Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Believe it or not. There are supposedly accounts from the 1700s of gourd banza, bonza, strum strums, banjos, whatever you want to call them having wound Horse hair strings. Has anybody tried this. I have ordered 32 in long tail hair to try.

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What do you mean by 'supposedly accounts from the 1700s'?  No vague rumors please... are there accounts, or not ?  We do know that gut strings were used.

No harm in experimenting though.  I have a jouhikko (tagelharpa) that traditionally uses twisted (not wound) horsehair strings.  They are for bowing that instrument however, not plucking.  I don't know how good it would sound for plucking/picking.
I've made replacement strings for it as well, by counting the hairs and twisting them. It's not easy, I can tell you.  If you need pointers, let me know since I've done it successfully.  Remember they will get shortened as you twist, and there may not be enough length to also wrap the finished string around the peghead posts and the tailpiece areas if you start with 32" hair and have like a 25" banjo scale. Do not over twist as it makes the string thick and lumpy.. and shortens too much.


Yes, there were accounts of horse hair strings on banjos. Sorry for typing "Supposedly".


Strumelia said:

What do you mean by 'supposedly accounts from the 1700s'?  No vague rumors please... are there accounts, or not ?

Where are these 1700s accounts, please?

I have a plan if the string is to short. I am going to loop a twine rope at the leather tailpiece and then tie the string to the rope loop.

Strumelia said:

Remember they will get shortened as you twist, and there may not be enough length to also wrap the finished string around the peghead posts and the tailpiece areas if you start with 32" hair and have like a 25" banjo scale.

I think there is mention of horse hair strings in America's Instrument : The Banjo In The 19th Century. I also remember reading a banjo history article online, it mentioned the use of horse hair strings, plant fiber strings, and gut strings. I could probably think of another one. I know Sir Hans Solone mentioned the plant fiber strings and I think he also mentioned horse hair strings in the 1700s, but I could be wrong.

Strumelia said:

Where are these 1700s accounts, please?

Yes, there are accounts of horse hair strings being used.  There are also accounts of bird intestines being used, let's try that as well.  Sheep gut was the recognized "best" string material of the time, and I like it better than any other string material I have tried.  But, if you are feeling adventurous, go for it, and let us know how it turns out!  I don't think that the horse hair strings will last very long, but if you twist them together properly they may be better than we are anticipating.

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