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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Sorry, it isn’t an Old Tyme Wonder. It is a Little Wonder. I keep screwing that up!

High action with nylon strings is usually not a problem. Especially with the small diameter strings in the LaBella 17 set it should be comfortable.  It looks to me like you've got a Deering Vega rather than a "Vega Vega". If it has coordinator rods rather than a wooden dowel, you've got the Deering. No problem.  Just different. 

Is there a way we can hear a recording of this Phasing Sound?  My best guess, without actually hearing the sound, is either a slack head , or some small item lodged between the head and one of the feet of the bridge, or most likely, from a conflict of overtones due to strings that are not quite in tune.  But I may be imagining a sound that is different from what you are hearing.

Hi Jody,


You are correct. It is a new Deering made Vega Little Wonder.


I’ll see what I can do about a recording tomorrow.

The head is fairly tight and uniform all the way around. I think it came out to about a 91 on a Drum Dial (if that means anything to you).

There isn’t anything under the bridge. And, it is in tune and intonated. I just triple checked with a strobe tuner. It isn’t a beating sound. It is more like an underwater sound (if that makes any sense). Sounds like a phaser so me.

Is your action height around 1/4” at the 12th fret?

On some of my banjos it's 1/4 inch(including one with pretty hefty metal strings), on others it's less. None are more. I've never measured it before. About the sound: instead of ooo does it go ooo yooo yooo.  A string that is not a cylinder, that is seriously out of round could maybe do that. Maybe the winding on the bass strings is false?  I'm guessing.

Milwaukee Matzen said:

Is your action height around 1/4” at the 12th fret?

1/4” action with metal strings! Wow! I must really be used to low actions! I have always thought, that when fretted, that much space would pull a string out of tune.


It’s too late for me to play it right now, but I do believe that it is along the lines of the “ooo yoo yoo” sound. Every string is making the same phasing sound. So, I am thinking that it is something else. If I am feeling alright again tomorrow, l’ll make a recording.



Jody Stecher said:

On some of my banjos it's 1/4 inch(including one with pretty hefty metal strings), on others it's less. None are more. I've never measured it before. About the sound: instead of ooo does it go ooo yooo yooo.  A string that is not a cylinder, that is seriously out of round could maybe do that. Maybe the winding on the bass strings is false?  I'm guessing.

Milwaukee Matzen said:

Is your action height around 1/4” at the 12th fret?

Try muting the strings between the bridge and tailpiece and see if that reduces or eliminates the undesirable effect. You can  weave some yarn or rawhide or a shoelace between the strings.  Anything to keep that part of the strings from vibrating.

Milwaukee Matzen said:

1/4” action with metal strings! Wow! I must really be used to low actions! I have always thought, that when fretted, that much space would pull a string out of tune.


It’s too late for me to play it right now, but I do believe that it is along the lines of the “ooo yoo yoo” sound. Every string is making the same phasing sound. So, I am thinking that it is something else. If I am feeling alright again tomorrow, l’ll make a recording.



Jody Stecher said:

On some of my banjos it's 1/4 inch(including one with pretty hefty metal strings), on others it's less. None are more. I've never measured it before. About the sound: instead of ooo does it go ooo yooo yooo.  A string that is not a cylinder, that is seriously out of round could maybe do that. Maybe the winding on the bass strings is false?  I'm guessing.

Milwaukee Matzen said:

Is your action height around 1/4” at the 12th fret?

That’s a good idea. That didn’t even cross my mind. I give it a go tomorrow. Thanks!

Jody Stecher said:

Try muting the strings between the bridge and tailpiece and see if that reduces or eliminates the undesirable effect. You can  weave some yarn or rawhide or a shoelace between the strings.  Anything to keep that part of the strings from vibrating.





All banjos built after WW2 use the plectrum/tenor banjo setup so back angle to the neck.  You will find that using a 5/8” bridge with nylon strings will cause buzzing, that zither sound you are hearing, and all sorts of fret rattles.

Nylon need more room to move when struck.  3/16” to 1/4” on a flat set neck is what it takes to clear the frets.  The back angle of modern banjos adds challenges.

In an ideal world, you could have the neck reset (and expect all kinds of protest about it due to ignorance).  You might be able to loosen the neck and shim it since it uses bolts and rods.  You would shim from the bottom to reduce the neck angle as close as you can to zero.

Jody is correct, it is “Vega in name only” and 100% Deering.  As far as I have been able to tell, they were never a direct successor to Vega, but rather filed a new trademark for the name after it was abandoned by Galaxy Trading.


Hey Nick,

You could very well be right. I still can’t smell or taste anything. And, I spent most of the day in bed. 


nick stephens said:


Hey MM, I am not trying to be facetious at all but, you told us that you had been unwell with C19 lately, is it possible that you are still a bit blocked up like a head cold and are not hearing clearly ? I have always been a sufferer of stuffy head colds and sometimes everything I hear is strangled or "phasey" I tend to leave the banjo alone till it clears on those occasions .




