Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Hi guys,
New here, moving forward on the BHO. I've been considering trying my hand at minstrel style after a few years of Clawhammer. Living in Australia resources are pretty scarce for minstrel anything so Im glad I found this site. The banjo I have set aside from my others for minstrel playing is a fretted 1890's ish Lyon and Healy( my only other banjo is a cheap monterey 5 string with a resonator). The L&H is about 3/4 the size of a normal 5 string with a calfskin head and 50 odd brackets and I'm thinking of putting Nylgut strings on it. I've never put Nylgut on anything. My question is this>
A: what knot should I use for the String to tailpiece and the peg?
B. Would I be better stringing up the full size cheapo with the resonator for a deeper tone?

Any help would help!
P.S sorry for the long winded question but I thought I should explain a little background.

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Hi Wik, and welcome.

The little L&H will do fine (I have one myself). I use Nylguts extensively as they are cheaper than gut, yet have very similar tone and feel. As Dan'l has said, the tailpiece knot can be as simple as a classical guitar knot...depends a lot on the type of tailpiece you're using. For instance, I use a standard 'bowline' knot to tie onto tailpieces with posts. If you want to tune lower, buy the Nylgut "Minstrel" set.

Nothing special needed at the peg end.

The resonator banjo probably won't get you where you want...but nothing says you can't experiment with it.
1. Donald Zepp, from my neck of the woods (North Carolina, USA), has some pics on his store's website that talk you through a bowknot: http://www.zeppmusic.com/bowline.htm

That's the way I tie mine on. I imagine it works for gut or whatever synthetic gut substitute.

I think there's a video clip on the same page.

2. I put Nylgut on all my banjos, including the one with a resonator (a cheap Fender). The tone is deeper on the resonator banjo and sounds much better to my ear, but I've had precisely the problems that Dan'l mentions above, i.e., the fifth string breaking a lot from the tailpiece end. I think there's a sharp place that needs filing, and I've worked on it several times but haven't gotten it right yet. (Therefore, my fifth string is an awful sounding steel string.) You might want to feel around for sharp places that will cut through taut nylon before you put them on. Dan'l has some good ideas that I might try, particularly the wrapping.

Also, the wound fourth string will fray where you fret it, which sucks real quick. I use classical Nylguts for strings 1, 2, 3, and 5, and a heavier "ministrel" unwound 3rd string for my 4th. Not ideal, but it's been working for the last year and a half since I converted.
Thanks guys, Very helpful. Between here and the BHO I should be right.

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