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Enoch tradesman -- trying to figure out why banjo can be in tune but not ..

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Jul 11, 2018 - 9:10:14 PM
8 posts since 10/9/2009

I have an Enoch Tradesman that I really enjoy playing (clawhammer, or frailing style) but I have questions about tuning. I use a Yamaha clip on tuner and tune it at 440 A (I am usually in open G tuning or Double C tuning.) I am very careful to tune it -- the harmonics on this banjo are amazing.

But when I tune it, and the open strings are in tune, with the Yamaha tuner still on it, I play the scale (G) and the notes do nt ring true -- for example, the notes on the fourth string (d is open, and is in tune, but the e (2nd fret) and f# (4th fret) are sharp. And so on. I've measured the distance between the nut and the 12th fret and the bridge and they are even.

I had a banjo guy look at it in Pendleton a couple years ago and he put a very thin shim (thin piece of veneer) between the neck and pot because it had a lot of wobble. It helped the problem I had with the banjo seeming to go in and out of tune when I played it. I usually sit when playing it and found that when I relaxed and played, it stretched the banjo across my middle and the tone would be sharp. I am careful to sit upright and not do this.

I have found that I need to use chords up the neck fretting all four strings, otherwise they are not in tune.

Any suggestions?

Jul 11, 2018 - 9:50:04 PM

4924 posts since 6/23/2009

This kind of question comes up often. I am certain that the issue is NOT that Kevin misplaced the position of the frets. Kevin is a world class luthier. It has to do with tempering and your ear. Read up on the topic of temperaments. Your little clip on tuner is trying to tune you to “equal temperament” but I’m sure your ear wants to hear a temperament that is closer to mean tone. So you sweeten the thirds and you set the fifths perfect and then other keys sound wonky and your tuner says you’re out of tune. Common issue. Trust your ears more than that tuner and you’ll be happier. Use the tuner just to home-in on G. Tune the rest by ear. Give it a try. And read up on temperaments. But it will be a bit like Alice going down the rabbit hole. Temperaments have been a concern for musicians for many centuries and always will be.

Jul 11, 2018 - 10:03:51 PM

8 posts since 10/9/2009

I have a Deering good time that doesn’t seem to have near the amount of problems with that, that the Tradesman does.

But the Deering doesn’t have the sound, resonance and tone, either, that the Tradesman does.

I would like to pare it down to just one banjo, but this makes it tough!

Jul 11, 2018 - 11:01:48 PM

4924 posts since 6/23/2009

I hear what saying and the difference is probably a result of the different frequencies produced by each banjo. And you might try experimenting with tweaking the head tension up or down and maybe bridges or bridge height. If you make some small changes the sense that it is out of tune might go away for you.

Jul 12, 2018 - 1:09:21 AM

John Gribble Players Union Member

Japan

4473 posts since 5/14/2007

First, make sure the bridge is in the right place for that banjo with those strings. On the 4th string, play the harmonic (chime) at the 12th fret, then the fretted note at the 12th fret. They should be the same. If the fretted note is sharp, slide the bridge back towards the tailpiece and check again. If it is flat, slide the bridge forward towards the neck and check again. 

When you have the 4th string in tune, do the same thing with the 1st string. This time you'll rotate the bridge so as to not change the 4th sting setting. When you're done, the bridge will be at a slant. No big deal.

If the bridge is in the right place and the strings are pretty new and you're still having troubles, the strings ay be a little high. You ay need to have the slots in the nut cut a little deeper.

Or the problem may be with your left hand technique. You may be pressing too hard, stretching the strings and causing the to play sharp. Not uncommon. Work at playing with a lighter hand.

Jul 12, 2018 - 4:57:21 AM
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rudy Players Union Member

USA

12494 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Adrienne in OR

I have an Enoch Tradesman that I really enjoy playing (clawhammer, or frailing style) but I have questions about tuning. I use a Yamaha clip on tuner and tune it at 440 A (I am usually in open G tuning or Double C tuning.) I am very careful to tune it -- the harmonics on this banjo are amazing.

But when I tune it, and the open strings are in tune, with the Yamaha tuner still on it, I play the scale (G) and the notes do nt ring true -- for example, the notes on the fourth string (d is open, and is in tune, but the e (2nd fret) and f# (4th fret) are sharp. And so on.

I've measured the distance between the nut and the 12th fret and the bridge and they are even.

If  you have set the distances to be the same then that's part of your problem.  The bridge is positioned slightly further back than 2 times the distance from the nut face to the center of the 12th fret.  This is "Bridge Compensation" and John gave a good recommendation above for how to set it correctly.

I had a banjo guy look at it in Pendleton a couple years ago and he put a very thin shim (thin piece of veneer) between the neck and pot because it had a lot of wobble. It helped the problem I had with the banjo seeming to go in and out of tune when I played it. I usually sit when playing it and found that when I relaxed and played, it stretched the banjo across my middle and the tone would be sharp. I am careful to sit upright and not do this.

If you have difficulty with note stability due to changing your playing position and/or how you are holding your instrument then that's usually a result of the neck heel to rim connection not being as solid as it really needs to be.  You can often detect excessive movement in the joining area by holding the banjo upright on your lap. placing an index finger along the neck to rim and attempting to flex the neck a bit as you hold the banjo at the 12th fret region with the other hand.  If you can feel any movement it's not as solid as it should be.  Adding shim stock or veneer under the heel usually doesn't fix the underlying problem.  That's best done by a good luthier who knows how to work on banjos.

