View Full Version : 17 fret string guages

Mike Snyder
Jul-02-2008, 10:17pm
Can anyone save me some headaches and tell me what guage strings I need to use to get my 17 fret tenor banjo into GDAE tuning? I started with an Irish tenor set from D-a-dairy-o and they're VERY floppy. I'm guessing I need to be over .040 on the G, but really would like to know if anyone is tuning their 17 this way. Sorry if this is old news. I looked, and can't find anything.

Jul-02-2008, 10:42pm
How long is the scale? A seventeen fret on a ten inch head has a different length to one on a 12. Measure from the nut to the twelfth fret, then multiply by two. (The reason I'm suggesting that is ... the bridge may not be placed correctly as it's set up.)

GDae tenor banjos generally have a 'growly' tone whereas the C tuned instruments have a tendency of being brighter sounding. The measured length of your scale will really make guesstimating a lot more accurate.

Mike Snyder
Jul-02-2008, 10:54pm
It's an 11 inch pot. I'm at work, so I can't measure. Don't tell my boss!

Mike Snyder
Jul-02-2008, 11:16pm
He doesn't care anyway. The intonation is really quite good, so I'm sure the bridge is in the right spot. Just strings so floppy that too much pressure above the fret makes the pitch go high.

Celtic Saguaro
Jul-03-2008, 9:43am
The D'Addario set works fine for my 17 fretter. Unless you have some other problem, it sounds like the scale is very short on your banjo.

Jul-03-2008, 12:22pm
Are you using the D'Adarrio J63i set? If I remember that set has a 36 G string which is very light for a 17 fret instrument. I don't like them on any banjo I own including the 19 fret instruments. Get a set of D'Addario Octave mandolin strings. They should do much better on your banjo.

fred d
Jul-03-2008, 2:21pm
http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sleepy.gif I play a 17 fret irish banjo and use a 43 guitar string for the G /// E,13 A 20 D 30 G 43 this seems to help sounds like octive mandolin???

Jul-03-2008, 2:27pm
Try the tenor banjo set from Lark in the Morning, designed by Mickey Zekely who actually plays irish tenor (and very well I might add). The g and d strings are wound nylon, as used in classical guitar, and to my ear sound taut without sounding harsh. I had them on my 17 fret (which I sold) and they sound great on my paramount (19 fret).
Happy picking!

Eddie Sheehy
Jul-03-2008, 3:01pm
I don't know if this will work on a Tenor Banjo, but works great on an Octave mandolin - use Mandola strings (J72) and tune them GDAE. The bass string is a whopping .049. Hope they're long enough....

.014, .023, .034, .049.

Mike Snyder
Jul-03-2008, 8:13pm
Thanks alot guys. This is exactly the info I needed.

Will Morgan
Aug-10-2008, 4:15am
John Pearse makes three sets for Irish tenor banjo. The heavy gauge set is 13, 20, 30, and 40, and worked quite well for my 20" scale length tenor. These strings can be had from Elderly Instruments, and are far better than the D'Addario strings, which are too light for even my 23" tenor. Also, the Pearse strings are bronze, whereas the D'Addario set are nickel-silver - not as good, in my opinion.

Will Morgan

Aug-10-2008, 7:38am
This is a typical banjo discussion as to what will work and what will not.

I don't think that there is any question that a 17 fret banjo (which tends to be short scaled in the 19" range) will benefit from heavier gage strings. The D'Addario J-63i set is simply too small as a short scale instrument needs at least a 40 G string to not sound floppy. It is simple physics.

However, the string composition is another issue. I have a number of tenor banjos and found that string composition is an individual issue for each banjo. I have two banjos that sound best with nickel/steel wound strings while the rest of them sound best with bronze strings. Unlike bluegrass banjos which are all clones of Gibson, there are a variety of makers and designs that need a different approach for each as far as setup goes. The banjos that sound best with steel/nickel on my collection are a Langstile IV (which has an 11 and a half inch head) and my FQMS/Gold Tone Masterclone that I put together myself. The first is a mahogany/holly banjo made to compete with the Vega Little Wonder while the latter is an all maple Gibson clone.

The bottom line is that while scale usually dictates the string gage (within the limits of stress, of course), the rest is a matter of try and fit until you find an optimal sound. Each manufacturer of banjos imbues a specific sound to the banjo that is unlike any of the others (unless they are cloning of course) and you can't make a Vega into a B&D no matter how hard you try. Heads, head tension, bridges, string material, tailpiece, and picks all make a difference in the sound (usually in that order) but will not change the signature sound. Setup is a matter of getting all the parts in harmony as best you can. It is not brain surgery, but it does take time as each time you change a component, you have to let it play in for a while before you pass judgment.

Aug-13-2008, 1:46pm
Have you tried Newtone Phospho Bronze tenor banjo strings (made in England) on your 17-fret? They range from 0.012 to 0.038. I have on my 17-fret Vega tubaphone (large head) and they seem to work just fine -- granted, I'm new at this.