Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

is 29" scale length totally insane? I myself suffer of the ol trex arms and dont think I could muster it but I am curious if humans with regular arms are into that sort of thing or it would just be some freakishly unplayable thing?

And does that scale much extra length (all of mine are like 24-26) make it so theres is more space between frets or more frets with the same spacing.

It would be a gourd as well so I dunno if that would make things more or less crummy

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If you intend to keep the scale from nut to bridge at about 29", then you will need to figure out what key(s) and what tuning(s) you are intending... and then you'll need to choose string gauges that are compatible with that plan.

I would say that usually with instruments, scale length is calculated and chosen based on the desired note/key range and tunings, rather than the other way around.

Yes, generally a longer scale will have more space between the frets, and the midpoint between nut and bridge will play the note an octave higher than the open string.  Look at mandolin and uke fret spacing as compared to guitars.

I was just going with a Aquila minstrel nylgut set. They are long enough

They may be long enough, but that's not the issue.  At a long scale of 29", if you take the same gauge strings as you would use for say a 26" scale banjo, and put them on a 29" banjo and try to tune them to the same tuning as you use on the 26, then the strings will be much tighter and will be much more prone to break.  What's more, gourd banjos tend to be less able to withstand high tension as hoop banjos.

You could get around such issues by either using slightly thinner gauge strings (which would lessen the tight tension), and/or by tuning to a slightly lower pitch, say 1 or 2 steps lower than normal... as in tuning to the key of F rather than G for example.  
You could possibly try using the Nylgut "Classic" set, which is slightly thinner gauge than the Minstrel set.  I use the Classic set for old-time higher tunings, and they are quite up to the task. They'd give you a more suitable tension without breakage for your longscale gourd in the usual minstrel tunings.

Ahhhhh i see. I will deff play with both strings and see. I am gonna just do it and see what happens. It feels playable in my hands so I think it'll work.
A 29 inch scale is not a problem. Bass guitars are longer than that and there are a gazillion bass guitar players in the world. A Fender Precision has a scale of 34 inches. But making some chords shapes will be a major challenge.
Strings: Don't try to use a standard set by Aquila or any other brand. Make a custom set from singles. You can buy any singles you need made by D'Addario, Pyramid, or Savarez. Strumelia is correct, the gauges will need to be thinner if you intend on using Briggs tuning & pitch. Go for it! It will have GREAT tone and sustain - but making chords will be tough. So ... just don't play too many chords!
Yeah don't play too many as it is haha. Menzies makes those big ol 48 inchers too which look stellar.

I have a fairly thin set of gut strings that I am gonna try first. They are thinner than the Aquila sets and I recall me not enjoying them on my 26.5" scale banjo as they felt too flabby.

Is there an online calculator or some way of figuring out what guages I need for whatever tunings?

String calculators designed for steel strings will not be useful for gut or nylon strings, just so you know.

You're probably better off just going a little thinner than normal and trying them out.

It reminds me of Earl Scruggs' supposed reply when someone asked him how tight to make the banjo head- "Just crank it up until it breaks, then back off a little."  lol

Thanks that is good to know. Hopefully that set of gut strings will have it's moment to really shine.

That is the method I used on my Sweeney haha, broke a dang j hook. I find Scruggs to be rather adorable.

When you put on your gut strings, don't cut off the excess length.  Instead, attach the string at the tail end and keep the excess wound up in a neat 1" flat circle (like the way strings come in their packet) at the peg end.  After you've wound at the peg, wrap the excess and tuck it neatly there.  Gut strings are expensive, they're often quite long, and they tend to break at the tail or bridge area if too tight.  When that happens, you might have enough excess to simply unwind and feed the extra length down from the peg and have enough to make a loop and attach to the tail again, for a whole second life for that string.

Here's a really poor image of what I'm talking about- look at the 3 pegs on the right in this pic:

Another tip-  before stringing up with gut or nylon strings on a new banjer, take some waxed dental floss, double or triple it up, and run it back and forth in the bridge and nut slots to help smooth and polish down any sharp edges or burrs that can cause the strings to break prematurely.

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