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Apr 24, 2024 - 7:58:44 AM
66 posts since 12/22/2015

What adjustments need to be done to a banjo to make it sound good in a low tuning? When I tune my current banjos low, the strings are very loose and it becomes difficult to play. I would like to add another (inexpensive) banjo to my collection that I can keep in a low tuning. Are there any particular banjos that work better than others for low tuning? Or does it all come down to the right set-up and strings? Thanks for any advice.

Edited by - Banjo Granny on 04/24/2024 07:59:23

Apr 24, 2024 - 8:13:11 AM
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78 posts since 11/28/2017

Easiest approach is to get a set of Deering Julia Belle strings, specifically configured for low tuning. Or, you can assemble a set on your own, perhaps a 12 -24 range or even a bit heavier.

Of course there's also the option of getting a long neck banjo, with three extra frets; that will open a lot of options for low tuning. But be aware, long neck banjos are a niche item; not everyone finds them worthwhile or comfortable.

Try the Julia Belle strings, or a self-assembled analog set, as a first approach. Low tunings on a banjo are really enjoyable and worth the effort of setting them up. If you're a singer the low tuning can be a huge benefit.

Apr 24, 2024 - 8:31:24 AM
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3358 posts since 5/2/2012

I thought of changing the strings as well. Jacob also threw out the idea of a long neck, and since you were thinking adding another inexpensive banjo a Gold Tone AC-1 LN sells for $300 or less.

Apr 24, 2024 - 8:50:46 AM

66 posts since 12/22/2015

quote:
Originally posted by calicoplayer

Easiest approach is to get a set of Deering Julia Belle strings, specifically configured for low tuning. Or, you can assemble a set on your own, perhaps a 12 -24 range or even a bit heavier.

Of course there's also the option of getting a long neck banjo, with three extra frets; that will open a lot of options for low tuning. But be aware, long neck banjos are a niche item; not everyone finds them worthwhile or comfortable.

Try the Julia Belle strings, or a self-assembled analog set, as a first approach. Low tunings on a banjo are really enjoyable and worth the effort of setting them up. If you're a singer the low tuning can be a huge benefit.


Thanks!  Will those strings require any adjustments to the slots in the nut and the bridge?

Apr 24, 2024 - 8:52:43 AM

66 posts since 12/22/2015

quote:
Originally posted by thisoldman

I thought of changing the strings as well. Jacob also threw out the idea of a long neck, and since you were thinking adding another inexpensive banjo a Gold Tone AC-1 LN sells for $300 or less.


Thanks for the suggestion.  That is the very banjo I'm considering. 

Apr 24, 2024 - 9:01:10 AM
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78 posts since 11/28/2017

You probably won't need to worry about the bridge slots; the differences in string diameters are so minuscule that any properly configured bridge should handle them fine. I've used all sorts of string gauges on the same bridge I've had for years, all with no problem. And if you do have an issue, it's easy to get a second bridge that is set up properly configured for your strings.

And related to that, make sure that heavier gauge strings can move freely through the nut slots. A little bit of graphite helps this. I just lubricate the slots with a mechanical pencil to rub some graphite into each slot.

Apr 24, 2024 - 9:12:41 AM

66 posts since 12/22/2015

quote:
Originally posted by Banjo Granny
quote:
Originally posted by thisoldman

I thought of changing the strings as well. Jacob also threw out the idea of a long neck, and since you were thinking adding another inexpensive banjo a Gold Tone AC-1 LN sells for $300 or less.


Thanks for the suggestion.  That is the very banjo I'm considering. (The Gold Tone AC-1, but not the long neck version.)


Apr 24, 2024 - 1:42:56 PM
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13128 posts since 10/27/2006

The Julia Belle and Hartford D tuning strings are almost as heavy as standard Vega and Gibson Medium sets from the 1960s. All will have an .020 Wound 3rd and the other gauges vary slightly.

There's a slight possibility that the nut slots will need to be widened a few thousands of an inch—if they pinch the strings, have it done. If using a straight bridge, nothing to change. If you have a compensated bridge, get one that's straight or the 3rd string will be horribly out of tune.

Apr 24, 2024 - 5:41:27 PM

154 posts since 8/22/2023

By low tuning it’s c or double c etc right. Can you tune a whole octave down from standard g tuning or do you need a cello banjo for that?

Apr 24, 2024 - 6:14:25 PM

66 posts since 12/22/2015

I’m talking about tuning down to E.

Apr 24, 2024 - 8:27:43 PM
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John Yerxa

Australia

89 posts since 9/13/2021

If you want a mellow sound, Acquila makes a "Minstrel" set from nylgut with a wound 4th. I have them on my Canote minstrel banjo, sounds great down to A or even G (double C shape), and to D in G shape. To go whole octaves below cello banjo works best, IMHO.

Apr 24, 2024 - 10:06:39 PM
Players Union Member

tonygo

USA

127 posts since 12/29/2022

quote:
Originally posted by calicoplayer

Easiest approach is to get a set of Deering Julia Belle strings, specifically configured for low tuning. Or, you can assemble a set on your own, perhaps a 12 -24 range or even a bit heavier.

Of course there's also the option of getting a long neck banjo, with three extra frets; that will open a lot of options for low tuning. But be aware, long neck banjos are a niche item; not everyone finds them worthwhile or comfortable.

Try the Julia Belle strings, or a self-assembled analog set, as a first approach. Low tunings on a banjo are really enjoyable and worth the effort of setting them up. If you're a singer the low tuning can be a huge benefit.


I put Julia Belle Strings on my Recording King R80 and the 4th string is always sharp when fretted at the 2nd fret and on. Tuned to D or E it just doesn't work out well. When cranked up to F things are better

Now adays I am playing Minstrel stuff and need that 4th string in tune at the second fret .

Before I put the JB strings on I never had a problem with intonation using Keith Strings.

Apr 24, 2024 - 10:47:21 PM

banjoT1

Canada

72 posts since 7/18/2019

basic physics.
(cycles/second = frequency)
....banjo :
w/ strings of same steel alloy.
@ 440 tempered
@ same scale length
@ strings taut to pitch

4th/D3 string = cps/freq of 146.8
1st/D4 string = cps/freq of 293.7

point ? ...comparing apples to apples the difference is due to mass and to some degree the air resistance during cycling.
D3 - slower
D4 - faster

A grand piano, that has much longer string set array, still produces same notes as a banjo. Same principles - different variables.

I've never played with nylgut strings, or other than banjo with steel strings, but regardless, them physics is physics.

Apr 27, 2024 - 3:14:45 PM

66 posts since 12/22/2015

Thanks for all the suggestions. I got a Gold Tone AC-1 and put Julia Belle strings on it and it sounds just like I wanted. This is a great little banjo for the price! Now I'm going to try to learn "Rolling Mills" from a video of Jason Romero playing it.

Apr 27, 2024 - 9:48:38 PM
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Players Union Member

rvrose

USA

1006 posts since 6/29/2007

I have been using the Hartford D tuning strings for years on a spare banjo. I can tune down to d or e. Works well. I have a long neck too, but I prefer the standard scale with low strings.

Rick

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