String gauges refer to the string’s diameter. There are plenty of variations, such as, instead of using .009, you can use .010. Some light gauges have .014 3rd strings.
The typical medium gauges will be something like .011, .023, .015, .012, .011. Some include .010 in place of .011, or in place of .023, .022.
There are samples of some string diameters that are “generalized” for giving the users a sense of a “medium” gauge vs a string with a “light” gauge. These gauges sound and feel different.
What gauge are banjo strings?
Different types of gauge strings: Light gauge strings
These types of strings are known for bass and brightness that is utterly pronounced and has a soft mid-range response. It can’t be played well without over-driving or distorting the string.
Heavy gauge Strings
These are not very common and are mostly mid-range. It has less bass and less brightness as compared to the medium gauge. These types of strings are used by players who need to play very hard & who need to approach the audience without amplification of the instrument.
Medium Gauge strings
These types of gauge strings are known for clean bass and a good mid-range. It includes less brightness. It works best for those players who need to play the instrument with a very hard attack.
Jens Kruger plays with string sets which can be included in the category of medium gauge strings. Larry McNeely, from an old show named Glen Campbell, played with the light string gauges ever! Doug Dillard also played with light strings. On the other hand, Tony Trishka plays with a medium gauge. Earl Scruggs used to play with light gauge for several years & then shifted to heavier strings later. All these master players were very comfortable with the different gauge strings and excelled individually.
If you are a new player that is a beginner, it is of course best to stick with the light gauge strings for the 1styear or so. Develop some skills first. At that time, you may wish to purchase different sets of gauges&begin experiments with them. Keep a note of the installation date of the new strings from the package. Also, note what you do & do not like about these strings as it may help zero in on a preferred set.
Criteria of the best banjo strings
There are no perfect answers to the question about the best gauges. Because every manufacturer uses different manufacturing processes and alloys. Strings from 2 different makers with the same alloy and nominal gauge may sound and feel different to your fingers and years. Many players of Banjo find the differences in the plain more as compared to the wound strings. With various variables involved in the designs of banjos, you will surely find your preferred gauges.
I own a music instruments shop. My go to instrument is a banjo. My business makes it easier for me to access the instruments from various brands and of various types. I will give my honest opinion here to help out others in choosing the right instrument for them.