Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Hello all. I am still getting the hang of all of this minstrel stuff. I was wondering if there are any suggestions for strings and/or bridges for a gourd banjo. I have a Calkins which came with a standard looking Grover bridge. I have just put a pair of Nylaguts on it which sound good but I think they are streching and arevgetting "slappy."

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What is your scale length and tuning?
24" and currently in D
Those gourds look nice, although I have never tried one of his. Mine is of a similar scale length, but I use gut and tune it to "E". The diameter of my 1st sting is .60 to .625. My bridge has 2 feet on it. I have little experience with Nylgut strings, but the idea is stability, right? I'm sure they stretch in just like nylon classical guitar strings. Also, make sure your pitch is not gradually dropping as your strings adjust and get retuned. Sometimes they drop without noticing it too much until it is way down.
Thanks for the tips. I did tune it to E and it has less buzz. Where do you get gut strings from?
Jeremy,

I order my strings from GamutStrings.com. For the bass string I use a claaical guitar D string. The suggested string diameters from George Wunderlich/Early Banjo Forum three of years ago are in mm:

1) .52-.62
2) .71-.92
3) 1.00 -1.10
5) .52- .62

I've played with a variety of different gages, and I like .62, .84, 1.1, and .56, but I think you may find that this is instrument dependent, and that every other player on this forum has their own opinion.

I also order my strings varnished. They last a lot longer.
Bob Thornburg is a good source always. He can run calculations if need be. Also very fast delivery.
Oh yea, be sure to see that your slots are cut right...if the slot on the bridge or nut is too large, it can buzz.

JeremyS said:
Thanks for the tips. I did tune it to E and it has less buzz. Where do you get gut strings from?
I have just ordered a new taller, more Minstrel bridge from Jeff Menzies. I am a little intimidated by the gut strings. Are they very susceptible to weather/humidity? What is the average lifespan of a single set? How much is the difference in tone of gut vs nylon/Nylagut?
JeremyS said:
I have just ordered a new taller, more Minstrel bridge from Jeff Menzies. I am a little intimidated by the gut strings. Are they very susceptible to weather/humidity? What is the average lifespan of a single set? How much is the difference in tone of gut vs nylon/Nylagut?

Gut strings last a long time, and will never give near the agony that the skin head does.
I've bought a new Minstrel bride so hopefully that will help some. John, I went to GamutStrings.com and it is a little overwhelming to pick out strings to buy. Is it treble gut that I get? Also can you buy singles of the classical D guitar string? And any recommendations for it?
Jeremy,

The thinnest strings are Treble gut, and the 1.1 mm string is a Lyon gut string.

I don't order the guitar string through gamut, but get it from my local guitar/music store. I've been playing with different strings for this. My latest was a Pro-Arte Classical guitar string (.74 mm) (D'Addario).

Is there a Nylgut string set that has a solid (not wound) bass string as opposed to the wound?

This would be for a 26" scale gourd banjo tuned to the keys of E-F.  I want nylon rather than gut strings (had some major humidity problems years ago).

 

I figured I'd be getting the Aquila Classical (not Aquila minstrel) set that is labeled as being intended for G tuning. But I'd like to avoid wound bass string if possible.  I'm not sure what kind of bass string comes in the Aquila Classical Banjo set.  Can someone tell me that info?

Any other specific recommendations for this 26" vsl gourd banjo for E-F tuning?

Thanks for any insights!

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