banjo question

5 replies [Last post]
Joined: 31 May 2008
Groups: None
banjo question

My husband (who is not a skilled banjo player) recently purchased a 1920's four string banjo. While it had an okay sound, it played horribly off key and so on my advice he got new strings for it. He had to choose between a heavy and a light string and I suggested the lighter strings.
Now he insists that the strings do not have enough tension even though they are tuned to pitch. It does sound different than it did but it does play in perfect pitch from low to high (all the way up the neck).
The low or 'g' string does seem a little off but I have the same problem on my antique (1800's) guitar. Even with the gut and silk strings, the low string never sounds quite right.
Any suggestions? solutions?

Commenting on this Forum topic is closed.

String Compensation

I expect that you are running into a problem of needing a compensated bridge. The simple way and ideal way to place the bridge on a fretted instrument is to measure the distance from the nut to the 12th fret, and put the bridge an equal distance from the 12th fret. But in the real world that is just an approximation because the strings get stretched when you fret them, which makes them go sharp. Also, strings get stretch more or less depending on which fret you are using. Strings of different thickness also get stretched differently.

So on the banjo I start by getting the bridge approximately right by measurement, then I compare the pitch of the harmonic above the 12th fret with fretting at the 12th fret, at least on the 1st and 4th string, and slide the bridge until it is sounding right. Usually I have the bridge at a slight angle to the strings, with the base side a little closer to the tail piece. But I just got a cello banjo that has 3 wound strings (it's a 5-string) and I find that it works best angled the other way.

For your guitar, you might want to take it to a luthier. He (or she) should be able to make a compensated bridge for it.

Here are some sites with discussions of compensation and bridge placement:
A particularly interesting one, because he will make a custom bridge for your banjo based on measurements you send to him following his instructions.

Oh, and there is alot of good information on 4-string banjos at:


Joined: 24 Jul 2008
Groups: None

Trial to see if it works

I don't see the signature block at end of the message posted.v.g.



Signatures appear in the text area where you write the message so you should see it there when you first start your post or comment.

Some forums automatically place the signature at the end of your your post which can be helpful but this approach allows you to take out the signature if you prefer for a given post.

Play Well.

Joined: 24 Jul 2008
Groups: None

Ok Shawn, makes sense to me...Verne


No problem, Verne. Welcome to the site.

Play Well.

User login

Find local musicians and jams through folkjam.

  • Improve your skills - play
  • Promote your local jams
  • Join/start local groups
  • Connect with local musicians
  • Receive details of new jams via email
Sign up!  It's free

Play well with others

Recent comments