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Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret

ST 02 Feb 20 - 09:34 AM
gillymor 02 Feb 20 - 09:43 AM
GUEST,Starship 02 Feb 20 - 10:00 AM
gillymor 02 Feb 20 - 10:09 AM
GUEST,Jerry 03 Feb 20 - 11:54 AM
banjoman 05 Feb 20 - 05:40 AM
ST 11 Feb 20 - 05:56 AM
Stanron 11 Feb 20 - 06:33 AM
Acorn4 11 Feb 20 - 08:58 AM
GUEST,Starship 11 Feb 20 - 09:59 AM
Charley Noble 11 Feb 20 - 10:06 AM
gillymor 11 Feb 20 - 10:29 AM
GUEST 11 Feb 20 - 03:52 PM
ST 12 Feb 20 - 02:56 PM
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Subject: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: ST
Date: 02 Feb 20 - 09:34 AM

Hello, banjo players,

No matter what I try, my 4th and 3rd (D and G) strings sound too sharp on the second fret if tuned to the perfect pitch when open. I've tried two different banjos, and both had this problem, so I guess it's a common trouble or a typical newb mistake that's easy to deal with. It's probably just that in all the years spent in Siberia I've never met another banjo player to share the secret banjoist lore with me.

Could someone kindly enlighten me and other newbies from strange remote places?


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Subject: RE: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: gillymor
Date: 02 Feb 20 - 09:43 AM

I put one of these on both of my banjos and intonation improved significantly along with the tone and they are radiused for compensation so they don't collapse, if that's a concern.

Moon Bridge


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Subject: RE: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: GUEST,Starship
Date: 02 Feb 20 - 10:00 AM

Ubiquitous problem it seems.


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Subject: RE: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: gillymor
Date: 02 Feb 20 - 10:09 AM

jbalch, a pretty experienced hand, wrote in that BHO thread linked by Starship-

"intonation problems at the lower frets can sometimes be caused by action too high at the nut. If the nut is too high, it may cause you to stretch the string out of tune when noting at the first few frets.


Try installing a capo at the first or second fret. Then see if it plays in tune from that position. If it does, the nut might be your problem."


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Subject: RE: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 03 Feb 20 - 11:54 AM

Just a thought, but have you tried relative tuning, rather than digitally tuning each open string? Get the 3rd string in tune to G, then tune the 4th string at its fifth fret to that open G string, then tune the open 1st string to the 7th fret of that G string, then tune the high G string to the first string fretted at the 5th fret, and then finally tune the second string at its 8th fret to the open high G string. Might not work for you, but it’s supposed to overcome troublesome intonation, especially for the B string, for which some banjos like Stellings have a compensated nut anyway. Note this relates to gDGBD tuning.


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Subject: RE: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: banjoman
Date: 05 Feb 20 - 05:40 AM

I agree with points made regarding bridge height and nut etc.
However, from over 60 yrs of playing and occasionally making banjos, I agree that this can be a problem.
I suggest you stop using an electronic tuner and try adjusting till it sounds OK. May need a bit of tweaking for different songs or tunes, but it has always worked for me.
Pete


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Subject: RE: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: ST
Date: 11 Feb 20 - 05:56 AM

Thanks, everybody!

I'll try checking all the things mentioned (and, as a matter of fact, I already retune the poor thing by ear before pretty much every song trying to force at least the starting chord to sound right. Not a particularly entertaining process if my usual audiences are to be trusted.)


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Subject: RE: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: Stanron
Date: 11 Feb 20 - 06:33 AM

The first thing I would check is the height of strings above the first fret. This article from Frank Ford's Frets.com tells you how;

http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Musician/GenSetup/NutAction/nutaction.html

If you have a zero fret you need to be sure that the strings actually contact the zero fret all the time.

If that is OK and the problem is still there you need to check if the nut is in the correct position.

Without a zero fret we assume that the nut is in the correct position but that assumption may not be correct. The nut being too close to the first fret would cause the problem if the nut action is correct.

To check this put a capo on the first fret and tune the banjo to that. If the banjo plays in tune on other frets the nut is not in the correct position. If the banjo does not play in tune check the bridge position again.

Another way of checking if the position of the nut is correct is to measure from the first fret to the second, I'd recommend in millimeters, then multiply that figure by 1.06. That ought to be the distance between the edge of the nut where the strings start to vibrate and the first fret.


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Subject: RE: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: Acorn4
Date: 11 Feb 20 - 08:58 AM

I have an old Windsor banjo and the second fret is actually split - this may have been to cure this problem?


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Subject: RE: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: GUEST,Starship
Date: 11 Feb 20 - 09:59 AM

Acorn4, you are likely correct. Something that I think may be similar in nature is the compensated bridge on a Larrivee guitar's B string. I expect that's to 'fix' the same problem except on a guitar as opposed to a banjo.

The second-fret problem is often discussed on banjo forums, and it looks like the problem ain't going away anytime soon.


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Subject: RE: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: Charley Noble
Date: 11 Feb 20 - 10:06 AM

Interesting. I thought this was just my problem. However, I never lost any sleep at night over it. I just continuously retune, to the applause of my bandmates and the audience, if there is still anyone listening...

Charlie Ipcar


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Subject: RE: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: gillymor
Date: 11 Feb 20 - 10:29 AM

Banjo intonation problems are no laughing matter. On the other hand:

Banjo players spend half their lives tuning and the other half playing out of tune.


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Subject: RE: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Feb 20 - 03:52 PM

The split bridge on a guitar was, I believe pioneered by Andy Manson who I believe now lives in Devon.


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Subject: RE: Tech: The Curse of the Banjo's Second Fret
From: ST
Date: 12 Feb 20 - 02:56 PM

That's the problem with street performances, Charlie. Folks just disappear once they lose interest. Moments ago you had a solid following, and now there's only a little girl saying, 'Mom, what is this ape trying to do with its frying pan?'


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