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Jan 17, 2021 - 8:28:57 AM
7 posts since 12/12/2020

Hey guys!
So I'm fairly new to the banjo world and just recently upgraded to a Gold Tone CC-OT open back. Its 11 years old and I believe the previous owner had it in storage for a long while and didn't take good care of it. The banjo sounds great and plays well (in my novice opinion) but I am having trouble getting my intonation correct.

According to the cc-ot specs the scale length is 26-3/16". I originally placed my bridge in this position, but found better intonation when I placed it closer to tail piece by about an 1/8th of an inch and slightly slanted to accommodate the thicker strings.

When turned i get the 12th fret harmonics just about spot on and the strings are tuned spot on. Never the less when I fret the strings 2,3,and 4 are a decent degree of sharp (pardon my ignorance in music language im still learning).

I've read a lot of forums and believe this old wonderful banjo may need a few tweaks and a tune up to get it back up to tip top shape. Any help would be wonderful! I just don't know where to start, or in other words, im not sure how to check the banjo out to see what needs to be done outside of New strings and bridge placement.

Thank you so much, looking forward to being a part of the banjo community.

Jan 17, 2021 - 8:47:35 AM

41 posts since 12/19/2019

Are you referring to fretting various strings on the 2, 3 and 4th frets and those fretted strings are playing sharp? I have that problem as well. Open and 12th fret plays basically spot on according to my tuner but when fretting strings in the 2-5 frets (where the vast majority of my playing occurs-novice) the tuner shows them sharp.

Jan 17, 2021 - 8:55:12 AM

7 posts since 12/12/2020

Yes, that the case for me as well.

Jan 17, 2021 - 9:36:06 AM

821 posts since 11/27/2005

Play the note at the 19th fret.
Then "chime" or play the harmonic at the 19th fret.
They need to be the same.
The same can be done at the 12th fret, but the 19th is easier to hear.

Jan 17, 2021 - 9:36:28 AM
like this



22187 posts since 7/6/2005

1st thing to check is the height of the strings above the 1st fret. If the slots are not cut deeply enough it will note sharp from deflection. The strings should clear the 1st fret by .008-010" The action at the 12th fret should be 7/64" and there should be only a slight amount of relief in the neck(not dead-flat nor back-bowed). Too-high action will cause it to note sharp unless you adjust the bridge toward the tailpiece.

Set the bridge where the 1st & 4th strings are dead octaves open and 12th fret. The bridge may be slightly slanted and that's OK. Do not rely on harmonics nor an electronic tuner. You'll drive yourself daft. Tune the 2nd and 3rd to each other at the respective frets.

Edited by - beegee on 01/17/2021 09:38:13

Jan 17, 2021 - 10:35:10 AM
like this

11493 posts since 6/2/2008

Originally posted by Goldenarmsinc

When turned i get the 12th fret harmonics just about spot on and the strings are tuned spot on. Never the less when I fret the strings 2,3,and 4 are a decent degree of sharp (pardon my ignorance in music language im still learning).

How are you using the harmonics? Are you comparing the harmonics to the open string to verify an accurate octave? If so, that's wrong because even with the bridge slightly off, the location for harmonic will always be close enough to the 12th fret that you can't tell the difference and the note will always be a perfect octave because there's nothing else it can be.

If you're going to use the harmonics at all, it's only to compare the harmonic at the 12th fret with the fretted note at the 12th fret. They should be the same note. But you don't need to use the harmonic. Just compare the open string note to the 12th fret fretted note. The 12th fret should be a perfect octave. Also, if you move the bridge in adjusting intonation, be sure to retune the strings before re-checking the 12th fret.

As to you finding the correct bridge location to be a bit closer to the tailpiece than the exact scale length, that's typical. I think 1/8-inch sounds high. I'd expect it to be no more than 1/16. But I'm no luthier and there are lots of variables. Height of strings has already been mentioned.  I believe string height is the main reason that the most accurate bridge location is slightly back from the true scale length location. This compensates for the additional stretching of the strings when fretted.

And be aware that straight bridges with straight frets are a compromise. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get every note everywhere on the fretboard to be perfect. What most musicians settle for is accuracy within the few "cents" that humans can't hear the difference.

I believe Steve Huber in his excellent Killer Tone setup video demonstrates how he locates the bridge to give the most pleasing sound from the 15-17 and 20-21 2nd and 1st string combinations. With those sounding sweet, the rest of the neck takes care of itself.

