Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

754
Banjo Lovers Online


Page: 1  2   3   Next Page   Last Page (3) 

Jul 6, 2021 - 5:35:24 AM
33 posts since 11/22/2020
Online Now

Hi,

I am looking to understand the specific reason why pros are supposed to prefer thicker picks and heavier gauge strings? Is it just for volume?

If lighter gauge strings are easier to play, why would you use medium gauge strings (or even thicker?) ? Surely that would reduce your finger mobility becuase of the extra effort required?

Similar argument for pick thickness. Below 0.018 picks seem to be excessively bendy, so I can understand why you wouldnt want TOO thin...but if 0.18 does the job, then why would a pro (apparently) prefer .025 and reduce the "agility" of the right hand ?

I say "supposed to" because I recently listened to a Picky Fingers podcast in which Ryan Cavenaugh listed the gauges of his string set and they are pretty close to the "light" gauge set I just put on mine. (9/10/13/20/9). He uses, I think (10/11/13/20/10) - though that might not be exactly right.

FWIW - After some experimentation I have settled with light gauge strings and 0.18 Jim Dunlops - so I am not really looking for recommendations. I am happy with my set up at this easly stage of my journey. I am just interested to understand the WHAT/WHY/HOW.

Thanks for any info.

Joe

Jul 6, 2021 - 5:46:21 AM
like this

YellowSkyBlueSun

Virgin Islands (U.S.)

416 posts since 5/11/2021

I thought most pros use light strings. Generally the .10-.20 sets that you mention.

Jul 6, 2021 - 6:03:13 AM
likes this

124 posts since 9/2/2014

I know that JD Crowe uses 10-20 and old Nationals. This combination produces a snappy sound. I had read that when Flatt and Scruggs recorded the instrumental album they asked Scruggs to use lighter strings. Hope someone can verify this info re:Scruggs. Heavy strings produce a heavy sound, like trying to drive a truck through an obstacle course. Lighter strings are much more responsive, and a good fat sounding banjo with light strings sounds wonderful!

Jul 6, 2021 - 6:14:29 AM
likes this

29 posts since 12/2/2020

comes down to tone, just as bridge weight affects banjo tone more then anything, thickness, weight, and material of picks, as well as shape and how much you let it bite in greatly affects tone.

as well as strings, lighter strings are usually brighter in some way, thicker heavier strings are different, bronze and thicker gauge may have a more round tone, earthy sound, etc. it would fit the setup of a loosely tuned head banjo likely well.

preference for sound. if physical strength isnt a problem then the added unnoticeable weight of a thicker gauge pick really shouldn't matter to a healthy person. especially a pro who has so much dexterity and skill built up

no one is saying thicker and heavier is better, it just tends to be preferred by people who want a particular sound, consider there are instruments far more difficult to play, but the physical strength and familiarity is worth it to people who want that sound, if it was 100% about maximum efficiency in playing I'm sure all musicians would play the recorder or maybe piano, so there is more to it then just maximum ergonomics, sound sometimes requires a degree of sacrifice.

if its just the sound you like, try different setups.
currently i like medium strings, I haven't figured out what head tension I prefer every few months it seems I change between f# and g#. im using a JD thrumpick by blue chip not sure how to score that, if a golden gate is 8/10 then the bluechip is 9/10 so is 40$ worth it? perhaps

I say that to say this, i have a pair of hoffmeyer finger picks, they have the best sound of any fingerpicks I used, but they are incredibly uncomfortable, the metal is too thick on the bands, near impossible to bend and get fit right, actually hurts, yet they sound the best of all the ones I have, if it was about maximum comfort I would use soft brass ones that I can bend perfect, they are very comfortable, but i hate the sound.

some pros prefer thicker and heavy, because some pros like the sound, no pros do something just to be doing it, they will do whatever gives the best sound even if its difficult, that's why they are pros

Jul 6, 2021 - 7:04:58 AM

1572 posts since 1/28/2013

It depends on what type and style of music you are playing. The more modern styles are songs that sound better with a heavier thicker sound, with less sustain. The players want the punch of the heavier strings and looser heads provides.

