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Banjo nazi rules?

Posted by Just Bill on Saturday, April 17, 2010



Remember the soup nazi episode from Seinfeld?  "No soup for you!"

Well, how many of you know a banjo nazi near you?  Yeah, the banjo expert who has all these insane banjo rules and intimidates new banjo pickers when they ask (and pay) him to set up their banjo.  The "B.N." then dictates what he will and will not do for them...and it will be done according to his rules regardless of what the customer wants.

I thought I would take this opportunity to share some "B.N." rules I've encountered over the years:

1.  The head MUST be tightened to such-and-such tension.  He doesn't care don't care what you want, the B.N. will tighten your banjo head the way he says it must be tightened.

2.   The tailpiece MUST be at such-and-such an angle to the head.  He doesn't care what you want, the tailpiece MUST be at the B.N.'s prescribed angle.

3.   The tailpiece MUST NOT touch the rim.  He doesn't care what you want, the B.N. says it must NOT!  You must TRUST the B.N. to set your tailpiece...he knows best!

4.  The strings MUST be such-and-such brand of MEDIUM gauge strings.  He doesn't care what kind of strings you want (even if you bring your own strings), the B.N. will only install the ones the B.N. approves of.

5.   You must NEVER capo a banjo above the 4th fret!  NEVER!  The B.N. says so!  And to make sure you won't ever capo above the 4th fret, the B.N. will only install spikes at the 7th and 9th fret.  No other spikes are allowed!  The B.N. says so!  (Doug Dillard is the only exception to this rule.  ...and that's only because Mr. Dillard never read the B.N.'s rule #5.  According to the B.N., Mr. Dillard is a poor, lost soul.)

6.  No Shubb Fifth String capos are allowed on a banjo!  Such an evil device might entice someone to capo above the 4th fret.  The B.N. will refuse to install a Shubb capo on your banjo...even if you supply the capo and pay double the rate.  The B.N. has spoken!

7.   You must only pick with such-and-such brand/gauge thumbpicks and fingerpicks.  If you use something else, the B.N. will swear that you will never play well. 

8.   If you are looking to buy a banjo, you must trust the B.N. and only buy the banjo he selects for you.  Do not trouble yourself with the cost.  Whatever he chooses for you is worth it.  ...AND he will set it up for you (see rules #'s 1 through 7).  The B.N. knows best. 

9.   The B.N. says there is no need for a capo on a banjo.  If you were a REAL banjo player (just like the B.N.), you could play every song in every key in any picking style without ever re-tuning or using a capo. 

10. The B.N. insists Scruggs-style picking is for sissies and beginners.  REAL banjo players play exclusively melodic style...without a capo.

B.N.'s chap my hiney!       (Feel free to add stupid B.N. rules you've encountered.)

9 comments on “Banjo nazi rules?”

Colleen Carter Says:
Saturday, April 17, 2010 @8:09:22 PM

I wasn't AWARE of Banjo Nazis! But if I HAD a Hiney, I guess it would be chapped too! U mean U actually KNOW ppl. so rigid minded? Heck- I put spikes in to play open all the way to the key of E-it's a little EXTREME, I know. It sounds like a Toy Piano, up that FAR. And my entry-level banjo neck profile wouldn't accept a Schubb Capo. I prefer spikes, personally.

robin wells Says:
Saturday, April 17, 2010 @9:17:20 PM

You Know Bill I'm fairly new to the hangout and I have contributed to some fairly straight forward responses to general questions and even posted what I think are topics worth discussion and thought. But you know through some of these responses that I received there appears to me that there is also a buttload of B.N.'s right here in the hangout! Go figure. By the way I'll bet you 20 bucks that your B.N. couldn't pink his noes much less a banjo.

Just Bill Says:
Saturday, April 17, 2010 @10:31:53 PM

LOL! Yep, sometimes it seems that B.N.'s are not an endangered species.

banjotef Says:
Sunday, April 18, 2010 @7:58:45 AM

I have heard of this type of mentality...I call it, "B.C." Banjo Correctness. I really haven't seen a lot of it here, but it does come up occasionally.
Watch a video on You Tube, called Banjo Heroes. It is a group of pickers from a festival in the early 70's, from a DVD called "Bluegrass Country Soul", and has players in it such as Earl, JD, Bill Keith, and others. They all take a turn at the microphone on FMB, and each banjo sounds different from all the rest. But they are all great pickers!

Just Bill Says:
Sunday, April 18, 2010 @8:22:55 AM

B.N. Rule #11. You MUST plant both right ring and little finger on the head. The B.N. will not allow you to only plant your ring or pinky finger. BOTH must be planted! Super-glue them to the head, if necessary. The B.N. says you will learn to live with it!

buckbybanjoboy Says:
Sunday, April 18, 2010 @1:06:16 PM

I`m with you Bill. It`s my banjo and I`ll do what I want with it. I`ve always thought that if it sounds is right. Anyway if I could play like Doug Dillard I`d be mighty pleased. Great Blog..........................Regards Peter V.

thecowpokepicker Says:
Sunday, April 18, 2010 @7:55:46 PM

I'm also with Bill. And I will always refuse to listen to rule #10. 'Exclusively' melodic... ew. That's almost like Dobro music. No B.N. is touching my banjo!

Laurence Diehl Says:
Thursday, April 22, 2010 @8:31:49 AM

Bill, not sure about #10. I think that Scruggs pickers are the majority on this site, though they may not be the most vocal!
Regards, Laurence

Just Bill Says:
Thursday, April 22, 2010 @8:40:46 AM

I'm sure Scruggs pickers are a big part of this site (I'm one of 'em). #10 is just another example I've seen over the years of how regimented a few folks can become in their ideas/attitude about what constitutes "correct" or "good" banjo playing...and they try to force their attitudes on others.

BTW, I have sure enjoyed listening to your music, Laurence!

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