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6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)

Desert Dancer 25 Jan 11 - 11:13 AM
Bernard 25 Jan 11 - 11:52 AM
Desert Dancer 25 Jan 11 - 12:21 PM
Bill in Alabama 25 Jan 11 - 02:49 PM
Desert Dancer 25 Jan 11 - 04:14 PM
GUEST,Songbob 25 Jan 11 - 04:24 PM
Bernard 25 Jan 11 - 05:02 PM
Leadfingers 25 Jan 11 - 05:38 PM
Leadfingers 25 Jan 11 - 06:44 PM
Little Robyn 26 Jan 11 - 01:55 AM
erosconpollo 26 Jan 11 - 10:55 AM
GUEST,Tim Bailey 29 Mar 11 - 11:14 PM
Ernest 14 May 11 - 11:25 AM
GUEST,Black Jake Two Fingers Once of Norwich 22 Feb 16 - 08:38 AM
banjoman 23 Feb 16 - 06:02 AM
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Subject: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 11:13 AM

I just learned about the 6-string banjo: not a "banjitar" or banjo-bodied guitar, but a banjo with 5 long strings and one short, so an extra string on the low end.

Gold Tone makes one in the "Old Time" series of instruments, and Mudcatter Guy Wolff plays one:
Jenny Nettles
Sovay

In Googling for more info, I found this very pretty vintage instrument, which actually was originally 7 strings:
Hunter Robertson.

And, this info from http://www.shlomomusic.com/zitherbanjo.htm:

"The first distinctly British innovation was the 6-string banjo, developed by William Temlett, one of England's earliest banjo makers, who had set up shop in London in 1846. This was not the banjo-guitar, a banjo with a 6-string guitar neck which is tuned and played like a guitar, invented by the American banjo maker Edmund Clark in 1884. Rather, the British 6-string banjo had five long melody strings with a short "thumb" string. Like the American 5-string, the earliest models were fretless and played in the "stroke" style of down-picking popularized by the minstrels. Starting in the 1860s, major American companies like Oliver Ditson of New York and its offspring, Lyon & Healy of Chicago and John C. Haynes of Boston, imported and distributed English 6-string banjos. In the 1850s and '60s, Temlett and other makers also made 7-string models (six melody strings and one short thumb string)."

Are there many old banjos out there (more likely in the UK, presumably) with necks built for an extra string or two, or did those all get tossed out?

Are any of the custom makers making any (I haven't seen any)?

Gold Tone seems to be having fun trying out variations: there's 10 strings (a five-string with doubled strings), but that might just be overkill. This uses the English innovation of running the short string up inside the neck, rather than outside.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: Bernard
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 11:52 AM

The most common 'Zither Banjo' here in the UK was the Windsor - as used by John Howarth of the Oldham Tinkers on the early recordings (Deep Lancashire, Owdham Edge, etc.). John's had the picture used on the Owdham Edge sleeve on the vellum, as I recall.

It's usual practice to only use five strings.

Because of the way the tensioners work (on the Windsor), it's quite a tricky job to replace the vellum - usually a couple of attempts are needed before the 'action' is correctly set.


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 12:21 PM

Hmm... I'm now realizing I may have seen one of those Windsors: 6 tuners, like guitar tuners, but only 5 strings put on. That would require a conversion on the nut, wouldn't it.

There's another variation in the pictures toward the bottom of this thread at Banjo Hangout: clicky. The "short" string goes up to the head like on a Windsor, but outside the neck, rather than through a tube.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: Bill in Alabama
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 02:49 PM

I have known a couple of banjoists in the bluegrass tradition who used an extra string to avoid re-tuning to play in C without using a capo. Sonny Osborn did this for a long time.
Bill


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 04:14 PM

That's interesting, Bill. Never heard of it.

Here's a banjo I've looked at in the store before: Forty & Co. English banjo at Buffalo Brothers Guitars in Carlsbad, California. It's got six tuners but only five strings, so maybe it was a convert? (New nut, bridge, maybe tailpiece?)

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 04:24 PM

"It's got six tuners but only five strings, so maybe it was a convert? (New nut, bridge, maybe tailpiece?)"

Nope. That's how they made 'em. They used guitar tuners and left one "open," simply because it was a way to get tuners onto an instrument in a manner their maunfacturing standards could handle. The 'zither' banjo was a kludge of an instrument, and nearly universally poor in sound, playability (someone up-stream here has already commented on the problems of changing the head [vellum]). In general, the six-tuners-for-five-strings approach might have been a reasonable approach, but it was typically married to the small 'zither' head arrangement, and was a failure.

I have seen vintage six- and seven-string "five-stringers," most of which did not use the 'guitar headstock' approach. Some American makers did them, but they never gained much popularity. I suspect the 'how long does it take to tune a banjo?*' aspect of the instrument was made even harder to accomplish with the added string.

Bob Clayton


* 'No one knows!'


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: Bernard
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 05:02 PM

That banjo is definitely a Windsor 'Zither' - they would 'brand' their cheaper models with music shops' badges.


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: Leadfingers
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 05:38 PM

I have a 1900 ish Temlett Seven String - had it forty years or so !


