View Full Version : Strings for a Weymann Mandolin Banjo

Dec-01-2015, 7:21am
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I have an old mando-banjo that belonged to my great grandfather. It needs some serious repair work, but I'd love to get it playing again. I met a fellow at a jam a while ago who played one, and he recommended nylgut strings to mellow the sound. It seems like Aquila isn't making a nylgut set for mandolins anymore, but they do have something in their "Red" series. Has anyone had any experience with Aquila Red strings? Any other recommendations for good mando-banjo strings? Last time I checked, only GHS were making a dedicated set for the instrument.


Dec-01-2015, 12:58pm
Well, nylon strings generally will de-metallicize and lower the "raucous" quotient. On the other hand, mandolin-banjos were designed to be played with steel strings. Some will dampen the head with a cloth or sponge between the head and the dowel stick, inside the pot.

You could probably put together a "mandolin" set out of Aquila strings, with some trial and error on gauges. I'd be inclined to try a set of light-gauge mandolin strings first. The other variable is the head, both composition and tightness. From what I see you have a "vintage" calfskin/goatskin head, and those tend to be "mellower" than modern Mylar. And if you don't tighten the brackets to the extreme, leave the head a bit "floppy," you also cut the "edge" of the sound.

Dec-01-2015, 5:23pm
I usually but two sets of tenor banjo strings, most mandolin sets are too heavy for the banjo part and are not needed. You don't see a heavier string on a banjo than a 25 or so. A 28 G string would be plenty heavy and it will keep the sound more mellow than heavier mandolin strings. They will also keep the head from sagging so much from the tension difference.

Dec-02-2015, 5:48am
One of the reasons the nylon strings interest me is that they ease the tension a bit. The poor thing sat in its case for decades with the strings at tension, and as a result the dowell stick snapped.

Dec-02-2015, 10:06am
The light strings of the tenor will be much less than normal. When your dowel stick broke did it break at an angle? I would glue it and wrap it with locking wraps of string over the break. If you want you can put glue on the string wrap to make it stronger. If it is a square dowel like most are you can glue a splice over the break to strengthen.

Dec-02-2015, 10:16am
Aquila is making nylgut strings again, new compound..

Sept post by company rep, http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?118634-new-Aquila-mandolin-strings-ready-for-tests

Rim stick - neck joints are often loose on old banjos ..

Right Way: Mortise .. drill out neck make Tenon pin to go in it ,,
angle cut to make glue surface longer and use rest of rim stick.

Luthier repair done on one of mine like that..

Dec-02-2015, 12:39pm
You may also want to consider setting it up as a four string, like a Tango banjo or also known as a short scale tenor. Rework or replace the nut and bridge and string to the four best tuners.

The problem with banjolins, especially small pot versions, is the brightness and unwanted overtones. There is also a heck of a lot of string tension when tuned to pitch with eight strings. Go to four strings and you will cut the overtones and string tension in half. If you end up with pre-packaged steel mandolin strings you will get two sets for a four stringer.

Here is an image of a British Zither banjo I rehabbed some years ago, all eight strings and the hide head is 7 3/4" diameter. This little banjo is extremely bright and is probably only good for clearing a room full of people or getting yourself removed from jam lists. It looks nice on my wall though. Allenhopkins observation of using a hide head that is not to tight and adding dampening is good advice!


Tango banjos where typically used as melody instruments in Ragtime and early jazz but are certainly not limited to those styles. Here is an example of an eight string banjolin that has been converted to a four string instrument. It has a full sized 11" pot, which is not quite as bright as smaller pots can be but still has the ability to raise the hair on the back of your neck when in the wrong hands. This is Fiddlin' Banjo Billy Mathews on what he calls a "Wacker", accompanied by two 5 stringers and me on the tenor banjo tuned like an octave mandolin. A friend took the video and had a bit a trouble so part of the beginning is not there but it just cropped the first tune in a medley of four.


Also check out The Ragtime Skedaddlers for more examples in the hands of a skilled player.

The Nylgut Red strings sound pretty good and are a thinner diameter than their White Nylguts. I have only experimented with them on my wife's 5 string though but have been tempted to try a set on one of my tenor banjos. May be worth a try.

Banjos can be fussy to set up, good luck with the project.

Dec-04-2015, 2:49pm
Another Aka Is Melody banjo.. Vega foe example made some .. Tried one..
1:1 Friction tuners are not good with short scale steel strings ..

even with nylon strings the purchase of Gotoh's 4:1 uke planetary tuners was a good improvement..