Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

All but one of my banjos have 5th string pegs that attach to the neck in a plane that is horizontal and parallel to the fingerboard.  Unfortunately the one banjo that has a perpendicular and vertical attachment is affixed to my minstel banjo that is both the easiest to play and has the best sound.


This banjo has a slotted peghead and mechanical tuners.  It dates from sometime in the mid 1800's, and I would never do anything to alter its configuration.


The reason I say it is unfortunate that 5th string peg abuts downward instead of outward from the neck is that I have a heck of a time getting my hand from "first position" to the top of the neck without snagging my thumb in the process.. There are certain tunes like "Luke West's Walkaround" where this maneuver is mandatory and cannot be avoided.


Then it ocurred to me that many of you play copies of Boucher banjos which also have vertical 5th string peg placements.  Do any of you have this problem?  If so, how do you get around the fith string peg?  I have tried placing my thumb on the back of the neck instead of wrapped around it, but this feels really awkward.



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I've never had had a problem with it...always had that peg there, so I guess I'm just used to it. I could count the number of times I've snagged or hit the peg...not too many. Maybe I'll film something from the back to watch it. Guess it just always gets tucked in.
No prob. here either. I got my Hartel Ashborn a few years back, first banjo I ever had with a vertical peg...I can't recall ever hanging up on it. I had more problem with the fact that it is set at the 7th fret position...and even that was a minor issue.

Since I broke my thumb, 25 yrs ago, I have not been able to wrap it around anyway...I guess I just naturally keep it out of the way. Since I started playing classic style (10 yrs), I have spent a lot of time working on keeping my thumb behind the neck (for barre chords esp.). I think that helps too.
Well, I've only had my Boucher for two weeks, and I have noticed my thumb crashing into the peg on a few occasions, but I'm sure I'll adjust soon. I guess it just takes a little care. You'll get used to avoiding it, and soon won't notice it.
I watched what I was doing when playing last night. I tend to keep my thumb on the back of the neck, especially when I am sliding up and down. Part of the reason is that the area of the thumb peg protrudes from the neck, so having my thumb wrapped around the neck would be awkward. It also may be an adjustment I subconsiously made to avoid the problem.
Thanks to John and Rob and Tim and Trapdoor2 for your input on my "snagging" problem. Since I began playnig stinged instruments in about 1960, I've always tended to wrap my thumb around the neck. I guess it's a hard habit to break after 50 years or so. I experimented some last night and was able to go up the neck without hitting the peg. The problem really is doing it when the movement has to be very fast, as when you play two quick notes in succession an octave apart. The pathways laid down in the cerebellum tend to take over. However, if you guys can do this I should be able to learn. It's just a matter of practice to lay down some new pathways.

Since as far as I can tell, I live about a three hour drive from the next closest minstrel banjo player, this website is very helpful. Thanks again.
Placing your thumb behind the neck actually makes some things easier to do, as it lets you arch your fingers more and come down on the tips of the fingers. This is considered 'Correct hand position" in many guitar/banjo teaching manuals. Bringing your thumb around the neck makes a flatter hand position, and is often the cause of unclean notes, such as thuds and buzzes. Especially so with the wider neck of a guitar, but also on most other fretted instruments.

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