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Rick Fielding's banjo

10 May 11 - 05:33 PM (#3151674)
Subject: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: PHJim

Many years ago, at a party, I borrowed a banjo from Rick Fielding. I noticed that he had moved the fifth string peg from the 5th fret to the 7th or 8th fret and filled the original hole with what looked like plastic wood. I meant to ask him about this, but got distracted and never did. I know Rick had many friends on the Mudcat Cafe (He was the one who told me about it) and wonder if any of you know his reasons for moving the peg.
Something else I noticed was the beautifully tooled leather strap on his banjo.

10 May 11 - 05:52 PM (#3151692)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: Bill D

I know nothing about banjos, but I have seen Rick's leather work. His guitar case was a work of art!

10 May 11 - 07:09 PM (#3151733)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: Fortunato

Always a pleasure to be reminded of our friend, Rick Fielding.

I'm sorry I don't know the answer. I hope someone does; I'd just like to hear the story.


10 May 11 - 07:29 PM (#3151741)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: catspaw49

I have not been able to find that info but I swear Rick posted something about it..............***sigh***............Rick didn't make some of it easier because he loved wacky thread titles. Although I've tried some word and phrase searches, no joy.

I have a beautiful strap Rick sent me for my 50th birthday in 1999 which I almost didn't make it to. I value the strap more than any guitar I own.....................I miss him still.


10 May 11 - 07:50 PM (#3151746)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: katlaughing

Me, too, Spaw.

Maybe Jeri or PeterT will know.

In the meantime, I did find one he started on fiddle pegs. Read the posting by him of 25 Aug 00 - 01:00 PM in THIS THREAD for one of those gems which we all miss so much.


10 May 11 - 08:06 PM (#3151754)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: Jeri

I never asked him and I don't remember him saying anything. Guessing about why he moved the 5th string to the 7th fret, it would have allowed him to capo up to the 5th or 6th fret. He was fond of oddball tunings.

10 May 11 - 08:55 PM (#3151769)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: Bill D

The very first time I met Rick..(the first set of pics in the MudPhotos) he told me of new ways to tune an autoharp

10 May 11 - 09:02 PM (#3151774)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: gnu

"He was fond of oddball tunings."

Indeed, he hung around with the likes of Spaw.

Not bad company, all the same eh?

10 May 11 - 11:33 PM (#3151825)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: Big Mick

I will ask Paul Mills if he would know why. My guess is that Jeri has it right though.

As to his leather work, it was superb. I have many of hisleatherworking tools and a ton of his handdrawn patterns. It is my intention to make myself a Fielding strap using his patterns.

I just spoke with Heather a couple of days ago.

Yeah, Spaw ....... I know how you feel. His influence is all over my music. I open my labor rally concerts with his Voices of Struggle. Later in the set I do his Pitmans Blues.

All the best,


11 May 11 - 06:11 AM (#3151954)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: banjoman

Interesting - moving the 5th string up to the 7th fret would enable you to play in E more easily provided that the 5th string was tuned accordingly. My long neck banjos all have the 5th string at the 7th fret.

11 May 11 - 09:16 AM (#3152061)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: PHJim

Banjoman - That's interesting. Pete Seeger's first long-neck had the fifth peg at the 7th fret (2 extra frets), but he now plays a banjo with the peg at the 8th fret (3 extra frets). Most long necks now seem to have the peg at the 8th.

11 May 11 - 11:44 AM (#3152143)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: JedMarum

I've posted this question to the Banjo Set-up and Repair forum at the Banjo Hangout and received a fedw good comments. This one appears to summarize the issue perfectly, to my thoughts on the subject:

There are a certain number of banjos with the 5th peg at the 6th fret instead of the 5th, and many of these are longnecks (where it's at the 9th fret instead of the 8th) played by folk singers. Eric Darling had one, and Alex Hassliev of the Limeliters had one. Vega made a model called the "Excel" that was their most expensive longneck that had the peg at the 9th fret.

I make them in a longneck or regular neck and like them just fine, in fact I prefer them.

The 1-fret lower doesn't affect string tension very much. I would balk at 2 frets or more, because you'd be into odd tunings and 5th string buzzing.

The main benefits are:

(1) It allows you to put a capo on the 5th fret very easily without the 5th peg getting in the way in order to play in the key of C using G chords or in E using C chords.

(2) You get a longer 4 string section of neck for playing in first position, much like a plectrum banjo

(3) I'm sure that the reason they were popular had to do with the unusual "look".

This answer comes from uncle.fogey at The Banjo Hangout.

11 May 11 - 11:52 AM (#3152152)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: JedMarum

I keep one of my banjos tuned high. I do so for two reasons; 1) it's a low cost banjo that sounds pretty good - but sounds really good tuned high and 2) I sing a number of banjos songs in A and D and an A tuned banjo makes those really easy - it also capos easily at 3rd fret for C - and B or Bflat are not far out of reach either. This high tuned banjo also keeps me in easy range of standard tunings for jamming with others. AND I usually keep a G tuned banjo handy as well.

It seems that Rick's technique can give him quick access to playing those keys that he finds useful, and still allows him to play with others easily. And it's easier then toting around two banjos along with a guitar and whatever else might be needed.

11 May 11 - 12:54 PM (#3152187)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: Charley Noble

Installing HO gauge railroad spikes in the upper neck is another good way of fretting the 5th string so that one can play keys with the capo at the 5th or 7th position. I play a lot of tunes from a C or F chord configuration, with the 2nd string tuned up half a tone. Installing the railroad spikes is a relatively simple job for providing more flexibility.

I have quite an inventory of railroad spikes and have been supplying folks from around the world for years; the spikes are no longer manufactured with off-set heads. Send me a PM if you are interested.

Charley Noble

11 May 11 - 04:04 PM (#3152290)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: kendall

I believe Jeri is right. I have a very old Fairbanks-Vega 5 string and it is not really mine, just on loan as long as I want it, so I can't use spikes or move the 5th peg.
The way I play doesn't demand a lot of ability anyway.

11 May 11 - 04:58 PM (#3152325)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: JedMarum

I believe you'll find that placing the 5th string peg at 6 or 7 is done with a mind to also capo that string as need be (or use spikes). It gives you both a better starting point for 5th string capo (or spike) placement and it gives you a longer range of first position motion without suffering from (fretboard) capo interference.

In short, you wouldn't do it in lieu of 5th capo or spikes. You would do it in addition to those techniques.

11 May 11 - 10:23 PM (#3152453)
Subject: RE: Rick Fielding's banjo
From: Charley Noble


Makes sense to me.

Charley Noble