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Aug 2, 2021 - 4:44:01 PM
50 posts since 2/25/2020

Hi Folks!

I'm facing a little set-up issue, and I figured people on the hangout would know how to fix it - I have a Ome North Star banjo with a resonator and a 7/8" bridge (maybe part of the problem?), and the strings have a lot of tension. When I switch between this banjo and my deering sierra, I notice a massive difference in the amount of force it takes to play a note. The neck on the Ome came out of the factory fitted for the bridge, so neck angle probably isn't the problem, but I'm wondering how I should go about getting looser strings. I also attached pictures of the head area if that helps...

Thanks,

Geckoberry


Aug 2, 2021 - 5:02:09 PM
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lapsteel

Canada

606 posts since 8/13/2015

What is the string height above the 12th fret?

Aug 2, 2021 - 5:31:11 PM

134 posts since 12/9/2018

Lighter gauge strings?

Aug 2, 2021 - 6:32:25 PM

218 posts since 3/2/2013

7/8" bridge isn't a problem. I play 11/16 and .656 and my tailpiece is set lower. About the only thing that can make that much difference is if you have much lighter strings on the sierra than the Ome. Just out of curiosity what heighth bridge are you running on the sierra? Is the string spacing similiar on both bridges? Also Deering usually isn't scared to put a lot of wood on the last fret so i doubt if the ome has anymore than that so we can probably rule out a longer scale length. This is puzzling.

Edited by - brententz on 08/02/2021 18:37:20

Aug 2, 2021 - 6:36:58 PM
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14198 posts since 10/30/2008

A 7/8" bridge will definitely increase the "down pressure" of the strings on the bridge.

But when tuned to to the proper note, "string tension" per se doesn't change based on bridge height.

Lighter gauge strings is the only thing you can change to reduce actual string tension.

Aug 2, 2021 - 6:41:28 PM

218 posts since 3/2/2013

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

A 7/8" bridge will definitely increase the "down pressure" of the strings on the bridge.

But when tuned to to the proper note, "string tension" per se doesn't change based on bridge height.

Lighter gauge strings is the only thing you can change to reduce actual string tension.


Totally agree. If strings are the same size even with minor things like spacing shouldnt be that noticable....head scratcher this one

Aug 2, 2021 - 6:51:38 PM

Alex Z

USA

4493 posts since 12/7/2006

"I'm wondering how I should go about getting looser strings"

Sets of strings come in difference diameters, and players choose base on how it feels and the tone that comes out of the banjo.

First thing to do is to change strings on the Ome and put the same set on the Ome as you use on Deering Sierra.  

See how that feels, and come back and report in.  There are a couple of other things that affect the feel and response that can be perceived as stiff strings -- but we can tackle that later.

Aug 2, 2021 - 9:31:17 PM
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3920 posts since 5/29/2011

I have noticed that tight slots in the nut and bridge can make strings feel impossibly stiff. Opening the slots, especially in the bridge, can make a world of difference in playablilty.

Aug 3, 2021 - 3:02:36 AM
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Bill H

USA

1707 posts since 11/7/2010

I have found scale length and head tension to have an impact on the strings having a harder or softer feel, along with string gauge.

Aug 3, 2021 - 5:07:57 AM
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13878 posts since 6/29/2005

Agreeing with what's been said, I think the big three that would affect how hard it is to fret a note are (1) string height above the 12th fret i.e. action (2) scale length, and (3) string gauge.

bridge height and head tension are important in terms of how they affect string height and the bridge height can be used to alter the string height.

Aug 3, 2021 - 5:40:07 AM

8929 posts since 8/28/2013

The actual tension is a product of only three things, nothing more. Those three are: scale length, string gauge, and the pitch the strings are tuned to. The only factor easily altered is the string gauge.

However, if you are speaking of how the strings feel, or react to fretting, that's an entirely different matter, and can be affected by nut slot depth, bridge height, hand position (picking close to the bridge will feel different than picking over the neck) and the frets themselves. The tone produced and the different efforts involved with two separate banjos in altering dynamics while picking can also lead a person to think that the strings feel tighter on one banjo than on the other. 

If the issue is actually tension, then change string gauges. If it's how the banjo feels, I can only remind you that two different banjos will never be exactly the same and that maybe you should try to get used to them being different, 
 

Aug 3, 2021 - 5:53 AM

50 posts since 2/25/2020

Hello!

Thanks for all the help! I checked the action on both banjo's and it's about 1/8" for the Sierra, and 3/16" on the Ome. Right now I have Deering Tenbrooks strings (11, 12, 13, 22w, 11) on the Ome, and I'm not quite sure whats on the Sierra. I'll put some Tenbrooks on the Sierra today for comparison, and I'll let you know what I find. It's not too hard to fret the note on the Ome, but my problems more with the right hand.

