Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

628
Banjo Lovers Online


Sep 30, 2021 - 1:50:39 PM
194 posts since 6/15/2021

I'm a newbie. I've already broken two strings on my new-used banjo while trying to do some setup. The fellow I bought it from said he strung it with GHS steel medium-light strings. My local music stores didn't have GHS, so I got what appeared to be the closest weight from what little selection they had.

Looking online, there is a dizzying array of steel, nickel-coated steel, stainless steel, steel with other coatings (Elixir's "polyweb"), phosphor bronze, and probably a few others. D'Addario seems to have several levels of quality. And every company has their own idea of what makes up light-light, light, medium-light, light-medium, medium, and you know the rest.

So, looking around BHO, is there a sticky post or some comprehensive run-down on the relative merits of various string materials and weights? And is there advice based on the style of banjo and style of playing? I am learning clawhammer on an open-back 5-string. I can only imagine that recommendations would be different for a different style.



I spent a decade and a half on an internet forum for BMW motorcycles. People would go on for pages just debating the relative merits of conventional oil vs. synthetic. I'm guessing the same holds for banjo strings.

Thanks,
pj

Sep 30, 2021 - 2:31:27 PM

1559 posts since 4/13/2009

Like all things, discrimination is a skill acquired over time. Meanwhile, you might find this useful.   https://www.daddario.com/string-finder-tool/?utm_source=epi_campaign&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=guitar_stringfinder&utm_content=launch_email_pc

Sep 30, 2021 - 3:10:43 PM

284 posts since 10/26/2018

Don't get Elixers. Unless they've made some sort of major improvement the coating wears away quickly where you make contact with your frailing hand. The extra cost does not seem worth it IMO.

Sep 30, 2021 - 5:22:21 PM

DSmoke

USA

1105 posts since 11/30/2015

I can relate about the motorcyle forum reference. So, as a newbie to banjo, you don't know yet what your preference is. There are many things that will determine the correct strings for you. Some of those factors would be the scale length, how hard you pick/play, the style you play, the sound you want, and I could go on. I specialize in one style so I can't speak or advise, but I was a newbie once too. What I can say to you at this point is setup is more important to your learning and playing than the strings. I learned this the hard way.

Sep 30, 2021 - 6:02:27 PM
likes this

Alex Z

USA

4584 posts since 12/7/2006

To the poster:  The exotic descriptions apply only to the wound string.  The other four are steel, and pretty much the same -- except for gauge -- although there are very slight differences.

The labels of "light, medium, medium light, custom light" are labels within one maker and don't mean anything when comparing one maker to another.  Have to go by gauge.

Middle of the road for bluegrass might be (5th to 1st)  .010, .020 wound, .012, .011, .010.   For clawhammer, often a little bit heavier, such as .010, .022 wound, .014, .012, .010.

Since you asked, I'd stick with something like the above gauges for 6 months, as close as you can get, and ignore the maker and the type of metal used for wrapping the wound string.  By then, you'll start developing your own preference.  GHS and D'Addario are the brands many players use.

Hope this helps.

Edited by - Alex Z on 09/30/2021 18:03:08

Sep 30, 2021 - 7:54:10 PM

194 posts since 6/15/2021

quote:
Originally posted by WVDreamin

Don't get Elixers. Unless they've made some sort of major improvement the coating wears away quickly where you make contact with your frailing hand. The extra cost does not seem worth it IMO.


Ooop!  I got Elixirs because that's all they had at GC - the only place that was open within 15 miles.  Yeah, they are about twice the price of most others.

I've since looked in a couple other stores.  A local chain has several flavors of D'Addarios.  I haven't seen GHS yet.  Dusty Strings may have them, but they are way off my usual track.

 

Thanks for the replies.

Edited by - pianojuggler on 09/30/2021 19:54:43

Oct 1, 2021 - 3:37:55 AM

2907 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

JustStrings and other sites specialize on instruments. Depending on our hand perspiration, I get sets.

For me, I use to use Dean Markley. When I got my RB12, the Dean Markley did not work. I tried other brands until I stopped with AMB. They work very well.

Oct 1, 2021 - 4:57:48 AM

284 posts since 10/26/2018

quote:
Originally posted by pianojuggler
quote:
Originally posted by WVDreamin

Don't get Elixers. Unless they've made some sort of major improvement the coating wears away quickly where you make contact with your frailing hand. The extra cost does not seem worth it IMO.


Ooop!  I got Elixirs because that's all they had at GC - the only place that was open within 15 miles.  Yeah, they are about twice the price of most others.

I've since looked in a couple other stores.  A local chain has several flavors of D'Addarios.  I haven't seen GHS yet.  Dusty Strings may have them, but they are way off my usual track.

 

Thanks for the replies.


Honestly, I haven't used them since they first came out; they may have made improvements in the durability of the coating. No harm in trying them, I liked them until the wear set in. 

Oct 1, 2021 - 5:50:37 AM

9176 posts since 8/28/2013

If you are having trouble finding strings in local stores, try ordering online. You'll save yourself time, gas, and frustration. Elderly instruments and JustStrings are a couple of online vendors, and sell just about everything.

Edited by - G Edward Porgie on 10/01/2021 05:51:00

Oct 1, 2021 - 5:56:11 AM

286 posts since 11/22/2009

Been using D'Addario strings for many years both for banjo & guitar--no problem--quality strings.

