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Jul 1, 2022 - 10:07:21 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

I'm just starting to get into clawhammer banjo, and I have a Deering Goodtime Americana banjo. I know we are not supposed to put medium weight strings on that banjo as it does not have a tension rod in it. What about Nylgut medium weight strings? Is that still too much tension as I really want to get that nice plunky sound from the medium nylgut's, but I also don't want to mess up the neck. I see in the archives there are others talking about doing this, but I didn't see any comments about a nylon medium weight on the neck vs a medium steel weight on the neck.

Jul 1, 2022 - 10:17:16 AM
likes this

1636 posts since 4/29/2013

Nylon usually doesn't have the same tension as steel, and will be less in that regard, so no, it won't negatively affect the neck. You may have to widen the nut and bridge string slots to accept the larger diameter nylon strings. Heavy gauge steel on the other hand, I would be worried. 

Jul 1, 2022 - 10:28:44 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

Thanks Noah, that is what I was thinking as well, but I wanted to make sure I was not off base. I did see someone mention using a welding cleaning kit to help widen the nut if need be, which I believe I may have one still. I'm a little concerned about spikes for the 5th string though. That and the tailpiece may also have some sharp edges on it too, so I may need a no-knot tailpiece that would fit the Americana.

Jul 1, 2022 - 10:35:41 AM

2969 posts since 12/31/2005

Here is a good video. Apparently with the reds, the nut and bridge slots do not need to be modified.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FbKYdqbxgU

Jul 1, 2022 - 11:32:50 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

Thanks... I always wondered what the reds were made of... looks to my nylgut too based on the video

Jul 1, 2022 - 11:57:08 AM

12278 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by kd8tzc

Thanks... I always wondered what the reds were made of... looks to my nylgut too based on the video


A polymer infused with powdered copper originally. I don't know if this has changed. The original Reds were quite fragile compared to the plain NylGut strings.

These were inspired by renaissance painting showing lutes with red basses. These turned out to be gut infused with cinnabar, the ore from which mercury is extracted. I guess they didn't know it was poisonous back then.

Jul 1, 2022 - 2:00:16 PM

1397 posts since 1/9/2012

The copper powder is used to add weight without adding stiffness. They are much thinner than the white Aquilas. The latest reformulation is a polymer that gets its hydrocarbons from sugar rather than petroleum. With typical tunings, all Aquila banjo strings seem to be perilously close to breaking with string scale lengths on the long side. Nevertheless, there are people who love them (like the above linked Tom Collins, who uses them with, in his words, "lower tunings"). And there are people who hate them. You choose.

Jul 2, 2022 - 7:03:29 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

So I keep seeing something about "tuning down" the gut type strings. What exactly are they doing. Something about if you tune up to normal tuning, they may break easier. I normally have the open back tuned to double C and capo it at the 2nd fret. Are they saying to tune down a whole octave (that almost seems too much)?

I also have a set of Aquila reds too. And I believe the La Bella 17 nylon strings are a bit stronger and can take normal tuning better, so maybe I will try those some day too.

I'm going to try these Nylgut strings on the Deering tailpiece. I have concerns about it as it has some nice edges. I'm using a jewelers file to try and smooth the edges while I wait on Balsam Hawk Tailpiece. I'm not 100% certain how I will attach that tough as the Hawk goes though a shoe ball, and the Goodtime doesn't have that. It just has a bolt for the coordinator rod and what the factory tailpiece attaches to. I'm thinking I could drill a hole for a shoe, but I am not positive the bolt for the Hawk will clear the bolt. It would be ideal if I could find a shoe that could thread onto the coordinator rod. It would have to be a fairly large shoe though.

Jul 2, 2022 - 7:17:29 AM

2451 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by kd8tzc

... while I wait on Balsam Hawk Tailpiece. I'm not 100% certain how I will attach that tough as the Hawk goes though a shoe ball, and the Goodtime doesn't have that. It just has a bolt for the coordinator rod and what the factory tailpiece attaches to. I'm thinking I could drill a hole for a shoe, but I am not positive the bolt for the Hawk will clear the bolt. It would be ideal if I could find a shoe that could thread onto the coordinator rod. It would have to be a fairly large shoe though.


