Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

After spending an awesome time with Bell & Son's and Mark at the Midland Folk Festival. I took a closer look at my Prest banjo and notice... The string height is a LOT higher action then Terry's Awesome Bell Banjo's these are a fine piece of craftsmanship 

What should the action be at the first postion?

I thinking this may be "ONE" of the discouraging issue I have with playing my Minstrel Axe...

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Generally, from my experience, you want it to be as close to the fingerboard as you can get, without the strings buzzing.  I made some of my first banjos with a higher action, and have since redone the nuts so that the action is much closer.  I'm much happier with this.

Hey Jeff, bring it over sometime and in an hour it'll have a new nut, new bridge, and the correct strings, and set up correctly, just like a Bell. ... then we'll talk about Mark. hehe

Man, I sure hope Mark's ears are not burning..... LOL!  Then again... ? ? !

Terry, I head back to work tomorrow morning.  What are good times for you?  We will have to figure out a time... 

Heck we go to all of that, nut, strings, bridge, all we are missing is POT and Neck... and we can call it a Bell... ROTFL... 

I'm always here, Jeff.


String action is generally a very individual matter which can vary over the course of time.  For myself, I would probably not want an action that was as low as John was describing, but that's just me.  I know my action has become higher throughout the years.  I can't give you a good reason for this other than to say it just feels more comfortable and easy, whereas some years ago it would not have.  If there's a point to this thought it's that there probably is no one string action that's the "right' one.  It will vary between players and even within players.  Experiment and go with what feels right to you.--Rob Morrison

Thanks Rob... yea, I understand that part...  that is way I asked and point a finger a Terry too... LOL!  I play around with a Bell Banjo last weekend... I just hope the skin head has dried out my now... I was drawling all over it... LOL!

I like the height Terry has his set to.  

But all this does not matter now... I going to have to go see Terry now anyway...  I was tuning up last night.. and will I popped 2 strings....  So much for playing last night...  

I think Eric sends you 3 different height bridges to deal with humidity issues, etc.  I owned a Prust banjo and felt the setup was good with the medium bridge.  I do like a slightly higher action.  For entry level players, I recommend buying a $200 tackhead from Eric.  Later when you know more about what you want add one of Terry Bell's banjos (or kits) to your arsenal.

Tom you are right Eric does send 3 bridges, I even made a 4th bridge... will made something that looks like a bridge... LOL.   Over all the banjo is nice... Eric ever offered to send me a new set of strings 2 yrs ago when I got it, due to 2 of the string breaking... right off... (TOTALLY my fault) Tried to tune them to open G...  BAD bad Idea... 

I have been using Nylgut strings... and Terry and I talked about setting it up with real gut strings....   But as I have been trying to learn how to play... Its starting to feel like I want a lower action.

BUT after getting my sticky fingers all over a Bell Banjo!  HANDS DOWN!!!!! I know what I want to get... As a matter a fact... If you or anybody here has not talked or met Terry...  You are sure missing out on one Knowledgeable, awesome, friendly, kind hearted GUY!  

(Shooting for brownie points Terry... How am I doing?? LOL)

I have been talking to Terry about getting a Bell... Right now.. Its just timing and money...  

TIming... My truck needed $700 in repairs last week.... Which brings me to the money.... or the lack of right now...  

I have two banjos made by Terry and I'm very pleased with them.  I also have a tackhead kit that I need to get around to completing.  I felt Eric Prust banjos were not given proper respect which is unfair.  Eric makes very good banjos at a super low cost - a great starter banjo for minstrel players

Thanks for the kind words, fellers. Longer string lengths (27" +) and a little relief in the neck (like modern stringed instruments) will get you 1/4" closer to the fretboard. That's how I do it, and with a nut height with what I consider "Low-medium."

Eagerly looking forward to my Bell banjo....   :)

Hi Dan'l,

I'm basically getting the Bell Stichter model.  Too many small personal adjustments to type out and explain beforehand- photos will make that way easier once I get it.  Will show it off in detail then, since some things might be tweaked out of necessity even as it's being made, who knows?   :D

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