Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I seek advice for locating a suitable vendor of real gut strings.  Many thanks in advance.

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Strum. I did not see the instrument "banjo" on the Gamut site. Have you put gut strings on your banjo, and if so, how did you size them? The "tension" value in their calculator is an unknown quantity to me.

I've only bought varnished gut strings from Gamut for my rebec. Since he provides gut strings for larger instruments as well, I'm guessing one only has to communicate with him as to the scale length and the desired note (or note range) to tune to and he'd be able to make his recommendation.  He actually MAKES his gut strings.  

Years ago I had discussions with Bob Thornburg as to what gauge of gut strings I'd need for my banjo scale and tunings, so I think this consultation is common practice when dealing with expensive gut strings.  It was Thornburg that I used to buy BANJO gut strings from, and he's great too.  But if I bought today I'd ask Gamut first to see what he says.  Just my 2 cents.

When I put gut strings on my Fairbanks & Cole A-scale, Bob sized them for me. When I replaced them with Nylgut, I think I used a Gut/Nylgut multiplier from the AquilaUSA site and applied it to the string sizes that Bob supplied. But that banjo is an A-scale, so the strings are probably slightly different than they would be for a full sized banjo.

Do you have a photo of your rebec?

Brian Kimerer said:

Do you have a photo of your rebec?

Woah never heard of a rebec. Is it a fiddle type of instrument? Very nice to look at.

Medieval type of fiddle:  https://youtu.be/jA2l9CKlu5g

Is it played under the chin or in the lap.  Very nice sound with the flute.

Scott, both long ago and in modern times, people play it in the lap, against the chest, or under the chin, as they pleased.  Common in 1200s-1500s.  Many variations in how people made them, strung them, and played them- pretty humble folk instrument compared to today's refined violins.  The bowl back and neck was usually carved in one piece from a block of solid wood. Sort of like comparing a gourd banjo to a modern banjo maybe? Here is showing how on guy built one:   https://ballistabob.wordpress.com/projects/soprano-rebec-project/

If your interested the Gamut strings I have are beef gut and the following sizes
.54 mm (1st and 5th string)
.64mm (2nd)
.80 (3rd)
And the wound string measures .9, I think it is an old string I got from George Wunderlich a LONG time ago. George had the best string around 18-19 years ago. I don't know where he got them from. They were thick as spaghetti and had a good low tones and didn't care how damp it was outside.
Bob Thorn burg used to have good ones as well. Haven't bought any in a while. I buy as many sets from folks as I can when I can. You never know when they will be unavailable.
Bob Flesher sells good gut string as well. That nylon crap just doesn't cut it with me. Makes your banjo sound like a cheap Hawaiin souvenir ukele!

Scott I assume those Gamut gauges are intended for low bass Briggs tuning, then?

Wow. That is a really nice instrument. It looks sort of like my Hungarian Gusle.

The gusle was sold to me at a church sale as a "banjo", but it obviously isn't. It has a skin head, unlike the rebec, and only one string. The bowl is carved out of a single block of wood.

More photos on my web page,


There is also more info in the Wiki's.

It took me a while to figure out what it is. It is played on the lap like a cello. I cannot play it; I just keep it around as a curiosity.


Strumelia said:

Scott I assume those Gamut gauges are intended for low bass Briggs tuning, then?

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