Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Old news to all of you (and you did tell me it would happen), but kind of fun to watch if you're new at this like me.  After about a week of stretching and settling, my new Nylgut strings had become pretty stable.  Not much re-tuning required, even overnight.  But this weekend and into today the temperature has gone up into the low 70's and rain is moving into the area, and I can see a big difference in the amount of tuning required in the morning!

Fun stuff, and very different from my dulcimers.

Tony

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good news is that once they are stretched,, they are good for a long time.

With nylgut strings being nylon, moisture will have very little effect on them... However the skin head will go crazy with moisture and thus become sloppy demanding adjustment or demanding that the strings be retuned to compensate for the sloppy skin head. Some folks use a second, somewhat higher bridge to compensate for the sinking head but certainly that is no cure-all either.

I speak from experience.  Trying to compensate for a sloppy head by retuning is a very good way to break gut strings. I don't know about nylon, but they might also be put under too much stress.--Rob

Yes, the thin nylgut strings break quite easily.. especially when one is new to tuning and careless about getting kinks in the thinnest ones. There certainly is a learning curve on how to handle strings to reduce breakage, just as there is with steel strings. The sellers should put an extra string in a pack for those of us who break the thinnest ones. I would gladly pay a little extra for an extra thin string.

Good things to know!  Fortunately I've been babying the thing while I get used to it and it settles in.

Thanks!

Tony

I think if you have a real skin head and play out in humid weather it's a good idea to keep a slightly higher bridge on hand, especially if you have a non-adjustable gourd or tackhead banjo.

I am sure we all have seen 20th C. banjos with electric lights inside them... and promotional stuff on the skin head.

I am sure we all have seen 20th C. banjos with electric lights inside them... and promotional stuff on the skin head. I would guess the idea would have been to heat the inside of the banjo, although maybe not because heating the inside is not necessarily drying it..... just speculating.,,, and you are right... I really don't know what I am talking about.

definitely!  down here on the gulf coast,esp. in the summer,, the humidity can make my skin sag to a unreal point.  a higher bridge is a great advantage.
 
Strumelia said:

I think if you have a real skin head and play out in humid weather it's a good idea to keep a slightly higher bridge on hand, especially if you have a non-adjustable gourd or tackhead banjo.

Today...is 43% rH....perfect sound.

I love skin....but I keep my synthetic ready for high profile gigs in the summer ...especially outdoors, dusk, ( need I go on? ).

I love the title of this thread... "It's Alive... !!!"  (I keep picturing Gene Wilder jumping around..lol)

The fact is our wooden banjo pots and necks came from living things...trees.  And our real skin heads came from living things too...calves, goats, woodchucks...cats (!)...  If we use gut strings that came from (usually) sheep I believe...

Banjos are pretty organic and I like to think of the trees and animals that used to be alive, now making music.  It's like the old ballad "Twa Sisters" or "Oh the Wind and Rain"...where the fellow makes fiddle pegs from her long finger bones and makes strings from her long black hair... But the resulting fiddle can only play one tune- a plaintive mournful piece that reveals the identity of the poor younger sister's murderer.

the only tune that fiddle would play is Oh ,,,, Grateful Dawg , did this tune great. Jerry & David

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