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Dec 2, 2021 - 11:37:37 PM

andantino

Canada

62 posts since 12/13/2012

Just wondering if anyone here prefers using a wider bridge to play clawhammer. I am considering getting one. I know with the wider spacing on my classical guitar it makes right hand accuracy so much better. I am thinking it might lessen mistakes with drop thumbing and also prevent hangnails from catching the string above. Any recommendations?

Dec 3, 2021 - 12:12:15 AM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

25523 posts since 6/25/2005

I generally recut my bridges to a bit wider than Crowe spacing. I play a lot of inside-thumb notes and I find it easier with wider spacing.

Dec 3, 2021 - 4:27:27 AM

carlb

USA

2324 posts since 12/16/2007

I use 12 mm (1/2 inch). Like it.

Dec 3, 2021 - 7:17:16 AM
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2665 posts since 5/2/2012

When I picked up the banjo, playing clawhammer, one of the first things I did was get a new bridge with Crowe spacing. Improved the tone a bit, and the little bit extra string spacing (1/16") did seem to help. But then I was a beginner. Didn't stay with clawhammer long, but other bridges I have acquired all have the wider spacing.

Dec 3, 2021 - 11:40:16 AM
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149 posts since 12/9/2018

I've been using 46mm spaced bridges from the get go and have no intentions of going back to standard spacing. There are several well respected bridge builders that will do custom spacing and bridges are a relatively inexpensive/ easy upgrade, so it can't hurt to try even if you end up not getting along with the change.

Dec 3, 2021 - 4:11:52 PM

andantino

Canada

62 posts since 12/13/2012

Thanks for the replies. I actually have pretty small hands but that tends to end up being more of an issue for the left hand when Im playing guitar and trying to make wide stretches with chords. My right hand loves extra space. I notice that, like Bill Rogers said, the issue seems to be with playing inside with the thumb.

My hand size has been less of an issue on the banjo so far because of the open tunings I guess, and I also suppose it all depends on how you play or the arrangement you play. 

Edited by - andantino on 12/03/2021 16:19:20

Dec 3, 2021 - 4:57:29 PM
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KatB

USA

232 posts since 9/3/2018
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yes Crowe spacing 

Dec 3, 2021 - 4:57:51 PM
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1673 posts since 1/28/2013

I use a 48mm spaced bridge with a 1-5/16ths nutwidth for 3 finger Scruggs style, Progressive. I don't see why they even make standard spaced bridges, even Crowe is too narrow, especially for Modern picking styles.

Edited by - jan dupree on 12/03/2021 17:04:25

Dec 3, 2021 - 5:00:17 PM

1673 posts since 1/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by andantino

Thanks for the replies. I actually have pretty small hands but that tends to end up being more of an issue for the left hand when Im playing guitar and trying to make wide stretches with chords. My right hand loves extra space. I notice that, like Bill Rogers said, the issue seems to be with playing inside with the thumb.

My hand size has been less of an issue on the banjo so far because of the open tunings I guess, and I also suppose it all depends on how you play or the arrangement you play. 


There is no way you will be able to play Modern Progressive styles with a standard spaced bridge. Need to wide the fingerboard too. It's not 1930 anymore.

Dec 3, 2021 - 5:02:31 PM

1673 posts since 1/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by carlb

I use 12 mm (1/2 inch). Like it.


Yeah, me too. Nice wide spacing for those inside triplets, single string, free fretting while holding a full chord etc.

Dec 3, 2021 - 5:21:07 PM

andantino

Canada

62 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree
There is no way you will be able to play Modern Progressive styles with a standard spaced bridge. Need to wide the fingerboard too. It's not 1930 anymore.

Yeah, I sort of regret not getting a wider neck banjo. I actually opted out of getting one because I was concerned about my hand size. I was always good at stretching and contorting my left hand to compensate but it's been getting kind of rough on my hands the past few years. I find I get achy fingers some days after playing my certain stuff on guitar now. Especially the classical guitar, which my right hand loves and my left hand hates now. Thus far I haven't had that issue on the banjo.

Kinda late now though. I just bought a banjo. Not going to get another. But I think maybe a slightly wider spacing at the bridge might help. 

Edited by - andantino on 12/03/2021 17:27:39

Dec 3, 2021 - 6:06:37 PM

KatB

USA

232 posts since 9/3/2018
Online Now

Andantino,
Crowe is great, 44 mm instead of 42. 46 mm would be nice too, just be sure you have a wide enough nut for that. Crowe on my 1.25 nut banjo is all good. Crowe on my goodtime (narrower) is a little iffy, it pushes the 1st string rather close to the edge of the fretboard.

