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6 string Banjo???

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Richard Bridge 07 Jul 03 - 05:52 PM
curmudgeon 07 Jul 03 - 06:01 PM
Leadfingers 07 Jul 03 - 06:28 PM
Nathan in Texas 07 Jul 03 - 06:52 PM
GUEST,James H. Silver 07 Jul 03 - 07:56 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Jul 03 - 08:24 PM
JedMarum 07 Jul 03 - 09:02 PM
Jeri 07 Jul 03 - 09:19 PM
GUEST,Wayne 08 Jul 03 - 12:56 AM
Richard Bridge 08 Jul 03 - 02:24 AM
Bob Bolton 08 Jul 03 - 02:36 AM
Leadfingers 08 Jul 03 - 02:45 AM
Naemanson 08 Jul 03 - 03:27 AM
GUEST,longarm 08 Jul 03 - 03:56 AM
curmudgeon 08 Jul 03 - 06:44 AM
Raggytash 08 Jul 03 - 07:25 AM
Bernard 08 Jul 03 - 08:21 AM
GUEST,Pete Peterson 08 Jul 03 - 08:48 AM
Rick Fielding 08 Jul 03 - 10:58 AM
PoppaGator 08 Jul 03 - 11:40 AM
Frankham 08 Jul 03 - 06:18 PM
curmudgeon 08 Jul 03 - 06:47 PM
JedMarum 08 Jul 03 - 08:05 PM
curmudgeon 08 Jul 03 - 08:35 PM
Jeri 08 Jul 03 - 09:10 PM
Art Thieme 08 Jul 03 - 10:06 PM
Jeri 08 Jul 03 - 10:10 PM
Art Thieme 08 Jul 03 - 11:05 PM
Geoff the Duck 09 Jul 03 - 05:45 AM
greg stephens 09 Jul 03 - 06:03 AM
JedMarum 11 Jul 03 - 09:20 AM
Roger the Skiffler 11 Jul 03 - 10:19 AM
DADGBE 11 Jul 03 - 01:13 PM
JedMarum 11 Jul 03 - 05:15 PM
JedMarum 11 Jul 03 - 05:24 PM
COINWOLF 11 Jul 03 - 06:22 PM
Naemanson 11 Jul 03 - 06:39 PM
Frankham 11 Jul 03 - 07:15 PM
Richard Bridge 10 Sep 03 - 07:09 AM
Richard Bridge 10 Sep 03 - 04:34 PM
Guy Wolff 10 Sep 03 - 06:50 PM
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Subject: 6 string Banjo???
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 05:52 PM

I haven't seen it, but I'm told a young lad I know has just bought a 6-string banjo (not a 5 or 4) in a junk shop made by Riga or Rega. From the desription it uses ordinary guitar machineheads through the headstock like a typical dreadnought.

Any information out there? What is the usual tuning? Where can he learn to play it (books, tutors, records to copy? etc)

If it's in reasonable nick, what should he have paid?


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: curmudgeon
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 06:01 PM

First, get the CD by Harvey Reid, "The Artistry of the 6 String Banjo" on Woodpecker Records, a masterful demonstration of what can be achieved.

Deering makes these six string banjos (what Harvey plays) and at last look they retailed for $1600+

I'll try to find Harvey's website for you later -- Tom


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Leadfingers
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 06:28 PM

There are quite a few six string (or Guitar) banjos around . Ozark do a fairly playable Cheapo job.Usually just tuned same as guitar EADGBE


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Nathan in Texas
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 06:52 PM

Harvey's website is http://www.woodpecker.com

As I understand it, it's tuned like guitar; basically a guitar neck with a banjo body.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: GUEST,James H. Silver
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 07:56 PM

Many six string banjos available ranging in price from $175.00 up to $1000.00+ for top of the line. I prefered to string them with light gauge guitar strings and tune a standard guitar tuning. Can be either strummed with standard guitar chords and runs or played like finger style guitar. Have on occasion replaced the low E string with a high E silvered steel to get kind of a five string sound as produced with the fifth string on a five string banjo. Have also seen them tuned with an open High G tuning and no doubt could be used with a slack G tuning as a doboro guitar. Good luck. Hope this is of some help.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 08:24 PM

I've seen a few in stalls at festivals, and picked them up to try out of curiosity. Don't feel right - neither one thing nor the other. I believe that during skiffle days a fair number came out, because they meant a guitar player could pick one up and look like they were playing a banjo for a cahnge.

