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Jan 21, 2021 - 1:34:22 PM
171 posts since 12/29/2020

metal or gut/nylon

Jan 21, 2021 - 1:36:28 PM
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568 posts since 3/9/2013

In my opinion they are the same. Muscle memory is muscle memory. They are both located in the same location. If you are using a natural nail and yours are thin then maybe nylon. I think most start on steel though.

Jan 21, 2021 - 4:23:39 PM
Players Union Member

Edwards

USA

130 posts since 3/26/2014

I have to say light strings there easier on learners beginning where and tear.

Jan 21, 2021 - 4:27:10 PM
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1385 posts since 2/9/2007

Getting a banjo in tune and keeping it in tune can sometimes be a task for the most experienced player, let alone a novice. Wire strings don't make it easy, but they're sure way less temperamental in that department than gut or synthetics.

Also, any reasonably priced "beginner" banjo was made for steel strings, and you'll have a hard enough time finding one that is set up at all well for those. Though it's not hard to modify the setup for nylon, very few shops have even the first clue about how to do that. If you take, say, a stock Goodtime and just switch the steel strings for a set of Nylguts, you'll turn a decent-sounding, easy-to-play banjo (which I do think they usually are, in spite of other things I dislike about them) into a dull-sounding, poorly-responsive one which breaks strings like crazy.

Edited by - Dan Gellert on 01/21/2021 16:27:55

Jan 21, 2021 - 5:12:59 PM
Players Union Member

blazo

USA

251 posts since 5/16/2017

Nylon will be much easier on your fingers, at least until you build up callouses on your fretting fingers.

Jan 21, 2021 - 5:14:45 PM

doryman

USA

911 posts since 11/26/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

Getting a banjo in tune and keeping it in tune can sometimes be a task for the most experienced player, let alone a novice. Wire strings don't make it easy, but they're sure way less temperamental in that department than gut or synthetics.

Also, any reasonably priced "beginner" banjo was made for steel strings, and you'll have a hard enough time finding one that is set up at all well for those. Though it's not hard to modify the setup for nylon, very few shops have even the first clue about how to do that. If you take, say, a stock Goodtime and just switch the steel strings for a set of Nylguts, you'll turn a decent-sounding, easy-to-play banjo (which I do think they usually are, in spite of other things I dislike about them) into a dull-sounding, poorly-responsive one which breaks strings like crazy.


This is spot on!  Many years ago I became enamored with the idea of gut/nylon strings and, when I tried it, everything that you mentioned happened to me!  To add to the pain, I eventually went so far as to have it set up professionally for nylon strings and then I had to pay more $ to have my banjo changed back to the way it should have been in the first place. 

Jan 21, 2021 - 5:31:36 PM

171 posts since 12/29/2020

quote:
Originally posted by doryman
quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

Getting a banjo in tune and keeping it in tune can sometimes be a task for the most experienced player, let alone a novice. Wire strings don't make it easy, but they're sure way less temperamental in that department than gut or synthetics.

Also, any reasonably priced "beginner" banjo was made for steel strings, and you'll have a hard enough time finding one that is set up at all well for those. Though it's not hard to modify the setup for nylon, very few shops have even the first clue about how to do that. If you take, say, a stock Goodtime and just switch the steel strings for a set of Nylguts, you'll turn a decent-sounding, easy-to-play banjo (which I do think they usually are, in spite of other things I dislike about them) into a dull-sounding, poorly-responsive one which breaks strings like crazy.


This is spot on!  Many years ago I became enamored with the idea of gut/nylon strings and, when I tried it, everything that you mentioned happened to me!  To add to the pain, I eventually went so far as to have it set up professionally for nylon strings and then I had to pay more $ to have my banjo changed back to the way it should have been in the first place. 


are the nylon strings worth it though if you can get it properly set up? (i know a guy who can professionally string it up with nylon for me at the local music shop)

Jan 21, 2021 - 5:33:46 PM
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1385 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by thebanjoshopper
quote:
Originally posted by doryman
quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

Getting a banjo in tune and keeping it in tune can sometimes be a task for the most experienced player, let alone a novice. Wire strings don't make it easy, but they're sure way less temperamental in that department than gut or synthetics.

Also, any reasonably priced "beginner" banjo was made for steel strings, and you'll have a hard enough time finding one that is set up at all well for those. Though it's not hard to modify the setup for nylon, very few shops have even the first clue about how to do that. If you take, say, a stock Goodtime and just switch the steel strings for a set of Nylguts, you'll turn a decent-sounding, easy-to-play banjo (which I do think they usually are, in spite of other things I dislike about them) into a dull-sounding, poorly-responsive one which breaks strings like crazy.


