If you’re in a hurry and looking for our top pick, we recommend the D’Addario EJ55 as one of the best banjo strings.
Banjo is a musical instrument that relies on the material and power of its strings. That’s why choosing a certain type of banjo strings has a significant effect on your tunes.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best banjo strings. We’ll also help you to decide which one is the most suitable for you, and how to place them in your banjo.
Top Banjo Strings
Here are our top Banjo strings that shall bring brightness to your tones and enhance your overall music performance. These top picks vary when it comes to features so that they can match different music tastes and preferences.
D’Addario is one of the most famous banjo strings’ producers. Their D’Addario EJ 55 is a phosphor bronze 5-string banjo string. The phosphors bronze adds warmth, brightness and balance to your tone.
D’Addario banjo strings were used by the famous banjo musician Ralph Stanely and are still used by the bluegrass musician Rob McCoury.
The strings have a medium gauge which makes them suitable for beginner and professional players. Some players might find medium strings hard to press on when compared to light ones, however, they are easy to learn on. They are also suitable for finger picking style of playing.
The Elixir banjo strings are known for their protective poly web coating. Coated strings reduce friction when playing. Elixir strings prolong your tones and reduce finger noise. They keep your tone bright and fresh for a longer time compared to other types of strings.
They’re protected against collecting large amounts of dirt, unlike other strings. Therefore, they are able to resist corrosion and abrasion. This naturally extends their lifespan.
Those banjo strings are both enduring and practical. The thick coating, however, can limit the strings’ vibration and depth of your tone.
The D’Addario EJ69 is one of the famous 5-string banjo gauges. The reason for its popularity goes to its widely known manufacturer and its light strings.
These strings are slack and give high-quality bright acoustic tones. Some players also consider the light strings the easiest to play and control.
The D’Addario strings provide crisp tones that improve the quality of your music. They don’t require any heavy pressing to reach the tone you want as well. Still, they need careful treatment as they are prone to get cut if harshly dealt with.
Those 5-string banjo strings are the American banjoist’s J. D. Crowe preferred gauges. They’re made of stainless steel that resists corrosion. They have a light gauge which gives you a bright and twangy tone.
The stainless steel gives those strings a balanced cutting tone. However, it can be very harsh on your fret in the long term so you need to be careful while using them not to damage your instrument.
Some players, especially beginners, find stainless steel very frail, which can make it hard to control your tone.
Named after the American musician Ernie Ball, these strings give crisp and ringing tones. They also stay in tone without stretching. The Ernie Ball strings size is very suitable for the clawhammer/frailing style of playing.
The Ernie Ball strings are made of 80/20 bronze (80% copper and 20% zinc). They come in frailing size as well as bluegrass size.
The name Vega has been associated with banjos since 1889, which makes them a trusted manufacturer when it comes to banjo accessories. Those strings are smooth and easy to slide on. They give raw banjo sounds that fit many styles.
Those Martin Vega strings are of medium gauge which gives full-bodied tones and can handle strong picks. They are made of nickel-plated steel to resist abrasion and corrosion.
What to Consider Before Purchasing Strings?
There’s a number of factors that you have to consider before you choose your strings. Personal style plays a significant role in what strings you will eventually buy. In addition to the type of your banjo, the material of the strings and their gauge.
Your Banjo Type
There are 3 main banjo types which are the 4-string banjo, the 5-string banjo, and the 6-string banjo. The type of your banjo determines the number of strings and the tuning and more.
The 4-string banjo, also known as pick banjo, is mostly played with a pick. It has two categories which are the tenor and the plectrum. It’s famous for being used in traditional Irish music.
The 5-string is the most known and used and so most manufacturers focus on them. It has more than 1 category as well like the parlor banjo and the long-neck banjo. They have different features and usage. If you are a beginner the 5-string is the most recommended one to master quickly.
The 6-string banjo is also famous and very close to guitars when it comes to playability. However, it sounds like a banjo, not a guitar.
