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Oct 18, 2021 - 11:02:51 AM
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Heady

USA

138 posts since 4/25/2021

Hi.

I ordered a set of nylgut strings at the time I bought my banjo back in May. I have never put them on because it seems intimidating. I also wasn't sure about bridges and things like that.

I ordered a bridge that was suggested to be better for nylgut and the bridge was in today's mail, so I feel like tonight after work might be the day I do it.

I have a few last minute questions.

1) I should leave my ebony capped bridge on there through the string changes so all the steel are off before I switch to the thin maple bridge, is this correct?

2) I have a gold tone cc 50 with the default "terminator" tailpiece. Is that suitable? I just make a loop (watch some YouTube videos) and put that over the pin?

3) Can a neurotic with imposter syndrome play the banjo? Asking for a friend. Who's about to try nylon strings. And anticipates catastrophic failure on the way...

Oct 18, 2021 - 11:18:11 AM

2 posts since 10/18/2021

Heady, I can only respond with confidence to your question #3: yes. banjos are pure fun from day 1 and while failure is possible, not catastrophic.

Someone more knowledeable will respond to your bridge question, my Gold Tone WL250 came with a no knot tailpiece which does not have enought space between the posts to accommodate Nylguts. Maybe your Terminator will. I'm waiting for my new tailpiece to arrive.

Oct 18, 2021 - 12:12:15 PM
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130 posts since 1/11/2020

-Remove your metal strings and ebony capped bridge.
-Tie your knots and install your strings.
- install new bridge and then do whatever necessary adjustments to the string slots in the bridge
- check your nut. You may need to also adjust the nut slots. If they sit well enough then you can move on.

Metal strings and nylon/gut are totally different and there is a learning curve. You'll figure it out. But dont be surprised if you pluck the first note and hate it. If you are use to the metal string sound both thru your own playing but also through listening your brain is not gonna connect the new sound as "good" because it is different in feel as well.
-have fun :)

Oct 18, 2021 - 12:34:59 PM

292 posts since 6/15/2006

But would a change from metal to nylgut not also require a relplacement nut or something ? Steen

Oct 18, 2021 - 1:54:53 PM
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1641 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by steen

But would a change from metal to nylgut not also require a relplacement nut or something ? Steen


  it might well be necessary to widen the slots a bit to accommodate the thicker strings, but unless you have some reason for not modifying the original nut, you wouldn't need a different one.

Oct 18, 2021 - 2:45:13 PM
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Bill H

USA

1762 posts since 11/7/2010

I have never needed to widen the nut slots for any of my banjo to switch them over, but if you detect binding at the nut you may need to. You may do this with a fine piece of sand paper folded over something very thin or even just folded on itself. Use some masking tape to protect the wood around it.

Another tip when installing nylon strings is to pre-stretch them. The way I do this is to install the strings (with no bridge in place) and when fastened at both ends and snuggly secured, slip a finger or two under the string and pull upward while sliding the fingers from peg to tail piece and back several times. You can give a good tug without fear of them breaking. This is not necessary, but will speed the break-in time considerably, as nylon strings can take several days to stretch out enough to hold their tuning.

Do not stress over this. Take your time and enjoy the learning experience. Remember you are nurturing you banjo, so do so kindly. When in doubt, just Google it.

Oct 18, 2021 - 7:26:22 PM

Heady

USA

138 posts since 4/25/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Oldtimefeeling

-Remove your metal strings and ebony capped bridge.
-Tie your knots and install your strings.
- install new bridge and then do whatever necessary adjustments to the string slots in the bridge
- check your nut. You may need to also adjust the nut slots. If they sit well enough then you can move on.

Metal strings and nylon/gut are totally different and there is a learning curve. You'll figure it out. But dont be surprised if you pluck the first note and hate it. If you are use to the metal string sound both thru your own playing but also through listening your brain is not gonna connect the new sound as "good" because it is different in feel as well.
-have fun :)


I forgot it's not a viola and I can do it all at once because I don't have to worry about the soundpost falling.  :) Thanks.

