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Pete Seeger's banjo scale length

Will Fly 15 Jul 12 - 07:20 AM
Leadfingers 15 Jul 12 - 08:53 AM
erosconpollo 15 Jul 12 - 09:00 AM
GUEST 15 Jul 12 - 10:06 AM
GUEST,mando-player-91 15 Jul 12 - 10:39 AM
GUEST,DonMeixner 15 Jul 12 - 11:08 PM
Stringsinger 16 Jul 12 - 06:20 PM
Don Firth 17 Jul 12 - 04:07 PM
PHJim 18 Jul 12 - 10:25 AM
Will Fly 18 Jul 12 - 10:32 AM
Don Firth 18 Jul 12 - 01:15 PM
PHJim 18 Jul 12 - 10:21 PM
Will Fly 19 Jul 12 - 03:55 AM
Geoff the Duck 19 Jul 12 - 06:53 AM
Will Fly 19 Jul 12 - 07:05 AM
GUEST,Mark Ross on the road 19 Jul 12 - 01:13 PM
Stringsinger 20 Jul 12 - 12:32 PM
matt milton 20 Jul 12 - 12:45 PM
Don Firth 20 Jul 12 - 01:29 PM
Will Fly 20 Jul 12 - 02:05 PM
GUEST 10 Aug 12 - 01:02 AM
GUEST 10 Aug 12 - 01:01 PM
GUEST,Steve Harrison 10 Aug 12 - 01:52 PM
erosconpollo 11 Aug 12 - 07:58 AM
GUEST,DrWord 11 Aug 12 - 03:50 PM
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Subject: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: Will Fly
Date: 15 Jul 12 - 07:20 AM

I've just been watching a documentary on Woody Guthrie (on BBC iPlayer), in which there are several appearances by Pete Seeger. The banjo he was playing seemed to me to be enormously long. Of course I'm used to playing a tenor banjo and tenor guitar, with a shorter neck, so perhaps my eyes have deceived me, but other 5-string banjos I've seen don't seem to be as long as Pete's.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: Leadfingers
Date: 15 Jul 12 - 08:53 AM

I THINK Pete's banjo of choice is a Vega open back long scale , which has two more frets than a standard Five String !


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: erosconpollo
Date: 15 Jul 12 - 09:00 AM

That's a 32 inch scale.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Jul 12 - 10:06 AM

Seeger himself describes lengthening the neck to provide 2 extra frets to allow tuning to F http://longneckbanjoland.com/peteseegerstuff.htm    but the instruments currently sold as "Seeger style long necks" have 25 frets, 3 extra, and a 32" scale http://www.andybanjo.com/cgi-bin/trolleyed_public.cgi?action=showprod_RB530GT providing an E tuning.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: GUEST,mando-player-91
Date: 15 Jul 12 - 10:39 AM

Erik Darling also played a long necked Vega open back.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 15 Jul 12 - 11:08 PM

As did Tommy Makem, Paddie Bell, Alex Hasilev, George Grove......


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: Stringsinger
Date: 16 Jul 12 - 06:20 PM

Pete's original banjo with the People's Songs logo I believe was stolen.
His latest banjo contains a hard wood lignum vitae neck that is extended.
I think this might have been the one he inadvertently left on the top of his
car, a couple of years ago.

Pete is responsible for the innovation of the long neck banjo. In his instruction book, he illustrates how to dovetail an extended neck onto a standard one.

If I'm not mistaken, someone could tell me, I think his first banjo was a five-string Orpheum.

The scale length would be longer than that found on a four-string plectrum.
The Trujo banjo might correspond to Pete's banjo scale length.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Jul 12 - 04:07 PM

I don't know what's going on these days, but back in the late 1950s, Vega started making a "Seeger Model" 5-string banjo. Long neck, three extra frets, 11" head, open back, "Tuba-Phone tone ring." As I recall, they sold for $275.00, plus $75.00 for a hard-shell case.

I had one for a few years (recommended by Bob Gibson when he blew through Seattle in 1958). I ordered one. Terrific banjo! I learned how to play it (taught myself out of Seeger's book and record set, "How to Play the 5-String Banjo"), and developed into a halfway decent banjo player, but didn't really go at it hard enough to get "Scruggs style" down pat. I eventually sold it for close to what I paid for it.

Beautiful, nice playing instrument, but the problem was that I'm much more of a guitarist, folk and dipping into classical from time to time, and when I went somewhere for a gig or just to a hoot or party—well, I had to walk with a pair of forearm crutches, and lugging both instruments was a bit more than I could handle.

I hated to sell it, but it got to the point where I just wasn't playing it that much and I felt that it really should be out there being played by someone who would appreciate it. From the glow in the eyes of the guy who bought it from me, I think in wound up in a good home.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: PHJim
Date: 18 Jul 12 - 10:25 AM

As has been stated above, Pete's first long neck banjo had two extra frets, allowing him to play in Bb using a lowered gCGBD tuning or in F using a lowered gDGBD tuning. His next long neck, which has become the standard for long neck banjos, added three extra frets, allowing him to play in A in lowered gCGBD and in E in lowered gDGBD. Most of the pop-folk groups from the sixties employed the long necks with three extra frets. Playing the long neck banjo with a capo on the third fret makes it a standard scale banjo.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: Will Fly
Date: 18 Jul 12 - 10:32 AM

Are these things easy to play? The scale length seems to throw the left hand right out/up in the air! I suppose you get used to it. If I was playing one, I think I'd have to text my left hand to tell it what to play... :-)


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Jul 12 - 01:15 PM

If you're using the full length of the neck, it can get a bit "reachy," but most of the time you have the capo somewhere more toward the 5th-string peg.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: PHJim
Date: 18 Jul 12 - 10:21 PM

Take a look at the length of Karen Dalton's banjo on this album cover.
Karen Dalton's banjo


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 Jul 12 - 03:55 AM

Blimey - that's halfway to the moon!