I have found that I need to use chords up the neck fretting all four strings, otherwise they are not in tune.

To have a good, playable instrument is obviously the goal here.  You should also verify that your nut slots are cut correctly and are at the ideal height so the strings are stretched minimally as you play.  I'll post a diagram for how to easily verify your slot depth.  Slot depth can be adjusted by the player, but if you aren't comfortable with doing repair work then that should also be addressed by a luthier who knows how to work on banjos.

Any suggestions?


Checking slot depth:

Edited by - rudy on 07/12/2018 05:05:59

Jul 12, 2018 - 7:09:52 AM

4742 posts since 8/28/2013

The only other thing to consider besides all the other excellent advice would be the strings themselves. Old strings can affect the tuning. How long have they been on the banjo?

Jul 12, 2018 - 8:37:07 AM

78 posts since 5/11/2018

I agree with Rudy's last observation. If you get an octave above the open string at the 12th fret but the strings go sharp on the lower frets, the cause is usually nut slots not cut deep enough.

It's surprising how many instruments -- even expensive high-end ones -- are shipped with the nut slots way too high. I think makers do that just to make sure there's no open fret buzz even if the geometry shifts a bit or the player plays very hard.

Jul 12, 2018 - 8:49:35 AM

3206 posts since 5/12/2010

I looked at one of these banjos listed at Elderly, and see it is a dowel stick banjo with a wedge for tightening the heel to pot, instead of a neck brace as is normally used.

I would check to make sure that arrangement is indeed pulling the heel tight to the pot.

Jul 12, 2018 - 9:00:56 AM

7803 posts since 2/22/2007

Try this. First set your intonation with your bridge as John Gribble suggested, and this has to be by ear, not the ruler. Then use your tuner to tune the two open Gs. Then forget your tuner and tune the other strings---by ear--- by fretting the strings at the appropriate fret, using your third string G as a reference. Now try your G scale again, and report back.

Jul 12, 2018 - 9:57:31 AM

Parker135 Players Union Member

USA

295 posts since 2/19/2012

I have a Tradesman, which is my all around, favorite, go-to banjo. I wonder how far off your intonation really is. Can you quantify it a little bit? There always seems to be some variation from perfect equal temperament when fretting when I'm looking at an electronic tuner, on most any instrument, but I can't hear it so I don't chase after it beyond setting the bridge position as carefully as I can....which can also be a bit of a compromise. By the way, I just checked the nut slot depths using Rudy's method above. It's nearly perfect.

I'm also curious about the loose neck. As OldPappy points out, there is a wedge for tightening the neck-to-rim joint. If the wedge is tight, then I don't see how this joint can be loose unless the dowel stick is too long, not allowing the heel to contact the OD of the rim. I would be extremely surprised to see an Enoch banjo with that problem.

My one small issue with the Tradesman is the relatively high action. A 9/16" inch bridge helped that a lot, and may help the intonation a little as well. There is still plenty of clearance for clawhammer whether playing over the scoop or the head.

I don't intend to come across as defensive about Enoch banjos.....there can be issues with any banjo. But I certainly haven't had any with this one. I hope you get yours sorted out.

Jul 12, 2018 - 8:48:28 PM
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Cyndy

USA

550 posts since 3/2/2010

I can't add to the expert advice that's already been posted--I'm definitely a novice--but I can tell you what I did to solve a similar issue with my Tradesman. I followed the measuring directions on this page (http://banjobridge.com/br-06.htm) and had Bart Veerman make me a compensated bridge. I've been really pleased with the difference it's made. (The photo shows nylon strings--I'm working on classic banjo at the moment, so I switched them--but usually I play with medium steel strings.)


Edited by - Cyndy on 07/12/2018 20:50:27

Jul 16, 2018 - 7:09:53 PM

8 posts since 10/9/2009

Thanks, everyone! I am working through these suggestions bit by bit. Trying the least invasive options first and then onto the next!

Jul 16, 2018 - 10:29 PM

14471 posts since 2/7/2003

Quote

I've measured the distance between the nut and the 12th fret and the bridge and they are even.


THAT is your problem, MATHMATICALLY, THEORETICALLY its the same, in practice it CANT be, the bridge must be moved 2 to 2.5 mm towards the tailpiece for the notes to fret true

Scott

Jul 17, 2018 - 8:22:30 AM

8 posts since 10/9/2009

I wondered about that. Next adjustment that I will make!

Jul 17, 2018 - 2:36:12 PM

10777 posts since 6/17/2003

After trying all the above and not being successful, capo the banjo and see if it intonates properly in various positions when capoed. If it plays properly when capoed but not when played open, you have an issue with the nut.

Also, if you are using light gauge strings, be sure you are not slightly pushing sideways when fretting, thus pushing the note slightly sharp. Fret straight downward.

Best of luck...

Jul 17, 2018 - 4:02:07 PM

7803 posts since 2/22/2007

Adrienne, just in case you are not sure about bridge intonation, here is a link to a very simple video explanation. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gr9NdvL6fyE

Edited by - banjo bill-e on 07/17/2018 16:02:33

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