Jul 6, 2021 - 7:09:14 AM
likes this

beegee

USA

22475 posts since 7/6/2005

I use heavy stainless picks and I used to use medium strings. I found that when playing through a sound system there was a cleaner, less rattle-y sound and when I dug in, the banjo didn't die. I have transitioned to medium-light string sets lately and find them satisfactory. I have some old Nationals, but seldom use them any more. I am using Gene Edwards picks because I like the tone I produce when using them

Jul 6, 2021 - 8:50:41 AM
likes this

Plastichead

Canada

555 posts since 1/11/2005

Bob, I know you meant Gene Elkins picks as I use the same picks and love them.
Keith.

Jul 6, 2021 - 8:55:05 AM

94 posts since 10/5/2019

For me, it is for the volume, tone, and stability

Jul 6, 2021 - 9:01:31 AM
likes this

Alex Z

USA

4523 posts since 12/7/2006

"why pros are supposed to prefer thicker picks and heavier gauge strings?"

To answer these questions, need some evidence on where the "supposed to" comes from.  Otherwise, just speculating on a speculation.

Are there other pick makers that offer picks in different gauges, other than Dunlop?

From "Masters of the 5-String Banjo," about 75% of the top players use

   .009 or .001 for the first string

  .011 or .012 for the second string

  .013 or.014 for the third string

  .020 or .022 for the 4th string.

Jul 6, 2021 - 9:52:17 AM
likes this

2024 posts since 8/10/2005

I think heavier strings make for better tone.

Jul 6, 2021 - 9:57:21 AM
like this

banjoy

USA

9850 posts since 7/1/2006

Every "pro" I've seen up close and personal, or gotten to pick their banjo ... they tend to use medium (to me) strings and also seem to have a very light touch, or at least much lighter than you'd think.

I think a lot of tone control and range is lost when you have to bear down on the instrument just to get a sound out of it. Just my 2 cents.

Jul 6, 2021 - 9:58:25 AM
likes this
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

1306 posts since 10/15/2019

I think you just need a string gauge that is in line with how hard your hand wants to pick.

Jul 6, 2021 - 10:04:25 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

1306 posts since 10/15/2019

quote:
Originally posted by banjoy

Every "pro" I've seen up close and personal, or gotten to pick their banjo ... they tend to use medium (to me) strings and also seem to have a very light touch, or at least much lighter than you'd think.

I think a lot of tone control and range is lost when you have to bear down on the instrument just to get a sound out of it. Just my 2 cents.


I'll buy that.   Seems to me the better the banjo, the more the sound just jumps out of it with you barely even touching it.  

Jul 6, 2021 - 10:15:25 AM
likes this

2814 posts since 11/15/2003

It all depends on what tone you have naturally....meaning i believe that once you develop your certain taste and likes that pleases you when you pick...your brain will control your ears and hands and your pretty much set for life....
Nobody has studied this cause and effect more than me....i watch alot of consistant pickers and there recordings...no matter the banjo and even with a different set up like an archtop...they still sound the same...
What we here from behind the banjo seldom translates the same out front
I experiment with different string guages constantly...the only way for sure to hear any tonal differences is to record and play back...and then a few days later when my ears have rested...listen again...
My take is im just scratching my itch that isnt making anybody else itch.

For the record...i use Dunlop thumb picks...ultex and whites and tortise
My string guages vary depending on my mood but for the most part...really light.

Warp!

Jul 6, 2021 - 10:36:30 AM
likes this

74951 posts since 5/9/2007

We all have our preferences concerning everything about gear and set-up.
I'm glad to have so many choices.Back in the old days Black Diamond strings didn't offer all these wonderful choices and all picks were Nationals.
I didn't like Nationals because they dug into my fingers especially playing with hands that were soaking wet with sea water and salted bait juice for hours at a time,every day.
I like 11-22pb strings with a 12 or 13 2nd string and a 15-16 3rd string.
I hate light strings for the sounds I want.

Jul 6, 2021 - 11:54:28 AM

193 posts since 5/21/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Josephpetrie

Hi,

I am looking to understand the specific reason why pros are supposed to prefer thicker picks and heavier gauge strings? Is it just for volume?

