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Oct 14, 2020 - 1:11:21 PM
1177 posts since 8/10/2010

Hey all! I have a Minstrel Banjo tuned to dGDF#A (Standard for those) with Aquila Nylgut 7B strings. What I normally use on that. However i want to try actual Gut strings on it. assuming that's what have been used on such a banjo in the time period that they were popular. anyone know where I can by a set more specifically for a minstrel tuning setup or do we know of anyone who makes the privately?? thanks in advance!

Donny.

Oct 15, 2020 - 4:41:41 AM

rmcdow

USA

862 posts since 11/8/2014

Olav Chris Henriksen
Boston Catlines
34 Newbury St., Somerville MA 02144 USA

Tel. & Fax (617)776-8688

email: catlines@aol.com

Oct 15, 2020 - 6:46:11 AM

5706 posts since 9/21/2007

Back when I was a "reenactor" I got gut strings from Bob Thornburg, but it looks like he no longer sells them (or builds banjos). They were good strings and lasted a very long time. I kept one banjo set up with them for events when I was still doing that.

Since I am curious, I started comparing them to standard nylon (not polyester "nylgut"). I would change out one string to nylon and keep the rest gut. I personally could not perceive any difference in tone (nor could listeners). The gut were stickier and did have a different feel.

The strings I got from Thornburg were lighter than the "minstrel" set of nylgut strings (nylgut strings tend to be heaver than period strings).

I recently wrote an article for "The 5 Stringer" where I explored pitch and the two major systems of notation for banjo, all fully referenced. I provided a timeline of pitch which I believe to be an accurate assessment of common banjo pitches used to the best of our documentation. I found it to be an interesting study. By the American Civil War the pitch had been raised to A, up from G (normal exceptions expected). I believe that Civil War reenactors get this incorrect.

My personal opinion-- good riddance to gut strings! There is a reason that banjoists started using nylon as soon as they were available after WW2. There was a reason Spanish "classical" guitar players did the same. Nylon is superior in pretty much every way.

Even S. S. Stewart was yearning for a better option than gut. Silk was used and found truer but was still pretty fragile. So was viscose.

The only reason I would ever use gut strings again would be if I were to return to Texas for a historic event.

That said, I think the new Clifford Essex Music sells gut strings that might work for you-- but that is the only source I can think of.

Oct 15, 2020 - 8:02:32 AM

7850 posts since 8/28/2013

Many violin family instruments still use gut. I wonder if there may be some that are the correct gauge and length to work on a banjo.

Oct 15, 2020 - 8:43:40 AM

5706 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Many violin family instruments still use gut. I wonder if there may be some that are the correct gauge and length to work on a banjo.


Before there was a market big enough for banjo specific strings, most instruction books said to use double length violin strings.  I have heard second hand that people would often have to sand the strings to even them out as they would change thickness in the middle (after all, one was to cut them in half).

I think most gut strings for violin are now wound, but I am sure one could get them unwound as they would have been prior to WW2.  Some historically informed string groups cut no corners.  But I'm sure that comes with at a high cost.

One could also try to source gut Spanish guitar strings, looking for light or low tension versions, and use 1-4 +1.  That was also a recommendation in some early banjo tutors.

Oct 15, 2020 - 8:46:19 AM

kww

USA

733 posts since 6/21/2008

Gamut should be able to help you out. Gamutmusic.com

Edited by - kww on 10/15/2020 08:47:28

Oct 15, 2020 - 12:34:35 PM

kww

USA

733 posts since 6/21/2008

Gamut does sell a specific set of gut banjo strings.

Oct 15, 2020 - 2:00:15 PM
likes this

5706 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by kww

Gamut does sell a specific set of gut banjo strings.


Those are kinda heavy but would work for G as the OP asked for.  Good to know if one were going that route.

Oct 15, 2020 - 2:38:49 PM

163 posts since 11/27/2017

I'd like to read that piece...how can one get hold of it?

rwf

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks


I recently wrote an article for "The 5 Stringer" where I explored pitch and the two major systems of notation for banjo, all fully referenced. I provided a timeline of pitch which I believe to be an accurate assessment of common banjo pitches used to the best of our documentation. I found it to be an interesting study. By the American Civil War the pitch had been raised to A, up from G (normal exceptions expected). I believe that Civil War reenactors get this incorrect.
 


