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Sep 11, 2019 - 6:27:03 PM
12 posts since 11/7/2018

I have an older model Washburn B-16. I don't play well but I have played guitar so my ear is wise to odd notes. If I tune in open, it sounds great - the minute I fret a string, it's sharp - waay sharp! I swear, I have had this thing to various places and finally today to a luthier, who set a nail just before the first fret wire and it played in tune so he told me my frets were too far apart, yet I looked on a fret spacing chart at Stew Mac and all of mine are bang on. I just can't figure it.

Sep 11, 2019 - 6:30:55 PM

12057 posts since 6/29/2005

If you put a capo on the first fret so it's in G#, does it fret correctly then?  Is the bridge in the correct position?

Sep 11, 2019 - 6:45:02 PM
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beegee

USA

21294 posts since 7/6/2005

Measure from the nut to the 12th fret and set the bridge the same distance from the 12th fret. That will get you close. Then fine tune it, by sliding toward the tailpiece if it notes sharp, toward the nut if it notes flat.

Sep 11, 2019 - 6:47:26 PM

12 posts since 11/7/2018

Thank you for your reply. Capo on first fret and everything but low d goes way sharp. The fellow tilted to bridge slightly but claimed he could not do anything further. It's frustrating.

Sep 11, 2019 - 6:51:46 PM
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3651 posts since 10/13/2005

Wait a minute! A "LUTHIER" puts a nail down instead of moving the bridge? Time to find another luthier, a real one. banjered

Sep 11, 2019 - 7:15:47 PM

12 posts since 11/7/2018

banjered , yes indeed, he kept placing a nail in front of the first and second frets and said, boy, you need a new neck...which is why I am here, LOL. I am not educated at all, I only wanted a banjo that I could carve a resonator for and learn a few things, but it's not going so well.


 

Edited by - jord on 09/11/2019 19:23:08

Sep 11, 2019 - 7:32:29 PM
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1134 posts since 2/9/2007

The person who said your frets are spaced wrongly does not even remotely approach any honest definition of the word "luthier".

If you have the bridge placed so you get an in-tune octave at the 12th fret, but your first-position notes are sharp, the first thing to suspect is that your action is too high at the nut.

If you are used to playing an acoustic guitar, part of the problem may be that banjo strings are a lot lower tension than a guitar's, and so it takes very little excess pressure in fingering to stretch the strings noticeably sharp.

Where are you located? There's almost sure to be someone on the hangout close by who can help you diagnose and correct whatever problem you've got.

Sep 11, 2019 - 7:59:43 PM

12 posts since 11/7/2018

Thank you, you are correct Dan Gellert . I even mentioned perhaps slotting the nut a bit to him but then he said well are you're going to get is buzzing. And you are correct that at the 12th fret tuning, the first fret notes are high - and I swear, I have moved this bridge around so many different places to no avail, almost like the middle g string needs it's own bridge, LOL. I'm in a small town in British Columbia and may have to head into Vancouver or something.

Sep 11, 2019 - 8:24:23 PM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14380 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by jord

I have an older model Washburn B-16. I don't play well but I have played guitar so my ear is wise to odd notes. If I tune in open, it sounds great - the minute I fret a string, it's sharp - waay sharp! I swear, I have had this thing to various places and finally today to a luthier, who set a nail just before the first fret wire and it played in tune so he told me my frets were too far apart, yet I looked on a fret spacing chart at Stew Mac and all of mine are bang on. I just can't figure it.


A basic setup guide might help you; here's something to get you in the ball park.

http://web.archive.org/web/20160328210907/http://www.bluestemstrings.com/pageBanjoConstructionTips2.html

Sep 11, 2019 - 8:46:06 PM

809 posts since 8/7/2017

The middle G string Does need it's own bridge. The string is commonly sharp when fretted due to various effects (eg, it's the thickest string and it is stiffer than the others, so when fretted, it wants to be sharp). You can get "compensated bridges" which will correct some of the sharpness. I put them on my banjo, as do many others players.

I fully agree with Dan, your luthier is an idiot with respect to banjos. And I'd not be greatly surprized if he's an idiot with other stringed instruments. At the least, he does not know his limitations, and Clint Eastwood has strong feelings on that :-)

Sep 11, 2019 - 8:52:25 PM

12 posts since 11/7/2018

Thank you so much every one. First time here and I'm glad I came. Fiddled around for a long time with the bridge and such but no luck with fretted tuning and I'm only a dumb carver, not a technician, so I guess I'm going to have to find someone who knows what they are doing. Thanks again.

