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Sep 19, 2019 - 4:25:57 PM
425 posts since 10/17/2006

Are the side dots placed everywhere there are inlays? I did 3,5,7,10,12,15,17,and 19. I have an inlay at 22 but don't know if I should put a dot there or not. Opinions, practices, laws???????

Sep 19, 2019 - 6:07:26 PM
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2296 posts since 12/18/2004

Sam,
You are correct ........
3/5/7/10/12/15/17/19/22
2 dots on 12th (some prewars only have 1 dot at 12th)
some Gibson inlay patterns have an inlay on 1st fret as well
Do not put a dot at mastertone block
Good luck
Don Bryant NC banjo luthier

Sep 20, 2019 - 5:57:54 AM

425 posts since 10/17/2006

Thanks Don! That was what I was leaning toward, but I think old age is catching up a little.

Sep 20, 2019 - 6:20:58 AM

2683 posts since 5/29/2011

On a side note; I built a five string neck for a Vega Little Wonder which has no inlays at 15 or 19. Is it OK to put side dots in the binding at those places? The long open space between the 12th fret and the 17th fret sometimes throws me off.

Sep 20, 2019 - 6:31:09 AM
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rudy

USA

14482 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Culloden

On a side note; I built a five string neck for a Vega Little Wonder which has no inlays at 15 or 19. Is it OK to put side dots in the binding at those places? The long open space between the 12th fret and the 17th fret sometimes throws me off.


Sure.  Why not?

I add side markers at the same locations as front markers.  I occasionally build with no front markers but I include side dots at the usual positions. normally to the 17th as I always scoop and there aren't any frets after the 17th for the banjos I build.

Sep 20, 2019 - 6:39:59 AM

3554 posts since 5/12/2010

An interesting side note on this topic is the marker which is usually at the 10th fret on modern banjos. On many older banjos the marker is at the 9th instead, and I have one customer who asks for that placement. It actually makes more sense in some ways, as many of the old tunes have notes on the 9th fret.

I don't play many "modern" tunes, so have always wondered about the reason for the difference. 

Edited by - OldPappy on 09/20/2019 06:42:27

Sep 20, 2019 - 7:02:34 AM

2595 posts since 2/18/2009

I put them wherever the customer wants them, except I never put a side dot at the 5th fret except on a tunneled neck because the 5th string tuner would cover it up from the perspective of the player's eyes.
Zach

Sep 20, 2019 - 7:10:59 AM

3554 posts since 5/12/2010

I place the 5th string tuner at the 6th, or sometimes the 7th fret to allow more room for slides, so I do place a marker on the 5th fret.

The 5th string is never fretted in the style I, and those I build these for, play, so placing it higher up works fine for us.

Sep 20, 2019 - 7:27:41 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14482 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by OldPappy

An interesting side note on this topic is the marker which is usually at the 10th fret on modern banjos. On many older banjos the marker is at the 9th instead, and I have one customer who asks for that placement. It actually makes more sense in some ways, as many of the old tunes have notes on the 9th fret.

I don't play many "modern" tunes, so have always wondered about the reason for the difference. 

 


Joel Hooks had an essay published by S.S. Stewart that was titled something to the effect of "Why the 10th fret is used as a marker location on the modern banjo" at his website.  There are archived links to they pdf of that article if you want to know the basis for the position choice from a historical perspective.

At least one modern-era builder offers the 9th as a location, reasoning that it is easier for players who often capo at the second fret.  I personally think the 9th fret location isn't any better for capo users as it throws the octave markers out of sequence.

The reason is also often given that it causes fewer questions from new players who come to the banjo after playing guitar as a main instrument.

I've built banjos that use 9th position and also shifted the fifth tuner up to the 6th (or higher) fret.  I can be useful on an individual basis, but I quit doing that because the majority of players are initially uncomfortable when they pick up a banjo that doesn't follow "traditional" marker or tuner placement.  I notice the exact same perception when folks pick up one of my tunneled neck jos, but the lack of a tuner up the neck seems to be much more easily adapted to as opposed to marker or tuner 5th fret location.  Shifting the tuner higher up the neck is particularly troublesome for anyone who actually frets the fifth string when using it for the melody.

Edited by - rudy on 09/20/2019 07:38:39

Sep 20, 2019 - 8:08:27 AM

3554 posts since 5/12/2010

A lot of folks who pick up one of my banjos are at first discombobulated by the 5th string tuner being in a different place than they are used to.

