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High D string, first string, keeps snapping

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Sep 18, 2020 - 2:37:45 AM
5 posts since 9/18/2020

Hello fellow players, I am new to the forum and I wonder if you can advise me please. I have been playing clawhammer for a couple of years, a friend recently gave me a new tune which I love playing called Marching Through Georgia Henry Clay Work. However the tablature tuning is GCGCE and there lies my problem - tuning the first string to E. I keep snapping the string, possibly because I am altering my tuning up and down daily. Can anyone please recommend a set of strings which would tolerate pushing the tuning of the first string to E and therefore lasting more than a week or two. I have been using light gauge no.10, thank you for any help, I realise a second banjo would be a good solution!

Sep 18, 2020 - 2:58:58 AM



12938 posts since 8/30/2006

Eddylou We get these little clamps called capos that wrap around the neck and let you raise the pitch of the strings without snapping the strings. I'm finding a picture of one. They are available on line . Shubb is my favorite.

See the little clamp on the 3rd fret? Buy two , they get lost.

You will then have a new problem of how to raise the 5th string to your desired pitch.

Two methods are having spikes installed above the 5th tuner so you can tuck the 5th string under it to match the other strings.
or get a Shubb 5th string capo installed.  The banjo on the far left has one installed, you can see how it slides up and tightens to pitch. 

Many people use a BIC ballpoint pen cap as a 5th string capo, it slides up and down easily with your other lower capo.

I put spikes at these frets: One can play anything.  I play a longneck, but you can tune the shortneck down to E if you like to see what a longneck in E sounds like.  You do the math, you are almost home. 

Good luck

Edited by - Helix on 09/18/2020 03:05:35

Sep 18, 2020 - 3:25:14 AM
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470 posts since 2/4/2006

There's no reason for a 10 to snap when tuning to E. Check where the string is snapping there might be an edge that is cutting into the string and causing it to break.

Most tunes in GCGCE can also usually be played in GCGCD with a modification of the tab.

Sep 18, 2020 - 3:30:31 AM

5 posts since 9/18/2020

Helix, thank you so much for your very full and considered reply, of course I never thought of a capo and I will get a spike fitted too. I am so grateful that you have taken the time to help me out, that’s going to make a huge difference. I had heard of spikes but never questioned their use! Now I know! Happy playing with no more wincing at the thought of the string snapping every time! Forget Marching Through Georgia, I’ll be Galloping! Thank you

Sep 18, 2020 - 3:42:09 AM
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5 posts since 9/18/2020

jazz-phil, thank you also for your reply, it does always snap at the tuner end and I wondered if the sharpness of the little hole was cutting the string. I will look into this too as well as experimenting with the tune in GCGCD. Thank you so much. Great advice.

Sep 18, 2020 - 6:12:54 AM

3895 posts since 10/13/2005

I play Marching Through Georgia all the time in the key of regular G tuning, no need to go to open C tuning at all. As a medley, without retuning , I then play play The Battle Cry of Freedom but in the key of C out of G tuning. banjered

Sep 18, 2020 - 7:16:10 AM

7737 posts since 8/28/2013

When you check the hole in the tuner, also check that the string slides freely in the nut slot. A bit of graphite (I use a pencil) can help keep the sting from binding there. If a string binds, it may  break at the major stress point, which is actually the bend where it enters the tuner.

Edited by - G Edward Porgie on 09/18/2020 07:19:02

Sep 18, 2020 - 12:28:15 PM

5 posts since 9/18/2020

Banjered - thank you for your reply that is also worth considering! I will also check out The Battle Cry Of Freedom, sounds a good combination.

Sep 18, 2020 - 12:31:32 PM

5 posts since 9/18/2020

G Edward Porgie - thank you for your reply, I will use some graphite as you suggest I am sure that’s where the problem lies.

Sep 18, 2020 - 5:56:39 PM

1194 posts since 8/7/2017

The easiest way I know to get graphite in the nut slots is a technique I read on BHO, but I forget who posted, sorry.

Put the tip of a sharpened wooden pencil, (soft lead (eg. No. 1 or 2) near the slot. Then scrape off pencil lead (graphite + clay) with a pocket knife. Hold the blade perpendicular to the pencil lead and lightly scrape towards the pencil tip. If the pile of pencil lead dust does not fall into the slot, it's easy to Lightly scrape across the nut with the knife blade to bulldozer the dust into the slot. If you don't trust yourself to scrape lightly, then shove the dust pile into the nut slot with your finger. Wipe finger afterwards, or you will get black fingerprints all over your banjo....

The dust will be loose in the slot, so I add the dust for each slot just before I string that slot. I initially take up string slack with string outside slot (to avoid dragging all the dust out onto the peghead). The, as the string just starts to tighten, I slide string into slot and finish tightening.

I keep a Kleenex or towel near the banjo head to hold the pencil and knife - there will be loose pencil lead dust on both after a scraping.

Hope this helps.

Sep 18, 2020 - 6:04:12 PM

Bill H


1391 posts since 11/7/2010

Be sure to use some sort of tuning device to be sure you are not tuning your banjo sharp. That will often break the string. If the banjo is in the correct pitch there should be no trouble going up to E.

Sep 18, 2020 - 11:32:46 PM
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Bart Veerman


4727 posts since 1/5/2005

Using a capo on the 2nd fret isn't going to work as it'll raise the pitch of the other strings as well and you'll end up being tuned to aDADF# which is not what you want. By all means, try the graphite trick, it does the job in some cases.

More than likely, the edge of the hole in the tuner shaft that you stick the strings through is too sharp and you'll need to "soften" that edge. Diamond-coated Dremel bits are the weapon of choice for this, you don't need the Dremel tool itself as you can use them by hand, here's an example of them - use the pointy tapered ones like the ones on the right on this picture for this purpose.

With the "blunted" edge on the tuner's string hole, there no reason your 1st string should snap - try the GHS PF150 string set, they're great for clawhammer.

Do let us know how you make out with this.

Sep 19, 2020 - 5:39:59 AM



12938 posts since 8/30/2006

I note certain banjo styles have certain inherent quirks .One would be retuning accurately

I cut all 4 slots of the nut to .023
The Exacto saw is .023
Probably a sin

I play a lot, much and often I jam with others and play in non-alcoholic venues and local tunnels that echo

I just don’t break strings anymore
A capo is my universal translator

Mr Brooks always has great advice

You have identified where the same strings are breaking

good luck I hope

Edited by - Helix on 09/19/2020 05:42:31

Sep 19, 2020 - 6:58:24 PM

3895 posts since 10/13/2005

If the tuner hole is rough with sharp edges or burrs, take an old wound string and run it through on the edges using it like a string file. Cheap,uh, oh, banjered

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