Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Hi everybody! I joined this site awhile back.  I am a clawhammer banjo player that is very interested in learning stroke style. I love studying civil war history and am quite fascinated with the era and the music within it.  Guess I should get to the point.  I have a Prust Fretless A-scale strung with nylon strings.  Great banjo for clawhammer.  What I am wondering is due to the fact that it is an A-scale+Light Nylon strings, are the strings going to become to floppy when I go into the standard minstrel tuning?  Wish I ordered it with nylguts, but I wanted to be able to tune up to A so I could play with a fiddler. (didn't know about moving the bridge)  Any advise would be VERY appreciated.

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"A" scale is a fairly new concept.  Give us the measurement between the bridge and nut with the bridge placed in your favorite position.

Now that I think about it, do you keep the bridge directly in the middle of the head (the dead spot)?  If so, slide it back towards the tailpiece a inch or two.  Tighter strings and a clearer tone will result.

There are no set rules to pitch and if historical accuracy was the goal we would probably be tuned one step up from "minstrel" pitch.

As a little side, I have been trying to remove the term "tuning" from general use to and replace it with "pitch" when referring to early/mid/late standards.  It is the pitch that changes, the intervals remain the same.

Because of the scordatura used with the "old time" banjo, "Minstrel tuning" insinuates a change in string intervals,  and that can be confusing.  I think that simply stating "lower pitch" would make it more inviting.

It is my understanding there are two different tension sets: standard & light. I suspect if you tried the standard tension, it would be satisfactory for your needs.

I'm rather new at this also and would defer to those more expert who I am sure would have more knowledge on the subject.

I'm not at home, so I don't know the measurement of the nut to the bridge off hand. I do know that the it has a scale length of  23".  I apologize for my ignorance of the correct terms.  I'm fairly new ;-)


I BELEIVE the bridge is more toward the nut then the center, its not in the middle.   

So if instead of dGDF#A I could set it at eAEG#B?  Or perhaps going up just a half-step would work? 



23" is a pretty short scale.  I'd think you might want to experiment with the Aquila 'Minstrel' set which is a bit heavier.  On my regular OT banjos with mostly 25-26 scale, with steel strings I never have any trouble tuning up to A, so I've always wondered why people get "A scale" banjos when they could tune up and down for both G and A.

Before I got my 'dedicated' minstrel banjos, I just put Aquila regular classic sets on my regular claw banjos and tuned them down to practice stroke style.

Thanks for the Help everyone!  I'm going to try Minstrel Nylguts when I get the chance. Who knows when?

Have you tuned it down to minstrel tuning yet?  Try doing that with the bridge where it usually is, and see how the playing tension and sound is.  With such a short scale it may indeed be a bit too loose.  Then slide the bridge towards the tailpiece some more, retune again, and see how that feels and sounds.   By sliding the bridge, you can play in both old-time tunings and minstrel tunings once you figure out what the strings and the banjo are capable of.  Get some extra strings (you will likely break a string at some point while figuring it all out), and experiment!    :)

Thanks Strumelia,  I'm gonna try all these things, but my poor prust is at home, and I shall not see her for another 3-weeks! Oh the denial!

I know it's gonna be a great adventure ;-)

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