If lighter gauge strings are easier to play, why would you use medium gauge strings (or even thicker?) ? Surely that would reduce your finger mobility becuase of the extra effort required?

Similar argument for pick thickness. Below 0.018 picks seem to be excessively bendy, so I can understand why you wouldnt want TOO thin...but if 0.18 does the job, then why would a pro (apparently) prefer .025 and reduce the "agility" of the right hand ?

I say "supposed to" because I recently listened to a Picky Fingers podcast in which Ryan Cavenaugh listed the gauges of his string set and they are pretty close to the "light" gauge set I just put on mine. (9/10/13/20/9). He uses, I think (10/11/13/20/10) - though that might not be exactly right.

FWIW - After some experimentation I have settled with light gauge strings and 0.18 Jim Dunlops - so I am not really looking for recommendations. I am happy with my set up at this easly stage of my journey. I am just interested to understand the WHAT/WHY/HOW.

Thanks for any info.

Joe


Light strings have a tendency to snap more often. Heavier picks tend to be more durable and give more volume. Suggest you look at Jim Dunlop clear plastic thumb picks and ProPik finger picks. I like the Stainless Steel Angled picks with the single band. Not the split band.  I use medium heavy strings

Edited by - FenderFred on 07/06/2021 11:56:38

Jul 6, 2021 - 3:23:54 PM
likes this

chief3

Canada

1131 posts since 10/26/2003

It's not about the strings and picks. It's about how you play with the strings and picks . They choose certain strings and picks because they best suit their particular way of playing and the preferred tone they get when using them.

Jul 6, 2021 - 4:23:46 PM
like this

234 posts since 3/2/2013

Most pros do not use mediums so thats a misnomer. Masters of the five string show that over 75% of Bluegrass pros play light plus or medium light ie. 9.5-20 or 10-22. As mentioned JD played 10s and 9.5. The melodic players seemed to gravitate towards mediums and heavy's

Edited by - brententz on 07/06/2021 16:39:04

Jul 6, 2021 - 4:26:19 PM

234 posts since 3/2/2013

According to JD it is about the strings. He said you lose a lot of tone the heavier the strings. I've found that to be true but i'm also smart enough not to argue with the Legend. Of course if a person hasn't learned to pick worth a hoot yet than they won't get good tone no matter what strings and picks they use.

Edited by - brententz on 07/06/2021 16:31:48

Jul 6, 2021 - 5:40:50 PM

6244 posts since 6/30/2020
Online Now

Professional and experienced players of any stringed instrument do not necessarily exclusively use only one weight of string, or one weight or style of pick, or one type slide (slide guitar), or limit themselves to one style of playing, etc. There are variations used to suit music styles, venues (coffee house vs auditorium), solo vs group performances, or……?…etc.
As an owner of multiple guitars, I have each one set up for a specific style of play, with several different string combinations suitable for alternate as well as standard tunings. I use different picks for jazz, strumming, flat picking, electric lead playing, and I play bare fingerstyle. I also use the same finger picks to play slide guitar and banjo.

So, a professional bluegrass banjo player might have his performance banjos set up a bit differently than on a specific banjo that he uses for practice. Studio sessions might require a different setup than a stage performance. Etc. Players who enjoy a different or non traditional style of banjo might have a totally different setup. 

That’s part of the fun of owning and playing instruments……..set them up like you want them and enjoy tweaking them from time to time.
The whole concept of how we each hear sound is totally subjective, and there is no one right answer.

Edited by - Pick-A-Lick on 07/06/2021 17:46:40

Jul 7, 2021 - 7:29:07 AM

74951 posts since 5/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by brententz

According to JD it is about the strings. He said you lose a lot of tone the heavier the strings. I've found that to be true but i'm also smart enough not to argue with the Legend. Of course if a person hasn't learned to pick worth a hoot yet than they won't get good tone no matter what strings and picks they use.


It'll take a lot of interviews to find out what the average set-up is for all of them.

I like Dunlop 25s right out of the box,a G# Remo head,a compensated maple ebony bridge that weighs 2.24 grams,wider fingerboard/nut,and I like to get some of the deep tones I remember from Dad's pedal steel playing.

