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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: 3rd and 4th strings don't ring the same way


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: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/365785

watercarving - Posted - 06/28/2020:  13:40:16


I'm new to clawhammer. One thing I've noticed is that I get a good sound out of strings 1 and 2, but 3 and 4 don't sound as lively.

I've played a lot of music including bg banjo. Is this just a product of how open backs are made and how we are striking the strings?

John

m06 - Posted - 06/28/2020:  14:32:04


John, lively (and more specifically accuracy of R/H striking and L/H fretting which generate 'lively') comes with practice.



Or put another way: a fine craftsman never blames his tools. wink



Stick with it and work on developing good technique, particularly your angle of attack into the strings and right-left hand co-ordination and timing. Lively - tone and volume - and control will emerge from having good technique.smiley


Edited by - m06 on 06/28/2020 14:40:13

Alex Z - Posted - 06/28/2020:  15:23:10


Are your 3rd and 4th strings wound or unwound?


Edited by - Alex Z on 06/28/2020 15:23:22

carlb - Posted - 06/28/2020:  15:42:12


It was a comment made to me, when I was first starting banjo. You can get more power out the index finger than the middle finger. You didn't say which finger you're playing with.

watercarving - Posted - 06/28/2020:  17:31:52


quote:

Originally posted by Alex Z

Are your 3rd and 4th strings wound or unwound?






3rd is unwound, 4th is wound.

watercarving - Posted - 06/28/2020:  17:32:48


quote:

Originally posted by carlb

It was a comment made to me, when I was first starting banjo. You can get more power out the index finger than the middle finger. You didn't say which finger you're playing with.






I've been playing with my middle.  Is more power the issue?

G Edward Porgie - Posted - 06/28/2020:  17:43:17


The wound string could be dead; they never last as long as plain strings. As for that third string, I can't say much. There could be some set-up issues, or some playing tecnique issues.

banjoak - Posted - 06/28/2020:  17:49:58


Not sure how you are defining "good sound" -



I've played a lot of music including bg banjo.



That might have shaped your expectation. But it's tough to compare to BG/Scruggs banjo with picks, resonator and RH style... really different type of sound. So depends on what type of sound you are looking for; there is not one universal sound of CH.



Is this just a product of how open backs are made



Certainly open backs have a different sound. But with all instruments... different individual instruments, and/or the set up, can have lack of good balance of tone and power, low end to high.



On a banjo, differences in bridges, strings, after length; head materiel and tension, can all make a difference. Design, body, rim and tone ring also plays role. For example, some inexpensive instruments can easily produce bright, esp on high strings... but are just not going to have a good lower end. (if that's what you are after)



and how we are striking the strings?



The RH style of playing, where you attack strings, as well the striking materiel, nails, or CH pick materiel; affect sound, tone... and typically not as bright, sharp, crisp as Scruggs style.



Rather than generalities, listen to examples of the tone you want... then find out what's all involved, instrument, setup, RH... in how they get that sound.



edit: as an experiment, since you play BG, try that banjo as you would normally play BG; might give you some feedback.


Edited by - banjoak on 06/28/2020 17:54:51

Blackjaxe47 - Posted - 06/28/2020:  17:51:09


I have had dead sounding 3rd string issues before, it is not uncommon. One other issue is the nut, if the string is too tight in the slot it can also cause any string to sound dead. Try running a lead pencil in the slot to lubricate the string and check to see if it slides easy. And I agree with George, 4th wound never last as long as the rest of the strings. If you really want a real good growl 4th try switching to Bronze Phosphor 23g. You can buy them at most music shops as individual guitar strings.

Eric A - Posted - 06/28/2020:  18:07:50


When I'm setting up my openbacks, the 3rd and 4th strings are always the issue. A bit fuzzy with most typical bridges. Then my process is to first tighten up the head, and if 3rd/4th are still not right, I try progressively lighter/thinner bridges until they "come in". And they always do.

watercarving - Posted - 06/28/2020:  18:11:31


quote:

Originally posted by Eric A

When I'm setting up my openbacks, the 3rd and 4th strings are always the issue. A bit fuzzy with most typical bridges. Then my process is to first tighten up the head, and if 3rd/4th are still not right, I try progressively lighter/thinner bridges until they "come in". And they always do.






