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Apr 12, 2021 - 5:33:34 AM
446 posts since 7/13/2008

I've played two Stellings that had a very consistent string height over all the frets. Both were used. One was an earlier Bellflower and the other a Red Fox. I would have bought either one of them if I had the money at the time. I played noticeably quicker and more evenly - even had comments from people at the shop about how good it sounded. I didn't notice any modifications to the banjos (shims, neck recuts, bridge size, etc.) but wasn't that knowledgeable about setup at the time I played them. Does anyone have any idea what it takes to do a setup that minimizes difference in string height over the frets? Is it just coincidence that the two that I've run into happened to be Stellings?

Apr 12, 2021 - 5:47:38 AM

beegee

USA

22316 posts since 7/6/2005

Proper set-up includes nut slot depth, head tension, neck angle, neck relief, and bridge height. Get each of those right and you will have consistent string height up and down the neck. Some makers set the neck higher in relation to the head plane which can yield a lower action height with a taller bridge.

Apr 12, 2021 - 6:00:25 AM
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3047 posts since 2/18/2009

I think the concept of even string height may be an illusion, and that what you experienced was low string height at all frets. Even players with the very lightest touch don't go under 1/16" action at the 12th fret as far as I have heard, and 1/16" at the first fret would feel very high and hard to fret.

Apr 12, 2021 - 6:20 AM

607 posts since 7/10/2012

String height is always a compromise between playability (action vs buzzing) and intonation. The differences between string height across the frets can be very minute, especially if the neck angle and relief are dialed in correctly. I would presume with a Stelling, one could level out the fretboard with the truss rod and achieve a minimal difference in action across the board without creating a buzz, but I believe Stelling has a standard baseline set up that includes some relief in the neck and slightly increased action as you move toward the higher frets to improve intonation in the lower frets.

Apr 12, 2021 - 6:24:46 AM
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8449 posts since 8/28/2013

Totally agree with Zachary Hoyt. Given that a string vibrates in a wider arc in the middle, the concept of an even string hieght is impossible in practice. The string height at the nut would have match the string height at the middle, and would be way high and wouldn't intonate correctly when played at the lowest frets.

It's possible to get it reasonably close to even, but anything beyond close has to be a perception and not a reality.

Apr 12, 2021 - 6:25:44 AM

Alex Z

USA

4215 posts since 12/7/2006
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quote:
Originally posted by Zachary Hoyt

I think the concept of even string height may be an illusion, and that what you experienced was low string height at all frets. Even players with the very lightest touch don't go under 1/16" action at the 12th fret as far as I have heard, and 1/16" at the first fret would feel very high and hard to fret.


That's it exactly.

There is no way a banjo reasonably set up for most players is going to have a string height at the 1st fret the same as last fret.

Now, it can be set up such that the feel of the strings is consistent from first fret to last, when fretting.  If so, then the string heights have to be different, as Mr. Zachary explained.

A banjo with a lot of relief may be set to have a string height the same from about the 5th fret to the last fret.

Could you take some measurements at 1st, 12th, and 22n frets?

Apr 12, 2021 - 1:01:48 PM

11288 posts since 10/27/2006
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Gibson banjo bridges used to be angled so that the 5th string was highest and the first lowest, similar to many fine classical guitars. You don't see that anymore.

One of the distinguishing features of the Ramirez 1a was that the bridge was perfectly level. The fretboard was planed lower under the bass strings to compensate for the wider string arc. If you didn't know this, you'd be wondering how a $10k guitar escaped with a twisted neck.

Two of many ways to adjust action so that it is ideal. There are others.

If you want to truly annoy a setup person, ask for the lowest possible action without string buzz. What that is always depends on the player.

Apr 12, 2021 - 1:39:10 PM
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Alex Z

USA

4215 posts since 12/7/2006
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"The fretboard was planed lower under the bass strings to compensate for the wider string arc. If you didn't know this, you'd be wondering how a $10k guitar escaped with a twisted neck."

Now he tells me!

I sent back a superb used guitar -- and I mean lifetime instrument -- because the neck appeared twisted.  The relief under the low strings was much more than under the high strings.  Not quite $10k, but darned close.  Dealer didn't understand either.  I should have contacted the maker.

