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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Tenor A string difference in 17 fret or 19 fret scale?

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:

nonfatmatt - Posted - 12/22/2020:  19:38:39

I threw this one into playing advice, but it might go better in banjo construction / setup.

I'm currently in the middle of the plectrum/tenor dilemma like a lot of people have been through. I have both, I like both. I like the sound of the plectrum a bit better, I am playing more tenor at the moment because it's just easier as I'm learning chord melody on the plectrum.

I can play melodies a lot easier than I can on a plectrum, and the chords fit in my hand. What gets me with my 19" tenor all wood pot banjo is the strident nature of the A string. It just kind of grates. I have a small 17 fret also without a tone ring that has a much less forward A string. I was wondering if this trend continues, as I'm seriously considering getting a Gold Tone IT-250F and stringing it for jazz. If I could just balance out that high A a bit it would probably work for me. However I can't find any good demos of competent jazz players playing a 17 fret with a tone ring.

Also, to complicate this all I have problems with my elbow that limits my tremolo. The plectrum causes me less pain, so that goes into the consideration of what to choose. It seems to rest on string tension, which the plectrum obviously has an advantage of. However, doing the string tension calculation I can get a 17 fret tenor it in the same ballpark as the plectrum (though the shorter scale seems to up the stiffness even with identical tension calculations). Does anyone have a Gold Tone or similar tenor with a 19 3/4 inch scale and can comment on the tension?


G Edward Porgie - Posted - 12/23/2020:  06:30:18

Before buying something else, I would try a different set up of your current 19 fret tenor that might tame that 1st string. Heas tension, string gauge, bridge, tailpiece, etc. can all have an affect on banjo sound. You may simple need a different combination of thse factors.

Another option would be to just use the 17 fret model. Look on YouTube for "Eddie Davis," if you need examples of competent jazz playing on a 17 fret model. Mr. Davis played a 17 fret exclusively. The 19 fret tenor didn't come along until 1921 and some players didn't switch over right away, so a lot of jazz tenor was played on 17 fret models.

majesty - Posted - 12/23/2020:  07:11:34

I have struggled with the A string sound for many years. I've tried everything to tone it down, with poor results. ( on many makes) I envy other players who can accept the harshness of that string. Years ago I changed the head and forgot to put the metal hoop back on. (dumb) The head rested on the wood rim. I tightened the head, tuned it up, and the A string sounded great. I've noticed when I remove any resonator, the A string sounds better. I think my solution is to have a tenor banjo built with as little metal parts as possible. Maybe the plectrum might be your only solution.

Parker135 - Posted - 12/23/2020:  09:08:44

I'm in GDAE-land, so this may not be relevant, but I wonder of an Oettinger-style tailpiece would help. Thinking that backing off a little on the downforce for your A string might help.


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