number of talented people on this forum for whom bridges is their specialty.
Edited by - Ken LeVan on 04/10/2020 13:17:50
GHS medium lights
I always find it strange when people ask what kind of strings to get, and that people bother answering. Only you can decide which strings you like. How do you find that out? You try a bunch of different ones out. That's the only way. Check out Just Strings, GHS strings are pretty cheap. Get 10 different sets, try them each for a month or so, listen and feel the difference. Make up your own mind.
A good bridge would be a Scorpion or Snuffy Smith, but there are many many options out there. It doesn't necessarily have to be a maple/ebony bridge either.
As for strings, they're inexpensive so trying out different makes/gauges isn't difficult.
I have to agree with Mike (Mooooo), although I think Ken LeVan's idea might be a good starting point.
One thing I noticed is that you did not specify what style you are playing. You might get different suggestions depending on whether you play Bluegrass or Clawhammer. Same with bridges.
GHS strings today also have the advantage of being packed in individual plastic envelopes with nitrogen gas. They don't rust in the envelopes if you buy a bunch and don't open them for a while.
I bought a bunch of different ones to try out and I mixed the sets up to find out how my banjo sounds best. I don't think the brand matters as much as the gauges and the material of your strings...but the individually wrapped in plastic will last a long time. Now that I have my gauges down, I will buy in bulk.
I just get whatever set of strings is available at my local music store. I think they're the Martin Vega kind, all I know is they're cheap and accessible.
Try plenty of both. I am not a huge fan of GHS, but a lot of people are. I tend to prefer the Elixirs. And I really like Tim Purcell bridges. Not sure which one to get from him? Drop him an email for what kind of qualities you want to bring out and he will tell you his recommendation. They sound great and i love the way they look as well. They are absolutely perfectly made. My 2 cents.
Edited by - jgbrady13 on 04/11/2020 21:21:23
GHS PF150's, being right in between the most common "light" and "medium" gauges, are IMO the perfect first set to try on any banjo that was made to take steel strings.
A lot of folks starting out on the banjo have some experience playing an acoustic guitar, and don't realize how much lower the string tension is (or should be) on a banjo. The heaviest medium banjo set isn't going to be near as much of a workout for your left hand as light gauge on a flattop. Really light strings not only wear out faster, but are actually harder to play, as it takes a lot of control not to bend the strings out of tune with the left hand or pick so hard with the right that they rattle and buzz.
Originally posted by kmwaters
GHS medium lights
My strings of choice as well, I also really like the snuffy smith bridges. I've bought and tried many of them and always go back to the SS bridge.
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