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Low 4th string pitch wavering on Tenor banjo

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May 31, 2020 - 4:08:55 PM
13 posts since 8/27/2019

On my tenor banjo, I’ve noticed a strange overtone that rings out with the lowest string. I think I have finally put my finger on it. It seems like the pitch wavers, sort of irregularly and gradually downward almost like a slight but unmusical vibrato effect (like a whammy bar on a guitar).

When I tune it, it’s in pitch and intonated but it just seems to wander, it’s even noticeable when playing open or single notes.

Is there anything that might be a likely cause of this? Or a name for the phenomenon?

Picture of nut and bridge and tuners for reference.


May 31, 2020 - 7:22:22 PM
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7267 posts since 8/28/2013

When did you last change strings? Even a tiny nick or a bit of grime caught in the windings can cause a wound string to vibrate in an uncontrolled manner, and sometimes a wound string has been poorly wound from the factory and will waver in pitch.

Jun 1, 2020 - 2:36:05 AM

Polle Flaunoe


5389 posts since 3/7/2006


Yes - I do know of the phenomenon as described - it´s most likely caused by differences in tone resonances for the string, the head and especially the tone ring - mind you especially with regards to and combined with the differences in the sustain of these parts.

Before going into details and WTD - please tell me/us about your head diameter and tension, your tuning and string gauges plus the scale of your banjo - maybe I´ll then be able helping you.

Jun 1, 2020 - 2:58:15 AM
Players Union Member



97736 posts since 11/7/2007

I agree George that tired strings are a likely culprit. A fresh set is the first thing I’d try

Edited by - OM45GE on 06/01/2020 02:58:36

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