Is everybody supposed to set up their banjo just like JD Crowe's?

I like the tone Bill Keith used to get.

Jul 7, 2021 - 9:18:57 AM
likes this

2639 posts since 4/5/2006

The banjo is a hot rod instrument. There are so many things effecting its sound that can be changed, strings being just the tip of the iceberg. They are probably the least expensive modification to be made on a banjo, requiring the least expertise. Generally speaking, lighter gauge strings sound brighter, at the expense of volume & are easier to pick. However, the harder you strike the string, the larger the sine wave as it vibrates, being most noticeable midway  down it's length, which some pickers find objectionable. Medium gauge strings don't have to be picked as hard to produce the same volume, & they don't move as much as the lighter gauge strings. They will, however, slow you down until you build up additional strength in your right hand.   

Keep in mind, professional's always play into a mic. Basically, they work the mic & only lean on the banjo for emphasis. For decades, John Hickman's working banjo was a TB-6 conversion with the low profile flat head tone ring. John said it was not a loud banjo, but listening to him play on stage, or recordings, you'd never know it.

Having gone from super lights (.008 1st & 5th) to heavy PF160's, I now play PF150's .010, .012, .014,,022, .010 phosphor bronze. Different strokes for different folks. fwiw: Dunlop .0225 finger picks. brass middle, mainly for ID, genaric  white plastic thumb pick. YMMV

Edited by - monstertone on 07/07/2021 09:24:58

Jul 7, 2021 - 9:35:54 AM
likes this

74951 posts since 5/9/2007

I remember the Earl Scruggs lights and the Earl Scruggs mediums.
Which one was right?

Jul 7, 2021 - 11:26:04 AM

12268 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by steve davis
It'll take a lot of interviews to find out what the average set-up is for all of them. . . .I like the tone Bill Keith used to get.

Well, Tony Trischka and Pete Wernick interviewed 68  20th century pro players for Masters of the 5-String Banjo. They provided a table of everyone's individual information and then summarized the findings so readers could easily see how many players stated various preferences. Really insightful.

As already said above, a sizeable majority play what's generally considered and sold as light to medium-light strings. Only 10 used 11 or heavier for the first string and only 13 used 23 or heavier for the fourth. So, at least among the 68 players interviewed back in the 1970s and 80s, it's simply not true that pros prefer heavier strings.

The most common string gauges (and the number of players using them) were:

1st & 5th:    10  (27)   Next closest:   9 (15)
2nd:             11  (26)     Next closest: 12  (20)
3rd:             13  (22)     Next closest:  14  (15)
4th:              20  (24)   Next closest:   22  (14)

Bill Keith's string gauges were:  11 11 15 22 11

Interesting note on bridges: Preferences are described only in terms of height and brand/maker, where known. Weight is not mentioned at all.  But we can infer that pros were using what we might today call a medium weight bridge since a majority used Snuffy Smith, Shubb compensated, Grover, or what they called "standard."   None of the tabulated results mentioned thinning the bridges.

Jul 7, 2021 - 4:30:41 PM

234 posts since 3/2/2013

Steve, Easy does it...where did you get the idea I said everyone had to set theres up just like JD's? I'm just reporting what he said he mostly plays and to back up facts to help answer original question and Jim Mills has backed this up as well. You placed your opinion out there too so is everyone supposed to set theres up just like yours? Answering that you like heavy strings does not support the fact of what the Bluegrass pros like. The facts clearly show the majority play lighter strings than what you play.

Edited by - brententz on 07/07/2021 16:44:16

Jul 7, 2021 - 4:58:30 PM

234 posts since 3/2/2013

Also your question about the Earl Scruggs strings is puzzling. The thread isn't about which one is right or wrong...it's about... why do the pros tend to like heavier strings? You seem to be a little jaded because the info coming out in this thread doesnt show the majority of the pros leaning toward heavier strings like you and Bill Keith like.

Edited by - brententz on 07/07/2021 17:00:01

Page: 1  2   3   Next Page   Last Page (3) 

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.2988281