On tenor banjo string gauges

On tenor banjo string gauges

Hi!

I bought an inexpensive Aria 19-fret tenor banjo some months ago and have been playing it with CGDA-tuning until now. I would, however, like to change to the irish tuning. The string gauges I’ve been using are 011, 013, 023, 033. I know I should get heavier strings for irish tuning, I’m just wondering how much.

See, when I got the banjo it had poor intonation and I had to lower the bridge. Before lowering it I could actually tune the strings down to the irish tuning and the instrument was still playable, but now the strings would be all too loose.

I know many irish tenor banjo players use medium gauges like 012, 016, 026, 038. Do you think this is heavy enough for me if I have a bridge lower than normal, or should I get a heavy set of strings usually associated with 17-fret banjos? Also, would the string set I’ve been using remain playable tuned down to the irish tuning on a "regular" banjo, as to get a hint of whether my bridge was too high when I got it or lower than regular after I lowered it? Don’t have the banjo here so I could measure the bridge height, unfortunately…

I’d appreciate any thoughts and experiences on the matter.
Thank you,
Jimmy
Finland

Re: On tenor banjo string gauges

There’s a recent discussion on string gauges 29th July ‘It’s banjo time again ..’. I think heavier - 12,20,30,40 but I’d recommend having a pro set it up for action etc.

Re: On tenor banjo string gauges

mine is 12 22 32 44……….my experiece is there is more to it than meets the eye
in Victoria BC Canada try Rick van Kruegel……try your search engine, dunno if he has a website……….good luck

Re: On tenor banjo string gauges

It’s quite possible that you don’t have a "tenor banjo professional" near you in Finland Jimmy. The first time I set one up, I knew nobody and had nobody near to help. I followed the advice of Tony O’Sullivan in his book and moved a CGDA set across one , so that the A was discarded, the D was now the E etc. Then bought a suitably thicker string for the G.
I’ve just restrung to 12 22 26 36 and it seems OK. I like a wound A, and 22 was the thinnest my shop had, though I’ve seen 17 and 20 wound strings mentioned before.

Do a search on "banjo" here and you’ll find the other threads.

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Re: On tenor banjo string gauges

I’d make an effort to to get the bridge back to a normal height (taller is better). Make sure the neck is straight. It’s adjustable. If the neck is straight then try and get the neck angle set right. You should be able to adjust the neck angle a bit by tightening (shortening)the rim-rod (I’m pretty sure the Aria’s just have one rod).

Re: On tenor banjo string gauges

Mr J robert,
In Ireland Tom Cussens ( I think www.clareenbanjos.??? ) uses .015, .017W, .026W, . 036W. Phone No.
00353 91 796 156 fits these to his hand made ( Eu1,000 & upward banjos. I think that they might be German made. Price I don’t know.
www.boorinwoodmusic.com also sell a brass set & a nickle set botht only apr £4.5 but should be much more.
J.B.

Re: On tenor banjo string gauges

Thank you all for the advice!

It seems quite safe to go with a medium or heavy set with the E-string .012 or .013 now that I think of it as my current 3rd string (D, .013) which will be tuned up a whole tone.

I quess it’s an experimentation thing. It’ll just take a while for me to get my hands on appropriate strings since there’s no hope one of the two Finnish music stores that acknowledge the existance of the tenor banjo would sell anything else but tightly sealed CGDA-sets. ;)

BTW Tusong200 -why is taller better? I’m quite satisfied with the playability, the intonation and the sound (okay, I’ve heard better sounding banjos, but this is an Aria Korean banjo) of my banjo now that I’ve lowered the bridge. The neck is straight and the neck angle is OK. In fact I I would’ve changed the neck angle in the first place, but an instrument builder friend of mine told me it’s fine and I should just lower the bridge.
How does the height of the bridge affect the tone of the instrument to you?

Re: On tenor banjo string gauges

Anybody else tried guitar strings? What’s the main difference between tbanjo and guitar strings, apart from the loop/ball end? Will there be a loss in tone?

Re: On tenor banjo string gauges

I think if it’s the same manufacturer say D’ Addario and the same type of string, eg phosphour bronze or whatever and you use the correct guage, there shouldn’t be any difference. I often use guitar strings (guage 11) for my mandolin "E" as they are cheaper to buy individually. I’ve also used them on my octave mandola, depending on circumstance.
It’s fairly easy to convert ball strings into "loops", though it’s harder to do it the other way around.

Re: On tenor banjo string gauges

If your bridge is less than 1/2" I would make the adjustments to get it taller. As the bridge gets taller more string pressure is applied to the bridge, and head. More pressure is more sound. Of course the banjo is a complicated machine and there are extremes beyond which you don’t want to go in either direction. Trial and error is the proper procedure.

Re: On tenor banjo string gauges

I have a Gold Tone IT250 tenor banjo and have found the following to be a good set up. 14 plain steel-20 W-32 W-42 W. This seems to a very playable and stable set of strings

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Re: On tenor banjo string gauges

Hi Jimmy,

Always nice to see more people pick up the banjo in Finland. I have an Ashbury AB-75, and I’m currently playing a set of 12-20W-30W-40W in nickel. Works nicely for my 19 fret, although I will try a 42-44W for the g string next. I might try the D’Addario Irish tenor banjo string set….

If you’re ever in the Helsinki-Turku-Tampere-triangle, I’d be happy to share a few tunes and help set up your instrument. We’ve got sessions twice a week in Helsinki in any case!

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Re: On tenor banjo string gauges

I’ll just throw this out there, I have a Gibson Trapdoor Tenor which has an incredibly short neck which makes it eminently playble, but was very difficult to find a low G that didn’t sound floppy or thuddy. I eventually tried a trick Dave Marshall suggested, which was to use a classical guitar string. The A sounded good but was a bit too loose so I tried a low E and it sounded and played great. I now have a silk and steel Low E string for the G, A string for the D, D string for the A, and a .012 steel string for the E.
On a longer neck this may not work quite as well, but the Nylon string for the G is still a good tip.

Re: On tenor banjo string gauges

PS The issue now is trying to get a compensated bridge since the difference in gauges is such that I have the bridge at an extreme angle and there are always two strings that are not in tune at all frets. This is very annoying.