Oct 2, 2021 - 2:48:56 AM

Bill H

USA

1788 posts since 11/7/2010

One tip, if you are breaking strings while tuning, is to be sure to use an electronic tuner or a tuner app. That way you avoid the risk of over-tensioning a string by raising the pitch too high. If you are in proper pitch and strings still break, that is another issue.

The only way to find out which strings you like best is to try some different ones out. I have never found there to be a huge difference in strings, though like most, I have settled on a favorite. Mine is Vega-Martin brand strings, light gauge.

Oct 2, 2021 - 7:15:42 AM

14425 posts since 10/30/2008

I've been playing bluegrass and clawhammer over 55 years. I'll try to give you my brief (simplified by my experience) overview.

Light gauge: 0.009" or 0.010" 1st string. The old Vega Earl Scruggs set was like this. Nowadays I used GHS or American Made Banjo strings in 0.0095" and 0.010" depending on which of my banjos I'm stringing up. You get a little more "power" out of slightly heavier gauge. 4th string at 0.020".

Medium gauge: Depending on maker, 0.010" or 0.011". I like GHS Sonny Osborne strings for my old Vega Scruggs banjo to increase the volume/carrying power a bit, they are 11s. 4th strings are often 0.022 or 0.024. You can certainly "feel" the difference when you go above 10 gauge.

The middle strings vary all over the place as much as 0.0005" to even 0.002". I like the 2nd string to be on the lighter side for choking the strings at the 10th fret and above in bluegrass. I don't like the 3rd string to be too heavy for doing those blues licks (like JD Crowe) on the 3rd string. I've more or less settle on American Made Banjo sets with 0.011" 2nd strings and 0.0125" 3rd strings for the best balance of tone, power and ease on my fingers.

4th strings can come in stainless steel or bronze. Only you can decide which you like better for tone, feel and how long they last. I've basically never used bronze. Many folks like them.

As far as "treatment", the only one I care about is the "cryogenic" treatment featured by American Made Banjo. Can I tell the difference between these and GHS of the same gauge? No. AMBs just come that way.

COST!!! Once you find out what you like, keep your cost down by ordering via phone, mail, internet, in bulk. I find the best cost/service is from American Made Banjo. They'll make custom sets for you (and if enough people order them they make them a standard offering). They sell single sets, and triple-packed sets at a discount. Mailing cost is low, and they mail 'em out FAST.

Mailing cost is important. Several years ago if you bought multiple sets and exceed a certain $$ threshhold they'd ship free. I used to buy GHS strings from Elderly Instruments for that reason alone. Then one day I ordered and they told me I had to exceed a $75 order to get free shipping. That's when I switched to AMB. Now AMB offers the overall lowest cost with good service, I find. I think now I'm paying on average, under $4/set.

Finally strings come in loop end or ball end (ball end like guitar strings). You use what fits your tailpiece. Loop end is MUCH more common.

Try all different kids and keep a log of your feelings about each of them, so you can remember what you like best.

Oct 5, 2021 - 12:32:03 PM

194 posts since 6/15/2021

Another GS had Martin Vega strings in Medium for $4 a pack. Their Medium is 10-12-16-23-10. I just restrung my Ibanez B50 with them. They are better quality and easier on the fingers than the original strings… definitely brighter sounding.

I figured for $4 and the practice of putting them on (I’m getting better at it) was worth a try.


The fellow from whom I bought the other banjo had an interesting way of fixing the strings to the tuners. They seemed to be through the hole, a loop backward then through the hole again and tightened. There is not a stack-up of coils on the tuner post. So when I tried to slacken them to make some adjustments on the tailpiece, I unwittingly turned them past fully-slack and started them tightening the other direction around the post. This looks like it worked the string back and forth (something no metal likes) and to when I tried to start bringing them up to tension again, two broke.

Is this a common method for securing banjo strings? I’ve replaced stings on pianos and harpsichords and I’ve never seen anything like that.

When I replaced those two, I put them on in what I think is a more conventional way with three or four coils on the post.

Edited by - pianojuggler on 10/05/2021 12:33:15

Oct 6, 2021 - 9:56:24 AM
Players Union Member

Bill

USA

944 posts since 2/6/2003

Oct 6, 2021 - 7:48:25 PM

194 posts since 6/15/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Bill

zeppmusic.com/Tips/stringchange.htm


Interesting.  Thanks for sharing that. 

Oct 6, 2021 - 9:07:10 PM

194 posts since 6/15/2021

quote:
Originally posted by pianojuggler
quote:
Originally posted by Bill

zeppmusic.com/Tips/stringchange.htm


Interesting.  Thanks for sharing that. 


I took a good look at how the previous fellow did them and it's different from this.  Each string makes two passes through the hole in the post.  It appears the string goes through, half-way around, through again, then tighten. 

I attached a few pictures of numbers 1 and 4 (sorry, they are turned 90 degrees... stoopid iphone).  As you can see, number 1 barely goes a full turn around the post and number 4 barely goes half a turn.  I can't tell you at this point how far around 2 and 3 were since they broke.  

Again, my guess is that I turned the tuner to full slack and then kept turning some which bent the string back and forth, then when I tried to tune it up again number 3 broke.  On a subsequent tinkering session, number 2 broke.

 

I'm guessing "there is no wrong way to attach the strings" as long as they don't slip.


Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.21875