Rüdiger Helbig may be the most popular banjo picker in Germany, so much so that he is credited for helping create and nurture the bluegrass scene in Western Europe. His band, Huckleberry Five, tours the continent bringing American-style music to appreciative crowds, and since 1979 his music store, FolkLaden, has served as a source of instruments and accessories for Germany’s thriving folk music community.
Recently Helbig was called upon by the Ortega Guitar company to hep them design a line of budget-priced banjos for the European market, and this month they have introduced a set of banjo strings that bear his name and likeness. Their Rüdiger Helbig Signature Bluegrass Banjo Strings are made with a special steel alloy which he says last longer and provide better intonation as they age.
“The steel itself is a little harder then normal. They last longer then the normal ones on the market. The wound string .022” has a thinner metal inside of the nickel wounding for better bending on the low D and better sustain. I already have tried them out and I’m very satisfied! The sustain is much better then on regular made strings. Good for playing slow stuff!”
The full gauges are as follows:
Each package contains an extra .010” string in case you break a first or fifth string. The sets carry a list price of €6.95, and be found at any Ortega dealer in Europe. The company expects to have them distributed in the US sometime in 2015.
Rüdiger also hosts a bluegrass camp in the Spring south of his home in Munich. You can find more details about Bluegrass Camp Germany online. Next year’s instructors include Greg Cahill, Clay Jones, Jesse Cobb, and Phil Leadbetter.