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Oct 26, 2021 - 5:40:07 PM

timmo

USA

3 posts since 10/26/2021

Hey folks, been reading through 10 year old posts about these two topics, and wanted to ask for some fresh 2021 input.

I’m a new player, working my way through the pearlman claw hammer book. Found an open back deering GT cheap, and I’m wanting to scoop it, and throw some nylon strings on her. It seems this might mean doing something with the bridge ( moon, compensator).

My humble questions to the banjo sages out there:

La Bella 17’s or Aquila reds( or other aquilas)? I’m playing mostly open G and sawmill tuning. What nylons can tune nicely up to that without capo, and without taking my eye out?

And would you folks suggest doing anything with my bridge to compensate for the nylon? I’m just learning about moon and compensation bridges. Is it even necessary for me at this point.. a green-ear who should be practicing more than thinking about banjo : )

Any input is greatly appreciated! Cheers

Oct 26, 2021 - 7:17:42 PM
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1223 posts since 1/9/2012

One guy's opinions (and they're just that):

Beginner, steer clear of the Aquilas. They'll frustrate you and empty your wallet before you figure out how to get the sound hat some people really like (and others don't). The La Bella's are fine and a top choice of many folks.

My recommendation on bridge modification is to go lighter than the GT original. That will restore some of the volume and punch that the steel strings had and shorten the sustain down to what it was (and maybe should be). One simple approach is to use coarse sand paper. Thin the original (or get another to work on) -- and listen. Removing a quarter of it is certainly not too much, but doing it in stages is instructive.

I recommend you forget worrying about compensation and mooning but learn about angling your bridge if the 1st and 4th strings demand it. (That involves matching harmonics and fretting at the 12th fret.) Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't.

The scoop can wait, too. But, if you're sold on the idea, consider just scooping out room for your thumb and leave the frets under strings 1, 2, and 3.

Oct 27, 2021 - 6:09:44 AM

timmo

USA

3 posts since 10/26/2021

Hey, many thanks for the wise words there. I’ll go with the la Bella’s and grab another bridge to experiment on. I think you’re totally right about the instructive quality of sanding a bridge bit by bit to a lighter incarnation, and then learning how that lightness, along with angling, affects punch, sustain and 1st and 4th string intonation. Looking forward to this lil mission! Thanks again

Oct 27, 2021 - 7:22:30 AM
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367 posts since 1/26/2020

I would avoid Aquila reds. They stretch FOR EVER! They also fail easily. I use Aquila Nylgut Classic Medium or Lights on my Gold Tone AC-1. I made my own 5/8" Maple bridge, but banjothimble.com has a great selection of classic bridges.
I also pushed my neck forward, to raise the string height, set it more similar to a zero neck angle classical era banjo, which help prevent buzzing, since the strings are going to flex a lot more than steel. Plus, it's just what I like playing, as I own a few antiques.
Joel Hooks recommends using LaBella #17s as they are dimensionally and harmonically closer to the gut strings of old. Personally, I don't like the lack of feedback from the strings (similar to feedback from a good analogue clutch pedal in a manual transmission, vs a fly-by-wire clutch pedal giving no feedback), but that's all personal preference. I'm not the subtle type, so maybe that's my issue with the more delicate LaBella 17s.

Oct 27, 2021 - 8:28:33 AM
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6564 posts since 9/21/2007

This is a question I get regularly, and I am afraid I do not have a good answer.

Blaine mentioned neck angle and that is the #1 problem with modern banjos and nylon strings.

The back angle is great for steel that have a narrow swing path. The problem is that low action will cause endless buzzing with nylon.

The way to counter this is to use a VERY tall bridge. 3/4" to 1".

Sadly, I don't make bridges that tall. I did in the past but was not happy with the way they turned out. That is not to say I won't make more in the future but I do not plan to currently.

Bart Veerman would likely be able to make you whatever you want.

When I decided to offer bridges for sale it was with the goal of providing OEM replacement bridges for classic era banjos as there was none being made.

Perhaps some enterprising person could became a Gold Tone or Deering dealer and work out a system to reset the necks. I don't know if there is enough business to support that.