When it comes to scale, I found 26 1/4" on the Deering website for the Sierra, and when I checked, that's exactly what I got. On the Ome website, it showed the openback model of the Northstar as 25 1/2", but when I measured from the nut to the bridge, I got 26 1/2". Maybe it's different since mine has a resonator...

Thanks!

Geckoberry

Aug 3, 2021 - 6:21:02 AM
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hbick2

USA

421 posts since 6/26/2004

Those are really heavy strings. By comparison, here are the GHS J.D. Crowe string gauges:

PF135 Stage, Medium Light 10 - 11 - 12 - 20 - 10

PF140 Studio, Light 9.5 - 11 - 12 - 20 - 9.5

I would suggest you switch to a set of light gauge strings and see how you like them.

Aug 3, 2021 - 9:26:51 AM

11702 posts since 10/27/2006

People are reacting to the OP’s use of “string tension” as the problem. It ain’t. As has been pointed out, if the scale on the two banjos is the same, so is the tension. Forget “string tension” or switch to strings that have less.

The issue is action. First thing I’d check i the height or the strings at the nut—bet they’re different—on the lower frets, this will have the greatest effect. Next, relief, adjusted by the truss rod. Now check the string height at 12th fret which is adjusted at the bridge. Get those three the same and the action will feel about the same. This is Setup 1A just like a guitar.

Head tension might have a minor effect on the higher frets—more noticeable if one is bending strings like a blues guitarist.

Aug 3, 2021 - 9:39:48 AM

Alex Z

USA

4493 posts since 12/7/2006

" I notice a massive difference in the amount of force it takes to play a note"

Would this mean fret a note with the left hand, or pick a note with the right hand, or both together?  Do we know, or do we have to get more information from the poster?  

  -- If there are different gauge strings on the two banjos, then of course the string tension cannot be the same, nor can the left hand fretting feel.   So equalizing the string tension by putting the same strings on both banjos is the first step.

  -- Next would be the checking and equalizing the action height -- it is 2/16" on the easier feeling banjo and 3/16" on the harder feeling banjo.  That's a big difference in string height.  3/16" is very high.

After that, there may be a difference in the response of the two banjos, where the one with the quicker response will feel easier to the right hand.

But you have to get the strings and the action equalized -- considering the big differences --  to even get to point of looking at the response to see if that's what making a difference in "playing" a note.

Aug 3, 2021 - 11:03:37 AM

Alex Z

USA

4493 posts since 12/7/2006

7/8" bridge = 14/16".   Action (assuming at the 12th fret) with this bridge is 3/16".

What would it take to lower the Ome action by 1/16" at the 12th fret.

Answer:  12th fret is halfway, so have to lower the bridge by twice the amount you want to lower the action.

    Thus, change to a 12/16 = 3/4" bridge -- 2/16" lower -- and the action on the Ome will be 1/16" lower.  3/16 - 1/16 = 2/16 = 1/8" , same as the Deering.

Please note that the fingergoard of the Ome, and definitely the bridge, appear to be radiused.  So best to either use a radiused 3/4" bridge or be able to modify a straight 3/4 bridge by deepening the string slots.

And also change the strings to match the Deering, and it will feel like a different banjo.

 

[OK, OK.  Those of you at the keyboard ready to pounce on this and start talking about less downpressure on the bridge and the head won't sink as deep and the tailpiece tension and . . . and . . . and it won't be exactly 1/8":   I don't disagree, but forget it for now.  The poster can easily change the bridge height and get pretty darned close to the desired action.  Let's take one step at at a time.  smiley ]

Edited by - Alex Z on 08/03/2021 11:07:20

Aug 3, 2021 - 11:13:07 AM
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banjoy

USA

9795 posts since 7/1/2006

Since no one else has mentioned it, I will. Your bridge as shown in the photo is not seated correctly. It is leaning forward and you can see space underneath its feet on the tailpiece side.

That's a problem. Make sure both feet are flat to the head. Then take your measurement again at the 12th fret and post that info here it it's different than what you reported before. It may very well raise the action even a tad more which is not what you want, but it will change the math. The bridge has to be seated right before you continue. It cannot stay like it is in the photo.

Having said that, I also agree that 3/16" is very high action. At least to me it is. So it may be as simple as a lower bridge (or sanding down the bottom of the feet maybe? there's lots of meat there), but I am not a setup expert by any means so I will definitely defer to those here who are.

But I did feel the need to point out your bridge seating which can't stay like that.

======

BTW -- that looks like a Nechville bridge. Is it?

