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Sep 27, 2022 - 11:03:08 PM
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3 posts since 9/24/2022

Hi everyone, I’ve had a Johnson JB200 for probably 12 years and played it off and on but I just started taking it serious about a year ago. I’ve lurked around this forum but never posted anything. I have always wanted a nice banjo made in the US and always planned to buy a Deering since I live about an hour drive from them, but after researching I just mailed off my check for a deposit on a Hatfield special model. I’m not great by any means but right now is a good time financially for me to place an order so I did it. I just got the basic “special” with no customization but now I am wondering if I should get spikes put on it while it’s being made, but I’ve never played with them. What do you think? Thank you all, you’ve been a lot of help to me even though I’ve never talked to any of you. California isn’t full of bluegrass fans so you’ve secretly been all I have.

Sep 27, 2022 - 11:10:06 PM
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Eric A


1639 posts since 10/15/2019

Spikes do no harm, and may be needed if you ever plan on playing with others, like in a jam or a band, or even if just by yourself if your voice is better in a higher key.

Plus, if it were me, I'd rather have Hatfield do it and I'd know it's done right.

Edited by - Eric A on 09/27/2022 23:15:24

Sep 27, 2022 - 11:16:08 PM
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3 posts since 9/24/2022

That’s what I was leaning towards.

My dad is from Appleton by the way. Beautiful state.

Sep 28, 2022 - 12:18:32 AM
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4316 posts since 4/29/2012

They're not hard to install yourself. But it's even easier to get them installed by the expert luthier who is making your banjo. You see spikes FAR more often nowadays than sliding capos, which sort of speaks for itself. If you don't use them you won't even notice them. Apart from matching your voice and for playing with others you'll also use them if practising by playing along with recordings. So lots of 'pros' and no 'cons'.
Only queztion is how many and which frets. 7 and 9 seems standard for bluegrass but some people/banjos have more. I'm an old-time player so only have a spike at 7.

Sep 28, 2022 - 1:59:41 AM
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Bill H


2024 posts since 11/7/2010

Absolutely get spikes installed.

Sep 28, 2022 - 4:30:22 AM



3857 posts since 6/17/2003

While you're at it, put them on 7,9,9 &10. That will cover most of your (future) needs.

Unless you're planning to play in G#,C# or D# (out of capo 1 position), you can skip 6.

Remember, re tuning for playing in Bb, with the 5th on fret 7 or 9 is a very, very bad thing.

It will mess up the parallel between string 1 and 5, which is of great importance for anything but the most primitive technique.

Sep 28, 2022 - 4:44:34 AM
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)


28007 posts since 8/3/2003

Yes, definitely get spikes.

A new banjo will undoubtedly spur you on to play more and better. Maybe you'll get in a jam session. If so, you may need those spikes to get to the key everyone else is picking in.

My Stelling has spikes at 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12. I use all of them except the one at 12 and just don't like to go up that far with a capo and spike.

I found in the jam sessions I got in that many of the men sang in the key of D or E and I had to learn to play in those keys. Capoing up and playing out of C chords made that possible.

I sing mainly in C , but also in A, B, Bb, C, D, E and F so..... a capo and spikes are definitely helpful.

Sep 28, 2022 - 4:52:23 AM



3857 posts since 6/17/2003

7,9,9 &10 should have been 7,8,9 &10 , of course....blush

For playing in D I'm using no capo and spike @ 7 most often.

Sep 28, 2022 - 5:20:22 AM
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38 posts since 11/28/2017

After years of using spikes I had a Shubb 5th string capo installed - the long one that goes all way up to the 12th fret - and I've found it much easier and more functional than the spikes. Adjustments just take a second with the Shubb capo, and I don't have to hold up the group while I work a string under a spike. Another advantage is that I can quickly fine-tune the fifth string by slightly adjusting the pressure that the capo applies.

Four caveats: first, the capo seems unreasonably expensive, but so much of banjo stuff seems expensive these days; second, it needs to be very precisely installed; should be done by someone who really knows what they're doing; third; it covers some of the position dots on the upper edge of the fingerboard. (I manage that by using stick-on dots that I got at Staples.) And last, there are sliding capos on the market that are not made by Shubb, and are vastly inferior. If you're going to go this route, get the Shubb capo.

There's certainly nothing wrong with having spikes installed, but I've found the sliding fifth string capo a bit easier.

Sep 28, 2022 - 6:16:08 AM
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16104 posts since 8/30/2006

I prefer spikes, I use two fingers to install during performance on stage in the dark.

I'll give this information for some of those exploring the outer reaches of spikes" 7,8,9,10,12,14. Sometimes people tune the 5th down a half step to get the major 7th of the root chord. Or you can tune the 5th to other than the root note.

I am glad to see you pulled the trigger on the right banjo. Good work

On my longnecks, I use two sets of side dots. Different colors don't interfere with capoing, in fact it helps.
With the sliding capo, your side dots will be gone. If you remove the sliding capo, you will have to plug holes in the binding that are hard to match in color.

If a spike were to fail you, you can always use another spike next to the 5th and tune correctly.

But if your sliding capo slides off the rails and goes into the shag carpet, then that's a new problem I don't want during performance.

The other types of 5th string capos or clamp or claw are all a little bit wonky, I haven't seen them work well at the jam. I've never seen anyone use one on stage. They have their friends, however.

The new Stewmac spikes have round shafts for round drill bits. I have their tapered bit.