Dec 3, 2021 - 6:47:27 PM

andantino

Canada

62 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by KatB

Andantino,
Crowe is great, 44 mm instead of 42. 46 mm would be nice too, just be sure you have a wide enough nut for that. Crowe on my 1.25 nut banjo is all good. Crowe on my goodtime (narrower) is a little iffy, it pushes the 1st string rather close to the edge of the fretboard.


Hey Kat, thanks for the recommendation. I'll look into that. I think even just a small adjustment would help. I do have small hands, as I said, so I maybe I could get by with a smaller adjustment than others. I actually already ordered a compensated bridge before I thought of this. My nut is 1 3/16. So maybe I'd stick to the 44. I really noticed some trouble the other day when I get a little hangnail on my thumb. Whooda thunk that little thing could play strings on its own? 

Edited by - andantino on 12/03/2021 18:50:59

Dec 4, 2021 - 8:54:20 AM
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1673 posts since 1/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by andantino
quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree
There is no way you will be able to play Modern Progressive styles with a standard spaced bridge. Need to wide the fingerboard too. It's not 1930 anymore.

Yeah, I sort of regret not getting a wider neck banjo. I actually opted out of getting one because I was concerned about my hand size. I was always good at stretching and contorting my left hand to compensate but it's been getting kind of rough on my hands the past few years. I find I get achy fingers some days after playing my certain stuff on guitar now. Especially the classical guitar, which my right hand loves and my left hand hates now. Thus far I haven't had that issue on the banjo.

Kinda late now though. I just bought a banjo. Not going to get another. But I think maybe a slightly wider spacing at the bridge might help. 

 


Just buy a cheap bridge and widen the grooves and see how you like it. A wide spaced bridge can really improve your playing. You can buy a cheap blank with an ungrooved top, then cut grooves at a couple of different measurements, and try it.

Dec 4, 2021 - 9:20:40 AM

1673 posts since 1/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by andantino
quote:
Originally posted by KatB

Andantino,
Crowe is great, 44 mm instead of 42. 46 mm would be nice too, just be sure you have a wide enough nut for that. Crowe on my 1.25 nut banjo is all good. Crowe on my goodtime (narrower) is a little iffy, it pushes the 1st string rather close to the edge of the fretboard.


Hey Kat, thanks for the recommendation. I'll look into that. I think even just a small adjustment would help. I do have small hands, as I said, so I maybe I could get by with a smaller adjustment than others. I actually already ordered a compensated bridge before I thought of this. My nut is 1 3/16. So maybe I'd stick to the 44. I really noticed some trouble the other day when I get a little hangnail on my thumb. Whooda thunk that little thing could play strings on its own? 

 


When Players with thick finger tip pads perform inside picking techniques, and inside triplets, they will sometimes have the 1st string slide in and catch the finger nail of the 2nd finger, especially if they  dig in. Wide string spacing somewhat eliminates this. Traditional 1950's Scruggs does not use the picking techniques of Modern Players. Single string,  picking 2-3 strings at a time, holding down a full chord and floating different fingers, holding a finger down on a fret after picking it while picking another fret etc. calls for altering banjos today from the old Pre-war set ups.

Dec 4, 2021 - 9:46:35 AM
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1713 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree

I use a 48mm spaced bridge with a 1-5/16ths nutwidth for 3 finger Scruggs style, Progressive. I don't see why they even make standard spaced bridges, even Crowe is too narrow, especially for Modern picking styles.


My playing is about as far from modern and progressive as you can get, but I've been saying the same thing for years.

Back before the pandemic, when I taught real in-person lessons, my first meeting with a new banjo student would almost always include (with their permission) my cutting some new slots in their bridge.  I'd do it right on the banjo-- a razor saw slot just far outside of the 2nd and 4th strings that I wouldn't risk chipping into those slots, then eyeball twice that far outside the 1st and 5th. Always wound up within 1/32" of 1-7/8" 1st-5th. (Widened the bass string slot with a ~.025 nut file.)  If they wanted to put the strings back in the original slots, they could, but I don't think any ever did. 

Dec 4, 2021 - 1:44:10 PM

andantino

Canada

62 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree

I don't see why they even make standard spaced bridges, even Crowe is too narrow, especially for Modern picking styles.


