As with many stringed instruments, there are many different options when it comes to banjitar strings.
Just like with a guitar or a banjo, there are a ton of differences in strings you can use on the banjitar.
And for the most part, there is no right or wrong type of banjitar string for your instrument.
Different players have varying personal preferences when it comes to the sorts of strings they use.
Some factors to consider include the gauge (size) of the strings themselves, their coating, and the way they’re wound.
The same choices apply to your selection of banjitar strings.
My personal favorite strings to use on both my banjitar and my guitar are extra light elixirs — I currently have them on my guitar and my banjitar.
These strings are guitar strings, but I use them as banjitar strings as well!
It’s worth noting that you should be able to use any of your favorite guitar strings on the banjitar as well.
But let’s dive into some factors to consider when thinking about strings.
(And if you want to learn more about what the banjitar is, check out my post all about this instrument.)
String Gauge: How Does This Apply to Banjitar Strings?
String gauge is a very important factor to take into consideration when choosing strings.
This applies to both guitar strings and banjitar strings.
And, the selection of string gauge is highly personal.
The best thing to do is to choose whatever is most comfortable for you.
Since everybody is different, obviously string choice is somewhat subjective.
The extra light elixirs I mentioned that I have on my banjitar are 10 gauge.
The gauge basically means the thickness of the strings follows a pattern.
String gauge is usually defined by the width of the first string on the instrument in inches times 1,000.
For example, the first string on the extra light elixirs I recommend has a width of .01 inches.
And because the remaining strings follow the typical gauge pattern associated with a first string width of .01 inches, these strings would be called tens (that’s .01 inches times 1,000).
Again, that means that the lightest string (the high e) measures one thousandth of an inch.
“Tens” are the most common string gauge for both guitar and banjitar strings.
But, as I’ve mentioned, it’s totally up to the player to pick the string gauge (s)he is most comfortable with.
As an example, Stevie Ray Vaughan got his enormously fat Stratocaster tone from playing thirteens.
A string set of thirteens has a first-string width of .013 inches.
The remaining strings in a set of thirteen would be similarly heavy in gauge compared to a set of tens.
Thirteens are massive strings — the heavier the gauge, the harder the strings are to bend and manipulate.
Stevie Ray also had massive hands which certainly helped him rip through such heavy strings!
Alternatively, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top (another monster of tone) uses eights, which are extremely light and much easier to play.
Both players have an incredible and iconic sound, yet they use complete opposite gauges of strings.
All that to say, string gauge is largely subjective.
Also, you can get a great sound from your instruments and strings whether you use heavy or light gauge strings.
Bearing all of this in mind, the banjitar does not need to be any different.
Since you string and tune it just like a guitar, all of this still applies to banjitar strings as well!
What do light, medium, and heavy mean in the context of string gauge?
When it comes to choosing strings, they are most commonly known by the number of the lightest string, like I mentioned.
My extra light elixirs would simply be known as tens since that is the width of the high e string in that set times 1,000.
Likewise, Stevie Ray Vaughans’ set would be called thirteens, and Billy Gibbons set would be called eights.
But the weight (light, medium, heavy, etc…) have to do with the sizing of the strings as well.
As I’ve said, strings often follow a pattern when it comes to their gauge.
For example, in my pack of tens the pack says the full measurement is 0.010 to 0.047.
That means all the strings follow a sizing pattern from the lowest (0.010) to the highest (0.047).
All the other weights typically follow a similar pattern relative to its first string.
Here is a table to help visualize the way gauges typically work:
This table is in no way conclusive; not every single light, medium, and heavy string set will follow those exact measurements.
That said, these are the measurements commonly found in all of these different weights and gauge names.
Of course, there are many exceptions such as extra light (like mine, which are still tens) and extra heavy and so on.
Depending on the company, they also have different factors to consider like Ernie Ball‘s slinky.
There are also exceptions when it comes to specific strings.
This means that it’s possible for a player to order a custom set and ask for a specific string to be heavier, lighter, and so on.
Does all this apply to just banjitar strings?
No! These factors are typical features of strings for almost any stringed instrument.
So many of these concepts apply not just to the guitar but also the banjitar, the banjo, the mandolin, and so on.
Some manufacturers, like Goldtone, make strings specifically for the banjitar.
These are marketed as strings for a banjitar’s many names including the 6-string banjo or the ganjos instead of a banjitar.
If you read my post about the history of the banjitar, the difference between a banjitar and a 6-string banjo is the tuning.
You tune a banjitar like a guitar, while a 6-string banjo can be tuned in many other wars.
That said, you can also tune a banjitar in many different ways, just like a guitar itself.
After doing a quick search, the banjitar strings/6-string banjo strings I found were 10-52.
This is an example of a type of string that is still considered tens but do not strictly adhere to the number and measurements I put in the table.
This is an example of strings possible being different than what is in the table.
Namely, players who want a different sound will go for different measurements on different strings.
Players of heavy metal often go for heavier lower strings to get a deeper richer distorted sound from their instruments lower end.
So the custom gauge is “bottom heavy” in that case.
The banjitar strings I mentioned are an example of exactly that.
Seeing as the lower string is heavier than what is in the table above, the intention is to get a richer lower end out of the instrument.
Which is exactly why the banjitar (or 6-string banjo) originally became popular.
Where Can I Get Custom Banjitar Strings Then?
There are many different factors that contribute to choosing guitar strings.
Gauge and weight are some of the most important.
You can custom order your own personal set of banjitar strings by ordering strings one by one at Elixir’s website.
As you select your strings they let you pick the gauge of each of them, taking into consideration what you personally prefer as a player.
Obviously, the more strings and instruments someone plays, the more familiar they will be with how they feel.
The more familiar you become with how strings feel, the more you can start to figure out what you like and dislike.
From there you can order exactly what you want to from this website.
Maybe you’re the type of player who wants your banjitar strings exactly like your guitar strings — maybe not.
Perhaps you prefer a lighter sound on your banjitar — maybe not.
Maybe you’re like Stevie Ray Vaughan and prefer really thick heavy gauge strings.
Stevie Ray is an interesting example: he used thirteens but he also tuned his guitar down half a step to Eb.
Since his guitar was down half a step (the same way Jimi Hendrix would play) there was less tension on the strings.
With less tension on the strings, the thirteens aren’t as difficult to manipulate as they should be — they would play like elevens.
So even though he’s getting the tone of the thirteens he’s getting it with slightly more comfort.
Even though elevens too are heavier than the average, this is a very smart move on his part.
These are all different factors to take into consideration when you’re choosing your strings.
Like I’ve discussed, there are many different factors to consider when you’re trying to find what fits best for you as a player.
As with anything involving music, it is highly subjective and really demands the exploration to figure out what you like.
Certain players prefer really light gauge strings like Billy Gibbons, while others prefer heavier strings like Stevie Ray.
And just because these are two guitar players I’m mentioning doesn’t mean these are exclusive to the guitar.
Like I say continuously: the banjitar is basically half guitar.
So every single aspect that applies to the guitar and its strings applies to the banjitar (or 6-string banjo) like I’ve mentioned.
A player could certainly get interesting sounds out of a really thick gauge string on a banjitar.
Maybe someone will come out someday soon as the Stevie Ray Vaughan of the banjitar.
Or perhaps you prefer the lighter gauge strings and can still manage to get incredible tone, and you can be considered the Billy Gibbons of the banjitar.
It all comes down to personal preference and the way that you play.
I hope this article gave you some clarification on which strings to pick and what the terminology of strings all mean.
What sort of strings do you like to play on?
And which players have a sound that inspires you most?
Let me know in the comments!