Sep 11, 2019 - 8:56:30 PM

Alex Z

USA

3616 posts since 12/7/2006

"luthier, who set a nail just before the first fret wire and it played in tune so he told me my frets were too far apart"

I wouldn't be hard on the luthier.  He may be very astute.

If the distance between the nut and the 1st fret is too great, what the poster experiences and what the luthier did to illustrate the correction is exactly what would happen.

The fact that the banjo played in tune when the nail was in place -- essentially moving the 1st fret back a small amount, means that the bridge is in the correct position.

Sure, all the frets may match up with the fret spacing chart -- but maybe it's not the spacing between the frets, but rather the space between the nut and the 1st fret.

Sep 11, 2019 - 9:17:24 PM

12 posts since 11/7/2018

Alex Z - that could also be correct if it wasn't mainly the g string in question, which the positioned nail did seem to tune at the second fret - so at this point I just may try a compensated bridge before I complain any louder and get more luthiers in trouble, LOL.

Sep 11, 2019 - 10:30:53 PM

Bart Veerman

Canada

4421 posts since 1/5/2005

The action at the nut may indeed be too high but, more likely, the bridge is in the wrong location. Check this simple routine to get the bridge to its proper location and it'll also tell you whether a compensated bridge will be helpful:

https://banjobridge.com/br-06.htm

Bart,

Hamilton, Ontario

P.S. you gotta wonder when a guitar dude, "luthier," doesn't start thinking moveable saddles like on electric guitars as a comparison to you problem...

Sep 11, 2019 - 10:53:49 PM

Bart Veerman

Canada

4421 posts since 1/5/2005

By the way, awesome job on the reso carving!!!

Sep 12, 2019 - 12:00:27 AM

12 posts since 11/7/2018

Thanks kindly Bart Veerman - I may very well have done that procedure but perhaps not enough as I thought the bridge was angling too much but perhaps not. My resonator was a single piece of wood but I managed to hollow it out to only 2 grams more than the original - but believe me, it took a lot of grinding!

Sep 12, 2019 - 4:34:58 AM
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12057 posts since 6/29/2005

a clear picture of the front of the banjo, like the one you posted of the back would be very helpful to everyone trying to help you solve this mystery.

One idea would be to put a capo on the first fret (which eliminates the nut), and move the bridge until you get the same note at the octave (now the 13th fret) with a harmonic chime and fretted.  Then see if it frets right, still capoed.  I agree with Dan Gellert that the idea that a manufactured banjo like a Washburn is going to have the frets in the wrong places is very remote.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 09/12/2019 04:36:14

Sep 12, 2019 - 4:51:54 AM

5138 posts since 12/20/2005

Again, great job on the carving ! A fine work of art.
I don't know anything about wood carving.
Maybe a little bit off topic, but would you mind giving a brief description how you did that ?
I think I might start a new topic just for wood carving.

Sep 12, 2019 - 5:23:44 AM

5138 posts since 12/20/2005

New topic for wood carving has been created, in "Other Banjo-Related Topics".

Sep 12, 2019 - 5:51:41 AM

Alex Z

USA

3616 posts since 12/7/2006

"If I tune in open, it sounds great - the minute I fret a string, it's sharp - waay sharp!"

"set a nail just before the first fret wire and it played in tune"

"mainly the g string in question, which the positioned nail did seem to tune at the second fret"

"Fiddled around for a long time with the bridge and such but no luck with fretted tuning"

"Capo on first fret and everything but low d goes way sharp."

"I may very well have done that procedure but perhaps not enough as I thought the bridge was angling too much but perhaps not."

I can't reconcile all of these symptoms.   I don't think anyone else has either.  Bridge out of position certainly doesn't explain all of them -- but we are assuming that is the only cause, and concluding the luthier doesn't know it and the poster doesn't know how to set the bridge.   Maybe it's time for some measurements.  One step at a time, not assuming an answer until the evidence is in.

When the test of capoing on the first fret is done -- which I think is a good test for confirming or eliminating certain factors -- after capoing then have to recheck the bridge position AND retune, and then see if fretting makes it go out of tune.

Hope this helps.