But if you constantly capo to make it more playable, surely that negates the point of the length...

Just kidding.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 19 Jul 12 - 06:53 AM

Will - Seeger's long neck happened because he wanted to sing in a key that didn't suit a standard banjo, but wanted to use fingerings from standard tuning. One way of looking at it would be as a reverse capo - instead of moving your fingering up the neck, as with a standard capo, you would be moving them "down" beyond the nut position. Because of this, if you are playing in standard tuning, you need to put your capo where the nut should be.
Quack!
GtD.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 Jul 12 - 07:05 AM

Yes, I got the concept a while back, Geoff. :-) I wonder if the theory could be extended to guitars - those folkies who couldn't play in, say Ab, could extend the neck length by 4 frets and play in C... More fun than capo'ing on the first and playing in G - and think of the tone you'd get!

Stevie Ray Vaughan used to put extra heavy duty strings on his Strat and tune down by a tone (or a half-tone - can't remember which offhand). He could get the huge tone he wanted while still being able to give the strings a good old bend.

SRV never used a capo though...


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: GUEST,Mark Ross on the road
Date: 19 Jul 12 - 01:13 PM

Karen Dalton had an extra 2 frets on her banjo, allowing her to tune down to dADF#A.


Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 Jul 12 - 12:32 PM

I don't think that the long neck works well for much of the tradition clawhammer styles like Round Peak or other traditional complex patterns.

I like it the way Pete used to do it with an index finger pick with the flat end
facing upward and the two middle and ring picks facing downward. This makes it awkward to play Scruggs style but if the downward picks are tall enough so they don't slip off the fingers while playing, you can master this style to some extent.
Also, he doesn't use a thumb pick and I think his style balances the sound of the strings better without it.

The reason for the added frets playing lower is to approximate the accompanying sound in the register of the guitar and this is what Pete did, use the bass lines and counter lines in an accompaniment as a guitar would.

Peggy Seeger recently did a workshop at the Old Town School of Folk Music
explaining the guitar-like usage of the banjo.

This style of Pete's was what attracted me to the five-string in the first place,
especially when I heard Pete for the first time at the home of Will Geer in Santa Moncia in the 1950's. Pete's playing blew me away. Ever since then, I've been a Pete Seeger acolyte on the five-string.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: matt milton
Date: 20 Jul 12 - 12:45 PM

"I wonder if the theory could be extended to guitars - those folkies who couldn't play in, say Ab, could extend the neck length by 4 frets and play in C... More fun than capo'ing on the first and playing in G - and think of the tone you'd get!

I've been thinking about buying a Baritone acoustic guitar for a very similar reason!

A reverse capo: there are certain songs I've learned to play and sing a certain way which, on reflection, having recorded myself singing them, I would prefer to pitch a little lower.

I'm not sure what the standard tuning for baritone guitars is supposed to be. There seem to be more of them in the US than the UK. (at least, acoustic ones, anyway)


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Jul 12 - 01:29 PM

Rather than lengthening the neck of the guitar to increase its range, Swedish guitarist Gören Söllscher has taken a different approach:

TWANG!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 Jul 12 - 02:05 PM

That's some bitchin' gear, Don!

I love Stephen Bennett playing the harp guitar, but I'm damned if i dare try and play one.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Aug 12 - 01:02 AM

Has anyone noticed Jerry Walter of the Gateway Singers Vega banjo? Before he had the PS Vega, an album cover shows him playing a longneck Vega with just two additional frets. The peghead logo is the cheaper Vega silkscreened version as opposed to the pearl(?) VEGA and star logo that later adorned the peghead. I wonder if this was a factory neck or a repro. Also Jerry in earlier photos looked like he too had an Orpheum converted to a longneck. He even put the screw-eye in the neck like Pete did. Also at one time Ovation guitars made a guitar with three extra frets. Don't know if it's still in production or not.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Aug 12 - 01:01 PM

Michael Hofer states that Pete played a standard length Orpheum # 2, that Marty Cohen lengthened to add three extra frets. The neck was not very stable, so that's when Pete made is own out of the South American wood. Wonder who made Jerry Walter's Orpheum longneck?


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: GUEST,Steve Harrison
Date: 10 Aug 12 - 01:52 PM

My standard scale (26.5 inches or so) 5 string banjos will happily tune down to open E with medium strings. I don't think this all that unusual.
Steve


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: erosconpollo
Date: 11 Aug 12 - 07:58 AM

>>I'm not sure what the standard tuning for baritone guitars is supposed to be. There seem to be more of them in the US than the UK. (at least, acoustic ones, anyway)<<

I play (around with) a baritone acoustic made by Ovation. Most folks drop them down to either A or B. I prefer the former myself.

Incidentally, Gold Tone's 'bass banjo' uses the same 32 inch scale as a long-neck but with heavier strings tuned down to bass guitar standards.


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Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's banjo scale length
From: GUEST,DrWord
Date: 11 Aug 12 - 03:50 PM

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Mudcat! Thanks for the thread. Thanks for all the cool info and the tangents too. Love this place!
Keep on pickin'

Dennis


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