Hi everyone!

I just thought I would let everyone know that Stringsdirect.UK have ordered some LaBella 17s for me. £5.99 a pack, which is cheaper than other online retailers I've found. I've suggested that they should get a few in stock. So if that's your fancy then check them out.

STRINGS DIRECT La Bella nylon strings

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Thanks Andrew - that's good news.  I ordered two packs from Brown Dog Banjos and it came to £25.38 - ouch!

I put the new LaBella 17 strings on today.  They were the proper length and no problems with stringing them.  They feel a lot lighter than the Chris Sands.  Although I like the brighter tone, the B string sounds 'snappy'; I am used to more resistance when I am playing so I will have to play more gently.  Anyway, as they were expensive, I will give them a chance to settle down and see how I go! 

! ! ! ! !   i still don 't understand why you didn 't try fishing line on some of your banjos

 it work very well : 50 /60 / 70

i suspect FVE  being used small gauged strings ....

I will try fishing line. Any particular brand?

Fishing line is fine if you don't care about intonation.  It is extruded to catch fish, not to be even in thickness and weight. 

The polyester strings sold as "nylgut" are also extruded.  It is very difficult to get close to perfect size tolerance with extrusions. That is why the nylgut strings are often false.

I buy singles from Labella for more or less $1.5 each string.  On my regular playing banjos I will usually change the entire set after I wear the winding on two 4th strings.  By that time I have flat spots on the rest where I fret the most.  I'm guessing that takes 8 months or so depending on the banjo (my FF Gariepy FVE seems to not wear out strings).

So for $9 I get 8 months of banjo playing.  I don't see that as being so expensive that I need to find cheaper strings.

There are some people who will spend $10+ a day on cigarettes or coffee (or both).

All nylon/plastic strings are extruded/pultruded. They all pass thru a sizing die of some sort. Rectified strings are ground to better control the uniformity of diameter.

AFAIK, Aquila nylgut strings are rectified. Not so sure about the "red" sets, esp. the solid 4ths (which I don't like).

I've never once had a nylgut string that I felt was "false"...and I've gone thru dozens of sets since they were first offered.

I know several players who prefer fishing line over anything else. I tried it...the fluorocarbon stuff is pretty good but I just don't want to hassle with spools of line. I'm happy with something pre-packaged for the banjo. It just depends on your ears and needs.


Joel Hooks said:

Fishing line is fine if you don't care about intonation.  It is extruded to catch fish, not to be even in thickness and weight. 

The polyester strings sold as "nylgut" are also extruded.  It is very difficult to get close to perfect size tolerance with extrusions. That is why the nylgut strings are often false.

There is a nice explanation of the difference in issue 104 of the 5 Stringer.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/p9pk4puzr1w5lt1/ABF_5_stringer_104.pdf?dl=0

or search "Spinneret Polymer Extrusion" and watch the videos of the process.

Nylgut can vary several thousands of an inch (so can fishing line).  The false string problem with Nylgut is well known in circles outside of the banjo community.  Even the maker admits the problem in an interview I read some time ago.  They also stretch false over time.

I'll stick with Dupont nylon from Labella.

I tried all the fishing line options and eventually asked myself "what the heck am I doing?"  I was not saving any money and ended up with boxes spools of fishing line I would never use cluttering up my garage.  That was when I decided to just buy real strings and focus on playing.

ABF_5_stringer_104.pdf

Thanks for that, Joel. Very interesting! 

Note that the author says that fishing line, though for musical purposes inferior to spun 610 nylon, is superior to silk and gut. I have used woven silk strings on the sanxian, a three-string Chinese "banjo" (with a snake skin head)  and suspect that no other material would produce the same authentic sound.  If ya want short sustain for ragtime banjo just put some good ol' fashioned silk strings on her and I suspect you'll get a short lived tone. Mind you I've never tried it on banjo, as silk string is hard to come by in the west.  Gut, supposedly inferior to fishing line, has performed just fine on some of my banjos, with no intonation issues.   Nylgut...... well.....it's absolutely true that the plain white trebles have a "wobbly" diameter, and the wound strings vary even more, even with a short length (like a half inch) but I have only had intonation problems with the unwound strings when using them in pairs on the Middle Eatern oud.  Sometimes the two strings in the package don't match!  You finger near the nut and you've got a unison. As you go up the neck the unison gets imperfect. By the time you get five notes higher (g if you start with c as an open string) you have two very different pitches. Occasionally the problem can be solved by removing one member of the pair and reversing its direction (what had been at the bridge end is now at the tuning peg end) but usually that is no help at all.  This is a pity because the tone quality is lovely on many ouds, just as it is on many banjos.  I have mentioned this before:  I have never had an adequate sound on a banjo strung with nylgut. It is either awful or excellent.  It depends on the banjo.

Back to the declared inferiority of fishing line, did Fred Van Eps use fishing line (or leader) or did he not? If he did, does it sound out-of-tune? If not, then maybe nylon is not "better" in the intonation department.  I have tried fishing leader on banjo and rejected it because at the suggested diameters it hurts my fingers to play on. After 2 straight hours the fingers of both hands, but especially the left, were approaching the point of "wounded" or "injured".    It also sounded a bit on the coarse side.

Joel Hooks said:

There is a nice explanation of the difference in issue 104 of the 5 Stringer.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/p9pk4puzr1w5lt1/ABF_5_stringer_104.pdf?dl=0

or search "Spinneret Polymer Extrusion" and watch the videos of the process.

Nylgut can vary several thousands of an inch (so can fishing line).  The false string problem with Nylgut is well known in circles outside of the banjo community.  Even the maker admits the problem in an interview I read some time ago.  They also stretch false over time.

I'll stick with Dupont nylon from Labella.