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: Leadfingers
Date: 25 Jan 11 - 06:44 PM

Just a thought about tuning - The old chap who looked afte the shop for Clifford Essex told me it was intended to be tuned like a five string , with a Low C and G for Bass runs for song accompaniment


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: Little Robyn
Date: 26 Jan 11 - 01:55 AM

I have a little old 6 string banjo that I bought about 40 years ago, here in NZ. It's a Gem, no.211, with the thumb string going up through the neck. However, one of the tuning pegs is loose and as I wasn't sure how to tune it anyway, I've used it as a 5 string (with a spare peg).
But the nut only has 4 grooves in it, so it was either added later or the maker only had guitar machine heads to put on his 5 string banjo! Also, the strings are attached at the bottom of the metal rim, to knobs/hooks carved out of the metal itself and there are only 5 of them!
So maybe it was only ever intended to be a 5 string????
I don't play it very often now.
Robyn


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: erosconpollo
Date: 26 Jan 11 - 10:55 AM

Any Banjitar can have the low sixth string -- which often doesn't sound very good anyway -- switched out to a lighter gauge, essentially converting the instrument to a 5 + 1 banjo. I did that with mine quite some time back and have kept it that way.


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: GUEST,Tim Bailey
Date: 29 Mar 11 - 11:14 PM

I have been asked by a rather busy architect friend to 'value' a 6 string (6peg) Windsor, 'Model 6' with '1007' stamped beneath up on the pegboard. There is a hole into the neck for the 6th string? Inside the cut out on the RH notch in the pegboard.

All but two metal strings are broken, including the hidden 6th one.

The asymmetrical case has faux crocodile skin covering. Red velvet inside.

TIA


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: Ernest
Date: 14 May 11 - 11:25 AM

refresh with an example from youtub


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: GUEST,Black Jake Two Fingers Once of Norwich
Date: 22 Feb 16 - 08:38 AM

I was quite amused by some of the comments posted above re-6-string banjo (5+1) not a guitar. This would be the 'zither' banjo, the invention of which is usually credited to William Temlett an English banjo maker who patented the name 'zither banjo'in 1869. An American, Alfred D Cammeyer, also claimed to have invented it in 1877. Take your pick.

The zither banjo was extraordinarily popular in England during the latter part of the 19th Century and the first two decades of the 20th -really up to the outbreak of the Second World War. Windsor made some of the best and these were by far the most popular. There is a photo of King Edward VII playing one, and they were turned out in their thousands by a variety of makers apart from Windsor. The Windsor factory was destroyed by a bomb in 1941, and that unfortunately rather put paid to their production, but you can still get modern zither banjos made by other makers.

There are still a large number of zither banjos around. They nearly all have 6-machine heads for tuning (ease of manufacture being the main reason) although I have seen them with 5 nickel-silver ones. Contrary to the nonsense written above there is no reason why a good zither banjo in sound condition should not play beautifully using finger-style playing. The zither banjo has a softer mellower tone than other banjos, and I'm told that it was designed to compete with the sound the zither which was also very popular during the 19th Century. Certainly there were a number of zither pieces written to play on the zither banjo. Disregard the story of Cammeyer coining the term 'zither banjo'following a mishap during a concert -the term was in use well before that.

Contrary to some reports, there's no difficulty in playing clawhammer if you wish, and I can't understand why anyone should claim that changing the vellum is a problem. Anyone with a bit of nouse and the appropriate tools (screwdriver, socket-head, and pliers)can do it. I've done it several times with no difficulty at all.

They are lovely instruments and I've had and still have several of them. The distinguishing feature of a zither banjo is its construction. All have a wooden-surround and bowl looking like a resonator to the uninitiated, which is non-removable, and which completely surrounds the back and side of the pot. Unlike other banjos where the neck is attached directly to the pot, the neck of a zither-banjo is directly connected to the wooden bowl (as I tend to call it) and the pot is part suspended on the wooden bowl by brackets (although some of the brackets are purely for asymmetry and decoration).

As to value, it all depends who you are buying from and,of course, condition. My old W. E. Temlett (that's Temlett Junior) sold at Bamford's Auctionhouse two years ago for £110, but the guy who bought it only got £84 for it on Ebay (serve him right!). I bought a very fine Windsor Popular No.9 on Huddersfield (UK) market for £80 recently. You can still can get playable examples for £60 or so, if you're lucky. Or you can pay up to £500. I'd be reluctant to pay more. Be careful buying in the Internet. You really need to see a banjo before you buy it, or make sure the vendor has a decent returns policy.

Good luck.


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Subject: RE: 6-string banjo (5+1, not guitar)
From: banjoman
Date: 23 Feb 16 - 06:02 AM

Guest above said all I was going to say about Windsor Banjos.
I currently have one from 1926 and have changed the velum several times. It plays fine using a variety of styles and stands up well to my more modern instruments.. I do own a 5+ 1 which I made by converting the nut and tail piece of an Emile Grimshaw circa 1935. Currently in bits awaiting a new velum although the old one has the makers signature on it so worth keeping.


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