They have a shorter sustain than a guitar of course, and that can be quite an interesting sund - but you can get much the same effect from a travelling ("backpackers") guitar, and it's a lot less weight to lug around.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: JedMarum
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 09:02 PM

Deering does make a fine instrument - that I would call a banjitar - that is a guitar on a banjo body. Sounds fine, plays well.

I'm not really impressed with these instruments. Maybe it's kind of a novelty - but banjo is not such a reach for a guitar player that ya can;t get a real banjo ... maybe I'm just cynical. I haven;t fooled much with the 6 string, banjitar.

But I think there really should be a 6 string banjo, that is a G tuning with the fifth string as is, but a lower G for a sixth string. Now, that would make a guitar player happy!


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Jeri
Date: 07 Jul 03 - 09:19 PM

Harvey's got a couple of MP3s from the 5-string banjo CD up on the website in Nathan in Texas's post. See the 'Downloads' page.

I'd recommend the CD as well, because there is a wide variety of music on it and it demonstrates what can be done with the instrument.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: GUEST,Wayne
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 12:56 AM

Check me on this but I think Mike Seeger played a six string banjo on one or two tunes on the Retrograss tour with John Hartford and David Grisman a few years ago. It seemed to me he was playing in a bluegrass rhythm guitar style.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 02:24 AM

Many thanks: The 'cat a mine of information as ever.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 02:36 AM

G'day all,

In the 1880s "Banjo Craze" banjos appeared with almost every number of strings betweem 3 and 13. I've seen sheet music of that time which says it is available in arrangements for (~) 4-/5-/6-/7-/10-/12- & 13-string banjos.

One that I have seen in the "flesh" over the past few decades is the 7-string model ... six strings, probably tuned like guitar - plus a drone string. (Oddly enough, the ones I have actually seen - in the '60s ... and one that is clearly depicted in an 1880s illustrated diary of a young Pom in Australia ... have all been associated with Canada!

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Leadfingers
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 02:45 AM

Seven string banjos ( I have a Hundred plus year old Temlett) should
be tuned same as Five string with a low C and G for bass runs to make song accompaniment easier. This info came from theold guy who ran Clifford Essex's shopin London before they went out of business.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Naemanson
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 03:27 AM

I used to have one. It was a cheap model, a Mirthtone, and I could never get any good sounds out of it. However, real guitar players like playing it. I finaly sold it at Old Songs last year for $200.00.

It tunes and plays just like a guitar. I used extra light strings but had to remove the ball because the strings lead to a hook rather than the usual guitar type anchor.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: GUEST,longarm
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 03:56 AM

Bloody awful instruments! Usually played by second rate guitarists who can't be bothered to learn the Banjo!


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: curmudgeon
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 06:44 AM

Longarm -- Before making such a sweeping condemnation, go to Harvey's website and have a listen. BTW, Harvey also plays banjo, and guitar, and mandolin, and fiddle, and autoharp.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Raggytash
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 07:25 AM

I have an Ozark 6 string banjo, was has been previously stated it is tuned as a guitar but sounds like a banjo, although not a particularly fine machine, I'll say one thing for it ...........it's LOUD ...........very very LOUD


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Bernard
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 08:21 AM

Just to confuse matters...

The so-called 'zither banjo' has six guitar-style machine heads, but only five are normally used. It is strung as a five-string banjo, and the fifth string disappears through a tube in the neck, reappearing at the fifth fret!

A few manufacturers made them, including Windsor.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: GUEST,Pete Peterson
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 08:48 AM

Listen also to some of the Uncle Dave Macon (5-string banjo) and Sam McGee (guitar-banjo) duets; some of which have been released on a County CD. I have some friends I see once a year (at Clifftop) and we generally try to run through a couple of these. . . FUN!


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 10:58 AM

I did some tunes a few years ago on six string banjo with Roger Sprung on five string. They blend well...t'was fun.

Rick


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: PoppaGator
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 11:40 AM

I was very surprised to see one of these hybrid insruments one recent evening as part of a quartet led by Dr. Michael White and featuring Greg Stafford on trumpet. Dr. White is the foremost contemporary interpreter of early New Orleans clarinet, in the styles of Sidney Bechet and (especially) George Lewis. Because these guys are such strict traditionalists, I was somewhat taken back to see such a non-traditional "fake" instrument in their ensemble.

