"...am still torn between the short and standard lengths.."
I suggest you get the standard scale length, because then you'll be able to tune the same as most other players, and be able to play along with them in the same keys they are playing in, as you are learning. Plenty of time for non-standard explorations later. :)
Welcome David. Get a full scale and get a fretless if you are serious about 19th century music. The reason banjos did not have frets was not because frets had not yet been invented. By the 1800s frets had been around for well over three centuries! The reason for fretless was to be able to play glissandi . . . like violinists do. Frets are for full chords. Minstrel style is more linear and melodic. "Full scale" fretless (26 plus inches) is actually easier to play in tune than shorter scales (just ask violinists!) So, I visited the web site for BackYardMusic and you can order what we refer to as "flush-fret" (wooden inlays where the frets would be). These were popular on many banjos in the 19th century and they are a HUGE help to entry level players. So, I would order flush frets. BackYardMusic offer them at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, and 12th frets . . . but I would strongly advise you to ask them to put them at EVERY fret! OK, so hurry up now and go get a minstrel style banjo! There are many luthiers who offer minstrel style banjos other than BackYardMusic by the way . . . but if they are in your neighborhood then go ahead and get one from them. We all look forward to hearing from you friend! Best Wishes, Tom
Dave, did you ever get a kit from Backyard Music?? I have two (fretted & fretless). They're great. I play the fretless most. You get good sound, and it's just soft enough not to annoy my wife like my bigger banjos lol. They travel great as well. And they're great to deal with when it comes to any questions, extra strings, etc...
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