Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premiere Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

 All Forums
 Other Banjo-Related Topics
 Banjo Building, Setup, and Repair
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Wider String Spacing At The Nut

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

xnavyguy - Posted - 01/30/2010:  16:54:58

I know that I've talked about this on other threads regarding the difficulty that I have with my fat fingertips muting adjacent strings when I fret notes on my banjo. Where possible, if the neck and frets are wide enough, I have taken to replacing the nuts with the strings spaced as wide as possible so that I don't accidentally mute adjacent strings while fretting others. This photo is a little out of focus but shows the old nut and the new nut with the wider string spacing. It makes a huge difference for me to have this wider spacing and eliminates a lot of problems that I have with strings that are spaced too close together. I'm sharing this because I am sure there are other chubby fingered folks who might have this problem. The old nut is plastic. The new nut came from a piece of bleached bone that my friend Art bought at PetSmart. Most music supply houses sell nut blanks that can be used to make a new nut if you so desire.

5strings3picks1banjo - Posted - 01/30/2010:  17:17:37

Nothing wrong with that idea. Playing any instrument is about the instrument feeling comfortable and a joy to play.

xnavyguy - Posted - 01/30/2010:  18:47:43

I haven't been able to do that on all my banjos because either the frets have too much taper in them at the edges or the necks are too narrow.

betsyturtlebus - Posted - 01/30/2010:  19:16:21

I know the feeling! I too am a chubby fingered picker. I have done the same on mine. sure make a difference. I'm fabbing a nother neck to match 5 string fret board I have off an unrepairable neck. if it turn out I have the skils to pull it off, I think I'll fab one that fatter to match my fingers. Keep picken Joe

Goldstarman - Posted - 01/30/2010:  21:47:15

I got me a neck made thats going to be 1/5/16 at the nut and teh spacing will be as wide as it will accomodate, Im hoping that feels good without those problems like your talking about.

1four5 - Posted - 01/31/2010:  01:46:47

Very nice workmanship Jerry! And that little bit can make a huge difference in playability.

xnavyguy - Posted - 01/31/2010:  05:29:01

In '08, when I started my 30 year quest to become a world famous banjo picker by my 95th birthday, this wasn't as much of a problem because my Fender FB-58, which has a wide neck, had a broken nut on it when I bought it used. Because I had to make a nut for it, I went ahead and spaced the string slots to match the neck.

Since then, I have acquired another batch of banjos, each of them with different "issues" in playability, I noticed, on some, that my fretting accuracy had to be "dead on" or I was missing notes in some instances. Then, last week, I picked up my teacher's new book of fiddle tunes for bluegrass banjo. This particular book has basic and intermediate tabs in it that are a combination of melodic and Scruggs style picking and, in some cases have rolls that involve all five strings with the two middle strings fretted up the neck and the outer strings open. This is where I learned that my fretting accuracy problems were still present and, even though I learned the tunes quickly, and could play them with no problems, about half the time, my fretting finger would touch that adjacent string just enough that I wasn't getting clear and distinct notes on those strings. The problem was very distracting and made me not want to play those tunes. That's why I brought this issue up again. I know this seems like a very simple issue but it makes a HUGE difference for me.

By the way. If anyone is interested in increasing their repertoire, Eddie Collin's new book of fiddle tunes has 18 songs, with both basic & intermediate tabs plus 72 track practice CD. I don't know if Eddie has it up on his website yet but you can order one from him at


Edited by - xnavyguy on 01/31/2010 05:30:27

cherrick - Posted - 02/08/2010:  14:35:44

Jerry, this is a great idea! Now that you've done the setup on my banjo and installed an official Jerry Rabun bridge and now that Elaine Filion has installed my new Scruggs Pegs (Schaller and Stew-Mac), maybe I can get you to do a new nut for me to increase the string spacing as well?


xnavyguy - Posted - 02/08/2010:  15:47:18

I've still got a whole pile of chew bone fragments from that PetSmart bone. If your frets are wide enough that wider string spacing won't have you pushing the strings off the side of the neck, then we could probably cobble something together for your banjo. Let me know when you think you might be coming back up to Austin.


