Trying to get a tenor banjo set up in a way so it puts the least amount of strain on my left hand as possible. I've had a history of problems with my left hand and don't want playing banjo to flare it up at all.
Looking for recommendations on models etc but even string gauge.
One thing to consider is the scale length. Just a few inches can make a big difference in comfort. (I have tenors covering the various scales & find my Vega style "N" to be an instrument I return to because of it's ergonomics, playability, light weight & voice.)
Light & xtra-light gauge strings are an obvious choice . ( feel light gauge has some advantages, by staying in tune better & giving a richer sound).
Vega N has a short scale of 20 1/8" w/ an open back. The short neck & light weight are easy on the body.
Interesting question. You'd probably get 10 different answers from 10 different people. Ergonomics is typically a term relative to desk sitting ideals. But your question seems tied to your left hand problems, so things that could help may include: 22" scale or 21" vs 23". However, longer scale might be more of a shoulder issue than hand. Lighter weight would likely help, as less weight for that hand to keep neck held up. Hence you should consider a light-weight openback model. Lighter gauge strings may help and/or lower action, meaning less strain on fingers in that hand. Also, avoiding a wider neck and going sufficiently narrow, means easier to fret notes on G and D strings. Shape of neck being more rounded and less v-shaped (as on some vintage banjos) could arguably help too. Finally, you should play with holding banjo between your legs (right in the middle) vs on your right thigh, and see how this translates to less weight (or not) of the banjo neck being held in your left hand (based on your posture). Banjo straps can also relieve this weight from your left hand/arm. I've experimented with long banjo straps going around my neck to short banjo straps simply slung over my right shoulder.
Good luck. Hope you find something that works. Let us know!
You should also know that some banjos with resonators and flanges can weigh upwards of 11.5 lbs. And other banjos that are openback and streamlined can weight as little as maybe 6.5 lbs. Big difference in how the body strains to hold such banjos, and try play fluidly without strain.
Many tenor banjo players don't use straps but it might be a feasible idea to use one over the right shoulder. That would eliminate the hand supporting the banjo sort of like using a shoulder rest on a fiddle. A light weight tenor banjo like a Little Wonder or a Slingerland would be a good choice for you because of the various specs that have been mentioned already by Dennis and Robert.
Light gauge strings are a subjective term. Check the string gauges before buying and try the lightest ones you can find. You may not have the variety to choose from in Australia that we have in the states.
In my opinion the weight of the banjo has no influence to your left hand, which shouldn't support the banjo. The more critical point is the action, too high means a suffering left hand. Seconly the neck width and the shape can make a big difference, much more than the scale lenght. I had a short scale Ome which was more difficult to play than a long scale Paramount (both with low action). Also frets shape (and height) can make a difference. But it's definitely something very personal and only you can find the right neck comfortable for you.
Let me ask, what exactly is the problem with the left hand? Is it finger, or wrist pain? Or fatigue? Does is extend beyond the hand to the forearm and shoulder? What banjo do you play now, is it setup GDAE, what string gauges, how is the action height?
Thanks for all the replies.
DSmoke the pain I have been getting is on the back of my wrist, close to the thumb side (De Quervain's?). Also had issues with trigger finger in the past and get pain on the back of my index finger (the first joint there) when I play. I currently play on an Abbott, set up as GDAE, no clue about string gauges, they were what it had when I got it. The action is high, but there doesn't seem to be any place to change it short of filing down the bridge.
warthog12 Are you new to playing, or playing more now? Have you experienced this pain for many years?
DSmoke I am new to banjo ~6 months and am very young (early 20s). Only for a few months have i been experiencing pain
- low action helps Weyman is very easy to adjust
- shorter scale 19 fret
- Use thin strings like 28,22, 14, 09
- tune every string 1 tone lower So Bb, f, c, g (a C chord in normal cgda tuning will now be a Bb chord)
warthog12 I believe you are experiencing pain because you are new to playing. You might want to learn a few stretches, youtube has plenty to do before and after playing. You should also make sure your posture is good for playing. You might also need to limit how much playing you do to balance the pain. It is also very important to have a well setup banjo.
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