Edited by - banjoy on 08/03/2021 11:16:52

Aug 3, 2021 - 11:23:42 AM

50 posts since 2/25/2020

Hello!

hbick2 - I've ordered some Deering Extra Lights which are arriving on Friday, so I'll really get to see if it makes a difference even if the extra lights might be a bit much...

mikehalloran , Alex Z - My problem's really more in the right hand, though lowering the action probably would help. Right now it feels fine, and it's not too difficult to press down on the fingerboard. That being said, I played my Sierra at a 7/16" action for a while before I realized that something was wrong, so I might be accustomed to higher actions.

banjoy - Thank you for mentioning that!!! It was a real easy adjustment, but already helped the tone and action, which is now around 2/16".

I think my next 2 steps are to put the same strings on the Sierra and see how it feels, and then to try a 3/4 bridge if it's still necessary (though maybe it won't be since the bridge adjustment helped with the action...

Thanks again!

Aug 3, 2021 - 11:29:31 AM
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banjoy

USA

9795 posts since 7/1/2006

See? I'm not an expert by any stretch, because I called it wrong on its affect on action. So the lean added height because the bridge was sitting on a peak of the feet instead of flat. Duh. Double Duh. Kinda makes sense now. But I had no idea it would make a full 1/16" difference (even if in the wrong direction than I anticipated!!). That's a lot.

I guess folks who give (always good) advice need to add that to their toolbox LOL! Sometimes it takes a dumbass like me to point out the obvious. Glad it helped.

(Still thinking that looks like a Nechville bridge. Very similar, anyway, not that it matters, just banjo setup trivia to me.)

Edited by - banjoy on 08/03/2021 11:34:19

Aug 3, 2021 - 11:41:59 AM
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50 posts since 2/25/2020

It all makes sense! After playing a bit, I think you might have fixed the problem completely! It's as if I was playing really close to the bridge (which makes the strings harder to pluck), because I didn't notice the tilt. So while my hand was planted in the same spot, the bridge functioned like it was a bit closer to the neck, and maybe that made it hard to play...

To everyone else, sorry for wasting your time with a dumb bridge tilt error - on the bright side, not only is the problem fixed, but I also have a couple packs of light strings coming in the mail!

Thank you so much!

Geckoberry :)

Aug 3, 2021 - 11:58:35 AM

Alex Z

USA

4493 posts since 12/7/2006

 "I notice a massive difference in the amount of force it takes to play a note"

"I think you might have fixed the problem completely! "

You mean, you tilted the bridge back a tiny bit and (a) there is no longer a massive difference in the amount of force it takes to play a note, and (b) the action was lowered by 1/16" ?

Good things can happen to good people.  Glad it worked out. smiley

Aug 3, 2021 - 11:59:57 AM

50 posts since 2/25/2020

banjoy - I just realized I forgot to address your Nechville suspicions! You're probably right about that! I brought it to a local guy a while back and he was kind enough to throw a new bridge on the banjo while he cleaned it up. I forgot exactly what he said it was...

Aug 3, 2021 - 12:31:17 PM

50 posts since 2/25/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

 "I notice a massive difference in the amount of force it takes to play a note"

"I think you might have fixed the problem completely! "

You mean, you tilted the bridge back a tiny bit and (a) there is no longer a massive difference in the amount of force it takes to play a note, and (b) the action was lowered by 1/16" ?

Good things can happen to good people.  Glad it worked out. smiley


It's crazy to me! I guess sometimes you just get lucky :) 

Aug 3, 2021 - 2:23:35 PM
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11702 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by geckoberry

It all makes sense! After playing a bit, I think you might have fixed the problem completely! It's as if I was playing really close to the bridge (which makes the strings harder to pluck), because I didn't notice the tilt. So while my hand was planted in the same spot, the bridge functioned like it was a bit closer to the neck, and maybe that made it hard to play...

To everyone else, sorry for wasting your time with a dumb bridge tilt error - on the bright side, not only is the problem fixed, but I also have a couple packs of light strings coming in the mail!

Thank you so much!

Geckoberry :)


Nothing to apologise for. This was a great thread. When we post, we're talking to far more people than those who respond. 

Just because only one of the causes of playability issues applied to you, that does not mean that a different one won't apply to someone else. The knowledge gained helps everyone.

Aug 3, 2021 - 5:29:53 PM

13878 posts since 6/29/2005

Given that string gauges are based on standard pitches that banjos are tuned to, There is a kind of symbiotic relationship  between the string height (action), string gauge, and scale length;  The shorter the scale, the looser the strings will be at a normal tuning, and so the action will have to be higher to prevent buzzing, or you need to use heavier strings, which take more finger pressure to fret.

with longer scales, you can use lighter strings and have a lower action without buzzing, but the fret spacings are wider and the strings are tighter and harder to push down.

The higher the action, the more problematic the intonation, especially with looser strings.

There's no free lunch.

Aug 5, 2021 - 10:30:34 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14498 posts since 8/30/2006

I’m seeing a smile bridge with a radius top

Great thread

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