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Nov 23, 2020 - 5:09:49 PM
108 posts since 1/7/2019

OK, so I have a new banjo that I am working on and the action is at about 3/32nds at the last fret. It looks super low but I don't hear any buzzing. The head tension is set to 90 on the drum dial and it has a saggy 11/16th Bridge on it. I have already ordered a new 11/16tj bridge but I don't think it is going to bring it up much. Do I try a 23/32nds bridge ( or maybe 3/4ths)?

I already set the neck angle with shims but the fret board sticks up above the head by probably an 8th of an inch and cannot be moved down because of the tube and plate setup.

The neck bow is also set properly which I think helps with the no buzzing.

I don't really think it is a problem in any way because the banjo plays well and is loud and clear.

Just wondering, how low is considered too low.

Thanks
Jeff

Nov 23, 2020 - 5:17:54 PM
likes this

Alex Z

USA

4046 posts since 12/7/2006

"the action is at about 3/32nds at the last fret. It looks super low but I don't hear any buzzing."

While that action may be very low for most people, the player is an essential part of the equation too.  If it's not buzzing when you play -- having set it up the way you want --  you're OK.

A well known  phenomenon among guitarists is that Tony Rice's string action is so low that nobody else can play his guitar.  But no buzzing for Mr. Tony, just nice clear, solid notes, and plenty of volume and sustain.

Enjoy your new banjo!

Nov 23, 2020 - 5:37:31 PM

108 posts since 1/7/2019

I must also admit that I am not much of a player so me saying it is not buzzing, is from what I can see from my limited playing. I like setting them up as much as playing. Is there something that induces buzzing more significantly? I tried fretting down the neck and up the neck and can't hear any. I think, if I can get just 1 more 32nd at the 22nd fret I think it would be about perfect.

Edited by - Gixxer340 on 11/23/2020 17:43:59

Nov 23, 2020 - 6:12:26 PM

4559 posts since 11/20/2004

I set mine at 3/32 above the 12th fret. I would think a taller bridge should achieve that much.

Nov 23, 2020 - 7:01:20 PM

11379 posts since 6/2/2008

Seeing as Gibson spec (to my understanding) used to be 7/64 at the 22nd fret, Id say that 3/32 is lower than anyone might recommend. But if it works for you, then good.

For the first 35 or so years with my banjo I also had the action at about 3/32 at the 22nd fret. It was built that way. There was no buzz, the banjo had great tone, but maybe not the volume I thought it should have.

I've now come to like 7/64 to 1/8 inch at 22. And that one banjo seems loud enough.

It's possible one of my banjos is still at 3/32, but it's plenty loud with no buzz.

I guess too low is buzz with insufficient volume.

Nov 23, 2020 - 7:16:02 PM
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4229 posts since 6/15/2005

Ken, Gibson specs were 7/64 at 12,  9/64 at 22.

Nov 24, 2020 - 7:36:01 AM

1211 posts since 5/19/2018

Depends on the instrument, depends upon the player, and depends upon the style being played.

There really is no right exact number for action.

What’s right for you and what you are playing, is the right action.

Nov 24, 2020 - 8:32:04 AM

11379 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by arnie fleischer

Ken, Gibson specs were 7/64 at 12,  9/64 at 22.


And for not the first time, I stand corrected.

So Gibson spec is higher than 1/8 at 22.  So is Deering, which is 1/8 at 12. The highest I like is if the string is right in line with the 1/8-inch line on my rule. I prefer the top of the string to be hitting the bottom of the 1/8-inch line.

Nov 24, 2020 - 10:01:42 AM

chief3

Canada

1112 posts since 10/26/2003

Masters of the 5 String Banjo is a book by Wernick/Trishka that contains a collection of interviews from many elite banjo players who play in a variety of styles and with a variety of banjo models and there is no clear consensus of the preferred action height and preferences vary greatly. However, if it helps, the average action height used by those asked is calculated at 1/8 inch over the 12th fret. Generally speaking, melodic and single string players generally prefer a low action at or below 1/8 and Scruggs style players prefer an action above 1/8. You've got the right action if the banjo plays easy and notes right when you play it.

