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A-scale or short scale 5 string banjos

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Apr 7, 2020 - 1:46:35 PM
61 posts since 2/16/2020

I'm just sort of throwing out the line hoping to get some opinions about short-scale banjos. I play a full scale 5-string open-back banjo, prefer to tune to open G. I know that both Deering and Gold Tone make shorter scale (23") banjos that can be tuned to open G with medium gauge strings, and presumably can be readily tuned to open A (lot of fiddle tunes in A). Since I started messing around with a tenor banjo I realize how much more comfortable I am playing the shorter scale, my shoulder doesn't get tired and it just feels more comfortable. I'm 5'8". I'm thinking about buying one to use it as my go-to instrument, but it is a bit of an investment. Any thoughts about the shorter scale 5-strings? Robert

Apr 7, 2020 - 2:26:08 PM

Bill H

USA

1303 posts since 11/7/2010

I built a 24 1/2" scale banjo which is great for tuning up for A or D fiddle tunes. I never did like the sound of it in G tuning and prefer light strings, so never tried it with medium strings. Consider a banjo 25 1/2" scale. It might have the versatility you are looking for. Or just capo at the second fret and you will have a short scale banjo. I also occassionally tune my nylon strung banjos up to A or double D tuning--one has a 26" scale and one a 27" scale. This works great.

Apr 7, 2020 - 2:32:01 PM

3815 posts since 10/13/2005

I like shorter necks, I think long scale has been oversold.The highest fret I hit playing old time is Flop Eared Mule at the 10th fret. A lot of Bluegrassers love to do a lot of fretboard pyro-techniques at the top of the fretboard and more power to them but for playing old time and jamming 23"–24" will be just fine. What that the OTimer's say – "No $ past the fifth fret." Thump Awayyyyyy! banjered

Apr 7, 2020 - 3:36:23 PM

15 posts since 1/25/2016

I really like my Bart Reiter A flat scale banjo. I can tune it to G or C or any other tuning and still capo at 2nd fret when playing with my fiddle friend. It's a very comfortable banjo and it sounds good. Brass tone ring. Super Fun banjo.

Apr 7, 2020 - 5:51:52 PM

2620 posts since 4/29/2012

I've got a Goodtime Parlor as a travel banjo. I don't really notice that I'm playing on a shorter scale and, to me, it sounds just as good as a full length Goodtime. I keep min in G and capo for A.
If I lost my main, full scale, player I'd definitely consider replacing it with a short scale.

Apr 7, 2020 - 7:32:58 PM

Kimerer

USA

931 posts since 2/17/2006

I bought a conversion banjo from Gary Schattl on the hangout. It is a Vega Style N pot with a short scale 5-string neck that Gary made. It is a wonderful instrument and is my goto banjo now. That old pot has a wonderful tone. I also play better on a shorter scale banjo; it fits my hand better.

I think that Gary is still here on the hangout. You might look him up.

Apr 9, 2020 - 12:36:14 AM

748 posts since 6/25/2006

What size banjo pots do you guys have on your A scale? I have a 23" scale with a 10" pot - it looks in proportion but I must admit, I wish I had gone for a bigger pot for a fuller tone.

Apr 9, 2020 - 4:59 AM
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Kimerer

USA

931 posts since 2/17/2006

I have an antique Fairbanks & Cole banjo (c. 1890) that has a 24" scale and a 10" pot.

The conversion banjo that I bought from Gary has a 23 5/8" scale and a normal 11" pot.

It is difficult to compare the sounds because the F&C banjo has a natural skin head and is strung with Nylgut, whereas the conversion banjo has a plastic head and is strung with steel.

Apr 9, 2020 - 5:15:24 AM
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2845 posts since 2/18/2009
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I make most of my A scale banjos with a 23" scale and 11" pot but I have made custom ones with 10" and 12" pots and while there is some difference I don't think it's a huge one. I haven't ever had a 10 and a 12 at the same time to compare though, I've only been able to compare each of them to an 11".
Zach

Apr 9, 2020 - 6:19:45 AM
Players Union Member

dbrooks

USA

3791 posts since 3/11/2004
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I own several short-scale banjos, described below. I too am about 5'8", but I like them because I have fairly small hands. I don't have any problems with my shoulders, arms, etc.

After owning a Vega longneck for years and years, when I started playing again, particularly at contra dances, I wanted a shorter-scale banjo. I stumbled onto a couple of 1890s Bay State banjos. One had a 10-inch pot and 23" or so scale. The later one has an 11-inch pot and a 25" scale. After playing those for a while (and I still play them at home), I got a Reiter Regent A-flat scale (25"). When I later got a Reiter Tubaphone with a longer 26.5" or so scale, I was surprised that I needed to make no big adjustments.

Short-scale banjos are pretty popular on the Hangout, as you can see.

David

Apr 9, 2020 - 7:36:41 AM

203 posts since 8/28/2006

Like the original poster, I've been thinking of getting a short-scale. My concern is not finger reach but shoulder comfort. In looking at the Reiter, however, it seems that the scale is shortened by moving the bridge further into the center of the head. So the left shoulder/arm extension would remain about the same. I wonder: is anyone making the short (A-flat) scale by leaving the bridge in position and getting rid of the 22d fret?

Apr 9, 2020 - 7:44:13 AM

Kimerer

USA

931 posts since 2/17/2006

My conversion banjo has 20 frets. But it is a one-off made by Gary Schattl, not a factory banjo.

Apr 9, 2020 - 9:43:48 AM

61 posts since 2/16/2020

My follow-on question is about inexpensive instruments. Deering made a Goodtime Parlor, which now appears to be called a Goodtime Junior (appears to have colored tailpiece and tension ring). Gold Tone makes the CC-OTA which looks to me like the CC-50 with a short neck. Any comments on these or other inexpensive short-scale 5-string banjos? Robert

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