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Mar 3, 2021 - 4:57:28 PM
11 posts since 3/3/2021

Hello to all u good Banjo people from New Zealand! I have here my grandfather's banjo that he used to play in a band which is as old as - my dad reckons it is a "slingerland"?? I am a guitar player so wanted to give the old banjo a go. I tried tuning it to CGAD but the top string broke, I figured it was just old and corroded, put a new set of strings on and tried again. "Ping!" Ilthe top string broke again. Obviously I have the wrong tuning, can someone put me right please?

Mar 3, 2021 - 5:06:40 PM



967 posts since 11/30/2015

CGDA would be the standard tuning. What gauge strings are you using? Did the string break at the same place (ie tuner, nut, bridge, tailpiece)?

Mar 3, 2021 - 5:16:25 PM

11 posts since 3/3/2021

The wire that broke is .009 inch. It felt too tight to me, I was cringing as I slowly tightened it. Is there a different tuning that could be used? Looks like it broke at the peg the second time around. Dunno where it broke the first time as that was a few months ago.

Mar 3, 2021 - 5:23:10 PM

2560 posts since 4/7/2010

Your subject line says "23 Fret Tenor". Tenor banjos are mostly 17 and 19 fret necks. Plectrum banjos usually have 22 frets.

Measure the distance from the nut to the 12th fret and let us know. We can tell you if it is a tenor banjo, or a plectrum banjo and advise you on the correct tuning and string gauge.

Bob Smakula

Mar 3, 2021 - 5:35:55 PM

11 posts since 3/3/2021

Hi Bob yes 22 frets, and yes Dad said the old boy used to play it with a pick! It is 13 inches from the nut to the 12th fret

Mar 3, 2021 - 9:50:27 PM



2756 posts since 6/27/2013

What your describing is a "plectrum banjo," not a tenor. Like Bob said, plectrums have 22 frets and tenors usually only have 19 and both have their own separate tunings.
The standard tuning for plectrum banjos is C G B D from low to high. The longer scale is why you will never be able to tune that instrument to CGDA. You could also use the "Chicago tuning ," which is D G B E from low to high. That would be the tuning guitarist prefer.

..................... @kiwihunter

Edited by - Omeboy on 03/03/2021 21:54:23

Mar 3, 2021 - 9:53:29 PM

11 posts since 3/3/2021

Great thx :) will find another set of strings and tune it to plectrum tuning. 

Edited by - kiwihunter on 03/03/2021 21:57:43

Mar 4, 2021 - 3:04:31 AM

3382 posts since 4/29/2012

A plectrum banjo is just a 5 string banjo without a 5th string. So if you can't find a plectrum banjo string set locally then get a 5 string set and you'll have a spare 1st string, as the 5th string of a 5 string is the same as the 1st.

Mar 4, 2021 - 11:22:58 AM


New Zealand

11115 posts since 6/29/2003

Hi KH and good to have another Kiwi here. Can you post some pics of your banjo? I have seen quite a few Slingerlands here, have owned a couple and repaired quite a few. I have never seen a plectrum.

Mar 4, 2021 - 11:32:44 AM

11 posts since 3/3/2021

It is in amazing condition considering the age! The fret board has a crack running down the middle and the fret board has fingernail tracks worn right into it! My grandad must have played it for 50 years non stop ??

The site doesn't let me upload pics damn it. 

Edited by - kiwihunter on 03/04/2021 11:34:32

Mar 4, 2021 - 11:33:16 AM

11 posts since 3/3/2021

I'll try attach pics

Mar 4, 2021 - 4:46:08 PM



967 posts since 11/30/2015

Oops, sorry I mistook that as 23" scale. The fingerboards on many of the Slingerlands are some composite material that is more often than not very worn.

Mar 4, 2021 - 8:52:08 PM

11 posts since 3/3/2021

Here's the first


Mar 5, 2021 - 1:19:58 AM

3382 posts since 4/29/2012

Looks very much the same as my Slingerland 5 strings. There's a basic pattern to these with a hierarchy of refinements. This one has the side grooved tension hoop upgrade. Not clear from the photos if it has the donut tonering, backstrap or geared tuners upgrades. I have 2 otherwise similar banjos; one only has the tonering, the other all 4.
Both of mine have bound fingerboards. They also, like yours, have pre-war Presto tailpieces which are worth more than the rest of the banjo.

Mar 5, 2021 - 2:10:43 AM
Players Union Member



13789 posts since 8/30/2006

What a beauty. Later an armrest would help with perspiration.

Are those jewels on the tailpiece to help with overtones?

Mar 5, 2021 - 9:24:59 AM

11 posts since 3/3/2021

Wow u good people know alot about these!


Mar 5, 2021 - 9:40:41 AM

3382 posts since 4/29/2012

The tuners are, I think, replacements. It would have had either friction or geared tuners where the pegs stuck out at the back rather then the side. Still can't quite see if it's a classier one with a donut tone ring. If there is metal below the skin on the side then yes. Easiest way to tell is to take off the resonator and show us the insides. These were made mid-20's to 30's. They don't have serial numbers or obsessive collectors so it's difficult to say exactly.

Mar 5, 2021 - 3:20:20 PM



967 posts since 11/30/2015

I count 22 frets, standard for a plectrum.

Mar 5, 2021 - 6:53:58 PM

8380 posts since 8/28/2013

If I'm not mistaken, the Style "B" is one of May Bell's better models. Not the best, but far better than "student grade."

I've never really figured out why some of the better Slingerland banjos seem to be looked down upon. They were almost always well made, snd some have some interesting features, such as that slotted tension hoop, which is a nice way to keep the hooks from gouging your arm. They had some nice tone rings, desirable tailpieces. such as that Presto on yours, and can be set up quite nicely. I suppose that people just equate all Slingerland banjos with the student-grade "cheapos" they made for the mass market and dealers/wholesalers. 

I doubt that those tuners were not on this when it left the factory. They are replacements, but I don't know for sure what it would have had originally. I've never seen a Slingerland with a "composite" fretboard. The ones I've played and worked on were hardwood, dyed black to look like ebony.  The dye is what makes them crack. The cracks can sometimes be filled with a mix of the right colored sawdust and thin superglue. You can learn about techniques by asking on the building/repair/setup forum.

Mar 5, 2021 - 7:46:26 PM

11 posts since 3/3/2021

Yes thx, it is definitely hardwood not composite and i imagine years of no oiling would dry it out enough to make it crack. Next time I am near it I will try follow your instructions on how to show more detail. But that might not be for a few months (it's at my dad's place not mine...)

Mar 6, 2021 - 12:00:54 PM

8380 posts since 8/28/2013

Again, the fret board is cracked not simply because of dryness and age. The black dyes used would, over time, actually attack and ruin the wood itself.

I have worked on numerous old European pianos where the "ebony" veneer would be so flaky that it would fall off in bits and pieces with a slight touch. Most American pianos used a different process (probably just a black paint), and don't have this problem.

Mar 6, 2021 - 12:02:05 PM

11 posts since 3/3/2021


Mar 6, 2021 - 6:52:14 PM

8380 posts since 8/28/2013

I wouldn't worry much if there's only one crack. It may take another 90 years for anything else to happen.

Mar 6, 2021 - 7:18:57 PM

11 posts since 3/3/2021

Okay thx :)

Edited by - kiwihunter on 03/06/2021 19:19:36

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