How to Change Banjo Strings
Changing Banjo Strings
Here are some tips on how to change banjo strings that I've learned and taught over the years. It's a very good idea that you change your strings regularly so your banjo will sound it's best and will stay in tune. Regularly is dependent on how often you play, the climate you live in, whether you keep the banjo covered or leave it out and if you wipe off the strings after use. Other factors include things you can't control like the natural oils in your fingers; some folks just wear out strings quicker than others.
When do I know if I should change strings?
The 4th string which is a wound string will wear out first, its starts to sound dull with a loss in volume and tone. The others will wear out too and the first sign you must change the strings is when they won’t stay in tune or they just don't respond the way the way should. If you run your fingers down the strings and feel bumps on the strings then for sure it is time for a change. The "bumps" are caused by moisture and dirt, you can minimize this by wiping your strings off after use and keeping the banjo covered. I change my strings when the 4th string loses noticeable sustain and volume and they won't stay in tune properly. For me, the third string usually is the first to start not holding tune. You develop a sense both through hearing and touch when the strings just aren't performing the way they should and have started to go downhill. Strings are reasonable for banjo players so the cost should not deter you and once you get a routine changing your strings it doesn't take long at all. Banjo Strings
Tips on Changing Banjo Strings
First tip seems obvious enough but it should be pointed out just in case which is that you change the strings one string at a time. There are several good reasons for this but the most important is so the bridge stays in the same place. Its also much easier to tune when changing one string at a time.
Stretching the Strings
When Changing Strings, once you have tuned them to pitch it’s important that you stretch them. You do this by pulling straight up on the string with some force to pull the slack out of it. After you've done that you will notice the string has dropped in pitch considerably. Now, tune the string back up and keep repeating this process until after you pull and stretch the string it does not drop in pitch or need to be retuned. I can say with confidence if you don't stretch your strings when you put them on they will give you trouble keeping them in tune as long as they are on your banjo. Types of Banjo Strings
Here is a link to a free video on changing banjo strings, resetting or changing a banjo bridge and tightening the banjo head.Free Changing Banjo Strings Video
Tips on what banjo string gauges to use
Thanks, Ross Nickerson
Ross Nickerson is the author of The Banjo Encyclopedia "Bluegrass Banjo A to Z" along with over twenty other books and DVDs
to help others learn to play 5-string bluegrass banjo.