I just bought a 1929 Vega Little Wonder Tenor 17-fret banjo with a skin head and original tuners...all seemingly in great condition...BUT, it doesn't have a bridge or strings. I need some advice regarding a bridge and strings... I want to play traditional jazz style and set this up as close to what it would've been originally. Help!
Hi Zach. Hopefully some experienced jazz tenor players will give you some string suggestions. But as far as bridges, on a vintage banjo where the neck angle is more or less fixed, the key factor is what gives you a comfortable but buzz free up the neck action. I'd start with a 1/2 inch. If that works for you then great. If not then put some thin flat wood (popsicle sticks are the usual choice here) under it until it's where you want it. Then get a bridge of (formula coming up) 0.5"+(NXP) where N is the number of popsicle sticks and P is the thickness of a popsicle sticks. As others have said - width and weight are very much a matter of personal preference. It's very easy to overthink this. There is an obsessives optimum in all of this. But I'd suggest a 1/2" bridge and replace it with something higher if it buzzes, and a set of any medium strings and replace with lights if they seem to be hard work or heavies if you want, and can manage, a heavier action. I bet that a good player could make your banjo sound good with any set of strings or any bridge. The most important thing you can put into your banjo is hours of practice.