Edited by - Helix on 09/28/2022 06:17:45

Sep 28, 2022 - 7:17:48 AM

1227 posts since 1/26/2011
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“I like spikes.” Probably should be a bumper sticker.

Like several others, I like them at 7. 8, 9 and 10.

Sep 28, 2022 - 7:42:48 AM



3163 posts since 11/29/2007

Yes. At some point you will play in another key alone or in a jam where different keys are used. Being able to capo to whatever key using spikes will be essential to being a competent player. As a general rule if you see a pro doing something related to playing the banjo you probably should too. They did not get to pro status not doing the things that make a pro a pro.


Sep 28, 2022 - 7:50:35 AM

2938 posts since 5/2/2012

I've used spikes, a sliding capo and a Reagan capo. Spikes are easy to use, but do take two hands to use. A sliding capo is also easy to use (one hand) and adjust as mentioned. The one downside would be if you wanted to fret the 5th with your thumb when playing up the neck...the hardware sticks out quite a bit. The Reagan capo is pricey for what it is, small (and what do you do with it when you aren't using it), and sort of "fiddly" to put on. My preference? A spike.

Sep 28, 2022 - 8:06:21 AM

25 posts since 6/19/2021
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Just got a new Hatfield Woody and had him install the spikes. Sliding capos always seem to get in my way. As mentioned, already if you need to fret the 5th string with your thumb a sliding capo makes it difficult for most and impossible for me.

Sep 28, 2022 - 8:24:30 AM

76924 posts since 5/9/2007

I used sliders until putting in my first spikes in the 80s.
I use one at 7 and one at 9 and I don't use the 9 very often.
I play all keys.

Sep 28, 2022 - 9:32:22 AM



8 posts since 9/11/2022

Personally I would recommend at least looking into getting a sliding fifth string capo instead. I have the sliding capo on two of my banjos, and I had spikes installed on another, and I so regret it. I am not fond of the spikes, it's not that big of a deal I guess, but to me the sliding capo is much more simple.

Sep 28, 2022 - 10:02:06 AM

10153 posts since 8/28/2013

If you don't like the spikes, they are easily removed and the holes easily filled. If you don't like the sliding capo, removal will leave larger screw holes in any area (the binding) that is more visible and harder to fill and disguise.

Sep 28, 2022 - 2:18:25 PM
Players Union Member



599 posts since 3/5/2009

“'I like spikes.' Probably should be a bumper sticker. "

Since Spikes is the name of our local minor league baseball team, we may have some of those bumper stickers around here.
Oh, and I like the spikes at 7, 8, 9, and 10.

Sep 28, 2022 - 2:26:34 PM
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368 posts since 10/12/2011

“Should I get spikes?”

I had a Shubb slider for years, and was a “spike denier” for many years. I got to play a friend’s with spikes and ended up getting them added at 7, 8, 9. And, would not go back to the Shubb slider. It doesn’t take long to get used to sliding the string under the spike and make the minor tuning adjustment quickly.

So, the long answer to your question is: “yes.”

Sep 28, 2022 - 7:33:02 PM

522 posts since 1/24/2004

Spikes at 7,8 & 9 let me play in every common bluegrass key while only using one capo that goes up to B and lives on the neck of my banjo.

Sep 28, 2022 - 7:59:06 PM

40 posts since 8/14/2018

^ Same here — spikes on 7, 8 and 9… i can see the benefit of 10 as well, but given the choice I’d just play in C out of the first position.

Never tried a sliding 5th string capo, but hey — if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Only downfall is, depending on fret height, action and the depth to which the spikes were set, you may find the 5th string goes a bit sharp and may need a bit of fine tuning…

Sep 29, 2022 - 4:47:56 AM
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13746 posts since 6/30/2020

It’s better to have spikes and not need them, than to need spikes and not have them.
Get the spikes.

Sep 29, 2022 - 5:27:05 AM
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3 posts since 9/24/2022

Thanks everyone. I think I’ll get them at 7,8,9 and 10. I’m sure will be happy I did someday.

Sep 29, 2022 - 8:26:50 AM

4031 posts since 9/21/2009

Yes, I have spikes on all my banjos except one. It has a Shubb and I don't care for it at all. It's in the way too bad to suit me.

Sep 29, 2022 - 3:33:35 PM

1328 posts since 11/9/2012

I like both methods. I used a Shubb 5th string sliding capo for over ten years and it was very handy for changing keys at a moment's notice, while sometimes the spikes require re-tuning of the 5th string of 1/2 step. That is the only real advantage I see of using a sliding 5th string capo, you should not need to retune the 5th string for most any key used. 

But I'm still seeking a person near me to take on a my RK-35 banjo needing spikes, but I can't locate anyone for nearly 100 miles from where I live. So I would have spikes on all my banjos but I'm too scared to hammer my fret-board and I can't locate anyone else near here to do it. 

Sep 30, 2022 - 7:29:05 AM
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12054 posts since 2/7/2008

Originally posted by RB-1

Unless you're planning to play in G#,C# or D# (out of capo 1 position), you can skip 6.

Remember, re tuning for playing in Bb, with the 5th on fret 7 or 9 is a very, very bad thing.

It will mess up the parallel between string 1 and 5, which is of great importance for anything but the most primitive technique.

I use the 8th fret spike, an A# note, for playing in D# or Bb typically, although just leaving it open on G works for some tunes in Bb.

Edited by - Fathand on 09/30/2022 07:29:31

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