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Nov 22, 2021 - 7:31:58 PM
394 posts since 9/4/2007

I enjoy playing 5-string banjos with both a short scale and a standard scale, but at least to what I sense and feel, a set of mediums on a short scale seem "looser" than on a standard scale banjo. That is, the total string tension seems slightly less. The strings just seem "tighter" on a standard scale banjo.

Just out of curiosity, would a set of heavy gauge strings on a "short scale" 25.5" 5-string banjo offer approximately the same total string tension as a medium gauge set of strings on a "standard scale" 26.3" (approx.) banjo?

Edited by - hayesdt on 11/22/2021 19:34:08

Nov 22, 2021 - 7:53:32 PM
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9176 posts since 8/28/2013

The same strings on a shorter scale are looser. Tension is determined partly by string weight, and a shorter string of the same diameter doesn't weigh as much as a long string. Heavier strings (thicker diameter) should help some, but you'll need to find the correct gauges through experimentation. Every string maker seems to have a different idea of what is medium and what is heavy, so you can't just buy a set labeled "heavy" and be guaranteed they are actually different than what you are already using.

Nov 22, 2021 - 8:22:02 PM
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jacot23

USA

249 posts since 12/13/2012

chordgen.rattree.co.uk/tensiontool.php

Click on "Show Editor" and play around with string gauges and scale lengths.

Nov 23, 2021 - 5:26:56 AM
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14135 posts since 6/29/2005

A string tension calculating tool, as linked above, is the best way to determine things like this.

There are a number of them out there, usually for guitars, but the tensions at the same gauge, same pitch, and same scale length would be the same for a guitar or a banjo.

D'Addario had one called String Tension Pro that allowed you to select many kinds of strings and whatever gauge, pitch, and scale length you wanted.

So many people nowadays want to tune their banjos to a lower pitch and use shorter scales than the strings are intended for, that it won't be long before the string makers start offering "short scale" sets.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 11/23/2021 05:27:47

Nov 23, 2021 - 5:39:23 AM
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9176 posts since 8/28/2013

Tension calculators, as mentioned in other posts, are very useful for figuring tension. However, they do not tell the whole story. A short, heavy string can sometimes be too stiff to produce a good tone, and in some cases, good intonation. That is why experimenting with gauges is usually necessary.

The calculators can at least get you close, though.

Nov 26, 2021 - 6:06:19 AM

14135 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Tension calculators, as mentioned in other posts, are very useful for figuring tension. However, they do not tell the whole story. A short, heavy string can sometimes be too stiff to produce a good tone, and in some cases, good intonation. That is why experimenting with gauges is usually necessary.

The calculators can at least get you close, though.


What you say is true— I build a lot of banjos in different scale lengths so I get to hear the difference between a 26 1/2" scale and a 25 1/2" one, also tuning an A banjo down to G.  There's more happening than the pitch and distance between the frets.

I finished building a guitar about 5 days ago, strung it up, put it in a stand and got sidetracked. A couple days later I started playing it and it sounded really strange, too bassy, was loosey goosey when fretting, plus there was a little buzzing—I couldn't figure out what was wrong with it and was afraid I was going to have to reset the action until I realized it had stretched down a whole step—what a difference!  it messed up everything.  Tuning it to the right pitch fixed all the problems, including the sound.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 11/26/2021 06:07:33

Nov 27, 2021 - 8:55:03 AM

75318 posts since 5/9/2007

On a related point heavier gauge strings can play easily because they can be set up with lower action.

Nov 28, 2021 - 12:40:49 PM
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11927 posts since 10/27/2006
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Here’s the thing that tension charts can’t help you with and that’s the flexibility of the strings—mainly the 3rd G string on a banjo. If it’s too heavy, it goes ‘thunk’ instead of giving a pleasant tone because it’s too stiff. Another issue is that, with a straight bridge, the shorter the scale, the more noticeable intonation issues become.

On a shorter scale, try a set with a wound G and see if that gets you where you want to go. The Deering Julia Belle and Pearse John Hartford D have identical gauges. Ignore the tuned low marketing. These are almost as heavy as Gibson and Vega Mediums from the 1960s and earlier designed to be played at standard pitch (27" on Vega; 26 1/4" Gibson). Among the advantages of a wound G is that you can go shorter while it still rings true and you'll be able to fret much higher up the neck with a straight bridge before you notice intonation issues (which are generally benign enough for most players to ignore).

I now use a wound 3rd set on the new 19 3/4" scale travel banjos I sell. Both G and C tunings sound and play better since I made this switch. I throw the original strings in the gig bag in case the buyer wants to try a plain 3rd.

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