The Material Of The Strings
The material of the strings is very crucial. The difference between materials can make you feel as if playing on a totally different instrument. There isn’t exactly a best material as it all goes to personal taste and the type of your banjo.
Strings are commonly made from:
- Stainless steel
- Phosphor bronze
- Nickel-plated steel
- Coated strings
Stainless Steel Strings
They are known for giving balanced and more cutting tones. They don’t easily corrode which makes them last longer than other materials. This makes GHS Strings PF140 J. D. Crowe Signature Series a safe long-lasting purchase.
However, the stainless strings can be harsh on your fret when playing. With time, this may wear out your banjo fret.
Phosphor Bronze Strings
The phosphor-bronze ones are known for the warm and airy tone they provide. The phosphor added to it helps make it corrosion-resistant for as much as possible.
They’re good with finger picking style of playing. The D’Addario EJ55 is a good choice if the warm tone and endurance are what you are searching for.
These strings give you a smooth feeling and a clean tone. They’re very suitable for bluegrass music. The Martin V730 Vega Banjo Strings is your best choice if you’re a bluegrass huge fan. They also don’t quickly wear out your fret as stainless steel.
Coated strings are corrosion-resistant with a long lifespan. They keep the sound bright for long. The Elixir Banjo Strings is a good choice if you want your strings to sound fresh for a long time.
Still, the tone they can give highly depends on the brand and the quality of the strings. However, coated strings can reduce the depth of the sound of your banjo.
The nylon banjo strings are more suitable for banjo ukuleles than other types of banjos. They give dark and very warm tones.
The gauge of your strings is simply their thickness level. It’s mostly categorized as light, medium and heavy.
The gauge of your strings is also a matter of personal taste. People tend to prefer one type over another for its playability or tone.
Light gauge is sometimes considered a suitable choice for both beginners and professionals. That’s what makes the D’Addario EJ69 on the top list of banjo accessories.
It brings out subtle and crisp tones. Light strings also don’t require heavy pressing when playing on them.
However, some consider this a disadvantage as it makes them slack and can be easily overplayed if not handled carefully. Another downside is that light strings have a shorter lifespan and are prone to get cut.
The medium gauge is likely to give a full-bodied tone. It also tends to stay in tune longer than a light gauge. Medium gauge strings can handle strong picks. That makes the D’Addario EJ55 If you prefer using picks to finger picking.
Still, some heavy pressing is needed to get your tone right. When choosing medium gauge you may sacrifice playability for the sake of the tone.
This gauge is recommended in case of searching for deep and warm tones. They give volume and strength. However, they aren’t suitable for beginners.
Some people might find strings with a heavy gauge hard to play for the need of pressing to get your tone right. It’s also important to make sure that the neck of your banjo can handle their weight.
When choosing a preferred gauge you may need to experiment with some to decide which is your type. The same gauge in different brands is likely to sound different as well.
It’s also important to check your banjo’s manufacturer’s recommendation not to cause any damage to your instrument.
How to Replace Your Banjo Strings?
Deciding when it’s time to change your banjo string can be tricky. It’s important to change the strings when their lifespan is over. Strings that are kept longer than they should will decrease the quality of your music performance. They will also affect the smoothness of your banjo’s playability.
Removing Old Strings
When removing old strings, it’s very important to change one string at a time. Don’t cut all strings at once. You will need to keep some strings attached to the bridge so it won’t fall out or change place.
Placing New Strings
You also need to place the new strings carefully not to damage them. A lot of strings, especially light strings, are likely to damage if handled harshly.
To Wrap Up
The D’Addario EJ55 is by far our top pick. It’s suitable for both beginners and professionals which makes it a safe purchase. The phosphors-bronze strings shall last for long. Moreover, with medium gauge, they will provide a warm, full-bodied and lasting tone.
The Elixir Banjo Strings comes second for its durability and corrosion resistance. They can take heavy pick playing. The D’Addario EJ69 follows third with its crisp acoustic tone. Their light gauge is likely to give a subtle high-quality tone that other gauges can’t provide.