Although I could easily recognize the player's fingerings as standard guitar chords, the sound was that of a traditional tenor banjo, and it fit seamlessly into the trad-jazz arrangements. Since the combo did not include a drummer (the fourth member of the quartet was a string bass), the six-string banjoist had to provide percussion as well as chords, and he did a great job (even if he was "just" a guitar player).


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Frankham
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 06:18 PM

The 6 string banjo has an interesting history. It's chief exponent in traditional jazz is Johnny St. Cyr who recorded historic Hot Five cuts with Louis Armstrong. Johnny was an important jazz player and may have pre-dated the influential Eddie Lang. He was noted for being the accompanist for Louis along with Lil Hardin. The piano and 6-string banjo worked well together. St. Cyr played an influential style of guitar later adopted by Eddie Lang, that of a bass line in a bass chord accompaniment. Check out "Heebie Jeebies" in particular for St. Cyr. and then Eddie Lang with Joe Venuti and then his recordings with the Paul Whiteman band. This would have been on an archtop round-hole guitar...Gibson.

The 6-string banjo has been used as a result by trad jazz bands. As As of late, Clancy Hayes played the 6-string banjo and one important player was early Django Reinhardt. It was his first instrument.

Not many of them have been well made. The old Gibson trap-door 6-string banjos were of the best but try to find one.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: curmudgeon
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 06:47 PM

PoppaGator -- Given that these instruments were around in the 1880s, why do you call them "..non-traditional 'fake(s)'." ?


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: JedMarum
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 08:05 PM

I believe the Deering 6 string is a well made instrument. It has a very good sound, and plays beautifully. Deering doesn;t make a bad banjo.

Since I bought a banjo a few years ago, and have been learning to play it - I am not excited about trying a 6 string banjo seriously (unless as I mentioned above). But maybe I'll give the banjitar another try.

It does seem to make more sense for playing jazz ensemble pieces then the folk, first position, walking bass line stuff I do on guitar ...


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: curmudgeon
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 08:35 PM

Jed -- Give a listen to what Harvey does with the six string banjo; you might be in for some surprises -- Tom


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Jeri
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 09:10 PM

I think the whole point is, you've got to pick up an instrument and hear the possibilities. If you're happy with 5 stringed banjos and 6 stringed guitars and can't figure a way to make the sound and feel of something different work for you, it's probably not your instrument.

It sounds to me like the 6 stringed banjo is to a guitar as a harpsichord is to a piano. It's a plinkier sound. Some folks will like it and some won't. I happen to really like Harvey's 'Pieces of Eight' and don't think it would sound nearly as good with the sustain on a guitar. Personal opinion - and I ain't gonna buy one because Harvey's weighs a ton. (And is to a regular banjo as a hand grenade is to a BB gun.)


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Art Thieme
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 10:06 PM

Back around 1962 I had Kagan and Gaines music store upstairs on Wabash Ave. in Chicago put a guitar neck on a banjo rim for me. I was never happy with it. The bass trings had no sustain at all and you really had to pick (no pun intended) and choose very carefully which song and which arrangement you settled on for this instrument. Ultimately I gave up on it because guitar or 5-string banjo always wound up sounding better. I did try it because I was too lazy (then) to learn to play the 5-string banjo. After selling the 6-string I taught myself to learn 5-string banjo by watching friends and mentors.
(Frank Hamilton's version of "MISERLOU" was a breakout piece for me to learn back then.---It was on his LP for Concert Disc Reecords called THE FOLKSINGER"S FOLKSINGER. "Blue Mountain" from that album wound up on my first LP.)

Frank, a belated thanks.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Jeri
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 10:10 PM

Well, now - I listened to Jesse James at Harvey's site. He's frailing, and it sounds like he's got a high E for the 6th string. I'd GUESS he's got a partial capo on it so it sounds like the 5th string on a 5-string banjo.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Art Thieme
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 11:05 PM

After listening to Harvey I see that he is keeping to the treble strings and just using the bass (5 and 6) when absolutely necessary. He is quite an artist who gets more out of this instrument than I'd thought possible. The Carter style and Elizabeth Cottn things with their heavy reliance on the bass for tempo I tried doing on it definitely didn't play to the instruments better aspects.