I have a Pisgah Woodchuck that I just bought new.  I assume it's not the banjo as much as a few things that need to be tweaked.



What head tension am I shooting for?  Seems pretty tight now.



What bridges do you try?  Right now I have a Grover 5/8".  Should I have a 11/16"?  Would the extra height help?



I guess I could try changing the strings as well as the other things mentioned by others.

rfink1913 - Posted - 06/28/2020:  22:31:29


It could be the strings, but I am still new enough to the banjo that I have this problem also. I found that being very conscious of what the classical guitarists call a "rest stroke" on the bottom two strings is key. It's easy to play through the first string and continue past it to the head, and number two seems to work the same; but with three and four, if you don't deliberately push the fingernail down past the string until it comes to rest on the string below (I'm speaking here of actual position, not pitch), you tend to let your your nail "bounce" off the heavier strings, and they don't ring true.

AndyW - Posted - 06/29/2020:  00:08:33


When I started the 3rd and 4th, moreso the 4th were more difficult to sound cleanly with volume. It is an issue that for me sorted itself out over time, so based on that I don't think it's something worth stopping other practice and concentrating on just yet.

m06 - Posted - 06/29/2020:  01:31:59


quote:

Originally posted by watercarving

quote:

Originally posted by Eric A

When I'm setting up my openbacks, the 3rd and 4th strings are always the issue. A bit fuzzy with most typical bridges. Then my process is to first tighten up the head, and if 3rd/4th are still not right, I try progressively lighter/thinner bridges until they "come in". And they always do.






I have a Pisgah Woodchuck that I just bought new.  I assume it's not the banjo as much as a few things that need to be tweaked.



What head tension am I shooting for?  Seems pretty tight now.



What bridges do you try?  Right now I have a Grover 5/8".  Should I have a 11/16"?  Would the extra height help?



I guess I could try changing the strings as well as the other things mentioned by others.






 A focus on specific head tension is probably something you've carried over from your bluegrass picking and culture. Sure, OT banjo players may adjust their head tension as part of their overall set up, but with a new Pisgah from the reputable store you bought yours from, that is very unlikely to be related to your original string tone question.



Accuracy, clean contact and your right side 'motor' - technique - are the factors that impart liveliness. Strings do gradually lose brightness and resonance with use, usually the bass string is the first that we notice. But that 'deadening' is marginal and in reality would not hinder an experienced player who played your banjo from getting excellent tone and liveliness. To underline that fact I have a fretless on which, due to personal preference, I deliberately never change strings. On my fretted banjos which are played daily I will typically go 2 or 3 months between replacing strings.



A higher bridge does not remove the essential need for accuracy. Tweeking bridges is your choice. Assuming your Pisgah comes with a decent quality and correctly positioned bridge, personally I wouldn't start swapping out bridges until I had acquired at least the basic R/H technique and my ears could then sensibly assess the advantages/disadvantages.  I fit 11/16 bridges because they have a better feel for me. Are they louder? No, that's the banjo version of an urban myth. But if a bridge, or any aspect of set-up, is the right personal 'fit' it will contribute to enabling a player to fulfill their potential and sound their best i.e. the player is enabled to impart their technique more efficiently. An analogy would be a cyclist having their bike very accurately adjusted to be as best as possible fit for their physiology to most efficiently translate their muscular power into momentum and not waste energy.



I made the same switch from 3-finger Scruggs to clawhammer and right-hand technique just does take time to adjust and acquire, no matter how long a person has been playing bluegrass. But it will come quicker than you realise if you practice regularly.


Edited by - m06 on 06/29/2020 01:43:05

lucas73b - Posted - 06/29/2020:  01:54:13


Lots of good advice above. In the first place maybe the best for now is give it some time and develop your technique.