Oct 19, 2021 - 7:54:48 AM
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143 posts since 12/6/2019

One thing I'll say is that depending on the specific type of Nylgut, they may be intended for a lower tuning. Also no matter what type of nylgut, don't expect to get them into G right away without popping a string. They take a long, long time to stretch. Even if they're the type intended for G, I'd only tune them up to D or E for the first day or two and move up a step every day or two. I tried one set of nylguts before switching to Labella classic banjo sets. They are more consistent and take a lot less time to stretch

Oct 21, 2021 - 8:50:53 PM
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Heady

USA

138 posts since 4/25/2021

I was afraid of cutting them too short but I think they're too long - I keep turning the pegs but they're barely changing pitch. I think I have the 3rd and *maybe* 4th ok, but 1, 2 and 5 have too many turns on the post :( Can I take them off and cut them and try again or do I need new strings? I'm going to try option A first (but in the morning).

Oct 21, 2021 - 8:56:55 PM
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143 posts since 12/6/2019

I wouldn't cut them. Nylon and nylgut strings need very little slack before you start tensioning unlike steel strings. I usually pull the string through the post so that the string is just barely loose and then start turning the peg. I hope this makes sense.. if you leave the same amount of slack you'd use with steel strings there will be way too many winds around the post

Oct 21, 2021 - 8:58:25 PM

Heady

USA

138 posts since 4/25/2021

I had it roughly open D tuned and couldn't get anything higher than that and then the bridge slipped out. I think I'll leave the tension on it like this and hope it stretches a bit - then I'll try cutting the strings that seem to be wound around the post for too long - and then I'll try again.

Overall it is not as hard as I feared but I do think I screwed it up to the point where I might need to order another set (maybe 2) of strings before I get it good enough to leave.

Oct 22, 2021 - 10:54:11 PM

Heady

USA

138 posts since 4/25/2021

I don't wanna brag, but I might be going in the Guiness Book for the ugliest job of a string change after 2 days of effort without even finishing. lol.

I got it tuned up to E* (as suggested above) but it's got the old bridge on for now because I was a total clutz and my nice new little bridge kept tipping over. If I can get it tuned back up to E without a fight in the morning, then I'll switch to my new bridge before tuning it up to G.

*sort of E. E with my phone tuner set to A = 432 Hz




Oct 24, 2021 - 3:04:28 PM

Heady

USA

138 posts since 4/25/2021

I'm pretty happy so far. I am deliberately pausing before tuning it up the rest of the way. I have it relative to g-open but a full step down. I had to put my original ebony capped bridge on to start with because it's a little like training wheels. I ordered another all maple bridge that's slightly wider (exactly the same dimensions 1st string to 5th as my original ebony capped) - my tailpiece seems to fan out a tiny bit and the slightly narrower spacing was tripping me up a little (not playing - I didn't get that far - but getting the strings to sit nicely - though I'm sure it would have been an adjustment to playing if I had gotten that far). Once I get the new bridge in place I'll have a better idea if I need to unwind and pull more through again. I'm trying not to redo it too many times because I don't want to press my luck - it seems like I got a lucky break with my red 4th string - I think if it has stretched to the point where with the new bridge I run out of room on the post to tune it up to G I'll reassess. My 3rd and 5th strings have plenty of room, but 1, 2 and 4 all have probably more wraps on the post than is ideal but for a first string change, I'll settle.

Thanks for the help everyone.

Nov 1, 2021 - 3:12:52 AM

2 posts since 10/18/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Oldtimefeeling

-Remove your metal strings and ebony capped bridge.
-Tie your knots and install your strings.
- install new bridge and then do whatever necessary adjustments to the string slots in the bridge
- check your nut. You may need to also adjust the nut slots. If they sit well enough then you can move on.

