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Sep 19, 2019 - 1:41:13 PM
9 posts since 11/23/2016

I know that pre 20th century banjos were mostly fretless, but when did frets begin to be used on banjos, and when did it become the standard for banjo construction?

Sep 19, 2019 - 1:54:23 PM

10702 posts since 4/23/2004

quote:
Originally posted by cmbower

I know that pre 20th century banjos were mostly fretless, but when did frets begin to be used on banjos, and when did it become the standard for banjo construction?


As I recall, the engraving on Buckley's "New Banjo" tutor shows him playing a fretted banjo...circa 1860. He tells you how to do it in the book. I believe I would be safe to say that by the late 1870's, frets were commonly available if requested. By the middle of the 1880s, they were "normal" and by the 1890s, fretless would be a special order.

The above is from memory and pretty generic. I don't recall a definitive timeline.

Sep 19, 2019 - 4:09:37 PM

4678 posts since 9/21/2007

What Marc wrote.  I'll add the interesting and overlooked variable that coincides directly with that timeline-- strings.

As music dealers started importing strings specifically for banjos, and strings got better (truer) frets became more prevalent.  False strings were a big problem and headache for manufacturers/builders of banjos. 

By the mid 1890s rectifying processes (grinding true) and better varnishes were developed and all the sudden the three octave neck shows up on the SSS Special Thoroughbred!

That is no coincidence. 

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