Maybe Blaine could share more info on how he overcame the back set neck on his banjo?

Oct 27, 2021 - 8:46:40 AM
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367 posts since 1/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

This is a question I get regularly, and I am afraid I do not have a good answer.

Blaine mentioned neck angle and that is the #1 problem with modern banjos and nylon strings.

The back angle is great for steel that have a narrow swing path. The problem is that low action will cause endless buzzing with nylon.

The way to counter this is to use a VERY tall bridge. 3/4" to 1".

Sadly, I don't make bridges that tall. I did in the past but was not happy with the way they turned out. That is not to say I won't make more in the future but I do not plan to currently.

Bart Veerman would likely be able to make you whatever you want.

When I decided to offer bridges for sale it was with the goal of providing OEM replacement bridges for classic era banjos as there was none being made.

Perhaps some enterprising person could became a Gold Tone or Deering dealer and work out a system to reset the necks. I don't know if there is enough business to support that.


Maybe Blaine could share more info on how he overcame the back set neck on his banjo?


Sure thing! I'll make an attempt.

The Gold Tone and the Deering necks are secured pretty much the same. Inside the rim, looking from the back, you'll see the coordinator rod and above that the mounting stud and nut. First, you'll loosen that stud and nut. The loosen the two nuts on the threaded end of the coordinator rod, near the rear/tailpiece side of the rim. Next, you should see there are a couple small holes going through the coordinator rod, itself. These allow you to push the heel of the neck in or out. You may want to remove the coordinator rod, to remove the shim washer that's sitting on it, because it may rattle when playing, depending upon how much you push the neck forward. 

Back to the two nuts on the coordinator rod, the one on the outside of the rod can only unscrew so much, before you run out of thread. Unscrew it as much as you can, then screw the coordintor rod itself back into the neck to the desired neck angle. Then tighten the nut on the inside of the rim, at the back of the coordinator rod, and lastly, tighten back down the nut on the stud. 

If needed, you can put a wedge in behind the heel of the neck to fill in any space. I may soon work on something to help secure this and eliminate any gap between the neck and rim. 

At the moment, I'm making a lefty banjeaurine neck to attach to an antique pot for a present for my wife. Let me know how it goes, and I'll do what I can to help. I'm sure my instructions aren't the best.

Blaine

Oct 27, 2021 - 10:40:26 AM
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183 posts since 12/21/2012

I know you're going with LaBella, but I have to throw in a plug for Aquila. They deserve some love. (I LOVE Aquila all-nylguts!) They take a bit to stretch in, but once they're there they are awesome and last forever. Do NOT get Aquila Reds though! They always break.

Oct 27, 2021 - 11:01:41 AM
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1648 posts since 2/9/2007

The tools and skills needed to make your own bridges are pretty basic.

Oct 27, 2021 - 3:31:13 PM

timmo

USA

3 posts since 10/26/2021

Hey all, many many thanks for all the feedback. Such a great site with so many old banjo heads helpin rear the youngins. I’m happy to hear that, in the end, the solution is to skillfully tinker..the greatest of all verbs. Shavin some stubble off the bridge, maybe going for a 3/4 inch to raise the action a tad. I put together one of those carver fret less kits earlier this year, and the action is pretty high, but the low tuning lets you sink the strings right down. Busted a string on that, so maybe I’ll get the la Bella’s for the OT, and a set of the recommended Aquila nyulgut to play with on the fretless. I’ve got some great old maple boards up here in the barn, and carvin out a nice bridge sounds like a good way to spend an autumn evening. Appreciate the motivation from everyone!

One more thing..are those RK O25’s any better in terms of takin on nylon strings for any reason? I go back and forth about tradin in this OT for one. I remember their necks feelin way more chunky, but I love it’s got a truss rod, proper fretboard and that darker look. Plus, that scoops already there ; ) Ok many thanks again.

Oct 28, 2021 - 1:03:38 PM

JeroenJ

Netherlands

54 posts since 1/7/2014

Interesting stuff here. I am about to have a dowelstick banjo converted to fretless and nylguts. I assume the unfretting will give some slack for the low action/large amplitude problem?

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