Oct 16, 2020 - 5:49:01 PM

rmcdow

USA

862 posts since 11/8/2014

The last time I ordered gut strings from Olav, here is what I got, with the sizes, tension, and prices then (a couple of years ago):
d' varnished gut .46 mm gauge 3.2 kg .018”
b varnished gut .52 mm gauge 3.2 kg .020”
g varnished gut .66 mm gauge 3.2 kg .030”
d varnished gut .88 mm gauge 3.2 kg or copperwound .82 mm gauge 3.2 kg .032”
g' varnished gut .46 gauge 3.2 kg

total 16 kg 35.2 lbs

d' 1 x DL 2046 @ $11.00
b 1 x DL 2052 @ $11.40
g 1 x DL 2066 @ $12.80
The silver plated copper wound over gut string was about $22 if I remember correctly.
g' 1 x DL 1046 @ $9.95

Oct 18, 2020 - 7:36:11 PM

5706 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by rfink1913

I'd like to read that piece...how can one get hold of it?

rwf

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks


I recently wrote an article for "The 5 Stringer" where I explored pitch and the two major systems of notation for banjo, all fully referenced. I provided a timeline of pitch which I believe to be an accurate assessment of common banjo pitches used to the best of our documentation. I found it to be an interesting study. By the American Civil War the pitch had been raised to A, up from G (normal exceptions expected). I believe that Civil War reenactors get this incorrect.
 



It is the newsletter for the American Banjo Fraternity, it is part of membership.  Send me a PM with your email address and I'll send it to you as a "sample" issue.  
 

Or join and I'll send you a printed copy (and the last three issues with it).

Oct 19, 2020 - 4:15:17 AM

339 posts since 12/9/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Back when I was a "reenactor" I got gut strings from Bob Thornburg, but it looks like he no longer sells them (or builds banjos). They were good strings and lasted a very long time. I kept one banjo set up with them for events when I was still doing that.

Since I am curious, I started comparing them to standard nylon (not polyester "nylgut"). I would change out one string to nylon and keep the rest gut. I personally could not perceive any difference in tone (nor could listeners). The gut were stickier and did have a different feel.

The strings I got from Thornburg were lighter than the "minstrel" set of nylgut strings (nylgut strings tend to be heaver than period strings).

I recently wrote an article for "The 5 Stringer" where I explored pitch and the two major systems of notation for banjo, all fully referenced. I provided a timeline of pitch which I believe to be an accurate assessment of common banjo pitches used to the best of our documentation. I found it to be an interesting study. By the American Civil War the pitch had been raised to A, up from G (normal exceptions expected). I believe that Civil War reenactors get this incorrect.

My personal opinion-- good riddance to gut strings! There is a reason that banjoists started using nylon as soon as they were available after WW2. There was a reason Spanish "classical" guitar players did the same. Nylon is superior in pretty much every way.

Even S. S. Stewart was yearning for a better option than gut. Silk was used and found truer but was still pretty fragile. So was viscose.

The only reason I would ever use gut strings again would be if I were to return to Texas for a historic event.

That said, I think the new Clifford Essex Music sells gut strings that might work for you-- but that is the only source I can think of.


I tried the Clifford Essex strings here in the UK, and I was very disappointed with how easily they fall apart.  It seems like they are the type of gut where the outside it sanded to diameter rather than the methods which keep the fibres in-tact, so there are lots of weak points.

Apparently they import them from India, and I'm not sure what the quality control is like.

I also use gut strings on my baroque violin, and they are a lot better made, I suppose because there is more demand for decent ones.

Amonst my baroque violin and hurdy hurdy playing acquaintances, they say the best made gut strings are the ones that Turkish oud players use, because there's an unbroken tradition of making them (if you'll pardon the pun).  I have yet to try those out, though.

Oct 19, 2020 - 3:28:02 PM

163 posts since 11/27/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by rfink1913

I'd like to read that piece...how can one get hold of it?

rwf

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks


I recently wrote an article for "The 5 Stringer" where I explored pitch and the two major systems of notation for banjo, all fully referenced. I provided a timeline of pitch which I believe to be an accurate assessment of common banjo pitches used to the best of our documentation. I found it to be an interesting study. By the American Civil War the pitch had been raised to A, up from G (normal exceptions expected). I believe that Civil War reenactors get this incorrect.
 



It is the newsletter for the American Banjo Fraternity, it is part of membership.  Send me a PM with your email address and I'll send it to you as a "sample" issue.  
 

Or join and I'll send you a printed copy (and the last three issues with it).


OK, I'll go join -- sounds like my kind of group. :)

Oct 19, 2020 - 5:44:58 PM

872 posts since 3/23/2006

I have a set of strings from damianstrings.com/ on my Bowlin 1865 fretless. I chose gauges that I could tune to GDGBD to use it with contemporary fiddlers. I know that is an anachronistic tuning for a civil-war era design, but I decided to make the trade-off to make it easier to play with others. Sadly, Damian, who is about my age, is cutting back on individual orders. His strings are excellent. I humbly disagree with those who feel that nylon is a better choice. It is more practical, like synthetic heads, but gut feels better to play and in my experience has better tone. I have other banjos on which I use nylon for practicality (and much lower cost).

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