I just started playing on a new to me banjo. It’s an 11” Vega Old Tyme Wonder with a frosted head, a 5/8” J. W. Hooks bridge, and La Bella 17 strings.

I have two questions that I am hoping some of you may be able to address.

First, are most people really playing with an action around 1/4” at the 12th fret? With some relief in my neck, I am currently just under 1/8”. I have another slightly higher bridge from Joel on the way, so that I can get a little bit closer to a 1/4”. That being said, in my mind, 1/4” seems ridiculously high!


Second, When I play, I am getting a strange phasing sound from the banjo. Has anyone else ever experienced this? It sounds like the banjo is going through a phaser pedal for a guitar.

Thanks in advance!

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It sure does sound better. I am thinking that I’d really like to try a Renaissance head now.

nick stephens said:

That looks good to me MM, I would probably use that exact same setup on that banjo if it were mine ! I kind of guessed that tailpiece would be a major improvement on your Little Wonder, those are very fine banjos, it should be all you ever need.

I was just looking at my tailpiece. It seems to me the the gap between the prongs may be wider than that on a vintage tailpiece. Unless... is the a special way to tie a fatter knot when takings advantage of the gaps between the prongs?

I've experimented with various tailpieces over the years and for some of my banjos I've manufactured and fitted a Weaver type floating tailpieces. It's not easy to see but the banjo that I'm playing in my picture is a Windsor Popular number one and I've fitted such a tailpiece which I made from maple. I know that sound and tone is very subjective but to my ears it works well and makes the attachment of nylon strings a little easier. It might be worth a try...Steve.

I actually think the Deering tailpiece makes my banjo sound good. And, it’s real easy to attach the strings. I just tied a loop with a simple knot on each string and attached them.

Steve Harrison said:

I've experimented with various tailpieces over the years and for some of my banjos I've manufactured and fitted a Weaver type floating tailpieces. It's not easy to see but the banjo that I'm playing in my picture is a Windsor Popular number one and I've fitted such a tailpiece which I made from maple. I know that sound and tone is very subjective but to my ears it works well and makes the attachment of nylon strings a little easier. It might be worth a try...Steve.

I have owned a couple of Deering banjos and played many more belonging to others so, I have had the opportunity to examine many of those tailpieces. From my own observations they are very well made and I have never seen one with sharp edges that needed attention before fitting nylon strings which is not always the case with other makers but, the fun is in experimenting, I highly recomend the Hawktail as well. I have yet to try a floating wooden tailpiece as often seen on classic banjos however since I like downward pressure for a number of reasons on my bridge (sharper tone, less chance of the bridge slipping around and, easy adjustability ) I tend to leave those type of tailpieces to the "historically accurate " guys. FWIW my own advice would be leave that banjo as is and enjoy it, again the "historically accurate" crowd will tell you it is not a real Vega, they are wrong ! CF Martin never went anywhere near Lester Flatts guitar, Orville Gibson never was involved with Earls banjo the consensus however is that those are both "real".  I guess what I am saying MM is that you have a very fine banjo, well set up and ready to play, play it !

Milwaukee Matzen said:

I actually think the Deering tailpiece makes my banjo sound good. And, it’s real easy to attach the strings. I just tied a loop with a simple knot on each string and attached them.

Steve Harrison said:

I've experimented with various tailpieces over the years and for some of my banjos I've manufactured and fitted a Weaver type floating tailpieces. It's not easy to see but the banjo that I'm playing in my picture is a Windsor Popular number one and I've fitted such a tailpiece which I made from maple. I know that sound and tone is very subjective but to my ears it works well and makes the attachment of nylon strings a little easier. It might be worth a try...Steve.

In the 1920s gut and silk were were still the way better regular banjos were strung.  A. D. Grover would have considered this when designing a tailpiece.

The Deerings would have not.

I dont think Deering actually designed that tailpiece, it looks like another design they have "borrowed" fairly par for the course I believe with Deering.

Joel Hooks said:

In the 1920s gut and silk were were still the way better regular banjos were strung.  A. D. Grover would have considered this when designing a tailpiece.

The Deerings would have not.

Well, they think they invented it...

https://patents.google.com/patent/US6107553A/

But they have a record of filing patents on other people's inventions (and even previously expired patents and common designs) so you could be right.



nick stephens said:

I dont think Deering actually designed that tailpiece, it looks like another design they have "borrowed" fairly par for the course I believe with Deering.

Joel Hooks said:

In the 1920s gut and silk were were still the way better regular banjos were strung.  A. D. Grover would have considered this when designing a tailpiece.

