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Dec 1, 2020 - 11:35:50 AM
31 posts since 11/26/2020

Greetings,

I'm a beginning banjo player with a reasonably nice 12" open-back that came equipped a year or so ago with steel strings. Having played a fair bit of ukulele in the past, I wanted to experiment with nylon strings, so I researched string gauges and what-not, and I subsequently installed a set of Worth brand fluorocarbon ukulele strings (that are supplied with 63" length), but with a wound 4th. They play and sound quite nice, but with the much longer scale length of the banjo, they are noticeably soft and excessively flexible, almost to a fault, particularly the 2nd and 3rd strings.

So, I've been looking into these Aquila Nylgut brand of strings, of which there appears to be a dizzying (almost confusing) array of options, and I'm wondering where and how to best start the next journey without spending a million dollars? From what I've read (typically archived topics), most guys have said that they (Nylgut), feel harder and more brittle than true nylon, or even fluorocarbon, which would be a good thing in my case, but I'm also reading about excessive breakage, poor tuning stability, wound vs. unwound 4th, etc., etc.

Can anyone here help me avoid the confusion to some degree, by giving me some meaningful advice or specific product suggestions on a suitable set of strings to install on this thing, that might be a good starting point for me?

Many thanks!

Dec 1, 2020 - 11:43:40 AM

31 posts since 11/26/2020

Yikes! After just posting this Topic moments ago, I've discovered this related thread which is beginning to answer some (not all) of my key questions:

banjohangout.org/topic/370378

I'm going to continue following this other thread to see what I can learn, and not yet delete this newest thread of mine, but I'll appreciate any further or new advice offered in response to my own thread.

Thanx.

Dec 1, 2020 - 12:25:24 PM

8051 posts since 8/28/2013

Tried Nylguts once. I will not make that mistake again.

Dec 1, 2020 - 12:28:29 PM

306 posts since 4/3/2012

I've tried many nylgut/nylon/fluorocarbon strings. My favourites for feel and sound are nylgut red series. However, they are ridiculously fragile. Regular nylgut are okay but pretty thick and mushy. LaBella nylon or Savarez fluorocarbon are good choices. I don't think they sound as good as nylgut reds, but might be a better choice all around.

Dec 1, 2020 - 2:23:23 PM

31 posts since 11/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Tried Nylguts once. I will not make that mistake again.


Thanks Ed!

Yes, that seems to be the overall consensus (i.e., to stay away from Nylgut for a variety of reasons).

Thanks!

Dec 1, 2020 - 2:40:36 PM

Bill H

USA

1483 posts since 11/7/2010

My feeling is that you will get answers all over the place. What one person loves, another hates. I've tried medium gauge, light gauge, wound 4th, unwound fourth. I like the plain 4th string rather than wound. The wound sounds good, but tends to wear and fray long before the other strings. I am a fan of Aquilla New Nylgut in light gauge. I tried medium, but found them a bit slippery and unresponsive to my style. I think that is key--choosing strings that fit you style of play. The other thing that makes a huge difference is the bridge. I have spent some time and consideration on my three banjos strung with Nylgut and the right bride is crucial. I have never had a problem with breakage in at least ten years of using nylon/nylgut strings.

My take--it's best to invest in a variety and try them out and decide for your self.

Dec 1, 2020 - 2:42:58 PM

31 posts since 11/26/2020

I'd love to respond to all of these comments, but unfortunately, everything I've written in reply is getting somehow blocked and labeled as "spam" by the administrators! I've since written to Eric Schlange (the apparent administrator), but this is freakin' ridiculous!

Edited by - Patriot on 12/01/2020 14:44:29

Dec 1, 2020 - 2:45:18 PM

31 posts since 11/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Patriot

I'd love to respond to all of these comments, but unfortunately, everything I've written in reply is getting somehow blocked and labeled as "spam" by the administrators! I've since written to Eric Schlange (the apparent administrator), but this is freakin' ridiculous!


Wow! Somehow, this one made it through the gauntlet! Go figure! 

