Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I have been struggling to find a quality string for my banjos. Made the mistake of using labella Nylons at first. Might as well have strung up a wet noodle. Yucky. Right now I have Chris Sands classical nylons on two of my banjos and they are definitely better than the Labella's but still, way too mushy for me. I see Sands makes a heavy set as well. Any opinions on them? I really would like a stiffer set of strings for my banjos. I met Hank Sapoznik a few years ago and he was using guitar strings for his modern banjo and I couldn't believe how stiff they were. A little too much for my liking. Does anyone have some suggestions for other strings? How are the Nylgut strings compared to the Chris Sands nylons?

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For the record, Terry, my banjo is strung with Nylgut.

They sounded and felt so nice and "gutty"  - are they 'well broken in' or what. ya fooled me.

They've been on a while but some are older than others. 

I got the banjo with gut strings and as each string wore out, I replaced them, one-by-one, with Nylgut.

Sands heavies are the way to go -- either those, or the Clifford Essex heavy set (which has an even heavier fourth). They sound great, brilliant, sparkling tone, very stiff, and they last forever.

Ok, just ran across the Labella GUT strings for minstrel banjo on sale for $13.25. Are they any good or not worth my time? The price seems to good to be true. What gives???

My experience has been that they are not worth your time.  They are extremely small in diameter, and don't have much sound at all.  I've bought strings from Bob Flesher, and his sets are good.  I usually buy strings from gamut music (http://gamutmusic.squarespace.com/).  I've basically used two different sets of string diameters.  The heaviest set I've used are


.62 mm

.84 mm

1.1 mm

.56 mm


I buy the strings varnished, which was also done in the 19th century.

Oh how my head is spinning now. If I go to said gut string website, it asks me questions I just don't know how to answer. They want to know what tension in kilograms the string will be tuned to. What frequncy the note of the individual strings will be tuned to and other mystifying questions. Argh...I just want to ask for a set of gut strings for a minstrel banjo with a 28" scale length and tuned to gDGF#A. Is there a simple way to get this done? without knowing all the answers to the above questions??

John knows strings.

And Labellas stink.

Get a set of Minstrel Nylguts at Bernunzio.com  -  free shipping.  If your neck is short, they're gonna be floppy too.

You guys rock! I got my nylgut strings in the mail tonight (just ordeedr Sunday evening from elderly) and spent a half hour trimming up the bridge for the thicker strings. Although they are still stretching, these strings are 100% better. The nylons I had were for classical banjo and not suitable for the lower tuning of a minstrel. I really have to say that I learned far more then I bargained for asking about strings! This site is a fantastic resource and thanks everyone for helping.

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