This is spot on!  Many years ago I became enamored with the idea of gut/nylon strings and, when I tried it, everything that you mentioned happened to me!  To add to the pain, I eventually went so far as to have it set up professionally for nylon strings and then I had to pay more $ to have my banjo changed back to the way it should have been in the first place. 


so I take it just leave my banjo as is lol better not fuss with it lol


absolutely.

And the thing about nylon being easier on your fingers is not near as true on banjo as it is on guitar (and it's not all that true on guitar).   Steel banjo strings are generally MUCH lower tension than steel guitar or mandolin strings.

Jan 21, 2021 - 5:38:29 PM

171 posts since 12/29/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert
quote:
Originally posted by thebanjoshopper
quote:
Originally posted by doryman
quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

Getting a banjo in tune and keeping it in tune can sometimes be a task for the most experienced player, let alone a novice. Wire strings don't make it easy, but they're sure way less temperamental in that department than gut or synthetics.

Also, any reasonably priced "beginner" banjo was made for steel strings, and you'll have a hard enough time finding one that is set up at all well for those. Though it's not hard to modify the setup for nylon, very few shops have even the first clue about how to do that. If you take, say, a stock Goodtime and just switch the steel strings for a set of Nylguts, you'll turn a decent-sounding, easy-to-play banjo (which I do think they usually are, in spite of other things I dislike about them) into a dull-sounding, poorly-responsive one which breaks strings like crazy.


This is spot on!  Many years ago I became enamored with the idea of gut/nylon strings and, when I tried it, everything that you mentioned happened to me!  To add to the pain, I eventually went so far as to have it set up professionally for nylon strings and then I had to pay more $ to have my banjo changed back to the way it should have been in the first place. 


so I take it just leave my banjo as is lol better not fuss with it lol


absolutely.

And the thing about nylon being easier on your fingers is not near as true on banjo as it is on guitar (and it's not all that true on guitar).   Steel banjo strings are generally MUCH lower tension than steel guitar or mandolin strings.


fair but are the nylon strings worth it though if you can get it properly set up? (i know a guy who can professionally string it up with nylon for me at the local music shop)

Jan 21, 2021 - 5:52:26 PM

doryman

USA

911 posts since 11/26/2012

quote:
Originally posted by thebanjoshopper
quote:
Originally posted by doryman
quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

Getting a banjo in tune and keeping it in tune can sometimes be a task for the most experienced player, let alone a novice. Wire strings don't make it easy, but they're sure way less temperamental in that department than gut or synthetics.

Also, any reasonably priced "beginner" banjo was made for steel strings, and you'll have a hard enough time finding one that is set up at all well for those. Though it's not hard to modify the setup for nylon, very few shops have even the first clue about how to do that. If you take, say, a stock Goodtime and just switch the steel strings for a set of Nylguts, you'll turn a decent-sounding, easy-to-play banjo (which I do think they usually are, in spite of other things I dislike about them) into a dull-sounding, poorly-responsive one which breaks strings like crazy.


This is spot on!  Many years ago I became enamored with the idea of gut/nylon strings and, when I tried it, everything that you mentioned happened to me!  To add to the pain, I eventually went so far as to have it set up professionally for nylon strings and then I had to pay more $ to have my banjo changed back to the way it should have been in the first place. 


are the nylon strings worth it though if you can get it properly set up? (i know a guy who can professionally string it up with nylon for me at the local music shop)


I think the answer depends upon the individual.  In the end it wasn't worth for me because as I gained confidence, I started playing more and more with others in jam situations, and my nylon-stringed banjo just wasn't loud enough for that setting.  In all fairness, that can be a problem with an open-backed banjo, played clawhammer style, even with steel strings...but not as bad!  

However, yes, if you like the sound it makes on your banjo, and you're not too concerned about being heard by others in jam circle, it can be very nice and worth it.  And...I should be the LAST person on earth to discourage someone from experimenting!  That's half the fun in my book. 

Jan 21, 2021 - 6:12:52 PM
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1385 posts since 2/9/2007

 

fair but are the nylon strings worth it though if you can get it properly set up? (i know a guy who can professionally string it up with nylon for me at the local music shop)


 

If you're a beginner, my recommendation is that you start with steel strings. Light, but not too light-- GHS pf-150's is a good set. 

The only beginner I can think of who'd really benefit from starting on nylon is one who specifically wants to learn the "classic" finger style AND is actually taking lessons from someone who specializes in that style.

If you do want to switch,  you'd want to make sure you didn't just re-string the banjo.  At the least, you will need a different (MUCH lighter) bridge, widening and smoothing the slots in the nut, and likely some reworking of the tailpiece (maybe a new one of those, too).

