I would like to tell members about the gut strings I've just had made. Is it permissible to provide the maker's details?

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Go ahead Ian. I have no objections and maybe it would help others looking for strings

Thanks Ian.

The strings are from Northern Renaissance Instruments in Manchester, England. The contact number is +44 (0)161 881 8134 and it was Bill that made the strings for me. The following details are from the invoice:

1st d string Low Twist Gut 18thou

2nd b string Low Twist Gut 20thou

3rd g string Low Twist Gut 22.5 thou

4th c string Close Wound Silver Plated Copper on Silk 43 thou

5th g string Low Twist Gut 18 thou

I had strings 1-4 made 90cm long for my banjo. The 5th can be made up to around 150cm and cut as required.

As a beginner to classic playing, I can't comment on how these strings compare to what else is available and being used by other players. However, I only use gut on my violins, my fretless tackhead and early flush fret banjos and this new set feels and sounds as good as I had hoped.

Bill was, as always extremely helpful and efficient and I can't recommend NRI highly enough.

Kind regards, Ian.

hello, is it possible to have guts strings for minstrel banjo? for tuning in .. d G D F # A?

Hi Anthony,

Yes, NRI made these:

1st a string Low Twist Gut 27 thou

2nd f# string Low Twist Gut 36 thou

3rd d string High Twist Gut 45 thou

4th a string Silver wound on silk 5.5 kg

5th d string Low Twist Gut 27 thou

I have one set tuned to d G D F# A and another set tuned to e A E G# B

Kind regards, Ian.

Hi Par, nick and RL,

I'm reposting this because I don't know how to add it to you current thread.

I will join in your conversation with more information.



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Thanks Ian.

I do try to understand how these things work and follow straightforward instructions, but always seem to end up with a different result. 


Thanks Ian!  I have been looking for some gut strings.


Hi Par, nick and RL,

I'm reposting this because I don't know how to add it to you current thread.

I will join in your conversation with more information.


So, I'm a bit confused about this with the historical string gauges.

Just read on Gamut Strings homepage:

"Banjos were very popular in the United States in the late 1800s, and, consequently, there are lots of strings that survive for us to measure and copy. From the ones in the Gamut collection, it is evident that violin strings were repurposed and relabeled as banjo strings for the first, second, third and fifth positions with a guitar fourth string used for the banjo fourth.

The Banjo first string is gut with a gauge of .56mm 
The Banjo second string is gut with a gauge of .76mm 
The Banjo third string is gut with a gauge of 1.04mm 
The Banjo fourth string is gut wound with silverplate wire with a gauge of .82mm 
The Banjo fifth string is gut with a gauge of .56mm"

That's a bit thicker than the last set I ordered from Kürschner, and they do feel a bit thick. To much tension.

Could it be that they have been measuring strings meant for A tuning?

Also, I recall reading in some old tutor book (can't remeber from which one from the top of my head) that a violin first string (e'') should be used as a third string for the banjo. A violin first string is around 0,55-0,60 mm thick. That would support the very thin gauges that Joel recomends and that others have also measured from original strings. 

Although, a year ago or so, I contacted Kürschner and mentioned what kind of strings I wanted, with the tuning and exact length of strings, no mentioning of string tension or anything. The result and the suggested strings I got from them was:

1st and 5th: 0,56 mm, 2nd 0,76 mm and 3rd 1,04 mm. That is the exact same thickness as Gamut! (maybe Kürschner didn't calculate and just took the measurments from Gamut...)

Could it be that the taste has changed over the years?

What are your thoughts?

Hi Pär,

So there seems to be speculation and documentation. 

The sizes I give are based on what was used by Fred Van Eps when nylon came out.  We have measured strings that he installed on banjos.  These sizes were also given in the "5 Stringer".

We (meaning myself, and John Cohen) have measured many original unused strings, gut, silk, rayon, and nylon.  These strings all measure right around the sizes we give (within .001).  Some are smaller with the first being a scant .016".  Often we will find third strings that are thicker hitting right around .026-.028".

The real problem comes when one says "19th century".  That covers a lot of years and a music that was rapidly changing (with instruments in tandem).

Early banjos were using double length violin or guitar strings.  As soon as the banjo became popular enough to support importing specific strings they got thinner.  The pitch got higher too.  By the mid 1880s (about 1884) the pitch arrived at C (what we use today).

And by that time the strings become the thickness that I give (more or less). The notches in original bridges, nuts, and tailpieces all add to the evidence of thinner strings.  In fact, many people have tried to make the argument for common use of wire strings because of the small notches in nuts and holes in tailpieces.  But this is based on the modern idea that thick strings were used.

Where this thick string fashion came from I don't know.  As I like to speculate, I would suggest that it came from the attempt of people trying to simulate wire string tensions.   At some point it became a "fact" that one has to disprove (like much of "old time" banjo's fads).

Now, if one had a preconceived notion about how thick the strings are one could search out and find strings that size.  After all, there were a lot of people jumping on the banjo fad bandwagon.  Certainly some jobbers were happily shoving violin strings in envelopes they had printed for banjo strings.  And if one were to ignore the big picture of popular banjo playing and narrowly focus in on their presentist vision of history then they could make a case for thicker strings.

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