Art


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 05:45 AM

As mentioned earlier, Guitar Banjos have been around since Victorian times, and are just as legitimate an instrument as the Mandoline Banjo/Banjolin, the Ukelele Banjo and the Tenor Banjo.
Most of the small number of Guitar Banjos I have seen over the years have been poor quality instruments, but not that old - perhaps 1950's from the Skiffle days. Don't forget that British Pop and Rock music sprung from the Skiffle bands. Pete Townsend from the Who learned on his dad's Banjo before he learned guitar. Many 5-string banjos made around the same time were mass produced poor quality instruments also.
Art - the question of sustain on the bass strings might be improved by slackening off the tension of the banjo head. On my 5-string, when I fitted my newest head, the result was that the 4th string boomed out much stronger than the 1st. It was a nice effect, but a bit overwhelming. I tightened the head, and the bass response and the treble became more balanced. The problem I can see is that if you slacken off to emphasise the bass strings, you are likely to lose some of the cutting edge at the top end.
Quack!
Geoff the Duck.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: greg stephens
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 06:03 AM

Depends on what you hear first in your life, I suppose. I dont find anything odd about six-string banoes having been brought up on the Louis Armstrong Hot Five. The lowdown dirty notes of johnny St Cyr sound like quintessential banjo to me. I've never owned one, but I'd love to. The Hot Five played without a bass, so those extra strings were very useful, and Johnny St Cyr doubled on guitar so it was very handy for him. I had a play on a fabulous fretless 7-string belonging to Alexis Korner once: six ordinary strings(he had tuned to open G) and a short onehalf way up the neck like a fifth string on a five-string.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: JedMarum
Date: 11 Jul 03 - 09:20 AM

I thought Frank Ford's comments on the 6 string banjo would be of interest to folks looking in on thios thread. Frank is luthier, instrument repairman of some repute and runs a great website called frets.com. His thoughts on the 6 string and inparticluar, Deering's product are found here.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 11 Jul 03 - 10:19 AM

Just to add that according to some sources & quoted in Bill Wyman's Blues Odyssey, the first male recorded blues were by Papa Charlie Jackson, singing and playing on the 6-string banjo.

RtS


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: DADGBE
Date: 11 Jul 03 - 01:13 PM

There are two branches to the 6-string banjo tree. The banjo-guitar (well illustrated by Frank Ford and discussed by all of you) and the 5-string banjo type with an added bass string.

Several instrument makers in the early 20th century made expanded 5-string style instruments and they achieved enough popularity to have music publshed for them. Classical banjo player Paul Cadwell once showed me sheet music expressly written for the expanded 5-string.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: JedMarum
Date: 11 Jul 03 - 05:15 PM

Yes, DADGBE that's what I'd call a 6 string banjo. I like the banjo-guitar, and it has its own value, but a 6 string banjo sure seems like a good idea!


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: JedMarum
Date: 11 Jul 03 - 05:24 PM

By the way ... because of this thread, I went down to Charlie's Guitar Shop in Dallas today, and spent a while playing their brand new Deering 6 sting banjo-guitar (well somebody had to do it)! I have to say, it really is a fine instrument. It did not inspire me like fine instruments often do - maybe that because there were a several Collings, Martin and Bourgeois Guitars calling me from their racks ...

The Deering works well for quick finger picked tunes ... wlaking bass lines were fine, high string melodies too - as long as yuo didn't need any sustain. I don;t like it for the flat picked chords - but mayeb the short partial chords of jazz accompaniment woudl work fine.

For the way I play, it's nice instrument, an oddity, and nothing that really captures my imagination.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: COINWOLF
Date: 11 Jul 03 - 06:22 PM

Swapped mine for a pair of bedroom windows.

Could not get on with it, looked great, but neither a banjo or guitar.
Heavy instrument.

Couldn't sing to it, but can now practice on the guitar and sing with the windows shut. (swapped the windows for double glazing).


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Naemanson
Date: 11 Jul 03 - 06:39 PM

Some general responses to comments above.

1. By all means, check out Harvey Reed's Artistry Of The Six String Banjo. Curmudgeon is absolutely correct in this.

2. Yes, the instrument is LOUD.

3. It isn't easy to make the guitar sound like a banjo. Unless you have the abilites Harvey Reed has built up you will have a tough time getting the instrument not to sound like it is a guitar that sounds like a banjo. On the other hand, that isn't all bad.

4. Weight - yup! The damned things are heavy as sin.

5. I liked mine. Whenever a good guitar player picked it up s/he made it sound good. However, I could never make it sound like anything worth listening to. Part of the problem was the lack of sustain in the low strings. On my cheap instrument those strings sounded dead.