Good advice elsewhere. Good luck.

Jan 17, 2021 - 10:39:27 AM

11493 posts since 6/2/2008

Originally posted by beegee

The action at the 12th fret should be 7/64" 

With action a hair under 1/8" at 12, like this, it will be about 1/8" at 22.

I like measuring at 22 because that's the highest the action will be anywhere.

Jan 17, 2021 - 11:28:10 AM

Alex Z


4101 posts since 12/7/2006

"When turned i get the 12th fret harmonics just about spot on and the strings are tuned spot on. Never the less when I fret the strings 2,3,and 4 are a decent degree of sharp"

Question:  When you say "2, 3, and 4," are you referring to the frets or the strings?

Jan 17, 2021 - 11:47:02 AM

5 posts since 10/11/2018

i found using a smiley bridge fixed this problem bought it from elderly
cheers rick

Jan 17, 2021 - 5:52:58 PM

1385 posts since 2/9/2007

Perfect intonation is simply not attainable in the real world... and if you could get your banjo to produce perfectly intonated 12-tone equal temperament, all that would mean is that it was equally out of tune in all keys.

Get your banjo set up reasonably well, and tune it to be as tolerable to your ear as you can.

Jan 17, 2021 - 6:51:20 PM

8179 posts since 8/28/2013
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I agree with Beegee.

Jan 19, 2021 - 6:00:15 PM

10984 posts since 6/17/2003

Set your bridge so it is correctly intonating on the first and 4th strings. If the second and third strings are sharp, you need a compensated bridge, compensated by the amount needed to bring those strings into proper intonation. If the bridge is correct and the intonation is good with the open strings, but it gets wonky when you fret strings, put a capo on the banjo, retune the strings, and if the strings intonate correctly when capoed but not when played open, then you have a worn nut. That could be the case with the older banjo.

Jan 20, 2021 - 10:03:59 AM

139 posts since 7/14/2017

This is 99% certain that your nut slots are not deep enough.

The way to check is to hold each string down between frets 2 and 3, and then check the space between fret 1 and the string. If you can slide a scrap of printer paper between fret and string, and feel it rubbing on both, you are just about low enough. Any bigger gap and your nut slots need deepening.

As someone posted previously, a high nut makes the lower frets play sharp, with the problem reducing as you go up the neck. This is because you have to stretch the strings too far to get them to the frets.

Jan 20, 2021 - 11:00:13 AM

7 posts since 12/12/2020

Wow this community is awesome! There is so much info and help from everyone. Sorry for a late reply to everyone, I don't get on the internet often. Now, to be honest, some of these tips are over my head due to me still learning the language of music and the banjo. I did play around with the bridge little bit more after reading some tips, some one mentioned earlier that moving my bridge towards tail piece an 1/8" might be too much, I now have it about 1/16" and I have it so that my 1st string and 4th string are perfectly tuned open and when 12th fret are pressed down. These two tips have helped it some.

So file down my nut? Sounds easy enough, but first I need to try the printer paper 1st to verify the string to fret height. Based off of previous online research, I thought I was supposed to adjust the truss rod in neck to adjust the action, not filing down nut? Can anyone explain this to me?


I do have more information now that i didn't know about when originally posting this forum.

Last night I replaced my bridge and played the 1st through 4th strings all the way down the neck. When played open everything is tuned nicely, but as you all know when I start to play down the neck the notes are on the sharp side, BUT when I play the frets after the 5th fret, the notes are very close to being in tune. So frets 1-5 are sharp, frets 7-12 are really close to being in tune. Does that make sense?

Thank you again

Jan 20, 2021 - 11:06:34 AM

7 posts since 12/12/2020

Another question,

If the cause of this issue is just the nut, shouldn't the manufacturer make the nut correctly?

Also my nut is not glued in or anything. If I apply pressure to my nut from either side, it slides a little, should I glue it on or is it suppose to be that way?

Jan 20, 2021 - 2:28:47 PM

1385 posts since 2/9/2007

Most fretted instruments come from the factory needing at least some final setup, and very few have the action at the nut set optimally. A competent dealer does a shop setup on every instrument before selling it.

The nut shouldn't slide around, but you want it to be reasonably easy to remove for reworking or replacement. I usually use just a drop of CA (superglue) on the face of the nut that goes against the endgrain of the fingerboard.

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