I really like the mellow sound of playing at the top of the pot over the scooped neck. My old beater Johnson that I'm learning on doesn't have the scoop, so I'm learning the right hand movements in the more traditional position just up from the bridge. Is it detrimental to learn in that position, and then move up to the scoop when I can afford a better banjo, or is the transition from one position to the other fairly easy and nothing to worry about?
Once you get the right hand basics down its pretty easy to move from the head to over the neck. A lot of good players play with a non-scooped neck over the base of the neck to get that tone. Chris Coole's banjo does not have a regular scoop like you are talking about but his neck on the fifth string area is beveled into a "thumb scoop" which I think he said he did himself.
I have seen some bridges modified with a raised 5th string to make the string slightly higher than the rest which may do a similar thing to a thumb scoop. I've never used one so I don't know how well that works.
I like the tone over the neck too. I wind up hitting the head if I play over the head, and the scoop area is easier for me.
Practice where you want to play, where it sounds good to you. Scoops may make things easier, but they aren't essential.
I move my hand around to get the sound that I want. Sometimes over the neck; sometimes over the head. My fretted banjos do not have scoops, but I change my technique when I play over the neck, so the scoop isn't necessary. I have a scoop on my big fretless banjo, and sometimes I play over that scoop. It depends.
So just make it up as you go. Once you get the hang of the right hand, moving it around is no big deal.
Learn about Adam Hurt's technique, which has you playing on the part of your index nail closest to the middle finger (he says at "2 o'clock instead of the common 10 o'clock" postion of the nail. This produces a much mellower tone, even when playing over the head. No scoop needed.
There's a lot of banjo, and tonal difference, between "just up from the bridge" and "almost over the neck". There are lots of us who do not have frailing scoops and happily play around the head neck junction. If the banjo really is a beater then why not just pull the last couple of frets and file out a frailing scoop ? And I don't think what you are doing will be detrimental to your technique.
At one of the banjo camps, one of the instructors showed me that some of the tension hoop had been worn away where his thumb hit the metal. We wondered how a thumb could wear away a metal band, but then we guessed that his thumb would heal and regenerate, and the tension hoop could not do that.
Anyway, that is where he was frailing the banjo..... right over the tension hoop.
I play there without a scoop, for ten years, no scratches, just voice.
I like shades of gray: X position is playing in front of the bridge.
Y = just behind the hoop.
Z = out over the 19th fret harmonic or chime.
So choose anywhere in between that suits you or the banjo.
Like your Avatar.
Every CH banjo I've had has had a scooped neck and if it didn't have one when I got it I scooped it my self. The funny thing about it though I never play over the scoop I just liked the look.
The old masters didn't have scooped neck banjos...
Humans love to tinker: I think that's Really what sapiens means. But we also get hung up on gimmicks: "If I only had X, then it would make everything easier." Rule #1: "Instruments don't make music; People make music."
I like having all 22 frets!
Originally posted by chip arnold
I like having all 22 frets!
Me too. My new A-scale banjo has 20 frets. I was playing FMB and needed fret 21. So I just grabbed the note fretless and all was OK. But I don't think I could play the tune if it had a scoop.
A bridge with a raised fifth string makes it easier to claw over an unscooped neck.
I once traded a Wildwood banjo off Travis Stuart. It was a 70's California Wildwood, built before anyone was thinking about frailing scoops. He liked playing over the neck, so Travis just took a file to the edge of the fretboard. Comfortable to play up there, you keep the frets, and you can't even tell it's been tampered with. That's what I do with all my banjos now.
Edited by - tucsonsean on 08/14/2017 15:51:29
Maybe try a taller bridge to raise the strings.
Since it's a beater, try scooping it yourself.
I played for 25 yrs over the tension hoop without a scoop (used a taller bridge to get some clearance, etc.) ...didn't think anything more about it. As soon as I saw a scoop, I started thinking about the mechanics of my playing and determined that I desperately NEEDED a scoop. Once I got one, I really like it...but my previous scoopless experience didn't negatively affect my current playing.
Humans are very adaptable. You'll be fine.
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