No shoes incloved with this. You need a standard tailpiece bracket that goes on the end of the co-ordinator rod.

https://www.stewmac.com/parts-and-hardware/all-hardware-and-parts-by-instrument/banjo-parts/banjo-hooks-and-hardware/tailpiece-bracket/

Jul 2, 2022 - 8:01:37 AM

14849 posts since 10/30/2008

Deacon John I put a set of regular NylGuts on a Ramsey 12 inch head fretless that I owned several years ago. "Tuned down" means tuning down 3 half-steps (3 frets) not down an octave. That way when you are tuned in "drop C" or "double C" you're ACTUALLY playing in the key of A. So you get to play along with your fiddler who is in A, but you're using left hand chord shapes that look and feel like C, but sound in A.

Nylguts seem to keep a uniform feel in tension whether tuned "low" or "regular" in my experience.

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Jul 2, 2022 - 8:04:37 AM

1397 posts since 1/9/2012

kd8tzc -- The Aquila breakage issue has two parts: local damage and tension. Local damage comes from burrs and sharp edges. Tension is connected to scale length and pitch. I'm thinking that 25" is "short," and 27" is "long." So, lowering by one fret-worth is typically enough. Two is certainly on the safe side. That's a half or full step. A capo will get you back to standard pitches if that's what you want.

Jul 2, 2022 - 9:14:22 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

quote:
Originally posted by GrahamHawkerNo shoes incloved with this. You need a standard tailpiece bracket that goes on the end of the co-ordinator rod.

https://www.stewmac.com/parts-and-hardware/all-hardware-and-parts-by-instrument/banjo-parts/banjo-hooks-and-hardware/tailpiece-bracket/


You are 100% correct... that would be the simple answer.  Why over complicate it. 

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

Deacon John I put a set of regular NylGuts on a Ramsey 12 inch head fretless that I owned several years ago. "Tuned down" means tuning down 3 half-steps (3 frets) not down an octave. That way when you are tuned in "drop C" or "double C" you're ACTUALLY playing in the key of A. So you get to play along with your fiddler who is in A, but you're using left hand chord shapes that look and feel like C, but sound in A.

Nylguts seem to keep a uniform feel in tension whether tuned "low" or "regular" in my experience.


Dick, so if double C is G,C,G,C,D would Double A then be E,A,E,A,B?  I'll have to learn a new mnemonic as with double C I just would think Grubby children grab crusty donuts. 

I guess it really doesn't matter what key I'm in if I am playing by myself as long as my strings are tuned relative to one another.

Jul 2, 2022 - 10:18:47 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

One other question... as soon as I get the string in tune, it stretches and goes out of tune. What's the trick?

Jul 2, 2022 - 10:30:11 AM

2451 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by kd8tzc

One other question... as soon as I get the string in tune, it stretches and goes out of tune. What's the trick?


Keep tuning. After a while it settles but nylon takes longer than steel. The last thing to do before you stop playing is to tune it a semitone higher than normal. Some people manually stretch nylon strings by pulling them up from the fretboard. It can take a week to settle fully.

Jul 2, 2022 - 11:21:57 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

Okay, thanks.... I used a square knot, so hopefully it's not slipping. I know the 3rd string seems to be the one that goes out of tune the quickest. I just spent a good hour playing, and most have settled down, but that 3rd string keeps doing something.

Jul 9, 2022 - 10:44:55 AM

kd8tzc

USA

392 posts since 4/11/2022

Just an update... I took the Nylgut strings off last night. Actually, one broke, and I had had a set of the Aquilla reds that I thought I would try. Someplace I heard that you could use these at the double G tuning (I believe Tom Collins said this in one of his videos). Well, got the strings on, and then started to tune them up and was not even able to get the first string tuned before it snapped. Back to metal strings. Oh well... I did like the sound of them, but too fragile for me. I wish there was a metal string that could replicate that sound. I also wish I could use a heavier gauge string on my openback, but mine doesn't have a truss rod, so I am stuck with the light strings.

Jul 9, 2022 - 10:50:38 AM

1397 posts since 1/9/2012

kd8tzc -- You wrote, "I believe the La Bella 17 nylon strings are a bit stronger and can take normal tuning better, so maybe I will try those some day too," but I don't see a follow-up. For your own sake, please do. Nylon strings are pretty indestrutable, and there are plenty of people who rate them much higher than Aquilas, just for the sound.

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