Edited by - Dan Gellert on 01/21/2021 18:18:05

Jan 21, 2021 - 6:21:02 PM

171 posts since 12/29/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert
 

fair but are the nylon strings worth it though if you can get it properly set up? (i know a guy who can professionally string it up with nylon for me at the local music shop)


 

If you're a beginner, my recommendation is that you start with steel strings. Light, but not too light-- GHS pf-150's is a good set. 

The only beginner I can think of who'd really benefit from starting on nylon is one who specifically wants to learn the "classic" finger style AND is actually taking lessons from someone who specializes in that style.

If you do want to switch,  you'd want to make sure you didn't just re-string the banjo.  At the least, you will need a different (MUCH lighter) bridge, widening and smoothing the slots in the nut, and likely some reworking of the tailpiece (maybe a new one of those, too).


would it be a pain in the ass to re-string a goldtone AC-1 banjo with nylons? (i know a guy at the music store who can do it for me)

or would I need to change bridges/necks/tailpiece on that banjo too? 

Jan 21, 2021 - 6:46:30 PM

1385 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by thebanjoshopper
quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert
 

fair but are the nylon strings worth it though if you can get it properly set up? (i know a guy who can professionally string it up with nylon for me at the local music shop)


 

If you're a beginner, my recommendation is that you start with steel strings. Light, but not too light-- GHS pf-150's is a good set. 

The only beginner I can think of who'd really benefit from starting on nylon is one who specifically wants to learn the "classic" finger style AND is actually taking lessons from someone who specializes in that style.

If you do want to switch,  you'd want to make sure you didn't just re-string the banjo.  At the least, you will need a different (MUCH lighter) bridge, widening and smoothing the slots in the nut, and likely some reworking of the tailpiece (maybe a new one of those, too).


would it be a pain in the ass to re-string a goldtone AC-1 banjo with nylons? (i know a guy at the music store who can do it for me)

or would I need to change bridges/necks/tailpiece on that banjo too? 


It's not going to sound much like a banjo without changing bridges, and the sort of bridge you want is not available except through a very few specialty shops and custom makers.....  I think the AC-1 uses one of those stamped sheet-metal tailpieces which will tear nylon strings up something awful, and yes you'll need the nut adjusted, too.  

I thought I gave a clear answer to your question from the start:  (IMO, at least) steel strings are just plain easier than nylon for a novice to deal with.

Keep it simple.

Have your guy at the music shop check your basic setup (head tension, nut slot depth, neck fastened tight to the pot, etc) and put a fresh set of PF150's (or Deering lights, or something else of a similar tension) on there, and get picking.

Jan 21, 2021 - 11:41:53 PM
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AndyW

UK

684 posts since 7/4/2017

I'd also add to what others have said that it's best not to use light strings, as the typical beginner 'death grip' when fretting will send strings sharp and make thing more difficult.

Jan 22, 2021 - 4:58:02 AM

568 posts since 3/9/2013

Keep it simple is great advice if you don’t like to tinker. I quickly found for me it was just as fun working on banjos as was playing. So I’ve tried all sorts of setups, built some cool machines and refurbished some old ones. Lots of threads to read through on here to help you through if you have the stomach to tear into a banjo and change it.
If that’s not for you take Dan’s advice.

Jan 22, 2021 - 5:09:50 AM
Players Union Member

jduke

USA

1100 posts since 1/15/2009

I like both metal and synthetic strings. I am also able to modify bridges, nuts and set-up to accommodate them. Like the many other interchangeable parts of a banjo, every choice alters the sound of the instrument. Since I enjoy playing both types of strings, I'll try both on a new (to me) banjo. I guess you can say I let the banjo make the choice.

Jan 22, 2021 - 7:20:52 AM

1385 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by AndyW

I'd also add to what others have said that it's best not to use light strings, as the typical beginner 'death grip' when fretting will send strings sharp and make thing more difficult.


And heavier strings last longer, too. 

In spite of the fact that the strings I recommended are labeled "light gauge", they are just a bit lighter than most mediums, and definitely stouter than most lights.   Don't get me started on how ridiculous banjo string gauging is.

Jan 22, 2021 - 7:35:31 AM

104 posts since 5/14/2014

Excuse me for asking, Dan.. but how ridiculous is banjo string gauging?  wink

Jan 22, 2021 - 12:31:16 PM

1385 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by banjomary74

Excuse me for asking, Dan.. but how ridiculous is banjo string gauging?  wink


 

 angry

Edited by - Dan Gellert on 01/22/2021 12:32:23

Jan 26, 2021 - 12:31:50 PM
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3959 posts since 5/12/2010

Hmmm....

