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Feb 21, 2024 - 7:52:32 PM
1368 posts since 3/21/2013

hey there,
recently been working on getting a B&D No. 1 Silverbell set up. Missing a few parts and I had some questions in regards to strings and bridge. I found conflicting threads on B&D banjos and steel VS gut/Nylgut strings. This is complicated just a bit by my unfamiliarity with Plectrum set up/playing/etc. so this is new territory for me.

The banjo is missing the resonator. I normally play 5 string fingerpicking, mainly for folks style music. So obviously a banjo built to cut through jazz orchestra and play more classical style is outside what I normally play,which is either regular 5 string open back or 5 string longneck. I wanted to set it up as an open back. I initially bought a light guage set of steel strings, then came across a thread about fret damage and promptly pulled them off and replaced with the lower strings from a Aquila 5 string set.

My question here is what would the string guages be normally for plectrum players? s there a company that sells them in gut or nylgut and whether taking apart a 5 string set is okay OR should I have gotten heavier strings/different guages special order? The action as well is old style, and curious if these may have originally had 3/8" bridge as opposed to 1/2". so lots of questions here. look forward to any advice that might be able to be given. thanks!!

Feb 22, 2024 - 12:31:27 AM
Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

10421 posts since 1/22/2003

Plectrum and tenor banjos have always had steel strings. The gauge is a personal thing.

Feb 22, 2024 - 4:32:39 AM
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8200 posts since 9/21/2007
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quote:
Originally posted by Emiel

Plectrum and tenor banjos have always had steel strings. The gauge is a personal thing.


Not always, but shortly thereafter.

Feb 22, 2024 - 5:05:36 AM
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csacwp

USA

3331 posts since 1/15/2014

Early on, plectrum banjos were often strung with gut. The gauges used were similar to what was used on 5-strings. Some players used leather picks. By the time your B&D was made, wire strings were the norm.

Feb 22, 2024 - 12:00:21 PM
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13071 posts since 10/27/2006

Vaudeville players generally used gut strings because they were louder. Elderly had one of Ray 'Montana' Coleman's personal Bacon plectrums for a long time. It had a Tubaphone style ring except that the 'tube' was solid brass instead of hollow. Yikes! Anyway, Montana billed himself as the World's Loudest Banjo Player and played gut exclusively.

Dance band plectrum players moved to metal strings since they were more durable, a desirable quality when playing 4–6 hour nightly jobs. Tenors had been using them for years by then.

I used to have a 1924 Bacon catalog that offered wire strings for tenor banjos but only gut for plectrum and 5 strings. I sold it and other ephemera to MusicMan Steve long before the advent of inexpensive scanners and the like. If I knew then what I known now and all that…

Edited by - mikehalloran on 02/22/2024 12:02:58

Feb 23, 2024 - 6:42:33 PM

1368 posts since 3/21/2013

quote:
Originally posted by csacwp

Early on, plectrum banjos were often strung with gut. The gauges used were similar to what was used on 5-strings. Some players used leather picks. By the time your B&D was made, wire strings were the norm.


thank you!

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