I measured my spacing last night, and it appears I have the Crowe spacing. So yeah, I guess even that is kinda small. I was at the music store today, and I noticed the string spacings on the banjos there were smaller. As a person with small hands I can't imagine how people with large hands manage that.

I might buy another bridge and try slotting it myself. I think I might be able to get away with pushing the drone string up a bit higher in order to keep the first string from being to close to the edge. 

Dec 4, 2021 - 2:28:50 PM

54 posts since 3/7/2011

I'm using Crowe spacing. works well with my banjo which has a fairly narrow width at the nut.

Dec 4, 2021 - 9:11:23 PM

1673 posts since 1/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by andantino
quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree

I don't see why they even make standard spaced bridges, even Crowe is too narrow, especially for Modern picking styles.


I measured my spacing last night, and it appears I have the Crowe spacing. So yeah, I guess even that is kinda small. I was at the music store today, and I noticed the string spacings on the banjos there were smaller. As a person with small hands I can't imagine how people with large hands manage that.

I might buy another bridge and try slotting it myself. I think I might be able to get away with pushing the drone string up a bit higher in order to keep the first string from being to close to the edge. 


 1-3/16ths nutwidths necks will take a 44mm spaced bridge, some might take a 46mm. It all depends on how much they widen past the 5th fret. You can push that 5th string over, most of the time when you fret with your thumb it is pushed away from the side of the neck anyway. 

Dec 4, 2021 - 9:18:33 PM

1673 posts since 1/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert
quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree

I use a 48mm spaced bridge with a 1-5/16ths nutwidth for 3 finger Scruggs style, Progressive. I don't see why they even make standard spaced bridges, even Crowe is too narrow, especially for Modern picking styles.


My playing is about as far from modern and progressive as you can get, but I've been saying the same thing for years.

Back before the pandemic, when I taught real in-person lessons, my first meeting with a new banjo student would almost always include (with their permission) my cutting some new slots in their bridge.  I'd do it right on the banjo-- a razor saw slot just far outside of the 2nd and 4th strings that I wouldn't risk chipping into those slots, then eyeball twice that far outside the 1st and 5th. Always wound up within 1/32" of 1-7/8" 1st-5th. (Widened the bass string slot with a ~.025 nut file.)  If they wanted to put the strings back in the original slots, they could, but I don't think any ever did. 


That's what I did on the bridge for 1 of my banjos, the other one I ordered already spaced, because I went from a .656 bridge to a 11/16ths. No more fingers bumping into each other on triplets, or trying to wedge 2 fingers in between 2 strings, to play at the same time etc. and improved all around picking accuracy.

Dec 5, 2021 - 4:20:04 AM

3924 posts since 4/29/2012

I've never obsessed about bridge spacing so hadn't a clue what spacing I've got on my main player, the Dave Stacey Electric, which has a bridge custom bent and lightened by Dave that came with the banjo. Just measured it and it's 44mm from 1st to 5th. Seems ok to me. Wouldn't want much wider. measured the nylon strung Tilley that is my frequent go-to to take down from the banjo wall to play while I'm working. That's only 36mm from 1st to 5th and perfectly playable. i don't switch from one to the other and really notice any difference. The very nice Bart Veerman bridge on my Slingerland is 45mm and about as wide as I'd want (in fact so wide that the 5th is beyond the fretboard - but I play over the head and never fret the 5th so I can live with this) . The Slingerland does have a narrow neck.
So I think that if you believe that a wide bridge would remove deficiencies in your technique it may the technique that needs work not the bridge.
And be aware that Dupree, from previous posts, knows zip about clawhammer.
There's a lot to be said for being comfortable with an off-the-shelf configuration. If you paint yourself into a corner where you can only play with a wide fingerboard, a wide bridge, a frailing scoop, a high bridge..... then you are not going to be able to borrow or try out a banjo in a session or make music anywhere where you don't have your banjo available.