In addition: on my main player I recently changed to different string gauges. In going from 010-012-016-023-010 to 011-013-015-024-011, I got a far better balanced overall response.
What works for me and my banjo is not likely to work someone else, but it can be very useful to experiment with different strings.

carlb - Posted - 06/29/2020:  03:43:17


quote:

Originally posted by watercarving

quote:

Originally posted by carlb

It was a comment made to me, when I was first starting banjo. You can get more power out the index finger than the middle finger. You didn't say which finger you're playing with.






I've been playing with my middle.  Is more power the issue?






It might be. You'll have to test that out for your self as well as string type selection (light, medium or heavy) and possibly other setup variables.

Eric A - Posted - 06/29/2020:  05:28:10


quote:

Originally posted by watercarving

quote:

Originally posted by Eric A

When I'm setting up my openbacks, the 3rd and 4th strings are always the issue. A bit fuzzy with most typical bridges. Then my process is to first tighten up the head, and if 3rd/4th are still not right, I try progressively lighter/thinner bridges until they "come in". And they always do.






I have a Pisgah Woodchuck that I just bought new.  I assume it's not the banjo as much as a few things that need to be tweaked.



What head tension am I shooting for?  Seems pretty tight now.



What bridges do you try?  Right now I have a Grover 5/8".  Should I have a 11/16"?  Would the extra height help?



I guess I could try changing the strings as well as the other things mentioned by others.






Bridge height is an entirely different issue, as regards action.  If the action is right with a 5/8" bridge, then stay there. 



Get a drum dial, $50-60, for consistent experiments.  I set my regular frosted heads to 91#, fiberskyns to 92#.  I have no experience with 12" heads and renaissance heads like your Woodchuck, so maybe someone else can chime in, but I guess I'd start at 91#.   Get a cheap gram scale, around $10, and some 80 grit sandpaper.  Your starting bridge is likely in the 2.0-2.2g range.  Press it flat, and evenly as you can,usually on the backside (tailpiece side) against the sandpaper and move it left to right.  Keep checking on the scale until you have it in the 1.8-1.9g range.  Try it again on your banjo.  Are the 3rd/4th better?  Coming in?  Likely better, but if not happy yet take off a little more.  Try 1.7g. and so on.



At some point, they will come in.  Now if you go too far, and go too light, you will have the reverse problem that you had before. Your 3rd/4th will be good, but 1st/2nd will start sounding tinny.  It's a matter of balance, and trial and error with your banjo and your ear.  You'll screw up a couple of bridges while you are learning this, but eventually you will have mad skills in terms of getting your banjo to sound the way you like.



Hone your skills on cheaper bridges.  Grovers, NoNames, Chinese Ebays, anything under $10 per bridge.  Only when you get confident with what you are doing should you tinker with a $30 designer bridge.  Once you figure out what you like, THEN feel free to contact someone like Mike Smith at Kat Eyz and request a  certain height at a certain weight and he'll be happy to oblige.  Many bridge makers will do that for you.  A couple of my favorites now are Prowlers where I told Mike the weight I wanted, but you have to do your own tinkering/learning before you even know the weight to ask for.


Edited by - Eric A on 06/29/2020 05:37:14

beegee - Posted - 06/29/2020:  07:51:36


Have you checked the nut and bridge slots for correct fit to the strings? You may also want a slightly higher action for the 3rd and 4th strings

davidppp - Posted - 06/29/2020:  09:47:13


"I get a good sound out of strings 1 and 2, but 3 and 4 don't sound as lively."

...and maybe it's a physical impossibility. The 3rd is thicker than 1st and 2nd; so it transfers its energy quicker to the bridge, resulting in more of a thud. (Zither banjos use a nylon 3rd to counter that.) Also, it's in the middle of the bridge; so it can't produce as much rocking or the same bridge flexing. The 4th is wound and a significantly lower pitch -- so much so that much of its vibration can't produce any sound from the head.

...just thinking. To paraphrase Mr. Rogers: maybe they sound just like they're supposed to sound.

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