Man, that's one I'd like to have back.

Now have have another from the same maker with a similar neck effect, although am minimizing it by using very little relief.

Mike, thank you.  Really learned something here.

Apr 12, 2021 - 4:08:05 PM

11288 posts since 10/27/2006
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

"The fretboard was planed lower under the bass strings to compensate for the wider string arc. If you didn't know this, you'd be wondering how a $10k guitar escaped with a twisted neck."

Now he tells me!

I sent back a superb used guitar -- and I mean lifetime instrument -- because the neck appeared twisted.  The relief under the low strings was much more than under the high strings.  Not quite $10k, but darned close.  Dealer didn't understand either.  I should have contacted the maker.

Man, that's one I'd like to have back.

Now have have another from the same maker with a similar neck effect, although am minimizing it by using very little relief.

Mike, thank you.  Really learned something here.


You're very welcome. I learned about this from Rick Turner. Knowledge to be passed along.

Apr 13, 2021 - 3:14:48 AM

446 posts since 7/13/2008

Okay, now I know that there is a setup out there that works best for me. Now the question is do I want to pursue it. Thanks all.

Apr 13, 2021 - 5:55:15 PM

DSmoke

USA

984 posts since 11/30/2015

quote:
Originally posted by banjowannabe

Okay, now I know that there is a setup out there that works best for me. Now the question is do I want to pursue it. Thanks all.


Sounds to me that the answer is yes you do.  You found what feels right for you.  I have my banjos setup with really low action, and they are very easy to play.  I can put that banjo in the hands of some world-class players and it will buzz, and buzz some more because the pick heavier than I do.  I know what I like, but I do my own setups.  I won't ever send a banjo out like that.  You know what you like, so if you're not able to do it yourself, find someone who can and work with them to find your setup.

I rarely work on 5 string banjos.  I had a Gibson, maybe 60's or 70's, in for some work last week.  It had very low action, and the plane of the fingerboard was well above the plane of the flat top head.  There wasn't much neck angle which left a nice action down the fingerboard, but took some work to get it just right.

Apr 14, 2021 - 3:47:14 AM

446 posts since 7/13/2008

quote:
Originally posted by DSmoke
quote:
Originally posted by banjowannabe

Okay, now I know that there is a setup out there that works best for me. Now the question is do I want to pursue it. Thanks all.


Sounds to me that the answer is yes you do.  You found what feels right for you.  I have my banjos setup with really low action, and they are very easy to play.  I can put that banjo in the hands of some world-class players and it will buzz, and buzz some more because the pick heavier than I do.  I know what I like, but I do my own setups.  I won't ever send a banjo out like that.  You know what you like, so if you're not able to do it yourself, find someone who can and work with them to find your setup.

I rarely work on 5 string banjos.  I had a Gibson, maybe 60's or 70's, in for some work last week.  It had very low action, and the plane of the fingerboard was well above the plane of the flat top head.  There wasn't much neck angle which left a nice action down the fingerboard, but took some work to get it just right.


I just don't want to take my everyday player out of commission that long.  It takes me a long time of fiddling around to get a good setup.  My three banjos are all setup "properly," but I've never been able to get the action as low as they were on those two Stellings.  And you probably hit the nail on the head about my playing style and the sound I like.  I don't dig into the strings and play hard.  I prefer a mellow sound.  My "best" banjo is koa and around the house, I almost always have a mute on it.

Apr 14, 2021 - 5:17:33 AM

2772 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

Low action of professional banjoist all prefer a modern neck over the prewar neck. Then changes can be introduced. A steeper peg head appears to be Bela Flecks contribution. The neck sits higher on the pot.

This allows him to use a taller bridge for his hands. He keeps a low playing profile.

Noam Pickelny uses a custom neck with a extension. This causes the heel to be longer. Noam uses a taller bridge for his hands.

To have neck to meet our hands is the solution to play like Noam or Bela. That is the cost. Standard necks are the norm. Adjusting bridge height is the best option. It the cheaper solution.

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