Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

A comparison of the same tune with gut frets. Thanks Tom Berghan for tips on trying frets!

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Comment by Paul Draper on October 10, 2016 at 11:36am
Don't get too used to those now haha
Comment by Mark Weems on October 10, 2016 at 11:38am

It doesn't take long!

Comment by Timothy Twiss on October 10, 2016 at 11:51am

I was going to try that, but feared that getting enough tension would mar the back of the neck. 

Comment by Paul Draper on October 10, 2016 at 12:59pm
Can you post a close-up photo showing the knots?
Comment by Timothy Twiss on October 10, 2016 at 1:00pm

Did it "dent in" the finish at all?

Comment by Tom Berghan on October 10, 2016 at 2:51pm

Tied gut frets have been in use for well over 800 years (the lute family and early viols . . . early guitars too).  The reason is not that people did not understand fixed frets made of wood or metal.  They did.  The REASON was that the tied frets can easily be moved to temper the instrument to the mode or key in which one is playing.  (Remember that equal temperament means that all 12 keys are equally out of tune)  In a "sweetened temperament" we set the thirds to be very "sweet" and the fifth to be pure. That works great if you only stay in that key.  And on OUR instrument we pretty much just stay to two keys most of the time.  If we are at Brigg's pitch then we just move from the key of G to D . . . and the "second stop on the first string" then wants to be a little lower to sweeten the third in the key of G (the note B), but the sixth degree in the key of D wants to be a little higher.  We see this on some early banjos, and this is the specific reason.  I have a "flush fret" from 1870 and the second stop is split.  Tying the frets is easy but yes, you must be careful not to pull so tight that you gouge (dent) your neck, and instead of using a match I now prefer to use a soldering iron.  But I used a lit match for decades on my lutes - you just move carefully and quickly.  Here is the process: (easy as pie) I hope this help if anyone wants to try it.  I suggest you try fret gut in the range of 1.0 mm to 1.15 mm in diameter.  But fret diameter is "personal preference." 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aItqGZ0zJs

Comment by Timothy Twiss on October 10, 2016 at 4:03pm

I think for most, tied frets is a one way street...so any addditonal tension should not matter, as they will stay. But if they are gong to come on and off, i would be concerned about the marks they would leave. Anyway.....it is very cool. Just like a lute.

Comment by Tom Berghan on October 10, 2016 at 4:15pm
Tim, If you want to try them but are concerned about marks, then practice on a broom handle or something first. Ebony and Rosewood are safe (very hard and dense) but maple is softer of course. I've used gut frets for 45 years and never messed up my necks.
Comment by Timothy Twiss on October 10, 2016 at 4:33pm

Thanks Tom. Perhaps I'll give it a go

Comment by Timothy Twiss on October 10, 2016 at 7:32pm

Frets help make the music better when you have music with double stops and chords. Single note music is always ok on a fretless, but when it leaps suddenly, it is nice to have them.

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