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May 25, 2024 - 7:16:34 AM
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7 posts since 11/20/2018

Hi guys,
I have an '89 RB-250 that I got used. The 3rd string is out of tune at the 12 fret compared to the 1st and 4th, which ring perfectly in tune at the 12 fret. I know a little out of tune is normal, but it seems more than usual.

I noticed that my neck seems shorter than other mastertone banjos that I see people playing, so am wondering if a previous owner shortened the neck, and maybe makes this tuning issue more pronounced on my banjo. What do you think? would a compensated bridge help in my case?
Thank you!


Edited by - Stevester on 05/25/2024 07:22:01

May 25, 2024 - 7:50:01 AM
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65 posts since 9/1/2020

That length difference ain't nothin...
Sounds like what you need is a compensated bridge.
That will lengthen the third relative to the others, and address to intonation problem.

May 25, 2024 - 7:59:26 AM
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259 posts since 8/28/2006

If by your neck seeming shorter, you just mean the increased clearance gap at the tension hoop (your red circle), then I would say no, that should have no effect on your G string intonation.

I have found that all my banjos need some kind of compensation, some more than others. If your bridge is sufficiently thick, you can compensate the G string yourself with a few strokes of the right file; or you can choose from a variety of compensated bridges available.

Keep in mind that other factors make a difference as well, such as string guage and string height (action). I found with one banjo that I got part way to perfect by compensating the G string at the bridge, but then had to change my G string gauge down a hundredth (from an .014 to .013) to get the rest of the way there.

I suspect plenty of people with more expertise than me will respond.

May 25, 2024 - 10:07:49 AM

5772 posts since 5/29/2011

Third strings tend to be problematic on a lot of banjos. A compensated bridge would be the quickest way to address the problem. They don't cost that much so if the bridge doesn't do the job, you are not out that much money.

May 25, 2024 - 6:45:40 PM

15254 posts since 6/2/2008

This neck is not shorter than normal. The gap beyond 22nd fret is no indication of neck length. The neck hits at the upper lag area. Removal of wood to allow the tension hoop to does not change that.

All I can suggest is to keep trying. Also, perhaps follow the advice I've seen in Steve Hubert's setup video, which after getting octaves as close as you can, adjust the bridge to produce the most pleasant sound for the 20 & 21 combination at 2nd and 1st strings. He says that once that position sounds good the rest will sound close enough.

Have you measured from the face of the nut to the top of the 12th fret to get your scale length? 12th fret to face of bridge should be the same distance plus maybe 1/32-inch for starters. 

And this is just for making sure, but are you re-tuning every time you move the bridge? You need to.

May 26, 2024 - 7:28:28 AM
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15706 posts since 10/30/2008

It is quite possible the issue is at the NUT. If the slot is cut at the wrong angle up or down in relation to the fingerboard it can mess up the intonation and drive you crazy.

I found this to be the problem on a Mastertone neck on one string. Corrected it myself with a nut saw and the intonation improved a lot.

If the string is resting at its highest point on the BACK EDGE of the nut, that lengthens the scale of that string by 3/16 to1/4 of an inch. Getting the string to rest on the FRONT EDGE of the nut shortens the scale of that string and matches it up to the fret placement. BUT, you have to be sure you don't overall lower the string too much so that it starts to buzz on the frets. It's touchy work.

May 26, 2024 - 4:37:07 PM

79702 posts since 5/9/2007

Both ends have to agree with each other.

May 26, 2024 - 7:34:54 PM



140 posts since 4/15/2020

The curve in the neck at the point where it meets the rim does not affect length of string. Bridge placement does. The problem you're having with the 3rd string is from the difference in gauge between it and the 2nd and 1st strings. Of course, if you tested your 4th string you'd find it is off even more than the 3rd. Mostly we don't play up the 4th string that much so you may never notice it that much. So, you can solve your problem by adjusting the angle of your bridge. Instead of placing it perfectly straight, you'll wind up angling it slight so that both the 1st and 4th strings are in perfect tuning open and at the 12th fret. Then test your 3rd string tuning both open and at the 12th fret. If its way off, consider trying a 3rd string with a slightly different gauge and see how that work. Or easier, get a compensated bridge. There are 3 kinds to choose from. The simplest has a thick top where the ebony wood and string slots are. It has a tiny, maybe 1/32" bit removed from the side facing the neck. This may be enough to solve your problem. If it doesn't then the next thing is to try more radically compensated bridges. The first type is like little steps going down to the 3rd string and back up to the 5th. The other type is called a moon bridge. They're both doing the exact same thing, changing the length of all the strings. You still need to angle it slightly for the 1st and 4ths strings. If you're still not satisfied, you then welcome to the world of stringed instruments where musicians of multiple instruments deal with the never-ending search for perfect intonation.

Slight compensation: Snuffy Smith Bridge

Stepped compensation: Golden Gate Stepped Bridge

Moon bridge:Pisgah Moon Bridge

May 29, 2024 - 1:58:08 PM

79702 posts since 5/9/2007

I like how my bridge handles each string rather nicely by all of them fretting and chiming "0" at the 12th fret.
The goodness of that spreads nicely over the entire neck.

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