Best Banjo Strings Review – Top Rated Units in 2020 with Buying Guide
In this article you can find the best strings for banjos, especially if you don’t have much time on your hand. Our team has critically analyzed some of the most popular items in this category, they have consulted reviews of banjo strings and they came to the conclusion that the D’Addario J61 set of five strings is the one that you should consider. They are made of the highest quality steel, they come in a variety of gauges and they deliver a brilliant, well rounded tone. If you are unable to find our first option, then you should look for the GHS Strings PF150 set that comes with almost similar characteristics.
Our Top Choice
These are D'Addario's most popular banjo strings, and they are ideal for all playing styles especially since the sound they deliver is as neutral as possible. Moreover, the model was constructed from nickel-plated steel for a bright tone and a smooth feel. Plus, this is a material that guarantees their long life.
Some say that this improved model doesn't have the same sound and vibe as the older versions.
The strings come with a loop-end construction for a universal fit, and the fact that they are made in the USA is the only guarantee of quality you need. Their harmonious sound is also famous all around the world.
You cannot go wrong with these strings if you're looking for durability. They rock extra large loop ends and have a 42" winding length so they can fit a large variety of tailpieces and banjos. The set of singles also features the GHS Lock Twist to ensure your strings stay in tune no matter how hard or often you play your instrument.
Their one major downside is the fact that they don't have the smoothest texture on the market.
Each of the pieces in the set is sealed in a nitrogen environment where there's no oxygen and then assembled in a tear-resistant package. Most buyers praised them for their consistency and lasting intonation.
Nobody can deny that the strings are ideal for those looking for sonic versatility. They are specially designed for the Irish Tenor Banjo and have a loop-end construction that is compatible with a wide range of instruments. Lastly, note that they are crafted from nickel-plated steel for pleasant tonality that lasts for a long time.
Because they are designed for the Irish Tenor Banjo, they might not suit other banjos as well.
You need to know that the model has a smooth feel and long life and that it is fabricated in the US. They come from a trusted brand and will be kind to your fingers as you play them for extended periods.
7 Best Banjo Strings (Reviews) in 2020
When looking for banjo strings for sale, it can be hard to find the ones that will sound exactly like you want, but, researching through specialized forums, banjo strings reviews and sales figures, we found that the following banjo strings are some of the most reliable and you should consider them.
- 1. D’Addario J61 Nickel-Plated Steel Medium 5-String Banjo Strings
- 2. GHS PF150 10 Phosphor Bronze 5-String Banjo Set
- 3. D’Addario J63i Irish Tenor Banjo Strings, Nickel, 12 – 36
- 4. D’Addario EJ55 Medium Banjo Strings – Phosphor Bronze
- 5. Elixir Banjo Sets Ultra-Thin Polyweb Coating – Medium
- 6. Aquila Red Series AQ-11B Banjo Strings – Medium Tension
- 7. LaBella BG110 Stainless Steel Banjo Strings, Light
- Yearly guide and report
1. D’Addario J61 Nickel-Plated Steel Medium 5-String Banjo Strings
Made in the USA, this set of five strings are produced from the highest quality plain steel, phosphorous bronze and they are plated with nickel. To make them suitable for all preferences, the strings come in a wide variety of gauges. This is D’Addario’s most popular set of strings.
It provides the ideal combination of playing tension and bright tone. The loop end construction is made for universal fit. Trusted by legendary musicians for their reliability and original tone, they have unsurpassed quality and provide consistency.
The strings are a good choice for any bluegrass musician. They are easy to install, and beginners will have no real issues restringing their banjo. The light strings are preferred by most of the users of this set. People have used them for several months, and the strings haven’t broken. When played properly they deliver a bright ring and they have a well-rounded tone.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($6.18)
2. GHS PF150 10 Phosphor Bronze 5-String Banjo Set
What characterizes these five strings is the quality of production and the care that the manufacturer offers to each of them. This set is made of phosphorous bronze and manufactured in a state-of-the-art facility that offers climate control. It is all done with the purpose of not altering the manufacturing process. The quality of these strings is ensured by the usage of the purest materials and precision equipment.
