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Jun 19, 2021 - 1:50:54 PM
11 posts since 10/4/2006

I'm using 10 11 13 20 10 strings (bluegrass playing), but I find I enjoy the feeling of slightly heavier strings. My (high-end) maple banjo doesn't sound quite right, though, with the heavier strings.

Any advice on altering setup -- e.g., raise tailpiece height, turn truss rod, loosen/tighten head, loosen co-rod nut, etc.?

Jun 19, 2021 - 2:14:37 PM

13698 posts since 6/29/2005

I think you just have to play and get used to the heavier strings for a while before making some change to your banjo. You didn't say how "heavy" or where you like your action to be set—I use 10-12-14-22W-11 on all banjos with .100-.110 string height at the 12th fret and have never felt the need to go heavier than that, but I did not like lighter ones like 9.5 on the 5th.

I would probably not like your 10-11-13-20-10, either on the grounds that they would be too loose, and I might have to set the action higher (via a higher bridge) to prevent buzzing.

Maybe if you go heavier, you could shave your bridge height a hair without getting buzzing (?) The head should be tightened to the tension that gives the best sound—I don't think slight changes in string gauge would change that, and I would absolutely not fool around with the truss rod or coordinator rods without some clearly understood purpose in mind.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 06/19/2021 14:16:28

Jun 19, 2021 - 2:18:01 PM

Bill H


1648 posts since 11/7/2010

I am going the other way, taking off my 10 11 13 20 10 strings and swapping for light gauge. The things that affect tone besides strings is head tension and tail piece down pressure and of course bridge material and weight. I usually find these final adjustment require some time and experimenting. Have you checked head tension or snugged the head? You could try a lighter weight bridge. It may also take some time to acclimate yourself to something different.

Jun 19, 2021 - 2:26:54 PM
like this

1356 posts since 1/28/2013

I went heavy awhile back. I'm at 11-13-16-24-10 on a Huber Kalamazoo. I also reduced head tension, and went to a taller 11/16th Purcell Bridge, with extra wide string spacing. I like the feel and accuracy of heavy strings, and the thick full tone I get from them. I also use them on 1964 Vega Earl Scruggs, and it's like a different banjo now.

Jun 19, 2021 - 2:33:43 PM

1356 posts since 1/28/2013

Originally posted by pauld

I'm using 10 11 13 20 10 strings (bluegrass playing), but I find I enjoy the feeling of slightly heavier strings. My (high-end) maple banjo doesn't sound quite right, though, with the heavier strings.

Any advice on altering setup -- e.g., raise tailpiece height, turn truss rod, loosen/tighten head, loosen co-rod nut, etc.?

You are probably just used to hearing that higher pitch, thin raspy tone. Now you have a fuller sound that you can feel.

Edited by - jan dupree on 06/19/2021 14:35:23

Jun 19, 2021 - 2:54:34 PM

11 posts since 10/4/2006

I was thinking of just slightly less light -- maybe 11 12 14 22 11 ? Something like that.

Jun 19, 2021 - 5:35:54 PM

74700 posts since 5/9/2007

You can set up lower action with heavier strings.
My 11 12 15 22 11 set lets me have .092" at 12 and .098 at 22 with no fret buzzes and lots of grunt.
Heavier strings tuned to the same pitch as lighter ones produce a "shallower" wave form.
Lowering the action lets one use less finger pressure to fret.
7th fret relief lives at .015".
1st fret clearance can be taken down to .010" if everything else is where it belongs.
Plays like "Buttah".

Jun 20, 2021 - 5:46:36 AM

5000 posts since 6/30/2020

Originally posted by pauld

I was thinking of just slightly less light -- maybe 11 12 14 22 11 ? Something like that.

Try GHS PF175 Medium Light Sonny Osborn Signature string set 11-12-13-22-11. While the string tension does increase slightly the effect on the banjo set up seems minimal. Play them for awhile and if they fit the bill then you can tweak your action by making sure the neck relief is set to your specs, and proceeding from there.