Lots of different opinions expressed so far because there are lots of different experiences, and lots of ways to play.

Saw a couple of mentions about light steel and nylon being easier to fret, and one mention of using nylon until calluses develop.

My thought about that is banjos don't have nearly as much tension on the strings as a guitar, and the only time I ever developed calluses on my fingers playing a banjo was when I was a raw beginner in the habit of fretting too hard, a habit often inherited from playing a guitar.

Banjos fret easy and should only be fretted hard enough for the string to be held down on the fret, fretting too hard can also cause it to note sharp and will eventually lead to divots on the fretboard.

There are so many different styles of playing all lumped under the name "Clawhammer" it is difficult to give a good answer as to what kind of strings work best. Some styles are taught using the thumb to "pluck" the 5th string, but that is not at all the way I play.

I like heavier strings, and will start with a Medium set which has a .10 gage 1st and 5th string, with a .12 2nd. I put one of the .10 strings from the set into my case as a replacement 1st string, and use a take off .12 gage string on the 5th.

I like a 5th string to have mellowed a bit by having been played so it doesn't make as sharp a sound.

The 5th string is engaged when my hand comes down at exactly the same time my index finger strikes the note, the string is sounded as the hand goes up again and the meat of my thumb catches on and "pops" the string at the last part of the stroke with the hand snapping back down for the next note or brush. The drone is sounded so close to that it becomes part of the sound instead of standing out alone as an annoying sound.

I play with a heavier hand than is used in many styles, and I come down hard on that 5th string which acts sort of like a spring on the upstroke. Which is another reason I prefer the heavier 5th string.

I can hardly play a banjo with a light gage 5th string without it sounding harsh because of the way I play.

Jan 26, 2021 - 12:42:53 PM

3216 posts since 4/29/2012

Exactly what OldPappy said. I use medium steel strings with a heavier 5th. I also like an in-yer-face style of hard driving clawhammer but can also do light and lyrical when desired. I do have some banjos with nylgut and nylon strings - but that's more a courtesy to their extreme age.
I don't think you should overthink this as a beginner. Just learn with whatever strings others whose playing you admire use. What's the point of getting used to something that you think makes things easier if it provides a hurdle up the tracks ?

Jan 26, 2021 - 5:17:16 PM

650 posts since 2/15/2015

Calluses can be expedited if one has access to a mandolin. Those double-ups will put them into shape after a couple of dedicated weeks of scales and chords.

Jan 28, 2021 - 6:53:21 AM

3959 posts since 5/12/2010

Calluses may indeed be part of playing a mandolin or guitar, especially a cheap guitar like the "Stella" I had as a kid that thing would make your fingers bleed.

Calluses from playing only banjo are a sign of fretting too hard. I have played for years, and play a good bit, and don't have calluses on my fingers.

I only developed them as a beginner when I played Sledgehammer banjo with both hands too heavy.

Jan 28, 2021 - 9:17:24 AM
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Bart Veerman

Canada

4853 posts since 1/5/2005

Steel string are much easier to put on your banjo than nylon/nylgut.

Besides, they can be recycled as scrap metal whereas nylons end up in a garbage dump/landfill site where they do not decompose...

Jan 30, 2021 - 11:06:10 AM

Mivo

Germany

22 posts since 9/13/2017

As another relative beginner, and brand-new to CH, I'm a bit thrown off by the overwhelming recommendations for medium/heavier strings even for new players. When I ordered my open back banjo, I grabbed three different packs of light strings (D'Addario EJ60, Elixir Polyweb Lights - both of these are 09, 10, 13, 20, 09 - and Deering Lights which are 10, 11, 13, 21, 10). I'm still on those. I suppose I'll switch to mediums when I've used them up. :)

My other instruments are ukuleles, so I'm used to lightly fretting. Steel string guitars didn't work well for me. I try every so often, but the tension of those even with light strings makes it somewhat less fun for me. That's why I went straight for lights when I bought the banjo (RK OT25-BR).

Feb 2, 2021 - 1:39:50 PM

21 posts since 5/23/2020

If you have a banjo that is set up for steel strings and want to try a nylon string the LaBella #17 will fit most banjos that are set up for medium strings, depending on the bridge you have a bit of filing will settle the strings to the bottom of the notches. They are sized .019, .022, .028, .025(wound), .019".

They do have to be tied at the tuner and the loops tied at the tailpiece but I'm not aware of any nylon that come with loops on them. if what your seeking is string that is easy to fret, they would fit the bill. I change bridge style to the Morley style that Joel Hooks makes, if you got the strings and bridge you could fit the bridge to the strings making it easy to go back to steel if you wanted. the nut on my banjo fit the Labella strings fine, your mileage may vary

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