5strings3picks1banjo - Posted - 02/08/2010:  22:46:36

I have a request from a customer that wants 1 7/16th (36.5mm) at nut. If he cannot get an extra wide neck he will give up the banjo. I am working on one for him because I like to see people enjoying the banjo.
What is the widest 5 string neck you have heard of?

rudy - Posted - 02/09/2010:  04:55:25

I routinely make my nut width 1-3/8". That's only 1/16" narrower than what you've been requested to provide. Many builders are using 1-3/8", and I've read posts relating to 1-1/2" (and wider) nut widths. I think there are diminishing returns beyond a certain width, but I'm not sure what that width would be. My guess is beyond 1-1/2" things would start to feel a little clunky.

Andy_M - Posted - 02/10/2010:  12:47:23

Not to hijack the thread, but is the nut fastened in place or does it just slip out if you take the truss rod cover and strings off??

beegee - Posted - 02/10/2010:  13:05:14

I always measure the 1st and 4th from the edge and set the inside strings with my Stew-Mac proportional nut-slot spacing ruler, on guitars and banjos.

5stringpicker2 - Posted - 02/10/2010:  13:21:36

Some nuts slip out some are held with glue or some sort of adhesive only way at times to tell is loosen the strings and see if it comes out. I like the wide spacing on my Banjo nuts also same reason I like playing my classical Guitar EASY.

(I )===='---<::)

xnavyguy - Posted - 02/10/2010:  14:18:22

Originally posted by Andy_M

Not to hijack the thread, but is the nut fastened in place or does it just slip out if you take the truss rod cover and strings off??

The original nut was glued on the banjo in the photo. I took the truss rod cover off and knocked the nut loose with a hammer. After I built the new nut, I put it back on with a drop of model airplane glue. Some of my banjo nuts are not glued on but are held on with string tension which may not be the best way to go as it is pretty easy to push the nut sideways and knock the banjo out of tune.

Andy_M - Posted - 02/10/2010:  15:44:57

Cool, thanks!

uncle.fogey - Posted - 02/10/2010:  16:25:50

The width of the nut determines the width of the neck all the way down.
A banjo neck is fairly narrow compared to a guitar neck, so there's room for expansion. If you look at the string spacing at the nut on a D-28, it's about .83 inches from strings 1-4. The original pearl nut on my pre-war Gibson is .875 from 1-4, and that's a NARROW neck, I prefer 1 inch.
In terms of how wide a banjo neck could be, I would think the only two limitations would be the width of the opening in the tension hoop to allow for the strings, and whether you can use your thumb to fret the 5th string, if you do that.

My only caveat would be that if you learn to play with a neck that's unusually wide, narrow or out of the norm in some way, you limit yourself to that kind of neck and it makes it difficult to play "just any" banjo. Of course, I make custom banjo necks, so I'd be happy to make whatever you like

arnie - Posted - 02/11/2010:  04:36:02

If you widen the spacing at the nut you may find you could be pulling the 1st or 4th string off the side too much when you are playing - watch out for that. I actually had to narrow my nut spacing because of that issue.

dickinnorwich - Posted - 02/11/2010:  05:22:28

Arnie's point is well taken which is why I fashion my necks with a nut width of 36mm which gives me a 10mm spacing between strings and 3mm at either end to avoid pulling over the first or fourth string.

Edited by - dickinnorwich on 02/11/2010 06:16:15

xnavyguy - Posted - 02/11/2010:  05:41:37

Like anything else, expanding the string spacing at the nut, my modification has it's compromises. Most notable are the danger of getting the 1st string too close to the edge of the frets, which could lead to accidentally pulling the 1st string off the fret board while playing, and getting the 4th string too close to the 5th string which can allow accidental muting of the 5th string when playing closed chords up the neck past the 5th fret. Matter of fact, when my friend Art picks up one of my banjos on which I've modified the nut, it takes him a few measures of picking to notice the wider string spacing.

This modification is worth it for me to be able to consistently play notes cleanly that otherwise might be hit-or-miss, depending on my ability to fret notes with millimeter accuracy while trying to play at light speed and keep up with my fiddle playing friends.

welder4 - Posted - 05/18/2010:  13:10:11

I have been playing for a little over a year and I came to that conclusion at the onset that spacing the strings might make it easier for me to play the C chord. I bought another banjo with a 1 and a 1/4 fret at the nut and it helped but I was not to sure about changing the string spacings you have given me the courage if you will to do just that. the other banjo was 1 and an 1/8 so it was a wipe out for me . do they make banjos with a wider fret board at the nut ?say a one and a 1/2 or one 3/16 ,that may be all I need but I will make a new nut for the banjo and give that a try , seems I dampen the third string almost all the time ,I can make the chord but it takes a while to get the fingers in position and it is extremely hard to do. It may be my wrist that is the problem as it will not bend very well . I am older than dirt .

ssduke - Posted - 05/20/2010:  18:41:16

Originally posted by beegee

I always measure the 1st and 4th from the edge and set the inside strings with my Stew-Mac proportional nut-slot spacing ruler, on guitars and banjos.

