Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I thought it was a good idea but it is a pita. Impossible to tune since it's so fat even the slightest twist of the peg send it's sharp or flat and the notes are almost half a step behind all the other strings. Was curious if any of your musically savvy folks had any advice aside from replacing with a wound string. It is really fat so maybe I just need to keep pulling on it and stretching it out.

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To follow up on this I have been battling with this bass string forever :|

I ordered a wound bass from Dr Horsehair, tried a FC string from a previous gut set, tried an Aquila bass from my minstrel set, took a nice bass string from a guitar set I had.

And compared to the other four gut strings they sounded really tinny and kind of harsh or hot. Just like super loud and jarring. The FC was the better sounding of all of em but it still wasn't as warm as the other gut strings.

So I threw the big ol gut string back on and for a few days the weather was dry and it sounded great but it slowly went out of tune and got floppy again and started hitting the fifth string peg.

It occurred to me that I can tune up a step to A and they are much better behaved but sound "off-ish" even when in tune.

I really do enjoy the way they feel and play and they deff sound different than a set of nylguts but they sure are moody. I have spent more time messing with the bass string than I have playing the banjo haha not to mention the tremendous slot in my bridge for that giant bass string.

I am convinced they were intended for longer scale banjo.

HI Chris, FWIW historically, the earliest documented information on the five string banjo as we know it always used a wound over silk or wound over gut 4th string.  Pre Briggs book photos clearly show a wound 4th.  The wound 4th continued to be used in perpetuity.

There must be a reason!

I have tried to play banjos that were strung with unwound 4ths and could not get any power out of them.  When played with any force (an effect I use often, esp. in march trios) it would just slap itself dead against the fingerboard.

It is much cheaper to extrude polyester compound then to wind wire over floss so I think the cost savings, at least in part, is why a current manufacturer is offering full extruded sets.  I know that a lot of old time banjo people were complaining that they would wear out the winding with frets.  So it may have been in response to those complaints.

I find that with fretted banjos, by the time I wear through two wound strings there are flat spots on the bottom of the nylon strings where they get pressed into the frets and I change them all.

I am no fan of nylgut (polyester) strings.  They squeak with my fingertips and clack with a thimble.  I found them to go untrue due to the excess stretching.  They would also get flat spots pretty quick.  Not to mention the breakage (something that i have not had happen with nylon).

Yeah it truly has been a giant PITA

I am getting *much* better results tuned up a step tho. A lot less flappy and less muddy.

I am banking on slightly fatter fc string to do the trick. In all honesty I use the nylguts because they are convenient and I am lazy. I will eventually venture into getting a bunch single strings to put together a set as suggested.

So I gave in some time last week and replaced the 4th gut string with a wound one. I kept recalling your mention of no power and realized I dont even play the banjo because that 4th string is terrible

After a few days I got over the subtle differences in sound and now I have bass string with big boom that can handle the simple task of staying in tune.

Moral of the story folks? ... just get a wound bass string. Don't be like Chris haha

Thanks for the update and the cautionary moral.   :)

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