Our reply to the reader above:
Thanks for getting in touch,
I prefer nickel silver on my 6-string banjo, too. I use the full range of the thing, so I have it tuned like a guitar, but I know several six-string pickers who replaced the 5th and 6th string with higher string.
If you're comfortable singing with it that's the most important thing. I've been going back and forth between 5-string and 6-string banjos, playing the same songs, and trying to get comfortable on both. Have played my 6-string in ensembles several times, but want to be "bulletproof" before I take it out solo - there are two many jerks who think I'm playing it because I don't know how to play a five-string.
As for 5-string, I grew up just as bluegrass was becoming popular, so people began thinking of it as a bluegrass instrument. I confess that I fell into that trap too, taking it along on gigs but only getting it out for the "hillbilly" songs or whatever. Now I'm trying to play mainstream folk and folk-rock songs on the thing, which requires getting good in keys like D that modern banjo players never play. The big thing isn't technique, it's staying focused - I'm so used to playing these songs on guitar that my mind wanders when I'm singing them, and my fingers haven't learned to take charge of the banjo in my absence like they do on guitar. So, I'm still learning, what can I say?
If you post any youtubes or whatever, please let me know.