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Jun 16, 2024 - 11:54:25 AM
1 posts since 6/15/2024

I’m looking to buy an Irish Tenor Banjo and could do with some advice.
I want to play melody and also accompany so am I right to look for a 19 fret?
I don’t want to spend too much but want something fairly decent that will last a few years, any advice greatly welcomed.

Jun 16, 2024 - 12:50:57 PM
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rcc56

USA

5148 posts since 2/20/2016

Most 17 fret models have a shorter scale than most 19 fret models, which means that the frets are closer together on one with 17 frets.
How far do you want to stretch?

Jun 16, 2024 - 1:49:10 PM

11385 posts since 4/23/2004

I own both 17 and 19 fret models (a Bacon Blue Ribbon and a Paramount Style A). With Irish, the shorter scale of the 17 fret is just more comfortable for me. I rarely play chords on it, jigs and reels!

There's no reason you can't accompany on a 17 fret. 99.44% of us will never use those last two frets.

For Jazz, where I'm almost always playing rhythm, the 19 fret is my favorite. It is loud enough to be heard in ensemble and the longer scale doesn't matter as I'm chopping chords the entire time.

OTOH, it seems that professional Irish players prefer 19 frets. Some claim better tone with the longer scale...but I think it is simply that higher-end banjos of the later 20s and 30s got longer scale lengths. Everybody wants "the best", almost all of which were 19 fret tenors. Modern Irish tenor makers like Clareen, etc., usually feature 19 frets.

Jun 16, 2024 - 2:09:09 PM
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983 posts since 2/19/2012

I've had and played both for Irish music and I get it that the looser G string on a short scale can be an issue, unless going with a heavy string (which makes it more sensitive to tune) but I don't know that it really matters that much. It's still a banjo, after all. Recent discussions here (and also advocated by Enda Scahill) have suggested tuning the G string to A, since so very few tunes need the open G, so I'm going to give that a try with a 17 fret Little Wonder that I've just committed to buy.

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