Metal strings and nylon/gut are totally different and there is a learning curve. You'll figure it out. But dont be surprised if you pluck the first note and hate it. If you are use to the metal string sound both thru your own playing but also through listening your brain is not gonna connect the new sound as "good" because it is different in feel as well.
-have fun :)


You are so right.  The new sound was shockingly different!  And also I can't keep it in tune but perhaps the Nylgut strings are still stretching.  You say "install new bridge". is that necessary when changing to nylon?  I'm headed to the luthier because the 5th string nut slot is too small and I can't find anything around the house to widen/deepen it with.  I changed the tailpiece from the stock Chinese made no-knot which did not have room between the posts for the nylon strings, to a Rickard which is nice, hope I put it on correctly.Thank you for your very helpful remarks.

Nov 1, 2021 - 6:36:19 AM

6551 posts since 9/21/2007

It is my opinion that the polyester strings sold as "nylgut" are not very good. They are much too thick and are often uneven or "false" (in that they will not intonate correctly). Because they stretch out so much they become more false over time.

If using on a classic era banjo, the tension might be too high.

I don't know how they came up with the thick string sizes.

The unwound 4ths are WAY too thick and flabby sounding. That was just a bad idea. But it is much cheaper to produce a extruded polyester string instead of a silver plated copper wire wrapped over floss string.

Nov 1, 2021 - 7:30:11 AM

9088 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

It is my opinion that the polyester strings sold as "nylgut" are not very good. They are much too thick and are often uneven or "false" (in that they will not intonate correctly). Because they stretch out so much they become more false over time.

If using on a classic era banjo, the tension might be too high.

I don't know how they came up with the thick string sizes.

The unwound 4ths are WAY too thick and flabby sounding. That was just a bad idea. But it is much cheaper to produce a extruded polyester string instead of a silver plated copper wire wrapped over floss string.


I've been waiting for you to chime in. Although I agree with you 100%, I find that it isn't particularly useful to go against the flow when it comes to Nylgut. Maybe that's also why you took so long to say anything. 

Nov 1, 2021 - 8:14:33 AM

130 posts since 1/11/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Souvenir1
quote:
Originally posted by Oldtimefeeling

-Remove your metal strings and ebony capped bridge.
-Tie your knots and install your strings.
- install new bridge and then do whatever necessary adjustments to the string slots in the bridge
- check your nut. You may need to also adjust the nut slots. If they sit well enough then you can move on.

Metal strings and nylon/gut are totally different and there is a learning curve. You'll figure it out. But dont be surprised if you pluck the first note and hate it. If you are use to the metal string sound both thru your own playing but also through listening your brain is not gonna connect the new sound as "good" because it is different in feel as well.
-have fun :)


You are so right.  The new sound was shockingly different!  And also I can't keep it in tune but perhaps the Nylgut strings are still stretching.  You say "install new bridge". is that necessary when changing to nylon?  I'm headed to the luthier because the 5th string nut slot is too small and I can't find anything around the house to widen/deepen it with.  I changed the tailpiece from the stock Chinese made no-knot which did not have room between the posts for the nylon strings, to a Rickard which is nice, hope I put it on correctly.Thank you for your very helpful remarks.


Nylon/gut strings tend to do better with smaller bridges that are not capped in another hardwood. Joel's info above is important and he also has some fantastic info on bridges for gut/nylon:

https://www.banjothimble.com/banjo-bridge-primer.html

Nov 1, 2021 - 8:32:48 AM

6551 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

It is my opinion that the polyester strings sold as "nylgut" are not very good. They are much too thick and are often uneven or "false" (in that they will not intonate correctly). Because they stretch out so much they become more false over time.

If using on a classic era banjo, the tension might be too high.

I don't know how they came up with the thick string sizes.

The unwound 4ths are WAY too thick and flabby sounding. That was just a bad idea. But it is much cheaper to produce a extruded polyester string instead of a silver plated copper wire wrapped over floss string.


I've been waiting for you to chime in. Although I agree with you 100%, I find that it isn't particularly useful to go against the flow when it comes to Nylgut. Maybe that's also why you took so long to say anything. 


Yeah, you are right, I am in the minority with my opinion.  My biggest problem is how thick and high tension they are.  They don't fit many classic era tailpieces and put a lot of stress on friction tuners.  I expect the period banjo replacement bridges I make do not stand up too well to them.