They offer consistency, quality, and sturdiness, an intonation that will last, and harmonious sounds. The ends are looped and specially designed to fit all banjo styles and they are thus easy to equip. For more durability, each string is sealed in a nitrogen pack that eliminates all oxygen. Whether you use the whole set or you only need one string, these packs guarantee fresh quality.
The length of the strings is 42 inches; an extra long winding that is made to fit a variety of banjos and tailpieces. Each string features the GHS Lock Twist that helps the instrument stay in tune for a longer time.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($7.45)
3. D’Addario J63i Irish Tenor Banjo Strings, Nickel, 12 – 36
This set is designed for the Irish Tenor Banjo. For a bright tone that will last for a long time, they are made of quality plain steel and nickel plated steel. Different gauges are available, but the .012 A strings are preferred by most players.
In the case of Irish music, the role of the banjo is to play the song note for note, that’s why strings specifically designed for that purpose are needed. Many of the Irish instrumentals have very strong melodic lines and the banjo is expected to follow these lines.
Generally, the strings are heavier than the lightweight ones used for normal tuning. That means that they don’t vibrate as hard and don’t move too much, so playing is more stable. As most quality strings, these ones have a loopend design, to suit the length of all banjos.
The environmentally friendly packaging ensures that they are always kept safe and won’t suffer from corrosion.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($6.95)
4. D’Addario EJ55 Medium Banjo Strings – Phosphor Bronze
Medium sized, these strings are made of plain steel, but the fourth string is covered in phosphorous bronze. This arrangement provides more warmth, brightness and a more balanced tone. The ends are looped for universal fit. Although marketed as medium, the strings can also be used as light ones.
The advantage of the medium sized strings is that they tend to stay in tune for a longer time, and the tone is deeper, which can be a good feature for some players, depending on preference. A problem that the looped ends have is that, when installing and locking them better in the tail piece, the strings sometimes break. But that is not an issue with these ones.
Even when played too softly, a banjo equipped with this set will still bring out a warm and snappy sound. The quality of the material makes the strings easy on the fingers and on the picks as well.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($4.24)
5. Elixir Banjo Sets Ultra-Thin Polyweb Coating – Medium
This set is produced for five-string banjos and the strings are made of quality materials in order to deliver the most professional tone. There is a nice balance of nickel wrapped strings and plain steel strings that you can find in this set, and through this combination the result is a brighter and more defined sound.
The quality materials and manufacturing method ensure a great tone and a longer lifespan. The polyweb treatment that these strings are subject to makes them sound brighter for longer. Because they are well coated, you will not have to worry about gunk building up on them and killing your tone.
Changing the strings on a banjo can be a problem, as you have to adjust the floating bridge as well. Also, keeping the instrument in tune can be another issue, but fortunately both of these problems are easier solved with these quality strings.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($8.95)
6. Aquila Red Series AQ-11B Banjo Strings – Medium Tension
Bringing out the best in any banjo, this set of strings provides the players of all levels with a comfortable feel and a superior sound quality. The manufacturers of this set avoid using the method of increasing the gauge for lower frequencies because that makes the strings less bright and more muffled.
To reach those lower sounds, these banjo strings have the weight of the material they are made of slightly changed. And the results can be observed — all the instruments that use them sound brighter and more powerful.
Also, unlike thicker strings, that need to be fretted harder, these ones are not pulled so hard out of tune and thus they maintain their intonation better. This is a set that is suitable for those players that like clear and sharp sounds from all the notes of their instrument. The improved composite material absorbs less moisture and ensures tuning stability.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($9.95)
7. LaBella BG110 Stainless Steel Banjo Strings, Light
This is a good set for a full six-string banjo. Like most other strings, these use a loop end to easily attach to a variety of tuning pegs, making life easier for those inexperienced players that use a banjo for beginners. For the small two gauges they use plain steel, but the four lower strings are of stainless steel wound silk. This gives the banjo’s tone a rounder and warmer echo that sounds so well in folk music.