At least one of my banjos has a wedge-fit nut. IE, the nut is tapered so it's slightly wider (the slot is too) at bass end than at the treble end. It can be removed by sliding it in only the one direction.

pickerjim - Posted - 05/20/2010:  21:51:23

Xnavyguy...that is a great idea...I also have a song or two which I find tough to fret...gotta be dead on....I suffer from "sausage finger syndrome"....thks for the tip...Jim

Mopick - Posted - 05/21/2010:  05:34:50

I have huge fingers also. Chris Choffi just set my banjo up for a .656 bridge with Crowe spacing. That gave me a lot more room especially up the neck.

Denny Zager (Zager and Evans....In the Year 2525) started making his own guitars using what he called "String Science" to make a guitar supposedly 50 percent easier to play. One thing he does is makes a custom bone nut with wider spacing, like what you did.

String science or good set-up, it's the same thing in my opinion.

Chris Cioffi set my banjo up a couple of weeks ago. It plays so much better and the actions are so nice, I barely have to think about pressing the strings down now they are so easy. In fact, he made a new bone nut and I asked him if he could give me a little more room by using a wider spacing, but my banjo has a skinny neck, so he couldn't move too much on the nut. We did go with a Crowe spacing bridge though.


Edited by - Mopick on 05/21/2010 08:38:10

beegee - Posted - 05/21/2010:  06:12:29

The neat thing about the SM ruler is that you always have consistent spacing between the strings based on the string gauges. I like to make the nut a really tight fit and use a small drop of white glue for insurance.

pickerjim - Posted - 05/21/2010:  07:00:22

Mopick...Howdy!!...This is also good to know. I just ordered a new bridge "standard" spacing when in fact, maybe I should change it and go with the Crowe....I like the aspect of a skinny neck, but it has it's pros/cons also...I have a little trouble up the neck. Glad to hear you're happy with the mods you just had done to your banjo!!....Jim

SamCy - Posted - 05/21/2010:  08:47:15

The neck on my banjo is bound and the frets end at the inside edge of the binding. Is this typical on banjos? It would be expensive to have it refretted, but if the frets ended at the outer edge of the binding, as they do on guitars, a wider spacing at the nut would be less likely to cause the strings to roll off the edge of the fret.

xnavyguy - Posted - 05/21/2010:  11:17:27

As a fairly newcomer to the banjo world, I can't beging to speculate on what might be the optimum string spacing or the optimum neck width on a banjo. I've never been one to accept things as they are when there is a possibility that I can make them better, at least for me.

It's altogether possible that, over time, I might eventually develop enough skill and accuracy that I wouldn't need my strings wider than the "norm". With my goal of wanting to become a world famous picker by the time I'm 95, I have to do whatever I can to speed up my learning this infernal machine and don't have time for the little distractions caused by having the strings too close together for my fingers.

Peter Blair - Posted - 05/21/2010:  17:21:54


My first bluegrass banjo was an Asian Masterclone that was arranged as you describe your banjo. Really narrow string spacing. Not only did the frets terminate at the binding, but the binding beveled away from the top of the fretboard. So when I needed to do some neck work, I sanded the neck flat first, ( it was a little twisted ), then put a little radius on it till I got rid of the bevel. When I was done I had a lot wider surface for the frets, and I ran them out to the outside of the binding. ( By notching the tang, not cutting the fret slot into the binding) Made a new (wider spaced) nut. Best thing I've ever done to that banjo. Plays as good as my Gibby now. If you like your banjo and you plan to keep it, I say do it.


Bart Veerman - Posted - 05/21/2010:  21:55:23

Originally posted by beegee

I always measure the 1st and 4th from the edge and set the inside strings with my Stew-Mac proportional nut-slot spacing ruler, on guitars and banjos.

I just got mine last week and wow, they're awesome

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories