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34 messages

5th String Capo

22 Apr 03 - 09:29 AM (#937722)
Subject: 5th String Capo
From: JedMarum

Well, I did it. I bit the bullet today and ordered a 5th string capo for my Vega longneck.

I've been queazy about doing anything so permanent to it, cuting, driling, etc ... so instead I've been twisting that 5th string up and down into keys it ought not to go (Bflat, even C, once or twice). But I'm tired of having sigificant retuning efforts, every time I twist that sucker up to B flat - and down to F.

Any experience with installing the 5th string capo? Any comments about using 'em?

Anyone want to commiserate about "a banjo tuner's work is never done?"

22 Apr 03 - 10:32 AM (#937747)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: GUEST,Russ


My sumpathies.

I've waffled about this for years. I've used 5th string capos. I can't remember the brand of the first and the second was a Schubb. I installed both and both got the job done.

I haven't put a 5th string capo on my current main banjo for several reasons, but mostly because I've decided I like the sound of a retuned string better than the sound of a capoed string. I don't use a capo for the other strings either.

If I were to go back to capoing, I'd probably go to railroad spikes. That's what all my old time banjo playing friends use.

22 Apr 03 - 10:42 AM (#937750)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: Steve Parkes

I've had a Shubb sitting in my banjo case for a couple of years. But then, my banjo has been sitting in its case for a couple of years! I must take it out and give my guitar a rest. I only bought the capo because someone (and she knows who she is!) would insist in singing in awkward keys like G#; sincewe don't sing together much now, I'll leave it a bit longer. And anyway, I'm frightened todeath of drilling holes in muy banjo!


22 Apr 03 - 10:46 AM (#937751)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: Rick Fielding

Hi Jed. I've owned three Shubbs, and mis-drilled TWO of them! (pure dumbness!)

The railroad spikes were the best 50 years ago, and they're the best today.

Hope all is well.



22 Apr 03 - 10:52 AM (#937759)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: Bee-dubya-ell

They're easy to install. Just drill 2 small holes. Shubb provides clear instructions with their products and I'm sure the other manufacturers do likewise. But, if you have any doubts, take it to a luthier/repairperson.

Expect it to be "in the way" for a few days until you get used to it being there, especially if you play up the neck a lot. After a while your fingers just seem to naturally avoid it. The hardest part of using a 5th string capo is remembering to move it back to "neutral" when you de-capo the banjo. Nothing quite like kicking off the next tune, in G, and hitting a 5th string that's still capoed up to Bb.


22 Apr 03 - 11:22 AM (#937780)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: chip a

I put an extra long Shubb on my banjo after snapping a little bitty drill bit off in the neck (okay, I snapped two of them) while drilling for railroad spikes. It seemed in the way at first but now I don't even know it's there. It's quick and easy to use. In the past, I've had some trouble with spikes causing the strings to buzz. With low profile frets this can be a real nuisance.
If you're playing Old Time, the purity police will give you a hard time for not using spikes.

22 Apr 03 - 12:47 PM (#937818)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: ex-pat

I use spikes at the 7th and 9th frets. Still have to tune down a mite when I use them. Too true, a banjo players work is never done!


22 Apr 03 - 12:49 PM (#937820)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: X

I fret the fifth string and I even slide on the fifth, not fun with the RR spikes.

22 Apr 03 - 12:54 PM (#937822)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: DonMeixner


I've used spikes and a Shubb on my Ode Long Neck. Ever torn up a finger tip on a spike? I have. The Shub is just the nutz as far as I'm concerned. Retuning is less of an issue. Obvious ly you need to be careful about location and how you predrill the holes. One of the screws for the capo is an "eye" screw and I use that for a strap anchor.   10 years and no worries.


22 Apr 03 - 01:01 PM (#937830)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: Leadfingers

I have a Professionally instaled sliding capo on my Maya,but nothing on any of the others as I make 5th string capos myself for my banjos
Very cheap and very easy.If any one PM,s me their e-mail address I
will e-mail the 'blueprint'to them.Just a heavy duty box staple and an elastic band.

22 Apr 03 - 04:51 PM (#938006)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: Charley Noble

And if you must have the real railroad spikes, I still have a vast supply. I'll mail you 12 for a dollar, and refills if you want. PM me for details, I am to please.

It is useful to pre-drill the fingerboard before hammering in the spikes, but try not to drill all the way through.

Spike Noble

22 Apr 03 - 05:42 PM (#938022)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: GUEST,Claymore

Jed, I've had an extra long Shubb on my long-neck Vega Folk Ranger for about 15 years (I've had the banjo since 64). I special ordered it in unfinished brass to allow it to age along with the other appointments. It has worked well though I have made a couple of adjustments over the years.

1. Since I long ago lowered the fifth string at the bridge to about 3/8ths lower than the other four strings (it doesn't affect the picking but does allow for strumming ala tenor banjo) my fifth string rides closer to the neck. When I put the Shubb on, I filed back the length of the capo arm to allow for chord slides up the neck, so that it just extends over the fifth string by about a 1/4 inch.

2. When I mounted the capo I moved the rail further down the neck to start just at the sixth fret. That way when I play in G/C I clamp the capo down at the 8th fret (and my banjo capo is at the 3rd fret). The idea is to have your fifth string capo at the same position from the fifth fret as your banjo capo is from the nut on the whole neck. Thus, when I drop to F, both capos drop two frets. When I go to E the fifth string capo is at the end of it's travel and is open, and the banjo capo is off the instrument. The space saved near the fifth string nut gives you two additional keys at the top end.

3. Finally I use a Suzuki violin tuner attached to the fifth string just past the bridge and before the tailpiece. This allows me to quickly tweek the tuning, just like fiddlers. You will find that the tension you apply to the Shubbs tuning knob can change the strings tuning slightly, thus the Suzuki allows you to compensate and you are much faster in changing to odd keys than any other method.

Finally I use the GHS medium gauge strings (#180s) which work far better on a long neck than any others I have tried and keep the fret buzz down on open tunings.

Good Luck!

22 Apr 03 - 09:03 PM (#938158)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: DonMeixner


I have tried the GHS Strings and found them awful at best. But thats is a matter of taste more than anything else. I really miss those Vega Extra Longs, little heavier gauge on the un wound strings. I have lately been using the long neck set supplied by Deering and find them to be pretty OK.


23 Apr 03 - 09:35 AM (#938433)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: JedMarum

Good advice here. Thanks.

I did order a Schub from Deering (for the long neck), and a box of string sets too (Mediums cause they sound best).

I too like the sound of the uncapoed string, but I've been working some folks from time to time who switch from Bflat, to G to A to F etc, and even with an electronic tuner I'm finding it tough to make the switch as gracefully as I'd like. I usually plan out my songs based upon banjo retunings, when I have a say-so about it!

I know with the 5th string capo there will still be the fine retunings, but these are a lot easier.

I considered spikes, but that seems even more invasive a surgury, and disfiguring to the neck. I can't call myself an old timey player. I suppose I'm still just another guitar player with a banjo, but I love the instrument. I use my right hand my the way I do for guitar, some 3 fingered pickin', and some brushing - no picks just long nails. So I have a sort of bastardized style - but it works.

23 Apr 03 - 09:43 AM (#938446)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: Roger the Skiffler

Naive question: how can model railway spikes be more "authentic" than a capo?
(I only ask!)


23 Apr 03 - 10:13 AM (#938480)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: chip a

The old dead guys used them. At least I think that's the criterion.

23 Apr 03 - 10:44 AM (#938512)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: Rick Fielding

....and little teeny tiny John-boy Henry swung his nine ounce hammer and jes' hammered those model train railroad spikes in!

23 Apr 03 - 01:06 PM (#938614)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: DonMeixner

I believe that Pete Seegar in his little red Banjo Book said to use very tiny screws. And then he said to make one out of a clock spring. The Shubb works just fine and Grover has a real cheapy slide bar thing that worked OK on my Harmony Sovereign Back-a-lite Beauty.


23 Apr 03 - 02:35 PM (#938673)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: clansfolk

Have Shubb 5th string capos on all my banjos both acoustic and solid electrics - might even start fitting them to me guitars - they're so good :-) have tried other makes but always ended up taking 'em off again.

Take your time when fitting and make sure the 5th string is near the edge of the fretboard and parallel or it can slip from under the capo bar.... otherwise no problems and you can play better with them funny vocalist that love obscure keys.... what's wrong with straining - that's what I say


23 Apr 03 - 03:10 PM (#938692)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson

The Shubb fifth string capo is wonderful. The combination of it and a Kyser Qyuick Change Capo makes for speedy, minimal adjustments between songs.

The hell with tradition. Go for the convenience. There's enough suffering in the world.

23 Apr 03 - 05:10 PM (#938780)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: DonMeixner


I know how Bakealite is spelled, I am just trolling for you.



24 Apr 03 - 03:15 AM (#939053)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: Steve Parkes

Invented by Dr Baekel, so even he spelled it wrong!

24 Apr 03 - 06:16 AM (#939091)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: GUEST,banjoman

I have used a 5th string capo on all my banjos, and found them fine. I appreciate the problem of drilling into a decent instrument, but its best done with a model makers drill which will give very small pilot holes. My real problem has been taking the thing of to transfer to a new banjo, as it leaves two holes in the kneck. A bit of filler and a dab of a polish restoring crayon usually works fine. To avoid any rattle from the disengaged capo, I usually leave it on at the second or third fret and de-tune the fifth string to its normal pitch. Gives some nice unusual effects.

Keep on picking - strumming - whatever

25 Apr 03 - 09:06 AM (#939872)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: JedMarum

I just had a scarey thought! My banjo case is tight - I wonder if the banjo will fit the case with the 5th string capo added?

Well< i'll update this thread when the capo arrives and I've had a chance to see how it all works out!

25 Apr 03 - 10:23 AM (#939919)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: Pied Piper

I'm not a Banjoist but I assume the capo is for the drone sort of string nearest to the player's head. I've seen people use those clips used to keep the paper in position for technical drawing. The clip goes over the 5th string and under the rest, it seems to work well and I assume is cheaper than a specialist capo.
Sorry if I've got the wrong end of the stick.
All the best PP

25 Apr 03 - 10:31 AM (#939925)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: Jerry Rasmussen

I got your e-mail, Leadfingers... thanks. It looks like it would work, but I think you need English staples... Amurican ones is too small. I've used small screws, and they work fine... just haven't gotten around to putting one in my newer banjo... the trick is finding screws small enough. I have a couple that I took out of the face of an old clock.


Thanks for the suggestion, Lead..

And who ever came up with all the bad jokes about banjo players? That's DEFINITELY a Brit thing. There's a Charlie Brown cartoon where Charlie is talking about all the problems and sorrows in the world, and Linus says "Every baby should be given a banjo when they're born."

I second that emotion.


25 Apr 03 - 01:25 PM (#940063)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: Leadfingers

Any thin metal strip will do.I suggested a carton staple as they are easy to bend to shape and one staple will cut in two to make one capo.
I have also successfully used the metal strip out of a dead car windscreen wiper though these are harder to cut.

25 Apr 03 - 07:42 PM (#940366)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: BanjoRay

Before you decide to install a Shubb fifth string capo, make sure the side of the neck is still vertical to the fingerboard at a point 1cm back from it, because that's roughly where you drill the holes, and if the capo metal strip does not sit vertically, then the bit of metal that holds the string down sticks a bit too far up in the air. I first used my Shubb on a Deering Sierra, and the curvature of the side of the neck caused that to happen. The 7th and 8th frets were OK, but above that the capo was useless. I have since had spikes installed on my three banjos, and they're fine.

22 May 03 - 09:30 AM (#957621)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: JedMarum

I just recieved my stuff from Deering (Chubb), read the instructions, looked over the kit and decided it really was simple enough for a do-it-yourself project. So, of course I brough it in to the shop for a pro to do! I just don't have the balls to to cut my own banjo neck! Even these three teeny tiny little screw holes. So for $40 my local, talented guitar repair man will put the thing on for me.

I bought a Chubb capo while I was at it. My Keiser just pushes the strings too far out.

This is a major expense for a part-time banjo, full-time guitar player! But I can't wait to try my new toy!

22 May 03 - 04:33 PM (#957861)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: Frankham


I had a sliding capo on my banjo and had to take it off. As soon as I started frailing at a good clip with volume, the string would invariably slip out from under the sliding capo. I went back to the spikes and haven't had a problem with this since. I think that's why the old-time players like the spikes.

Frank Hamilton

22 May 03 - 05:23 PM (#957890)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: GUEST,Egal

Railroad spikes, get em from Sully's banjos in Macclesfield

same set been in my instrument for more than four years. I tried the slidey up Shubb thingy but found it near impossible to fret the fifth
with me thumb, and a bloody nuisance when playing descending licks.

22 May 03 - 05:44 PM (#957903)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: Charley Noble

And my offer for genuine VARNEY railroad spikes still stands: 12/$1 with a stamped self-addressed envelope. At the rate they are flying out the door I'll still have a supply in the year 3000.

Charley Noble

22 May 03 - 11:06 PM (#958011)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: smokeyjoe

I currently have a 'shubb' sliding capo on my Vega. It's alright -not great. It's not *that* hard to get used to, but as BanjoRay stated above, it's not as simple as Shubb would have you believe to install either. Probablt the best capo I've ever used on a banjo was a 3/8" stove bolt. Slip it in between the string and the neck just behind the desired fret and voila! Make sure you get one that has a shank wide enough to clear the fret. The thread on the bolt holds the string nicely in place and prevents lateral movement.
Of course, you may ask why I ultimately went for the shubb....... well, so do I.

22 May 03 - 11:57 PM (#958024)
Subject: RE: 5th String Capo
From: JedMarum

Well, I'll find out tomorrow. The banjo man called and said it's on. I'll pick it up tomorrow and play it tomorrow/tomorrow night.

I don't frail. I use a four fingered roll style, with some brushing mixed in - real bastardized, I know, but it works for me. I don't think I'll have a problem with pulling too hard on the fifth string, since I'm pretty much down stroking with my nail. I don; fret the fifth string, hardly - I suppose I will have some adjusting to the bar being there ... we'll just have to see.

I'm anxious to try it out. Could be a lot of banjo played tomorrow night!