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Frankham
Date: 11 Jul 03 - 07:15 PM

Art,

Thank you so much! It's sure nice to be remembered and if I offered anything to you at all I am grateful.

I remember Kagan and Gaines with great nostalgia. I bought my first Martin 0021 there and it has been my only one and I still have it and it's my main.

An interesting story. I was in Burbank, California in a park with my five-string picking away some tune and a nice African-American mand with grey hair,half shaven in a T shirt and a pleasant disposition came up and told me how he liked my playing. He said that he used to play the banjo. I asked his name and I regret that it didn't have the resonance that it does for me now. "My name's Johnny St. Cyr." Now, it blows me away. I was just a kid and if I knew then what I know now I would have got his card and visited him plenty. But that's the way these things go. A legend walks into your life and you aren't ready to show the right appreciation.

At Westwood Music in L.A. Fred Walecki has an old trapdoor 6-string Gibson and it's the best damn banjo of it's kind that I've ever played. I used to pull it off the wall a pick away at it. I'm pretty sure it's close to what Johnny St. Cyr used to play. I think he still has it but it's probably worth a fortune now.

Again, Art, thanks. And thank you for all your wonderful contributions to the world of folk music.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 07:09 AM

Hello again.

Daughter's boyf has now turned up with the instrument (brand new, marked "Countryman", and with a shallow bowl back held on by four bolts to right-angle brackets on eight of the head tension bolts, comes off really easily to get at the head tension nuts) and I am trying to get it set up so he can start to learn to play it. Some idiot has "set it up" (and charged lad for it) so that you can't play the octave at all (neck angle too low so the strings foul at about fret 17), and it looks as if he has achieved this by slackening the single co-ordinator rod, with the result that the plywood body rim is now oval (I guess squashed by string tension - 11 1/4 inches across body in line with the neck, 11 1/2 from side to side) and there are slight cracks showing where the co-ordinator rod meets the body, running from the rod mountings away from the head.

I've read the links on other threads about banjo setup and oh boy do I have some questions!

The scale length is about 23 inches (58 cm). Guitar scale length is usually about 25 1/2 inch. So if it's got ultra-light strings on (top string is a 10) should it really tune to eadgbe, or as it's in effect the same length as a guitar would be if the bottom note were F sharp, should it tune to F sharp or G and then same intervals?

Next issue is the head. It's a plastic Remo. How tight should it be? I know the tension should be even all round, and I can hear when that is so, although it's a little challenging to keep adjusting the skin tension and then the co-ordinator rod, and then back again, since the skin tension affects how much the skin sinks at the foot of the bridge which in turn affects the neck angle you want, and when you put more thrust in the co-ordinator rod it affects the skin tension and the evenness of the string tension. I bet if I pulled too hard on all those little nuts I could rip the skin in half. At the moment it looks a bit slack to me in that you can really see (from the back) the corners on the little feet of the bridge digging in. Is it a good idea to put something like a lollipop stick, thin and flat with oval ends, under these feet to stop the corners holing the head skin?

How high should the bridge be? It's exactly half an inch at the moment.

Next there's a little Philips head screw in the back of the shoulder of the neck. It looks as if it ought to slide the whole neck bodily across the frame, either towards the head or away from it, but it's quite tight and I don't want to force it and wreck something. What's it do?

Should the bridge be exactly the same distance from the 12th fret as the nut is, or a little bit more to allow for end-effect as the strings angle over the bridge? Should the bridge be at a slight angle like a guitar saddle? How tight do I do up the lever thing that squashes the strings down towards the head to make extra pressure at the bridge?

If I want to take the whole thing to bits (or at least get the neck off to try to figure out why it's wrong) Am I right I just take the strings off and then undo the end-nuts on the co-ordinator rod?

Any other bright ideas?


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 04:34 PM

Refresh. Someone answer or I'm going to start a new thread on Banjo setup!


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Subject: RE: 6 string Banjo???
From: Guy Wolff
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 06:50 PM

Just lately Ive been thinking about having a 5 string banjo set up but with one more string on the bass side and with the regular string up the neck now the 6th string (lower cace is higher octive )><><>< dADGAD would be increadable this way as would gGCGCD ><><>< gGDGCD<>>< aADGBD Oh Mr Ramsey ??????   All the best , Guy


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