Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Right out of the box... Stichter minstrel banjo by Bell Banjos

Love it that I simply tipped up the bridge right out of the box and it was ready to play in minstrel tuning!
My own personal customized minstrel "Strumelia Stichter" banjo by Terry Bell of Bell Banjos. http://bell.20m.com/banjos.html

Totally, totally YUM !! :D

Views: 156

Comment by Tom Taggart on April 27, 2016 at 6:27pm

Very nice!

Comment by Scott Danneker on April 27, 2016 at 6:41pm

How do you know where to put the bridge?

Comment by Strumelia on April 27, 2016 at 7:05pm

Scott, when I took it out of the box I simply put the bridge in the middle of the head for starters.  I 'normally' slide it about a half inch closer to the tail from center, but I tend to slide my bridge into various positions if I want to change keys drastically...few limits with a fretless!   Sometimes I like to play two or even three steps higher than minstrel tuning, and by sliding my bridge towards the neck more I avoid breaking strings when going substantially higher than Briggs or Rice.

Comment by Scott Danneker on April 27, 2016 at 7:15pm

I noticed that you placed it just forward of the metal clamps on the sides so I tried that position myself just a few minutes ago and it took me up about half a step. I wonder if I could simply pencil mark the head for Briggs/Rice bridge positions?  I'll give it a try anyways.

Comment by Strumelia on April 27, 2016 at 9:20pm

Scott, this is my Stichter banjo made to my specs, and right before sending it out to me Terry Bell demonstrated some of the tuning and key possibilities we discussed... using both sliding bridge and different tunings here:

Comment by Tom Taggart on April 27, 2016 at 10:34pm

That is very interesting, never thought about sliding the bridge around like that.  I had wondered about the "proper" placement of the bridge on the head.  Apparently it depends on what kind of sound you want out of the instrument.  Nice!  I might try playing around with that and trying out some of the other possible tunings.  I think Terry has a video out there showing a variety of the tunings.  I saw it once, will have to see if I can find it again.

Comment by Scott Danneker on April 28, 2016 at 6:48am

I know that bridge position is a intonation on fretted banjos, but I don't think that applies to us. Does it?

Comment by Andy Chase on April 28, 2016 at 7:10am

Only insofar as it affects the location of the 5th fret position; if you use the 5th string peg as a landmark for the 5th fret position (which is definitely helpful if you go up the neck at all), you need to position the bridge accordingly.  Similarly, on a Boucher-style neck the bridge would need to be placed pretty specifically in order for the various fret positions to line up with the points of the ogee.

Comment by Strumelia on April 28, 2016 at 8:47am

Scott, that's one of the great things about fretless...we are not bound to a specific bridge location as with fretted banjos.

Andy's right.  If you use visual static markers/waypoints to find your way around the neck- like flush frets, inlays, ogees, wood grain imperfections etc...then it will throw you off when you slide the bridge to other locations.  I found that it's rather freeing to become less dependent on the visual 'landmarks', and I found it became easier with time to adapt to the new scale length on the fly. It can take about 30 seconds to a minute for my brain to reorient itself after a bridge change.

That said, i don't go sliding my bridge all over the place for every tuning change.  Plus, when the bridge gets within the range of about 3-4" from the rim near the neck, it plays fine but begins to lose the boominess we love in minstrel playing, so there are limits depending on your personal tastes.

Scott, I think it's almost a toss up whether you'd want to actually retune up or down between Briggs G and Rice A, or just slide the bridge a couple of inches and tweak the 5th string and check the tuning.  Even with sliding the bridge you should then check the tuning as it can be off just a bit.  If you use the sliding method, my suggestion would be to establish your 'low Briggs G' bridge position a bit low, with the bridge about an inch from center, towards the tailpiece.  That way, if you slide into Rice A it'd put you about an inch from center in the other direction towards the neck.  If you establish your low G bridge at dead center then your Rice bridge will be yet more towards the neck and your deep tone will suffer unnecessarily.  If you mark with pencil, go very light- you are liable to change your mind regularly!

Comment by Scott Danneker on May 2, 2016 at 1:18pm

Thanks Lisa.  I fiddled about with different bridge positions and found that, instead of simplifying, it actually complicated things-at least for me.   That said, I have pushed the bridge further back towards the tail piece and not only does it sound better, the fifth string has less of a tendency to pop out of it's slot when it gets hotter and more humid. 

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