Sep 12, 2019 - 6:16:03 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14380 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

"If I tune in open, it sounds great - the minute I fret a string, it's sharp - waay sharp!"

"set a nail just before the first fret wire and it played in tune"

"mainly the g string in question, which the positioned nail did seem to tune at the second fret"

"Fiddled around for a long time with the bridge and such but no luck with fretted tuning"

"Capo on first fret and everything but low d goes way sharp."

"I may very well have done that procedure but perhaps not enough as I thought the bridge was angling too much but perhaps not."

I can't reconcile all of these symptoms.   I don't think anyone else has either.  Bridge out of position certainly doesn't explain all of them -- but we are assuming that is the only cause, and concluding the luthier doesn't know it and the poster doesn't know how to set the bridge.   Maybe it's time for some measurements.  One step at a time, not assuming an answer until the evidence is in.

When the test of capoing on the first fret is done -- which I think is a good test for confirming or eliminating certain factors -- after capoing then have to recheck the bridge position AND retune, and then see if fretting makes it go out of tune.

Hope this helps.


I can't see how anyone can "reconcile" with little to no information to go on.

The OP has a factory-produced instrument and should be able to get a whole lot closer to good playability and correct intonation by following the steps necessary for basic setup.

Unless that is done then anyone trying to help out is really working in the realm of clairvoyance.

Trying to help is great, but a photo of back isn't much information to go on.

Sep 12, 2019 - 7:25:10 AM

12057 posts since 6/29/2005

 

I can't see how anyone can "reconcile" with little to no information to go on.

The OP has a factory-produced instrument and should be able to get a whole lot closer to good playability and correct intonation by following the steps necessary for basic setup.

Unless that is done then anyone trying to help out is really working in the realm of clairvoyance.

Trying to help is great, but a photo of back isn't much information to go on.


My sentiments exactly.  The carving on the back doesn't tell us anything about fret spacing or bridge placement.

A nice clear shot of the front, not taken at an angle, would result in a lot of measurements by people following this thread, and clear up the whole mystery.

Sep 12, 2019 - 7:26:44 AM

167 posts since 2/27/2009

I had exactly the same problem with my old Great Lakes banjo. After taking it to 5 places in the Chicago area to no avail, one guy fixed it by noticing the space between the nut and the first fret was 1/32 of an inch too long. He carved a hair off the fretboard and reglued the nut, and all was well. Just as Alex Z said. I would have that checked first. It might not be your problem, but if it is, it's an easy fix. For a Luthier.

Sep 12, 2019 - 7:49:20 AM

4606 posts since 9/21/2007

The most overlooked thing in this situation are the strings.  Change them and place the bridge as stipulated above.

Strings can be false out fo the package.  They can also get false after use from grit and grime.

A false string is one that is uneven in thickness its entire length. 

While unusual with steel it happens.

False strings occur more with nylon and esp with using fishing line (which will pretty much always be false).  Nylgut polyester strings tend to be false to the point where I completely gave up on them and went to rectified nylon from Labella.

Sep 12, 2019 - 8:18:47 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14380 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

The most overlooked thing in this situation are the strings.  Change them and place the bridge as stipulated above.

Strings can be false out fo the package.  They can also get false after use from grit and grime.

A false string is one that is uneven in thickness its entire length. 

While unusual with steel it happens.

False strings occur more with nylon and esp with using fishing line (which will pretty much always be false).  Nylgut polyester strings tend to be false to the point where I completely gave up on them and went to rectified nylon from Labella.

 


Elderly used to have a chart they added to their Nylgut listing to show the true measured diameter and stated that they tried to get an "average" as the measurement was not consistant over the length of the strings.  Rectified nylon is going to be a whole lot more true, since the diameter is ground to a uniform diameter.

Sep 12, 2019 - 8:21:48 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14380 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by JimHenry

I had exactly the same problem with my old Great Lakes banjo. After taking it to 5 places in the Chicago area to no avail, one guy fixed it by noticing the space between the nut and the first fret was 1/32 of an inch too long. He carved a hair off the fretboard and reglued the nut, and all was well. Just as Alex Z said. I would have that checked first. It might not be your problem, but if it is, it's an easy fix. For a Luthier.


The OP stated in his first post that he compared his fret spacings to a referance from StuMac and his distances were "right on".  The FIRST distance in any referance is the nut to first fret.

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