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Jan 27, 2021 - 6:36:02 PM
2281 posts since 2/7/2008

I’m getting in gear to make my next banjo. I’m thinking about making it with the 25.5” scale normally found on guitars. Since I’ll still be using an 11” pot, according to my calculations, the shorter scale will move the bridge about 3/8” closer to the center of the head.

How will this affect tone?

Jan 27, 2021 - 7:23:58 PM
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3014 posts since 2/18/2009

I most often use that scale length for both 11" and 12" pots. I keep the bridge where I want it, which is 4" from the tailpiece side of an 11" rim. This means that a 25.5" neck is slightly shorter than a 26-1/4" neck, (3/4" shorter, oddly enough) but with a scoop it doesn't matter. If you are making a fully fretted neck you can use an online fret calculator to figure out how many frets you'd have room for with different bridge positions and see what you want to do from that end.

Jan 27, 2021 - 10:26:38 PM

1081 posts since 1/9/2012

Banjeaurines often cantilever some fretboard over the head.

Jan 28, 2021 - 12:59:19 AM

AndyW

UK

688 posts since 7/4/2017

The bridge won't move if you shorten the neck.

Jan 28, 2021 - 3:32:13 AM

Bill H

USA

1532 posts since 11/7/2010

But if you wanted a typical 22 fret neck, unless the neck is shortened, or the fret board cantilevered, wouldn't it move the bridge closer to the center of the pot? Is that the worst thing? I put a 26 1/4" scale neck on an old 11 1/2" Tubaphone pot and it sounds fine. The only banjo I have with a 25 1/2" scale is an 1890s Bay State that has an 11 1/2" pot and an extended fingerboard. What I like about it is that I can tune it up to open A or double D tuning without a capo.

Jan 28, 2021 - 4:36:57 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

1044 posts since 10/15/2019
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Moving the bridge toward the center, in theory, should move banjo tone toward the hollow, tubby, buckety, home-made-from-a-coffee-can-and-stored-in-a-barn-for-a-hundred-years sort of tone. No thank you.

If you want a shorter scale for reasons of reach and comfort, that's fine, just follow Zach's advice and adjust the whole layout to keep the bridge in about the same spot and shorten the length of the whole instrument.  Give up a few frets but who cares?

Edited by - Eric A on 01/28/2021 04:43:51

Jan 28, 2021 - 6:37:23 AM
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mbanza

USA

2295 posts since 9/16/2007

Placing the bridge at four inches from tailpiece you can easily get 21 frets with 25.5 inch scale. Place the bridge at 4.25 inches and you can get 22 frets. That one quarter inch won't noticeably affect your tone.

Make a drawing of your pot diameter with an inch scale across it. Make a mock-up of your scale from nut to bridge with 24 frets locations on a piece of cardboard. Using these, you can visualize how it works.

Jan 28, 2021 - 6:48:57 AM

3612 posts since 5/29/2011

In theory, moving the bridge toward the center of the head should make a banjo have a hollow, tubby sound. In practice, not necessarily so. I made a banjo with a 25" scale several years ago. The bridge had to be moved closer to the center of the head but I didn't hear enough difference in tone to fret about. The main problem I had was that the upper frets were too close together to make clean notes.
You are proposing a 25 1/2" scale which is commonly used by modern builders. Tonewise you shouldn't have a problem.

Jan 28, 2021 - 6:55:55 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

1044 posts since 10/15/2019
Online Now

My formative years were spent with a 27" scale banjo, so I'm biased.

Jan 28, 2021 - 9:36:12 AM

3959 posts since 5/12/2010

That is not an uncommon scale length today, many banjos are made with it.

I usually build with a shorter scale than that, my favorite for my personal use is 23 1/2".

As said, the scale length is not what determines bridge placement. When I layout the design I start with where I want the bridge to be, and measure from there to determine placement of the heel cut and the nut at the other end of the scale. I make a full scale paper drawing and also draw the layout onto 1/4" cabinet plywood and make a pattern or template for profiling the neck blank. 

Looking at it another way it is the placement of the heel cut that determines bridge placement.

Edited by - OldPappy on 01/28/2021 09:39:45

Jan 28, 2021 - 3:08:55 PM

AndyW

UK

688 posts since 7/4/2017

quote:
Originally posted by OldPappy

That is not an uncommon scale length today, many banjos are made with it.

I usually build with a shorter scale than that, my favorite for my personal use is 23 1/2".

As said, the scale length is not what determines bridge placement. When I layout the design I start with where I want the bridge to be, and measure from there to determine placement of the heel cut and the nut at the other end of the scale. I make a full scale paper drawing and also draw the layout onto 1/4" cabinet plywood and make a pattern or template for profiling the neck blank. 

Looking at it another way it is the placement of the heel cut that determines bridge placement.


Just out of interest, do you have small hands.  It just happens that I have (via a capo/credit card strip and move of the bridge) set my fretless to have a 23.5 inch scale just like you mention as it suits the size of my small hands perfectly.

Jan 28, 2021 - 4:14:13 PM

2281 posts since 2/7/2008

quote:
Originally posted by AndyW
quote:
Originally posted by OldPappy

That is not an uncommon scale length today, many banjos are made with it.

I usually build with a shorter scale than that, my favorite for my personal use is 23 1/2".

As said, the scale length is not what determines bridge placement. When I layout the design I start with where I want the bridge to be, and measure from there to determine placement of the heel cut and the nut at the other end of the scale. I make a full scale paper drawing and also draw the layout onto 1/4" cabinet plywood and make a pattern or template for profiling the neck blank. 

Looking at it another way it is the placement of the heel cut that determines bridge placement.


Just out of interest, do you have small hands.  It just happens that I have (via a capo/credit card strip and move of the bridge) set my fretless to have a 23.5 inch scale just like you mention as it suits the size of my small hands perfectly.


My hands aren't small per-se, but my forefinger is abbreviated from a table saw accident and reaching some chord shapes can be challenging. 

Jan 28, 2021 - 7:10:09 PM

Bill H

USA

1532 posts since 11/7/2010

I have several Vega/Fairbanks banjos with 27" scales, a couple with 26 1/4" scales, and one 25 1/2". I can't say I notice a big difference with reach. What I like about the idea of a short scale is the tuning options it gives you.

Jan 29, 2021 - 3:55:05 AM

3959 posts since 5/12/2010

I have hands so big I have trouble finding work gloves to fit, but my reach is limited due to injuries of my left hand and shoulder.

My left hand got caught between a trailer coupler and truck bumper. The lip on the coupler split my hand open between the ring finger and the little finger and crushed the bones of both fingers. The ring finger healed up okay, but not so much for the other. I can no longer straighten or bend it very much.

Left shoulder was torn up years ago when I got thrown from a two year old gelding I was training for my daughter.

The shorter neck helps with the shoulder injury, and the closer together frets helps with the limited reach of my left hand.

Jan 29, 2021 - 5:05:31 AM

257 posts since 6/15/2006

To Quickstep: I think that if you use the mentioned guitar scale (and of course that fret calculation), and place it so you have the bridge where you want it (my opinion is about one third of the diameter from the edge of the rim without the tension hoop (others may think differently), you will get an absolutely beautiful result (which means just after my taste:) ). You will have a perfect scale and won´t have to reach too far when you tune or play down the neck. Best wishes. Steen

Jan 29, 2021 - 1:14 PM

Bart Veerman

Canada

4853 posts since 1/5/2005

Should be simple enough to grab the bridge on your current banjo and drag it the 3/8" towards the middle of the head. Don't worry about intonation, pick a few notes and let your ears tell you what they think of the sound.

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