I remember a decade ago people were complaining about the wound 4th strings wearing out.  I presume that was a big factor in the decision to go with the thick monofilament 4th.  Yes, wound strings wear through.  It is no big deal to replace them and La Bella will sell you all the wrapped singles you can fray. 

After wearing through two or three 4th strings it is time to replace the set anyway (and give the fingerboard a wipe down).

Nov 1, 2021 - 11:03:37 AM

130 posts since 1/11/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

It is my opinion that the polyester strings sold as "nylgut" are not very good. They are much too thick and are often uneven or "false" (in that they will not intonate correctly). Because they stretch out so much they become more false over time.

If using on a classic era banjo, the tension might be too high.

I don't know how they came up with the thick string sizes.

The unwound 4ths are WAY too thick and flabby sounding. That was just a bad idea. But it is much cheaper to produce a extruded polyester string instead of a silver plated copper wire wrapped over floss string.


I've been waiting for you to chime in. Although I agree with you 100%, I find that it isn't particularly useful to go against the flow when it comes to Nylgut. Maybe that's also why you took so long to say anything. 


Yeah, you are right, I am in the minority with my opinion.  My biggest problem is how thick and high tension they are.  They don't fit many classic era tailpieces and put a lot of stress on friction tuners.  I expect the period banjo replacement bridges I make do not stand up too well to them.

I remember a decade ago people were complaining about the wound 4th strings wearing out.  I presume that was a big factor in the decision to go with the thick monofilament 4th.  Yes, wound strings wear through.  It is no big deal to replace them and La Bella will sell you all the wrapped singles you can fray. 

After wearing through two or three 4th strings it is time to replace the set anyway (and give the fingerboard a wipe down).

 


If I use Aquila nylgut set (wound or unwound) then I actually do still use an ebony capped bridge. Mostly the Grover 2 legged version and then widen the slots accordingly. For LaBella classic set then your (Joel) bridges are the way to go! You're right about the fit of those thicker strings on tailpieces, it can quite often turn into a wrestling match putting that unwound 4th in place. I haven't noticed a stress issue but also I only tune up to E when using medium nylgut or the "minstrel" aquila set.

Nov 1, 2021 - 3:50:01 PM

Heady

USA

138 posts since 4/25/2021

I have a very basic mass produced modern banjo. It sounds better w the nylgut than it did with steel. A lot of banjo left hand stuff is foreign to someone who started on a bowed instrument. My hammerons pulloffs etc sound a lot better now bc the strings are so comfortable under my fingers. Might be something I'll outgrow w practice but right now I sound better w these strings.

That said...that 4th string did keep stretching for days and wound up around the post too much so I shortened it again and expect that bit of pressing my luck to cause it to snap in my face any day now.

Nov 1, 2021 - 4:38:46 PM

2 posts since 7/21/2021

You got this!

Nov 1, 2021 - 4:55:15 PM

2 posts since 7/21/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Heady

I have a very basic mass produced modern banjo. It sounds better w the nylgut than it did with steel. A lot of banjo left hand stuff is foreign to someone who started on a bowed instrument. My hammerons pulloffs etc sound a lot better now bc the strings are so comfortable under my fingers. Might be something I'll outgrow w practice but right now I sound better w these strings.

That said...that 4th string did keep stretching for days and wound up around the post too much so I shortened it again and expect that bit of pressing my luck to cause it to snap in my face any day now.


My first and only attempt to mount nylon strings (la bellas) on my older banjo saw me having to replace the wound fourth from a pack of nickle-plated steel strings for that exact reason.

I will mention that the wound fourth broke in an unspectacular manner, fwiw.

Nov 1, 2021 - 6:51:41 PM

130 posts since 1/11/2020

Your wound string doesn't need much winding around the peg/tuner. Maybe 3 or 4 wraps. Otherwise yes it will bunch up.
I have honestly had no issues with any nylon or nylgut strings like some others have mentioned having. The LaBella 4th stretches a lot i have noticed so i think thats par for the course with those.

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