Edited by - chief3 on 11/24/2020 10:03:26

Nov 24, 2020 - 10:44:47 AM
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2636 posts since 4/16/2003

If the action is nice and low,
and
If you like how it feels,
and
If it doesn't buzz for your normal style of playing,
then
Jes' stop worrying, "let it be" and smile...

Nov 24, 2020 - 11:22:53 AM

Alex Z

USA

4046 posts since 12/7/2006

"I think, if I can get just 1 more 32nd at the 22nd fret I think it would be about perfect."

And that 1 more 32nd higher would accomplish . . . what?"  smiley

Nov 24, 2020 - 12:00:25 PM

73800 posts since 5/9/2007

On the nut end keep the string to 1st fret clearance no lower than .011" and no more than .016".

Nov 24, 2020 - 1:24:19 PM

108 posts since 1/7/2019

Thanks for all the input. I have a better bridge coming that will probably put me right where I want to be. I am just trying to learn setup because it is how my mind works. Unfortunately, it is as interesting as playing to me sometimes so I like to know as much as I can.

To answer some questions:

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z
"I think, if I can get just 1 more 32nd at the 22nd fret I think it would be about perfect."

And that 1 more 32nd higher would accomplish . . . what?"  


Just an amateur luthier trying to get the setup perfect. No other goal than that.

quote:
Originally posted by steve davis
On the nut end keep the string to 1st fret clearance no lower than .011" and no more than .016".


Mine is at about .018. How crucial is this? I assume this means cutting the nut a little.

Thanks again for everyone's input

Jeff

Edited by - Gixxer340 on 11/24/2020 13:24:52

Nov 24, 2020 - 1:34 PM

13342 posts since 6/29/2005

I like it to be as low as it can be with no buzzing with 10-12-14-22W-11 strings.  I wouldn't want to go higher than .110" at the 12th fret.  If it buzzes at that height, there is something wrong with the fret dressing and I have to level the fingerboard.

Granted, I have a fairly light touch, so if you are a clawhammer player and a heavy hitter, you have to go higher.

I think it's more of a "how low can you go?" thing you figure out by trial and error using bridge shims, than a finite measurement that works for everyone,

You MUST, of course have a fingerboard with no errant frets, as a prerequisite.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 11/24/2020 13:34:47

Nov 24, 2020 - 9:31:39 PM

Alex Z

USA

4046 posts since 12/7/2006

"Just an amateur luthier trying to get the setup perfect. No other goal than that."

There is more than just string height geometry to the perfect set up for an individual player.  There is the head tension that gives you the tone you like, not just a round number on the Drum Dial.  There is the bridge that gives you the feel and sound you like;  the tailpiece adjusted to give you the sustain you like.  All of these are adjusted for tone, yet they will affect string height also.

Once all the tone related adjustments are in place, then go for the geometry that gives the player the desired ease and feel of playing.   Then, that's "perfect" for that player.  There is no perfect set up that does not include the player's preference for tone and playability.  There is a "reasonable" set up that can change a banjo from being virtually unplayable to a decent sounding and playing instrument as judged by most (not all) pickers -- that's what is often discussed on the BHO.  But you're at that point already.

On the other hand, if you are experimenting to see if the banjo can get within certain string geometry specs -- apart from the player's preference for tone and playability -- then go for it.  Heck, if all that's needed is an additional 1/32" at the 22nd fret, and all else is OK. then get a bridge that is 1/24" higher.  Done. smiley  23/32" will get you within .01".


 

Nov 25, 2020 - 4:40:22 AM

13342 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

"Just an amateur luthier trying to get the setup perfect. No other goal than that."

There is more than just string height geometry to the perfect set up for an individual player.  There is the head tension that gives you the tone you like, not just a round number on the Drum Dial.  There is the bridge that gives you the feel and sound you like;  the tailpiece adjusted to give you the sustain you like.  All of these are adjusted for tone, yet they will affect string height also.

Once all the tone related adjustments are in place, then go for the geometry that gives the player the desired ease and feel of playing.   Then, that's "perfect" for that player.  There is no perfect set up that does not include the player's preference for tone and playability.  There is a "reasonable" set up that can change a banjo from being virtually unplayable to a decent sounding and playing instrument as judged by most (not all) pickers -- that's what is often discussed on the BHO.  But you're at that point already.