Dec 1, 2020 - 2:45:47 PM
Players Union Member

dbrooks

USA

3951 posts since 3/11/2004
Online Now

People do have their preferences about strings, including nylon strings. I have Nylgut strings on 3 banjos and have been very pleased with them. Yes, you have to be careful about burrs and sharp edges, but they last a good long time for me. Even the time it takes them to finish stretching (a complaint from some) is not an issue for me if I stretch them frequently while instaling them. I think there is a sizable group of satisfied users on the Hangout. In that other Nylgut thread, hou ,mentioned, Joel Hooks pointed out in reply to a post I made that individual tastes will differ. That is true about tone rings, tailpieces, banjo heads, picks, and so on. You may just have to try several types of strings to see what works for you and your banjo.

I agree that Aquila has changed their strings in what seems to be an unorganized manner. I have trouble telling one variety from another. But the Classic strings, in any formulation, have worked for me on standard-scale and short-scale banjos. I like the sound and the feel of them. Aquila Minstrel strings work equally well on a Prust tackhead banjo and a replica minstrel banjo. I have some La Bella nylon strings on an S.S. Stewart banjo that do the trick. As many messages end in a thread such this, your mileage may vary. In fact, it almost certainly will vary.

David

Dec 1, 2020 - 5:08:21 PM

5904 posts since 3/11/2006

With all of the above duly noted, count me in the Nylgut camp.
Classical mediums on my fretted banjos and a custom set on my
Model 1865 Bowlin Fretless.

Dec 1, 2020 - 5:52:42 PM

8051 posts since 8/28/2013

As mentioned by others, there is some preference involved. I might hate Nylguts (and like others, I think they change their specs too often and in a confusing manner) but many players obviously find them to be the cat's meow.

In any case, be it nylon, Nylgut, or steel strings, you definitely have to pay attention to the bridge. You may have to experiment with both strings and bridges (as well as head tension and other aspects of your banjo) in order to get the best results. Also, bear in mind that "best results" means what works best for you personally.

Dec 2, 2020 - 6:00:11 PM

174 posts since 11/27/2017

I just switched from Aquila Nylgut medium to La Bella 17s. The Nylguts had been on there for years without breaking, but I wanted to experience the alternative.

My first impression is that pure nylon is a little “slinkier” and smoother. A little better for slides, but not as much resistance to a hard touch on the strings, so less bounce to get your hand back into position. Slightly less sound, too, although this may be me adjusting to the new feel.

I can see how the La Bella’s would be better for classic playing — they definitely sound more “true” far up the neck.

Dec 6, 2020 - 1:47:06 PM

Enfield1858

England

29 posts since 8/1/2020

@Patriot - I can't claim extensive experience, because I'm very much a newcomer, but here's a couple of thoughts.

1. re. breakages; based on my experience working in various branches of engineering, I'd say you really need to watch out for even a hint of a sharp edge on the bridge or the nut.  Even an edge which would be no sweat to a steel string might be sharp enough, and would certainly be hard enough, to gradually make a minute notch in a nylon or Nylgut string.  That would concentrate the stress on that side of the string, and seriously reduce the strength of the string at that point.  I'd be interested to hear the experiences of those players who have had strings break to confirm; did the strings break at the nut/bridge, or at random points along the string's length?

When I changed my open-back from steel to Aquila Classic New Nylgut Light Gauge strings, I took a small piece of 600 grade abrasive paper, rolled it into a tight little roll, about as thick as a needle, and lightly rubbed it across the edges of the string grooves on both the nut and the bridge.  They've been on since 10th October, and so far (fingers crossed!), they're fine.

As far as the sound goes, I love it!  I play two finger, thumb lead, Old Time, and the combination of Andy Grafton's Gem banjo and the Nylgut strings gives me the perfect mellow 'plunk' sound I was aiming for.

