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Sep 24, 2022 - 6:25:10 PM
Players Union Member

lanemb

USA

257 posts since 3/11/2018
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I have been looking for information on 6 string banjos with a 5th string type drone. One like Jordan Snow is playing in the YouTube video below. Searching the archives has been difficult because most discuss the guitjo. The lack of definitive terminology for a 6 string with a 5th string type drone also makes the search difficult.

https://youtu.be/oD2CAmh-omU

 

I am hoping to find some information on availability, tuning and how to use the additional bass string in a Scruggs three finger style. Any links and info would be appreciated. 

Sep 24, 2022 - 6:56:22 PM
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rcc56

USA

4504 posts since 2/20/2016

Tom Jackson used to play clawhammer on an old Vega with what you're calling a "5 3/4" string neck.
He used standard 5 string G and C tunings and tuned the bass string to a low G. He handled it pretty much like a standard 5 string, except he could go down and get a few low notes any time that he wanted to.

I believe that he had someone build the neck for him. Banjos with a 6th string drone have been built from time to time, but only in small numbers.  I suspect that they were always considered to be special orders.  I've heard that Sonny Osborne used one occasionally.

Eric Sullivan could probably make a suitable neck for you.

Edited by - rcc56 on 09/24/2022 18:58:23

Sep 24, 2022 - 9:57:17 PM
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4657 posts since 5/29/2011

This is often referred to as the 5 + 1 style six string.
Sonny Osborne used one extensively in the early 70s. It was tuned like a regular bluegrass banjo with a bass G string added so it had five tuners on the peg head and one on the neck. Some YouTube videos of the Osborne Brothers feature him playing the six string. Check out the video of them doing Fireball Mail.
As far as finding one, I agree that you would probably have to have one custom made. That is a project I have been trying to build for several years but, so far, none of mine have turned out very well. Eric might find time to make one. Some of the other banjo makers on here like Clancy Mullins, Ron Coleman, Randall Wyatt, Chris Sorenson, or Tim Davis might be able to make a neck in that style. It can't hurt to send them a PM and ask.

Sep 25, 2022 - 4:18:54 AM
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beegee

USA

23120 posts since 7/6/2005

Rual Yarborough played one. Sonny Osborne played one limited appeal in the mainstream

Sep 25, 2022 - 4:46:35 AM
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516 posts since 4/14/2014

Zachary Hoyt built this one for me. A lot of fun, but it takes awhile to adjust to.

When I use mine for three finger, I often tune to open G, but with the added bass string tuned to B. 


Edited by - Nic Pennsylvania on 09/25/2022 04:50:24

Sep 25, 2022 - 5:23:25 AM
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Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

1637 posts since 10/15/2019

If you google "Sonny Osborne six string banjo" there's a lot of hits.

Sep 25, 2022 - 6:42:53 AM
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Players Union Member

TLG

USA

1711 posts since 10/11/2004

I have an Iida version & have made a few myself. I like the "D" tuning best but g is good also. I really don't play it a lot.
For me , it's hard to get a roll going & a slower tune fits it better.
I read somewhere in an interview, that Sonny said it almost ruined his bluegrass pickin.
Tom

Sep 25, 2022 - 7:12:40 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

1637 posts since 10/15/2019

quote:
Originally posted by TLG

I have an Iida version & have made a few myself. I like the "D" tuning best but g is good also. I really don't play it a lot.
For me , it's hard to get a roll going & a slower tune fits it better.
I read somewhere in an interview, that Sonny said it almost ruined his bluegrass pickin.
Tom


Yes!  I was thinking I read that somewhere too, but wasn't sure.  I think he said something to the effect that it spread out his hand and he lost speed on this regular picking.  Had to kind of work at it to get back up to speed.

Sep 25, 2022 - 8:38:52 AM
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4657 posts since 5/29/2011

Here is a picture of the Iida banjo that Tommy referred to.


 

Sep 25, 2022 - 12:11:14 PM
Players Union Member

lanemb

USA

257 posts since 3/11/2018
Online Now

I’m thinking it won’t be worth the few notes I would get out of it.

Sep 25, 2022 - 12:29:43 PM
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Players Union Member

TLG

USA

1711 posts since 10/11/2004

It's just fun to play a different banjo sometimes. I'm sure I would not use it all the time but on certain songs if I played it at a gig.
The way I got mine is I found & bought the neck only & then bought a tenor banjo & installed the neck on that. Same thing in Mark's pic.

But I have made a couple for others & have a neck blank ready for another one, someday , maybe !

Tom

Edited by - TLG on 09/25/2022 12:31:17

Sep 25, 2022 - 6:42:02 PM

516 posts since 4/14/2014

quote:
Originally posted by lanemb

I’m thinking it won’t be worth the few notes I would get out of it.


It's suprising how much more the banjo resonates when you have another string. That low string vibrates sympathetically even when not struck. It gives a bit more body, which is nice. 

People who play John Brown's Dream with the fourth and third tuned an octave apart (usually to A) experience much the same thing.

All that said, I wouldn't use one if I were playing bluegrass. I COULD see a seven string being useful in a bluegrass setting.

Edited by - Nic Pennsylvania on 09/25/2022 18:47:11

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