On the other hand, if you are experimenting to see if the banjo can get within certain string geometry specs -- apart from the player's preference for tone and playability -- then go for it.  Heck, if all that's needed is an additional 1/32" at the 22nd fret, and all else is OK. then get a bridge that is 1/24" higher.  Done. smiley  23/32" will get you within .01".


 

 


Correct on all counts—the basic setup, which you have to go through for every banjo.

Nov 25, 2020 - 4:52:54 AM

108 posts since 1/7/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan
quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

"Just an amateur luthier trying to get the setup perfect. No other goal than that."

There is more than just string height geometry to the perfect set up for an individual player.  There is the head tension that gives you the tone you like, not just a round number on the Drum Dial.  There is the bridge that gives you the feel and sound you like;  the tailpiece adjusted to give you the sustain you like.  All of these are adjusted for tone, yet they will affect string height also.

Once all the tone related adjustments are in place, then go for the geometry that gives the player the desired ease and feel of playing.   Then, that's "perfect" for that player.  There is no perfect set up that does not include the player's preference for tone and playability.  There is a "reasonable" set up that can change a banjo from being virtually unplayable to a decent sounding and playing instrument as judged by most (not all) pickers -- that's what is often discussed on the BHO.  But you're at that point already.

On the other hand, if you are experimenting to see if the banjo can get within certain string geometry specs -- apart from the player's preference for tone and playability -- then go for it.  Heck, if all that's needed is an additional 1/32" at the 22nd fret, and all else is OK. then get a bridge that is 1/24" higher.  Done. smiley  23/32" will get you within .01".


 

 


Correct on all counts—the basic setup, which you have to go through for every banjo.


Agreed, I am just at the initial setup stage at this point. Now I will start experimenting to see where I like the sound the best. Once that is done I will set the final action. I should be at a good starting place though. 

 

Thanks for all the input

Jeff 

Nov 25, 2020 - 9:01 AM

73800 posts since 5/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Gixxer340

Thanks for all the input. I have a better bridge coming that will probably put me right where I want to be. I am just trying to learn setup because it is how my mind works. Unfortunately, it is as interesting as playing to me sometimes so I like to know as much as I can.

To answer some questions:

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z
"I think, if I can get just 1 more 32nd at the 22nd fret I think it would be about perfect."

And that 1 more 32nd higher would accomplish . . . what?"  


Just an amateur luthier trying to get the setup perfect. No other goal than that.

quote:
Originally posted by steve davis
On the nut end keep the string to 1st fret clearance no lower than .011" and no more than .016".


Mine is at about .018. How crucial is this? I assume this means cutting the nut a little.

Thanks again for everyone's input

Jeff


As the 1st fret clearance grows so does the intonation sharpness in the first 7 frets.

A beautifully playing neck is found with 1st fret clearance between .011 to .013". 7th fret "dip" of .015" and a bridge that gives string clearance of .100 at 12th fret/.110 at the 22nd.

Nov 25, 2020 - 9:38:31 AM

108 posts since 1/7/2019

quote:
Originally posted by steve davis
quote:
Originally posted by Gixxer340

Thanks for all the input. I have a better bridge coming that will probably put me right where I want to be. I am just trying to learn setup because it is how my mind works. Unfortunately, it is as interesting as playing to me sometimes so I like to know as much as I can.

To answer some questions:

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z
"I think, if I can get just 1 more 32nd at the 22nd fret I think it would be about perfect."

And that 1 more 32nd higher would accomplish . . . what?"  


Just an amateur luthier trying to get the setup perfect. No other goal than that.

quote:
Originally posted by steve davis
On the nut end keep the string to 1st fret clearance no lower than .011" and no more than .016".


Mine is at about .018. How crucial is this? I assume this means cutting the nut a little.

Thanks again for everyone's input

Jeff


As the 1st fret clearance grows so does the intonation sharpness in the first 7 frets.

A beautifully playing neck is found with 1st fret clearance between .011 to .013". 7th fret "dip" of .015" and a bridge that gives string clearance of .100 at 12th fret/.110 at the 22nd.


Thanks for the tip

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