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Nov 25, 2020 - 5:43:43 AM
Players Union Member

pickn5

USA

1543 posts since 8/8/2012

I have a 2007 Deering Siera that sounded out of tune when playing up the neck. In standard G tuning, I adjusted the bridge so that the the 1st and 4th strings are tuned to D open and fretted at the 12th fret. This put the bridge at a noticeable angle. Is this normal, or did I do something wrong?

Nov 25, 2020 - 5:45:40 AM
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BobbyE

USA

2787 posts since 11/29/2007

Can't say you did anything wrong for your particular banjo but what you did is not unheard of for many banjos.

Bobby

Nov 25, 2020 - 5:53:35 AM
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hbick2

USA

281 posts since 6/26/2004

quote:
Originally posted by pickn5

I have a 2007 Deering Siera that sounded out of tune when playing up the neck. In standard G tuning, I adjusted the bridge so that the the 1st and 4th strings are tuned to D open and fretted at the 12th fret. This put the bridge at a noticeable angle. Is this normal, or did I do something wrong?


I play with pretty high action and all of my bridges are at an angle. If it works, don't worry about it. 

Nov 25, 2020 - 6:03:45 AM
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beegee

USA

22066 posts since 7/6/2005

Tuning a stringed fretted instrument is a compromise. Electric guitars have mechanically-adjustable compensated bridges. Acoustic instruments ordinarily have straight bridges or saddles, with the notable exceptions of fixed compensation saddles on mandolins and archtop guitars. There is a wide variety of compensated bridges for banjos. There is also a compensated nut, popularized by Stelling

The amount of compensation is determined by scale length, string gauge, string height above fingerboard(action) as defined by neck angle, bridge and nut height. There is also a factor of neck deflection under tension and the flexibility of the neck itself.

It is not uncommon for a banjo bridge to sit at a slant on the head. I tune my banjos open first. Then I check the octave notes at 12. I do not rely on harmonics for tuning. After I have the tuning of the 1st & 4th correct at 12, I check using chord shapes, listening for "beats."

Due to the nature of the mathematics, it is physically impossible to get every string tuned accurately for every note in every chord position. Compensated bridges and nuts attempt to balance the physics between the strings.

If your banjo is properly set-up otherwise and the noticeable angle of your bridge is bothersome, you may do well to consider a compensated bridge. There are many designs available and each picker will have his favorite style.

Nov 25, 2020 - 6:51:59 AM
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13331 posts since 6/29/2005
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Theoretically, in terms of the laws of physics, a vibrating string will produce a note one octave higher at the halfway point, which would be at the 12th fret of a banjo.

Problem is, in order to do that, the string would have to have no stiffness, which is purely theoretical and impossible in real life.  Banjo and guitar strings vary in stiffness, and the third string is almost always the stiffest one on a banjo, so it sounds sharp.  Acoustical guitar bridge saddles are always slanted to compensate for this, and when you place the bridge on an acoustical guitar, the ist string is 2x the octave + 1/8" and they slant farther from there.  With a banjo, you can slant the bridge however you like it to hit a happy medium, plus most people don't fret the 5th string on a banjo

As Beegee says, you will never get banjo strings to all be in perfect pitch at once, in all chords, and the vagaries will vary according to the mix of string gauges used.  This is generally not so much of a problem with banjos because of the short duration of the notes and rapid fire nature of the music—it's hard to pick out a bad note in a bluegrass tune unless it's really off.  Electric guitars have a very long sustain, which is the reason for the individually adjustable bridge saddles.

Nov 25, 2020 - 7:09:34 AM
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13596 posts since 10/30/2008

It's very common to have to angle the bridge to get multiple strings to acceptable intonation.

A lot of bluegrass players simply learn to accept and live with the 3rd and 4th strings being a bit sharp, and avoiding long sustained notes on them way up the neck.

Nov 25, 2020 - 7:34:51 AM
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RB3

USA

885 posts since 4/12/2004

If you go to YouTube and do a search on "adjusting a banjo bridge", you'll find a bunch of video tutorials that explain and demonstrate how to adjust the position of a bridge.

Nov 25, 2020 - 10:24:12 AM
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Players Union Member

10sbum

USA

328 posts since 4/29/2010

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

It's very common to have to angle the bridge to get multiple strings to acceptable intonation.

A lot of bluegrass players simply learn to accept and live with the 3rd and 4th strings being a bit sharp, and avoiding long sustained notes on them way up the neck.


Therefore, banjo players spend half of their time tuning, and half of their time playing out of tune.

Nov 25, 2020 - 12:51:27 PM
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73767 posts since 5/9/2007

A good compensated bridge lets you play all the notes as much as you want.

Nov 25, 2020 - 7:08:56 PM
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342 posts since 12/9/2010

It can often be a pain to get the 3rd and 4th strings to both play in tune all the way up the board due to the big difference in core mass. If one is in the the other will be sharp or flat.
I take a slight notch out of the bridge for the 3rd string on most steel string setups I do so that it gets a fractionally longer scale, and ALSO angle the bridge slightly.

Nov 26, 2020 - 5:37:17 AM
Players Union Member

pickn5

USA

1543 posts since 8/8/2012

Thank you all for your input. The bridge being at an angle doesn't bother me. As mentioned, some notes here and there, sound sharp when sustained. That usually only happens when learning a new lick or phrase that is being played slowly. Once the tempo is increased its not noticeable. Keep picking.

Nov 26, 2020 - 5:13:19 PM

2633 posts since 4/16/2003

Seems to me that I first learned the "trick" of slightly angling the bridge for better intonation from Pete Seeger's book back in the 1960's.

The ONLY banjo I've ever owned that intonated correctly with a "straight" bridge was a Stelling, and that's because it had string length compensation built into the nut.

Nov 28, 2020 - 7:51:20 PM

1974 posts since 10/7/2008

Don't forget that you are bending the string when fretting. Therefore, the string should be a bit sharp when fretted at the 12th fret (and other places), so the bridge will normally be a small distance farther from the 12th fret than is the distance from the nut to the 12th fret. My bridge is about one 1/16 inch farther on my Mastertone. (Some banjos have more, or fewer frets, so the 12th may not be the halfway distance.)

Most compensated bridges that I have seen compensate the third string, and you live with whatever you get with the others, which aren't as "off" as the third string.

YMMV

Edited by - Hotrodtruck on 11/28/2020 19:53:43

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