Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

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Comment by David Kinney on February 21, 2018 at 5:34pm

Hi, David Kinney here, new member, absolute beginner.  I play guitar and have built a couple.  Also a couple open back banjos.  Pictured is a banjo kit I recently finished.  I added geared tuners and frets.  Oh no, frets.

The neck "seems" to be machined wrong.  The Ogee profile does't match the fet spacing except at the 12th fret,

It matches at the 12 th fret because I measured the distance from the nut to the 12th fret Ogee profile location, 13.575, multiplied that measurement by 2, = scale length = 27.150.  It really doesn't matter, I have frets, and it plays

right..One question.

 How high should the strings be off the fingerboard where the neck meets the rim? Thanks Dave

Comment by Chris Prieto on February 22, 2018 at 11:33am

I can confirm my bell boucher has the same or very similar "fret" placement, which to be honest has kind of annoyed me but I was just happy to have finally received the thing.

I measured on mine and they were about 7/16, lil less than a half inch. However I made a slightly taller bridge because I like to dig in when I play.

Comment by Strumelia on February 22, 2018 at 2:02pm

On a fretless, you can slide the bridge up and down to make adjustments according to tone, tuning, and preferred fingering scale.  Once you install frets, the bridge can only be in one spot.

I move my bridge around quite a bit when changing keys on my fretless banjos.  This of course negates any fret markers, flush frets, grime marks, or ogee indicators.  I've learned to not depend on any fret markings too much.  My brain kind of goes along with the challenge and adapts without my thinking about it too much.

Comment by David Kinney on February 23, 2018 at 10:46am

Thanks for the comments.  I am well aware of bridge placement.  On a properly made banjo neck the Ogee will be in register only when the bridge is at the designed scale length.  Move the bridge you change the key, and the Ogee will be out of register.

The only reason I fretted this instrument is I've played guitar for years, I'm used to them. I knew learning a new to me instrument at my age would be difficult enough, dealing with a fretless would be nearly impossible.  I'm 80.

I'm starting a new project. Like I need a new project.  I'll call it a minstrel banjo guitar.  Use your imagination.  Don't

know or care if there was ever such an animal.  Thanks for your comments.

Comment by Strumelia on February 23, 2018 at 3:33pm

"How high should the strings be off the fingerboard where the neck meets the rim?"

This can't really be answered because many banjo necks have a lot, or less, or none, of a 'scooped' area next to the rim. You can't adjust your string height by that.

The other variable is whether you have frets or not.  If you do, then you usually will measure how high the string is above the 12th fret (at the octave). With frets, you don't measure the clearances between string and fretboard, but rather between string and frets.  Too little space gives you buzzing.

If the banjo is fretless, then you'd measure how high the string is over the bare wood fretboard at the place where the 12th fret 'would be'.  

Comment by David Kinney on February 23, 2018 at 4:55pm

I'm familiar with setting the action of a guitar with frets. You're right.  One measures the height of the strings at the 12fret, or where the neck meets the body.  And also obviously at the first fret.

Knowing you have a fretless banjo I'll ask this:  How far is your 4th string above the fingerboard at the octave?

I ask this because I think mine is way too high and I believe the only adjustment without changing the angle of the neck is Lowering the bridge.  Lower the bridge on a guitar and you can lose tone.  

I'm trying to get a feel how "players" set their banjos up.  This will give me a starting point and I can tweak from there. If I'm far off I"ll know something is wrong.  Thanks, Dave

Comment by Strumelia on February 23, 2018 at 5:08pm

Seems like about 5/16" on both my minstrel hoop banjos.

Comment by David Kinney on February 24, 2018 at 9:48am

Thanks a bunch. Dave


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