2. re. string stretch; I have noticed the strings going flat, but I suspect that a lot of that is not the strings stretching, but the knots being wrong for Nylgut strings.  I used knots intended for use with ordinary rope (even the smoothest braided rope still being quite grippy stuff).  With hindsight, I think knots designed for use with nylon filament fishing line would be far more effective - and the Surgeon's End Loop knot, much used by fishermen, looks promising.  Bear in mind, too, that knots used in surgical procedures go back to the days when wounds were stitched with catgut, so were designed to cope with slippery materials, even when they were wet with blood:
https://www.netknots.com/fishing_knots/surgeons-end-loop

HTH, and best regards,
Jack

Edited by - Enfield1858 on 12/06/2020 13:48:47

Dec 6, 2020 - 5:16:11 PM

5904 posts since 3/11/2006

Enfield1858

No-Knot tailpieces are readily available, and if one would fit on your banjo it might be something to try.

The "Mugwumps" site shows a simple knot-free method for attaching strings:
mugwumps.com/no_knot.html

Best of Luck.

Dec 8, 2020 - 7:18:02 PM

306 posts since 4/3/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Enfield1858

@Patriot - I can't claim extensive experience, because I'm very much a newcomer, but here's a couple of thoughts.

1. re. breakages; based on my experience working in various branches of engineering, I'd say you really need to watch out for even a hint of a sharp edge on the bridge or the nut.  Even an edge which would be no sweat to a steel string might be sharp enough, and would certainly be hard enough, to gradually make a minute notch in a nylon or Nylgut string.  That would concentrate the stress on that side of the string, and seriously reduce the strength of the string at that point.  I'd be interested to hear the experiences of those players who have had strings break to confirm; did the strings break at the nut/bridge, or at random points along the string's length?

When I changed my open-back from steel to Aquila Classic New Nylgut Light Gauge strings, I took a small piece of 600 grade abrasive paper, rolled it into a tight little roll, about as thick as a needle, and lightly rubbed it across the edges of the string grooves on both the nut and the bridge.  They've been on since 10th October, and so far (fingers crossed!), they're fine.

As far as the sound goes, I love it!  I play two finger, thumb lead, Old Time, and the combination of Andy Grafton's Gem banjo and the Nylgut strings gives me the perfect mellow 'plunk' sound I was aiming for.

2. re. string stretch; I have noticed the strings going flat, but I suspect that a lot of that is not the strings stretching, but the knots being wrong for Nylgut strings.  I used knots intended for use with ordinary rope (even the smoothest braided rope still being quite grippy stuff).  With hindsight, I think knots designed for use with nylon filament fishing line would be far more effective - and the Surgeon's End Loop knot, much used by fishermen, looks promising.  Bear in mind, too, that knots used in surgical procedures go back to the days when wounds were stitched with catgut, so were designed to cope with slippery materials, even when they were wet with blood:
https://www.netknots.com/fishing_knots/surgeons-end-loop

HTH, and best regards,
Jack


I used nylgut for years without any breakage and always wondered about complaints from others. Then I tried the red series and understood. Most of the breaks occurred at random points in the middle of the string when the banjo was just sitting on a stand. They are simply fragile. I haven't had this issue with other types of strings of any variety. I agree that any rough or sharp edges could cause nylgut or nylon strings to break. Nylgut has gone through so many different formulations that its hard to compare experiences. 

Dec 9, 2020 - 4:17:08 AM

Enfield1858

England

29 posts since 8/1/2020

@banjopickingman - "I used nylgut for years without any breakage and always wondered about complaints from others. Then I tried the red series and understood. Most of the breaks occurred at random points in the middle of the string when the banjo was just sitting on a stand. They are simply fragile. I haven't had this issue with other types of strings of any variety. Nylgut has gone through so many different formulations that its hard to compare experiences."

That's very interesting, and ties in with various posts I've read from different people, whose experience with Nylgut strings seems to vary in the extreme. If red-series strings break at random points throughout their length, when not even being played, that's clear proof that they aren't up to the job - and doesn't say much for the maker's quality assurance and prototype testing regimes.

Many thanks for the heads-up re. the red series; I will take care to avoid them!

With best regards,
Jack

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