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Test Driving My New 21 Inch Scale Banjo - from Mark Ralston

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May 6, 2020 - 3:41:06 PM
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3410 posts since 1/2/2004

My friend Mark Ralston ("Yellowston-jewelry.com") built this for me from the carcass of an old Bacon. He salvaged the pot, and built a neck - with a very handsome backstrap - yielding a banjo with a 21 inch scale, sufficient to allow my left arm, after rotator cuff repair surgery, to operate a fingerboard again.

He harvested the Bacon fingerboard inlays and put together a reall nice looking, great feeling neck. He set the neck so that it takes a high bridge to give about 1/4 inch action at the southern end of the neck - that creates a down pressure on the bridge that makes for a really taut yet responsive setup . . . in my view.

He put a Yellowstone Banjo Head on the Bacon pot: http://www.yellowstone-jewelry.com/Ba... The Yellowstone Head is a really wonderful alternative. Not overly thick. Not impacted by moisture (arrived in the rain . . .) and holds a consistent tension across the pot. Nice, taut head for this banjo. Glad to have that "Yellowstone" trademark on my banjo.

The instrument started life as a Bacon Orchestra Tenor banjo, with a 20 inch scale, so Mark used the original neck's outline, with a wider profile at the nut, to make it suitable for five strings.

It really does feel great on the left arm. No need to stretch to the point of discomfort. It's nice to have a banjo around the house again, one that I can play with no frustration . . . well, with no frustration traceable to the post-surgical situation, though I suppose frustration owing to limited musical capability (what we call "operator errors") still exists.

THANKS, MARK!!!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epTzHM5FQ2U
 

May 6, 2020 - 4:44:47 PM

738 posts since 11/27/2005

May 6, 2020 - 4:57:09 PM
Players Union Member

R Buck

USA

2783 posts since 9/5/2006

I saw that in the works as Mark posted about in on FB. I love a good Bacon model. I have an older Ramsey that Mike and I designed together. It is the very first one he made with an internal resonator.

May 6, 2020 - 5:28 PM
Players Union Member

dbrooks

USA

3821 posts since 3/11/2004

Nice looking banjo, Lew. I've been impressed with Mark's work and his posts here on the Hangout for years. It looks like you've found a solution that will keep you playing a while longer.

David

May 6, 2020 - 5:48:37 PM

9931 posts since 2/22/2007

How do you tune it, what strings, and how is the string tension?

May 6, 2020 - 6:00:40 PM

7084 posts since 11/4/2005

Mark works magic on old banjos. This one sure has a nice sweet sound.

May 7, 2020 - 4:22:52 AM

1553 posts since 12/26/2007

Lew -  tnx for the kind words...... I'm blushing ! ! !

I set that banjo up with GHS med-light strings.  I've been using those strings or GHS med-gage phosphor bronze strings on short-scale banjos.  Light gage strings sometimes sound "thin" on a short-scale banjo, the GHS strings seem to work pretty well.


 

May 7, 2020 - 4:26:40 AM

3410 posts since 1/2/2004

They do sound good. I might eventually switch back to chris sand strings, but for now I'm very happy with the way it rings. When Mary says: "That sounds nice," then the banjo has passed the test and found a home. Take care, Lew

May 7, 2020 - 8:07:29 AM

3410 posts since 1/2/2004

One of the unexpected advantages of a 21 inch scale banjo is that I don't need a strap - the thing tucks neatly, cleanly under my right arm. In fact, I'm thinking a conventionally attached strap might get in the way. We'll see . . .

May 7, 2020 - 8:18:24 AM

3879 posts since 5/12/2010

Yes, the banjo is a beauty, and sounds good too.

Glad you finally got a short scale banjo that suits you, I was beginning to fear we had lost you to the fiddle.

I agree with Mark about medium strings sounding better than light gage on a short scale.

May 7, 2020 - 8:20:55 AM

3410 posts since 1/2/2004

Hey, Andy. Good to hear from you. I'm breaking the news to Dwight that I got me a banjo slowly, so he doesn't lose all hope that I'll just use the fiddles as wall decorations.

May 7, 2020 - 8:36:01 AM
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54855 posts since 12/14/2005

I like a story about shoulder surgery which involves a functioning shoulder AND a new banjo in the outcome.

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