Most of the Clawhammer players end up adjusting to it quickly and like it once they see the reason, but most of the bluegrass pickers who have tried one didn't seem to like it, so maybe they use that tuner for positioning.

One interesting thing I did once, at the request of the guy I was building a banjo for, was to use raised side markers, in this case made from small turquoise beads. He wanted that so he could feel the markers, and it worked very well, especially while playing around a campfire at night.

Sep 20, 2019 - 8:18:14 AM

2683 posts since 5/29/2011

Thanks, Rudy. Since I did not build it for resale I think I will add the dots for my own convenience.
Andy, your description of the man who wanted the raised side dots reminds me of why I quit using abalone inlays. On a dimly lit stage, white pearl inlays are much easier to see. And sometimes, in dim light, side dots aren't too visible either.

Sep 20, 2019 - 10:18:39 AM

3554 posts since 5/12/2010

Can be difficult to see the markers on the board anyway, so the side markers either need to be visible, or something like those beads which can be felt.

It actually looked very nice too. It was a black walnut neck, with ebony fretboard, and red veneer below the board. The small blue beads really popped out visually, and the raised surface of the round beads was easy to feel without interfering with hand movement.

I haven't done another that way yet, because I wanted to see if those stayed in place. They were simply glued in with super glue.

I bought a bunch of those tiny bone pips Stewmac sells a while back, and didn't like them for 5th string nuts, and am thinking they would work fine for this purpose with a little more foundation than those beads. White shows up good on dark wood.

Sep 20, 2019 - 11:26:57 AM

4673 posts since 9/21/2007

Here is the article.  Written by Thomas Armstrong and George Lansing.  Both had known S. S. Stewart and were "in the thick of it" for the big part of the American banjo fad of the 1880s and 1890s.


 

Sep 21, 2019 - 9:38:57 AM

Fathand

Canada

11457 posts since 2/7/2008

I am planning to build a guitar. I am seriously considering marking the 10th fret as that is what I am used to.

Sep 21, 2019 - 10:24:13 AM

Owen

Canada

4085 posts since 6/5/2011

As a REAL beginner, I think having every 2nd. or 3rd. fret marked with the appropriate number as the inlay would be a big help.   Don't know how realistic that might be for the builder, though I suspect it's a bit more complicated than a dot.

Sep 21, 2019 - 10:53:47 AM
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Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14482 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Owen

As a REAL beginner, I think having every 2nd. or 3rd. fret marked with the appropriate number as the inlay would be a big help.   Don't know how realistic that might be for the builder, though I suspect it's a bit more complicated than a dot.


I've seen a few instruments marked at the usual locations with largish pearl numbers inlayed in the fret board... not that I consider it to be a good idea.

Marker positions relate more to intervals and actual numbers would really just be confusing when using a capo.

Sep 21, 2019 - 1:26:32 PM

12145 posts since 6/29/2005

I have often made banjos with the 5th tuner at the 6th fret as opposed to the 5th fret.  This is because I started as a folksinger with a longneck, and I use a capo a lot to change keys— all longneck players do that, I think.  Capoing the 3rd fret on a longneck makes it a "regular banjo" and the vast majority of folksingers did that—many capoed on the 5th fret which made it "A" or "D"—none of them ever played open, except maybe Pete Seeger on one song.

The long neck was part of the wonderful world of vocal range, key changes and, capos.

The capoed 4th fret is useful if you want to play in B or E, but the 5th fret capoed is useful if you want to play in C with G positions, favored by most people who are used to G tuning and play 3-finger.  Not so many bluegrass players play in C using C positions

SO

moving the 5th tuner to the 6th fret makes it easy to put a capo on the 5th fret, and Vega did that with their Pete Seeger model, and called it the "Exel" or sometimes "Excel".

You will notice no dot on the 15th fret, which would be standard.  When you do this, it's handy to make some special inlay on the 5th fret to notify people that the 5th fret is not where the 5th peg is. I have often confused myself when I play one of these banjos.

I have made a lot of longnecks over the years, and in some cases, have put a dot at the 14th fret instead of the 15th, which I call an "A" dot.  This is very handy if you do a lot of playing in A (favorite key of fiddle players) because it gives you an octave dot for A.

Here is a picture showing the normal and "Exel" 5th tuner position, both with "A" dots.

These two changes are very helpful to many people but not everyone.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 09/21/2019 13:34:03

Sep 21, 2019 - 5:32:56 PM

4673 posts since 9/21/2007

I have two Clifford Essex banjos where they put the dots at the frets.  It took me awhile to get used to it.


 

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