I use these on my Recording King RK-36 and My Nechville Classic Deluxe. They bring the instruments to life and  realize the instruments fullness of depth. I like my strings as close to the fretboard as possible without buzz or loss of fullness of sound and these deliver for me. 

Edited by - Pick-A-Lick on 06/20/2021 05:48:51

Jun 20, 2021 - 1:26:11 PM



807 posts since 7/4/2017

I find the bridge angle to give best intonation is closer to 90 with heavier strings and much more angled with lighter strings.

Jun 20, 2021 - 3:37:09 PM

11 posts since 10/4/2006

Anyone ever try these GHS
Strings - "Almost-Medium" --
.0105 .0115 .013 .020 .0105 ?

I.e., 10 1/2, 11 1/2, .....

Jun 20, 2021 - 4:08:13 PM

166 posts since 3/2/2013

Change back to 10's in a few months and you'll realize you lost a lot of tone. True story...Jim Mills years ago played 11's and sat down w/ JD's banjo which had 9.5's and was blown away how easy it was to play so he switched and never looked back. I know we're not either one of those guys. Contrary to what Jan said lighter strings in a properly set up do not necessarily mean "thin and raspy". If thats what Jim and JD sound like than I want thin and raspy. I like you liked the way 11's felt and still do but after playing 9.5's they feel just fine and when i have gone back to 11's they sound...well, just plain dull. My advice is go ahead and switch but come back in a while and try your 10's may hear something thats worth keeping.

Jun 20, 2021 - 4:59:46 PM

166 posts since 3/2/2013

P.S. As far as your question if you really want to go heavier and get a little tone back try raising your tailpiece a little or a lot and thining your bridge will also help but remember if you go back your lighter strings may not like the thinner bridge.

Jun 22, 2021 - 7:07:12 AM

74700 posts since 5/9/2007

There are many fine choices for string sizes and how they perform,but they each have a specific set-up requirement to get the most out of them.

Jun 26, 2021 - 6:33:41 AM

74700 posts since 5/9/2007

I'm thinking of going to a .013 second string.

Thinning a bridge enhances the treble and reduces the bass.It also thins the tone.Thinning a 2.2 gram bridge down to 2.0-2.1 makes the tone crisper.

Edited by - steve davis on 06/26/2021 06:36:25

Jun 26, 2021 - 6:40:58 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A


1257 posts since 10/15/2019

I used to play a set with 1st string 9, but as I started playing more I started picking harder and began really overpowering the strings, getting some bad twangs. So I bumped up to 10 (and proportionately higher on the rest) and solved my problem. I am curious though what would happen if I put some 9's back on.

Jun 26, 2021 - 6:47:38 AM
likes this

74700 posts since 5/9/2007

Put them on and find out.

Jun 26, 2021 - 2:06:40 PM

166 posts since 3/2/2013

Just a heads up. JD Crowe in Masters of the five string banjo said the heavier the strings the more tone is lost on a well made banjo. Just read that last nite.

Jun 26, 2021 - 3:55:04 PM

Alex Z


4375 posts since 12/7/2006
Online Now

On guitar, the diamters of the strings are mostly uniform, given the first string.  So guitarist refer to "12s" or "13s."

On banjo, the sets vary widely, even with the same first string.  And so the tension and the tone will change.  So a player may have to try several sets, to choose the right feel and tone.

Here is a sampling from GHS.  All could be called "10s."  But they'll feel and sound different.

  -- 10, 12, 16, 24, 10

  -- 10, 12, 14, 22, 10

  -- 10, 11, 12, 20, 10

  -- 10, 12, 13, 22, 10

  -- 10, 11, 12.5, 20, 10

For now, we can ignore the designations among manufacturers of light, light medium, medium light, medium, etc.   smiley  There's even less of an implied standard with such designations.   There could be several different sets all called "light."  And one maker's medium light may be heavier than another's "medium."

Edited by - Alex Z on 06/26/2021 16:00:50

Jun 30, 2021 - 8:52:47 AM

74700 posts since 5/9/2007

I make up my own mind about what I like the sound of and why.
I'm leaving this .013" on the 2nd string for a while.Big,thick sound.

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