I realized that the necks on modern banjos are set back at an angle. I have had no issues with string buzzing or rattles with the 5/8” bridge and a flat neck while using the nylon strings.

After reading that many players of this style play with an action of 1/4”, I decided to put a little relief in the neck. I am currently only at about 1/8”. So, I ordered that higher bridge from you. Maybe it will make a difference?

I didn’t get the same phasing sound when playing the other two Deering banjos that I just had in my possession. I set them up with the same bridge, strings, and action. So, I was thinking that any those three things would most likely not be the cause of my phasing issue.

I agree with you that Deering just owns the Vega name. I see now that I didn’t say it was a Deering made Vega in my original post. I apologize for any confusion. It is a newer banjo.

I don’t really want to mess with the neck too much as I will either sell this banjo at some point when I purchase a classic banjo. Or, I’ll keep it for playing other styles of music on.

I’ve not been feeling that good today. So, I haven’t yet gotten around to recording the banjo or trying to eliminate the sympathetic vibrations between the bridge and tailpiece yet. 

Would a Presto or Fielding style tailpiece help eliminate unwanted noise behind the bridge? At least more than the pretend Deering No-Knot that I have on there now?


Joel Hooks said:

All banjos built after WW2 use the plectrum/tenor banjo setup so back angle to the neck.  You will find that using a 5/8” bridge with nylon strings will cause buzzing, that zither sound you are hearing, and all sorts of fret rattles.

Nylon need more room to move when struck.  3/16” to 1/4” on a flat set neck is what it takes to clear the frets.  The back angle of modern banjos adds challenges.

In an ideal world, you could have the neck reset (and expect all kinds of protest about it due to ignorance).  You might be able to loosen the neck and shim it since it uses bolts and rods.  You would shim from the bottom to reduce the neck angle as close as you can to zero.

Jody is correct, it is “Vega in name only” and 100% Deering.  As far as I have been able to tell, they were never a direct successor to Vega, but rather filed a new trademark for the name after it was abandoned by Galaxy Trading.


looking at the distance between the bridge and tailpiece which is similar to the "runway" on the deck of an aircraft carrier I would be surprised if you didn't get some hideous overtones happening, there is zero down pressure on those fake no knots ! I bought a new Deering Vega LW some years ago and, it had the Deering/presto type of tailpiece which was actually rather nicely made, how about trying a better tailpiece on there ? get a bit of length and downward pressure happening. Eliminate that Aeolian harp at the end of your banjo, I bet a Kershner type would be good ! otherwise a fine banjo that !
Milwaukee Matzen said:

I realized that the necks on modern banjos are set back at an angle. I have had no issues with string buzzing or rattles with the 5/8” bridge and a flat neck while using the nylon strings.

After reading that many players of this style play with an action of 1/4”, I decided to put a little relief in the neck. I am currently only at about 1/8”. So, I ordered that higher bridge from you. Maybe it will make a difference?

I didn’t get the same phasing sound when playing the other two Deering banjos that I just had in my possession. I set them up with the same bridge, strings, and action. So, I was thinking that any those three things would most likely not be the cause of my phasing issue.

I agree with you that Deering just owns the Vega name. I see now that I didn’t say it was a Deering made Vega in my original post. I apologize for any confusion. It is a newer banjo.

I don’t really want to mess with the neck too much as I will either sell this banjo at some point when I purchase a classic banjo. Or, I’ll keep it for playing other styles of music on.

I’ve not been feeling that good today. So, I haven’t yet gotten around to recording the banjo or trying to eliminate the sympathetic vibrations between the bridge and tailpiece yet. 

Would a Presto or Fielding style tailpiece help eliminate unwanted noise behind the bridge? At least more than the pretend Deering No-Knot that I have on there now?


Joel Hooks said:

All banjos built after WW2 use the plectrum/tenor banjo setup so back angle to the neck.  You will find that using a 5/8” bridge with nylon strings will cause buzzing, that zither sound you are hearing, and all sorts of fret rattles.

Nylon need more room to move when struck.  3/16” to 1/4” on a flat set neck is what it takes to clear the frets.  The back angle of modern banjos adds challenges.

In an ideal world, you could have the neck reset (and expect all kinds of protest about it due to ignorance).  You might be able to loosen the neck and shim it since it uses bolts and rods.  You would shim from the bottom to reduce the neck angle as close as you can to zero.

Jody is correct, it is “Vega in name only” and 100% Deering.  As far as I have been able to tell, they were never a direct successor to Vega, but rather filed a new trademark for the name after it was abandoned by Galaxy Trading.

MM, the Will Fielding bridge, if you can find one, is fantastic for both nylon and metal strings. It improves the tone of all banjos I have tested it on. Presto can be good too. But to stop the vibration of the strings between bridge and any tailpiece all you need to do is weave a bit of ribbon between the strings. If the "phase" anomaly persists you can eliminate bizarre overtones from this portion of the strings as a cause. Much cheaper than a new tailpiece. That said, a new tailpiece might well make improvements.

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