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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Attaboy MM ! you have a great banjo, I know I have owned one ! Deering get a bad press from the banjo community for a variety of reasons, the only one I kind of agree with is the high prices they charge ! Not a problem here, you already have one, absolutely great banjo for what you are doing with it in my opinion.

Milwaukee Matzen said:

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. 

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.

Not that it really matters, but the Deering tailpiece in that patent is different than the one that I have. The tailpiece in that patent (pictured below) is the one that Deering uses on their Goodtime banjos.

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.

I am not aware of any bad press. I do think that they could do better with the plating on their hardware. I don’t know if it is the preparation. Or, if it is the plating process itself. In some areas it just looks a little sloppy to me. As far as price goes, I honestly think that many contemporary banjos are overpriced. The thing that I am not too keen on, is the owners being Scientologists. Other than that, I think that they build a solid banjo.

nick stephens said:

Attaboy MM ! you have a great banjo, I know I have owned one ! Deering get a bad press from the banjo community for a variety of reasons, the only one I kind of agree with is the high prices they charge ! Not a problem here, you already have one, absolutely great banjo for what you are doing with it in my opinion.

You have just described the exact reason for the most part why many folk have a downer on Deering, check out the BHO and there are lots of threads on just this subject ! Re plating, it is not something I have ever been aware of, good banjos though just the same, I for one would be keen to hear your Little Wonder with a Hooks bridge and Labella 17s, my bet is that it is a fine sounding banjo !

Milwaukee Matzen said:

I am not aware of any bad press. I do think that they could do better with the plating on their hardware. I don’t know if it is the preparation. Or, if it is the plating process itself. In some areas it just looks a little sloppy to me. As far as price goes, I honestly think that many contemporary banjos are overpriced. The thing that I am not too keen on, is the owners being Scientologists. Other than that, I think that they build a solid banjo.

nick stephens said:

Attaboy MM ! you have a great banjo, I know I have owned one ! Deering get a bad press from the banjo community for a variety of reasons, the only one I kind of agree with is the high prices they charge ! Not a problem here, you already have one, absolutely great banjo for what you are doing with it in my opinion.

People believe in all sorts of superstition.  What sort of magical/supernatural/alien control nonsense they subscribe to means nothing to me.

I have no doubt that your banjo is a fine instrument. The Deerings make a good product. 



Milwaukee Matzen said:

I am not aware of any bad press. I do think that they could do better with the plating on their hardware. I don’t know if it is the preparation. Or, if it is the plating process itself. In some areas it just looks a little sloppy to me. As far as price goes, I honestly think that many contemporary banjos are overpriced. The thing that I am not too keen on, is the owners being Scientologists. Other than that, I think that they build a solid banjo.

nick stephens said:

Attaboy MM ! you have a great banjo, I know I have owned one ! Deering get a bad press from the banjo community for a variety of reasons, the only one I kind of agree with is the high prices they charge ! Not a problem here, you already have one, absolutely great banjo for what you are doing with it in my opinion.

The plating on the Little wonder isn’t bad at all. The plating on the Deering Goodtime Americana Artisan (long enough name?!) that I just had was a different story. It had its fair share of sloppy plating. That being said, is was still a nice banjo. 

nick stephens said:

Re plating, it is not something I have ever been aware of, good banjos though just the same, I for one would be keen to hear your Little Wonder with a Hooks bridge and Labella 17s, my bet is that it is a fine sounding banjo !

As long as it does not affect others, I could care less what people believe in or do.

Joel Hooks said:

People believe in all sorts of superstition.  What sort of magical/supernatural/alien control nonsense they subscribe to means nothing to me.

I have no doubt that your banjo is a fine instrument. The Deerings make a good product. 



Well, I just received the the tallest banjo bridge that I’ve ever seen today from Joel! I put it on my banjo. And, with a few tweaks of the coordinator rods, I now have a 12th fret string height just a hair above 4mm. Seems to sound and play fine. I don’t think I’ll realistically be able to get anywhere near 1/4” without shimming the neck (which I do not really want to do). I was really curious as to how a 1/4” high action wound feel and sound. In my mind,1/4” still just seems so high! 

Like all things, it depends on the banjo.  1/4" is the high end.  3/16" is low.  Some banjos like high, some low.  I have even slanted the bridge where the bass string is higher than the 1st.

 It is all about being able to play with a strong and confidant right hand without buzzing. 

Many classic era banjos were built with the higher action. 

There are no one size fits all rule.  Every banjo is different and when dealing with a post WW2 wire string banjo it gets complicated. 

I get that there in no one size fits all. I was just hoping that I may be able to get to 1/4” merely to experience it. 

I am going to adjust the truss rod a little more and see if I can’t get closer to 3/16” though.

I am not having any issues with buzzing. But, I am not playing with much gusto. Plus, I only know a couple of chords at the moment. And, haven’t been really playing up the neck. So, my attack is likely to change as I go along. I am still very new to this.

I was a little afraid that such a tall bridge would have a negative impact on the sound. But, to be honest, I don’t hear much of a difference.

My picking hand also really likes the higher bridge. I don’t know if it is just because I am not used to anchoring my picking hand, but I find the higher bridge to be much more comfortable.

Thanks for making these great bridges available!

Joel Hooks said:

Like all things, it depends on the banjo.  1/4" is the high end.  3/16" is low.  Some banjos like high, some low.  I have even slanted the bridge where the bass string is higher than the 1st.

 It is all about being able to play with a strong and confidant right hand without buzzing. 

Many classic era banjos were built with the higher action. 

There are no one size fits all rule.  Every banjo is different and when dealing with a post WW2 wire string banjo it gets complicated. 

Hey Joel,

I forgot to ask... On average, how many wound strings do you go through before swapping out the nylon strings? I am going to be placing an order for strings soon. I am trying to figure out how many extra wound strings I should be purchasing.

Thanks!

Stern adamant advice: If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It.  Messing with the truss rod when there is no problem is not a good idea. Same for the coordinator rods. 

Milwaukee Matzen said:

I get that there in no one size fits all. I was just hoping that I may be able to get to 1/4” merely to experience it. 

I am going to adjust the truss rod a little more and see if I can’t get closer to 3/16” though.

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