The overall vibration is fuller and darker than similar sets, because the strings are generally larger. This also means that they will last longer and stay in tune better as a result of their sturdiness. This set is definitely worth the investment.
The quality materials used and the fabrication process will ensure that you can play them for a long time with no problem. A good set of six strings is harder to find, because they are not so popular, but these can make you enjoy playing six-stringed banjos.
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Yearly guide and report
Buying banjo strings is almost an art in itself. That’s because it’s a decision based on personal preference, and there is no preset norm on what strings you should get. Even so, in this guide we will give you some tips and piece of advice on how to choose the best banjo strings for you.
Number of strings
Each banjo has its specification regarding the number of strings it can use. If you attach more strings to a banjo you will have the possibility to reach lower pitched sounds. The strings that produce heavier sounds are usually more durable and are wound.
The banjos that use four strings don’t require the wound ones; these sets are made of plain steel and they have a sound that is bright and light. The most commonly used banjos are the ones with five strings. These have a wound string, that being the fourth one. Depending on how long the neck is or what the banjo is destined to be used for, an additional wound string is added.
The sets of strings consisting of six pieces are highly customizable and differ a lot. Fortunately many manufacturers make sets of strings intended for precise styles of playing, so you can always find a set of good banjo strings.
Unlike other instruments where the rules are precise, when discussing banjo strings, gauges can vary a lot, depending on preference. Some banjo players only enjoy playing light strings; others say that if you want to enjoy the full range of sounds that a banjo can produce, you should choose medium gauge strings.
Due to the fact that players have different techniques, before you choose the strings for you, make sure to experiment a lot. This being said, heavier gauges are harder to play, and thus, beginners would want to stay away from them. Although the lighter strings can’t perform the whole array of notes and tones, most techniques are easier to execute on them.
A crisp and clear tone is simple to obtain with lightweight strings. But they come with the disadvantage that they break faster. If you want more volume and you play your banjo harder, heavy strings should be used. They are also good in live performances because they produce less microphone feedback and interferences.
The construction of your banjo should also be taken into consideration. Stronger strings will pull more on the banjo’s neck and possibly weaken it, with the risk of bringing the instrument out of tune. That is why vintage banjos should generally use light strings.
When learning to play a banjo it is advised to start with the small gauge strings, until you know a few techniques. After you feel that you have learned enough, you can go ahead and purchase more sets, of different gauges, and experiment with them.
Most used materials
Each banjo string maker uses different materials and alloys for its sets. That’s why strings with the same gauge can sound different from one brand to another, but they will sound good on the perfect banjo. The biggest differences can be found between the plain strings, rather than the wound ones.
The only wound string that is usually found in the sets of five is the fourth string. Some long-neck banjos need to have the third string wound as well, because of the more aggressive style of play that is associated with these types of banjos. If you are reading the description of a set, the wound string is marked with a “w” that follows the gauge number.
One of the most popular alloys used in banjo strings is nickel-plated steel. It has a smooth feel and it produces a bright tone with strong projection. The wound string is usually made of phosphor bronze and it produces a warmer tone. Stainless steel is an alternative to nickel because it’s resistant to corrosion and it produces a balanced tone.
Some manufacturers choose to coat their strings with a polymer in order to reduce corrosion and extend the lifespan. This influences the sound, depending on the manufacturer.
It doesn’t matter who produces the strings and what they are made of, eventually, if you play the instrument for long enough, they will need to be replaced. Good sets should last for a month if the banjo is played intensively.
If you let the banjo lay around for too long, some cheap banjo strings can be affected by corrosion. Keep changing the strings every time you feel they don’t have the sound you want.
Finally, if you found this guide useful and you want to learn more about stringed instruments, you can also have a look at our guides and reviews of the right ukulele strings, quality violin strings, easy-to-learn acoustic guitars, or great mandolins for beginners.