I usually have a banjo set with light nylon strings for classic banjo, and a second banjo w medium steel strings for clawhammer. I’m about to go on a long trip w one banjo and am looking for strings that would work well for classic or clawhammer playing.
Any suggestions?

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If the scale (nut to bridge) is not very long or short I would use nylon strings of these gauges

022, 028, 034, 030 (wound), 022

Thank you



Jody Stecher said:

If the scale (nut to bridge) is not very long or short I would use nylon strings of these gauges

022, 028, 034, 030 (wound), 022

Jody, you have piqued my curiosity now, we hear quite a lot about "period correct" gauges ie; 17s or perhaps 19s, I have been using Labella 17s which are actually 19 gauge, while I enjoy the tone by and large I am still struggling sometimes to get past how loose and floppy they can feel when played hard, I continue to persist however hoping I will get used to the feel, the gauges you state sound quite a bit heavier , In the name of scientific experimentation I am considering trying a gauge 20 or perhaps higher just to obtain more "stiffness" to the feel, you have been at this a lot longer than I, would you say in your experience that any loss of snap would result from my doing so ? I enjoy trying to play the old Osman stuff  but  I am also new enough to this style to be unsure of  using the right gauge to obtain a nice turn of the century sound whilst keeping a more comfortable tension ( I am a long term steel string player!) I realise that the answer is try it and see but, I would like to enjoy my banjo without changing strings every month or so, I am playing a mid twenties Whyte Laydie.

Why can't you play clawhammer on the classic banjo?  I mean, historically people did not have a problem.  The very same banjos were used for guitar style (classic) and stroke/thimble style.

Have a look at Frank Converse's Analytical Banjo Method.  There was no mention of needing two banjos in that work.

Joel,
I intend to use one banjo for both styles.
I've been playing clawhammer on medium gage steel strings for about 20 years.
I've only been playing classic style for about a year on light nylon strings.

Thus far I don't like the feeling of light, floppy, nylon strings for clawhammer.


Joel Hooks said:

Why can't you play clawhammer on the classic banjo?  I mean, historically people did not have a problem.  The very same banjos were used for guitar style (classic) and stroke/thimble style.

Have a look at Frank Converse's Analytical Banjo Method.  There was no mention of needing two banjos in that work.



Randy Cabral said:

Joel,
I intend to use one banjo for both styles.
I've been playing clawhammer on medium gage steel strings for about 20 years.
I've only been playing classic style for about a year on light nylon strings.

Thus far I don't like the feeling of light, floppy, nylon strings for clawhammer.


Joel Hooks said:

Why can't you play clawhammer on the classic banjo?  I mean, historically people did not have a problem.  The very same banjos were used for guitar style (classic) and stroke/thimble style.

Have a look at Frank Converse's Analytical Banjo Method.  There was no mention of needing two banjos in that work.

I would love to get to a place where I can use one banjo for everything I do ! how nice not to have to play a less favoured instrument for some tunes !

Nick,
Me too!
And because I'm about to go on a 4 month trip, having one banjo that works for everything is my new must have.
If possible....

nick stephens said:



Randy Cabral said:

Joel,
I intend to use one banjo for both styles.
I've been playing clawhammer on medium gage steel strings for about 20 years.
I've only been playing classic style for about a year on light nylon strings.

Thus far I don't like the feeling of light, floppy, nylon strings for clawhammer.


Joel Hooks said:

Why can't you play clawhammer on the classic banjo?  I mean, historically people did not have a problem.  The very same banjos were used for guitar style (classic) and stroke/thimble style.

Have a look at Frank Converse's Analytical Banjo Method.  There was no mention of needing two banjos in that work.

I would love to get to a place where I can use one banjo for everything I do ! how nice not to have to play a less favoured instrument for some tunes !

keep us informed Randy, being still quite new to classic style I am always keen to learn !

Randy Cabral said:

Nick,
Me too!
And because I'm about to go on a 4 month trip, having one banjo that works for everything is my new must have.
If possible....

nick stephens said:



Randy Cabral said:

Joel,
I intend to use one banjo for both styles.
I've been playing clawhammer on medium gage steel strings for about 20 years.
I've only been playing classic style for about a year on light nylon strings.

Thus far I don't like the feeling of light, floppy, nylon strings for clawhammer.


Joel Hooks said:

Why can't you play clawhammer on the classic banjo?  I mean, historically people did not have a problem.  The very same banjos were used for guitar style (classic) and stroke/thimble style.

Have a look at Frank Converse's Analytical Banjo Method.  There was no mention of needing two banjos in that work.

I would love to get to a place where I can use one banjo for everything I do ! how nice not to have to play a less favoured instrument for some tunes !

I'm in the "light ain't right" crowd...and don't like the "period correct" gauging. So...I don't use them. I'm not a stitch counter, I just like to play the banjo.

My current favorite sets of nylon come from Clifford Essex in the UK...and IIRC, they follow Jody's suggested gauging. Also, IIRC, I think they have 'Heavies" that might be better at giving you the feedback you need. Usually, I do not play clawhammer on nylon strings (like you, I've been playing a long time on medium steels for clawhammer). However, I do play Stroke Style and prefer very heavy strings for that...usually classical guitar singles.

I'm a ham-fisted, cloth-eared player, and the wispy spider-silk strings just don't give me the tactile feedback I want.

I feel much the same Marc, I am using the lighter gauge as recommended by both John and Joel and have no reason to doubt their advice on these matters, I do however struggle somewhat with the "thinness" of Labella 17s, they just feel too soft and don't fight back enough for me, I keep seeing/reading about some great players who are using much heavier strings and I just feel I ought to investigate these matters more closely.

Trapdoor2 said:

I'm in the "light ain't right" crowd...and don't like the "period correct" gauging. So...I don't use them. I'm not a stitch counter, I just like to play the banjo.

My current favorite sets of nylon come from Clifford Essex in the UK...and IIRC, they follow Jody's suggested gauging. Also, IIRC, I think they have 'Heavies" that might be better at giving you the feedback you need. Usually, I do not play clawhammer on nylon strings (like you, I've been playing a long time on medium steels for clawhammer). However, I do play Stroke Style and prefer very heavy strings for that...usually classical guitar singles.

I'm a ham-fisted, cloth-eared player, and the wispy spider-silk strings just don't give me the tactile feedback I want.

I have never really fit anyone's idea of what I should or should-not do. I've played the banjo (many styles) for over 40 yrs. I respect all the research and knowledge I've found here (and elsewhere)...but I trust myself to evaluate and determine if I want to adopt it or not. Strings are cheap and easy to try out. I think everyone should give the 17's a shot.

I have found over the years that I am pretty insensitive to tone and/or volume. I've never had a "false" string...at least not one I ever noticed. However, I am sensitive to 'feel', I need a level of feedback both under my LH fingers and against my RH fingertips that the light gauge strings simply don't provide.

As others are pointing out, the La Bella light gauges don't "fight back" when picking down. They are excellent for up-picking. Remember that in the stroke era the length from nut to bridge was considerably longer than the usual 25 to 27 inch scale on most new banjos these days. So light gauge gut or silk or twisted vines (or violin strings) worked just fine for down picking. Hammering, rapping, trailing, these are all names for walloping the strings.  The gauges I suggested are available as single strings (made by D'Addario) from Stringsbymail.com in the USA. They are suitable for classic banjo style although some will find the bass sound too massive, but they work. On  many banjos they sound *better* for clawhammer than any gauge of steel. So if it has to be only one banjo this is a good compromise. I would like it better than playing classic banjo music on steel.

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