Dec 5, 2021 - 9:15:52 AM

1673 posts since 1/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by AndrewD

I've never obsessed about bridge spacing so hadn't a clue what spacing I've got on my main player, the Dave Stacey Electric, which has a bridge custom bent and lightened by Dave that came with the banjo. Just measured it and it's 44mm from 1st to 5th. Seems ok to me. Wouldn't want much wider. measured the nylon strung Tilley that is my frequent go-to to take down from the banjo wall to play while I'm working. That's only 36mm from 1st to 5th and perfectly playable. i don't switch from one to the other and really notice any difference. The very nice Bart Veerman bridge on my Slingerland is 45mm and about as wide as I'd want (in fact so wide that the 5th is beyond the fretboard - but I play over the head and never fret the 5th so I can live with this) . The Slingerland does have a narrow neck.
So I think that if you believe that a wide bridge would remove deficiencies in your technique it may the technique that needs work not the bridge.
And be aware that Dupree, from previous posts, knows zip about clawhammer.
There's a lot to be said for being comfortable with an off-the-shelf configuration. If you paint yourself into a corner where you can only play with a wide fingerboard, a wide bridge, a frailing scoop, a high bridge..... then you are not going to be able to borrow or try out a banjo in a session or make music anywhere where you don't have your banjo available.


Clawhammer Players are the ones that started the move toward wide spaced bridges. In fact 50mm is considered a Clawhammer bridge. I noted in all my posts that I was referring to Progressive 3 finger techniques. I doubt if any Clawhammer Players execute inside 3 string triplets with 3 fingers. Your 36mm is narrow, and sounds tenor banjo spacing, which seems impossible for 5 string, much less Clawhammer. Restricting and hindering your playing ability, for the sake of being able to play somebody else's banjo does'nt really appeal to most Players.

Edited by - jan dupree on 12/05/2021 09:26:40

Dec 5, 2021 - 9:24:51 AM

75330 posts since 5/9/2007

Around 95% of all the clawhammer bridges I've made have Crowe 1 3/4" spacing requested by the customer.

String spacing is limited by the width of the 22nd or last fret and the width of the tension hoop notch.That is very limited when using a tenor banjo hoop.

Edited by - steve davis on 12/05/2021 09:30:28

Dec 5, 2021 - 9:53:34 AM

3924 posts since 4/29/2012

Crowe spacing is 1 3/4"=44.45 mm. A 50mm bridge would be just about 2 inches !
This is significantly wider than the 47mm bridges used by Converse on long scaled, big headed minstrel banjos used for stroke style in the mid 19th C.
And the 36mm was a mis-type. Should have been 39mm = 1 5/8". This was SS Stewarts recommendation for Classic Banjo in the late 19th C. But still easily playable.

Dec 6, 2021 - 1:35:10 PM

andantino

Canada

62 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by AndrewD

Crowe spacing is 1 3/4"=44.45 mm. A 50mm bridge would be just about 2 inches !
This is significantly wider than the 47mm bridges used by Converse on long scaled, big headed minstrel banjos used for stroke style in the mid 19th C.
And the 36mm was a mis-type. Should have been 39mm = 1 5/8". This was SS Stewarts recommendation for Classic Banjo in the late 19th C. But still easily playable.


I think you and Jan both make excellent points and it comes down to personal preference really. I think I'll stick with my current bridge for now since it is about 45mm and is already bigger than standard size.

I get what Jan is saying though. To me it seems like a wider spacing for the right hand would be really good for a technique like clawhammer. It's the same principle that applies to the spacing on a classical guitar. Smaller string spacings are also playable and you can do fingerstyle on a regular acoustic with a small nut, but the extra space means your right hand has more breathing room. That can translate to more comfort when playing the same songs. It's all a matter of preference I guess. I think it also depends on how an individual plays. 

Dec 8, 2021 - 9:59:50 PM
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Bart Veerman

Canada

5096 posts since 1/5/2005

Lets make sure we're talking about "regular" 5-string banjos with an 11 inch pot else the folks who play minstrel style banjos might get confused as 50 mm string spacing to them is TOO NARROW smiley

The most common neck width, for most "regular" banjos, at the pot is a tad less than 50 mm (2 inch) so practically speaking, on most "regular" banjos the outer strings will spill overboard up the neck when using a 50 mm spaced bridge - something progressive players simply would not tolerate when they venture up the neck. Oh, and 50 mm is definitely not the default clawhammer spacing.

Not only that, string spacing equal to, or wider than, 48 mm is guaranteed to invite intonation problems. Seeing as intonation problems are always unique to each individual banjo and its setup, this means that a custom compensated bridge will be required.

Many years ago I introduced 46 mm spacing as a valid option for clawhammer players and it was well received. For some though, it was too wide for whatever reason.

An easy way to figure how wide a string spacing is practical for your banjo is to measure the neck's width at the 12th fret and multiply it by two, easy peasy.

In the end, personal taste, or the way your hand & fingers are designed, are the only factors that are relevant when making the decision - anecdotal "evidence," hmmm, not so much...

Banjoing is all about having fun, let's go have some already folks smiley

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