The Deerings would have not.

I reckon it is essentially a Presto sans cover isn't it ?

Joel Hooks said:

Well, they think they invented it...

https://patents.google.com/patent/US6107553A/

But they have a record of filing patents on other people's inventions (and even previously expired patents and common designs) so you could be right.



nick stephens said:

I dont think Deering actually designed that tailpiece, it looks like another design they have "borrowed" fairly par for the course I believe with Deering.

Joel Hooks said:

In the 1920s gut and silk were were still the way better regular banjos were strung.  A. D. Grover would have considered this when designing a tailpiece.

The Deerings would have not.

I just glanced at the patent but it looks like they are claiming inventing welding the corners for strength and the way it attaches to the rim.  The rim attachment is similar to something Fred Bacon used on one of his tailpieces.  Also similar to what Fred Van Eps used, and I am sure some others.  

But I guess FB and FVE did not know the Deerings invented it after they did.

nick stephens said:

I reckon it is essentially a Presto sans cover isn't it ?

Joel Hooks said:

Well, they think they invented it...

https://patents.google.com/patent/US6107553A/

But they have a record of filing patents on other people's inventions (and even previously expired patents and common designs) so you could be right.



nick stephens said:

I dont think Deering actually designed that tailpiece, it looks like another design they have "borrowed" fairly par for the course I believe with Deering.

Joel Hooks said:

In the 1920s gut and silk were were still the way better regular banjos were strung.  A. D. Grover would have considered this when designing a tailpiece.

The Deerings would have not.

I had heard that Fred Bacon had something similar although, I am not familiar with the design, sadly as I learn and continue to try playing in this style I find myself obsessing about details like bridges and tailpieces more and more, I tend not to tinker too much prefering to just play but, time hangs heavy here due to this darn virus ! The Deerings have I think taken some liberties with patents etc however, I am more disgusted with Goldtones copy of the Fielding tailpiece !

Joel Hooks said:

I just glanced at the patent but it looks like they are claiming inventing welding the corners for strength and the way it attaches to the rim.  The rim attachment is similar to something Fred Bacon used on one of his tailpieces.  Also similar to what Fred Van Eps used, and I am sure some others.  

But I guess FB and FVE did not know the Deerings invented it after they did.

nick stephens said:

I reckon it is essentially a Presto sans cover isn't it ?

Joel Hooks said:

Well, they think they invented it...

https://patents.google.com/patent/US6107553A/

But they have a record of filing patents on other people's inventions (and even previously expired patents and common designs) so you could be right.



nick stephens said:

I dont think Deering actually designed that tailpiece, it looks like another design they have "borrowed" fairly par for the course I believe with Deering.

Joel Hooks said:

In the 1920s gut and silk were were still the way better regular banjos were strung.  A. D. Grover would have considered this when designing a tailpiece.

The Deerings would have not.

Besides the neck being a little heavy, I like the banjo just fine. I honestly could care less when it was made. Or, the name on on it. I really only care about craftsmanship, how it plays, and if I can get a sound that I like out of it. At some point down the road I may end up purchasing a vintage banjo (I have had my eye out) but right now this banjo works just fine for me.


nick stephens said:

I have owned a couple of Deering banjos and played many more belonging to others so, I have had the opportunity to examine many of those tailpieces. From my own observations they are very well made and I have never seen one with sharp edges that needed attention before fitting nylon strings which is not always the case with other makers but, the fun is in experimenting, I highly recomend the Hawktail as well. I have yet to try a floating wooden tailpiece as often seen on classic banjos however since I like downward pressure for a number of reasons on my bridge (sharper tone, less chance of the bridge slipping around and, easy adjustability ) I tend to leave those type of tailpieces to the "historically accurate " guys. FWIW my own advice would be leave that banjo as is and enjoy it, again the "historically accurate" crowd will tell you it is not a real Vega, they are wrong ! CF Martin never went anywhere near Lester Flatts guitar, Orville Gibson never was involved with Earls banjo the consensus however is that those are both "real".  I guess what I am saying MM is that you have a very fine banjo, well set up and ready to play, play it !

I've experimented with various tailpieces over the years and for some of my banjos I've manufactured and fitted a Weaver type floating tailpieces. It's not easy to see but the banjo that I'm playing in my picture is a Windsor Popular number one and I've fitted such a tailpiece which I made from maple. I know that sound and tone is very subjective but to my ears it works well and makes the attachment of nylon strings a little easier. It might be worth a try...Steve.

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