I tried all the fishing line options and eventually asked myself "what the heck am I doing?"  I was not saving any money and ended up with boxes spools of fishing line I would never use cluttering up my garage.  That was when I decided to just buy real strings and focus on playing.

I think it is safe to say that FVE probably used fishing line with diameters adapted to musical instrument use...mostly because he was a fairly early adopter. The use of nylon in musical instrument strings starts in the 1940s but is continuously refined thru the 50s (and beyond). Getting the industry to create test runs for a market that isn't exactly known for change would take folks like Segovia and Albert Augustine to create a market. It helped that proper gut strings were hard to get.

Right, so FVE's very much in-tune use of fishing line for banjo strings does not seem to square with the idea that fishing line makes out-of-tune banjo music.  


Trapdoor2 said:

I think it is safe to say that FVE probably used fishing line with diameters adapted to musical instrument use...mostly because he was a fairly early adopter. The use of nylon in musical instrument strings starts in the 1940s but is continuously refined thru the 50s (and beyond). Getting the industry to create test runs for a market that isn't exactly known for change would take folks like Segovia and Albert Augustine to create a market. It helped that proper gut strings were hard to get.

I try hard not to make global assertions. We have the technology today to differentiate between fishing line and banjo strings. Such tech was in its infancy in the 50s. Did FVE have intonation problems? I don't know. I don't know anything about his accept/reject criteria. One can infer he was reasonably picky...but he was also a master player who could work around certain defects. Did he influence the production of nylon strings? No idea. I imagine the classical guitar market was the big dog in that market (and probably still is).

Nylon banjo strings "sets" are pretty recent...and they are generally just guitar strings selected to fit the banjo. The banjo market is too small to support more specialization than that. AFAIK, Nylgut was developed by Mimmo Peruffo for the Ukulele. That it was usable for the banjo was a nice plus...but it was never his main focus until the market found him. I like that he is a small shop that is willing to work with players to create new sets, new string formulations, new ideas.

I remember being a student at the 2006 Nashville Banjo Camp. Your cohort Bill Evans was there and I supplied him two banjos (since he couldn't bring all of his own) to play at the concert (one Classic and one Minstrel). I suspect he hated my Classic-Banjo's set-up and its strings...but he did a great job. Tony Trishka also played my classic banjo at the same concert...and said he enjoyed playing on nylon strings (they were nylgut). Later, at another camp I met Bill again and he had his own Classic Banjo...strung with fluorocarbon fishing line. I played it and it was a sufficiently positive experience to drive me to later experiment with fluorocarbon line...it worked, but I'm lazy...give me pre-packaged sets!  

Jody Stecher said:

Right, so FVE's very much in-tune use of fishing line for banjo strings does not seem to square with the idea that fishing line makes out-of-tune banjo music.  

 All I meant was that the recordings of FVE are in tune. If he is using fishing line that means that fishing line is not automatically out of tune.  Simple, no?

 I was under the impression that Nylgut was developed for lute and viol and other "early" instruments.  Uke, an after-thought, turned out to be a money maker.  Aquila is a maker of gut strings for early instruments using historical labor-intensive methods.  Nylgut was an experimental alternative.  Maybe my chronology is off. 

Trapdoor2 said:

I try hard not to make global assertions. We have the technology today to differentiate between fishing line and banjo strings. Such tech was in its infancy in the 50s. Did FVE have intonation problems? I don't know. I don't know anything about his accept/reject criteria. One can infer he was reasonably picky...but he was also a master player who could work around certain defects. Did he influence the production of nylon strings? No idea. I imagine the classical guitar market was the big dog in that market (and probably still is).

Nylon banjo strings "sets" are pretty recent...and they are generally just guitar strings selected to fit the banjo. The banjo market is too small to support more specialization than that. AFAIK, Nylgut was developed by Mimmo Peruffo for the Ukulele. That it was usable for the banjo was a nice plus...but it was never his main focus until the market found him. I like that he is a small shop that is willing to work with players to create new sets, new string formulations, new ideas.

I remember being a student at the 2006 Nashville Banjo Camp. Your cohort Bill Evans was there and I supplied him two banjos (since he couldn't bring all of his own) to play at the concert (one Classic and one Minstrel). I suspect he hated my Classic-Banjo's set-up and its strings...but he did a great job. Tony Trishka also played my classic banjo at the same concert...and said he enjoyed playing on nylon strings (they were nylgut). Later, at another camp I met Bill again and he had his own Classic Banjo...strung with fluorocarbon fishing line. I played it and it was a sufficiently positive experience to drive me to later experiment with fluorocarbon line...it worked, but I'm lazy...give me pre-packaged sets!  

Jody Stecher said:

Right, so FVE's very much in-tune use of fishing line for banjo strings does not seem to square with the idea that fishing line makes out-of-tune banjo music.  

Nylon was better than gut or silk-- anything was better.  Imagine that for the first time you could play an entire concert without replacing your first (that would brake in the middle of a piece).  That was nylon.  A big game changer.  No longer did you have to worry about strings.  The banjo was ready to play every time you picked it up.  You could practice on hot and damp days.  You could play with sweaty hands.  Nylon would not break.

Keep in mind that the gut strings they were using are the thin .016~.017, breakage was a problem.

While fishing line has its problems, it is MUCH better and more true than gut ever was.

In issue 54 of the "5 Stringer" (1957) it was recommended to use Ashaway Line and Twine Co. "extruded filament leaders in 10yd coils.-- .017, .019. .021. 

Here is what the coils looked like for historical accuracy... (though wrong size).

https://www.ebay.com/itm/323754338088

My personal experience with fishing line was not that great.  I found some to be oval in shape.  Some had a seam (if this was deliberate or from a chipped or scratched die I don't know). All were uneven in thickness.

But, that was just my experience. Your results may vary.

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