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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I've not kept track.  I change to full set when they develop flat spots at the frets.   I have mostly been playing my Gariepy/ Van Eps flush fret and I have not changed the strings since I got it.  The 4ths don't wear out, they just get dull and seem to lose tension.  That is when I change them.



Milwaukee Matzen said:

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!

One factor involved in the 'how many fourths' to buy in ratio to  unwound strings depends on if you play a lot of banjo tunes with bass string solos in them, Hunter's 'Alhambra March' can be quite heavy on fourths as can Morley's 'Thumbs Up' and 'The Mountaineer's March'. I find that the windings wear through at the critical frets, publishers like Essex probably encouraged the banjo composers to incorporate bass solos in their compositions to increase the sales of fourth strings. I find that the C.Essex 024 fourths are quite hard wearing, in the past the worst fourths as regards longevity were the copper wound fourths which sounded wonderful but the windings soon disintegrated. 

Your Deering Vega has most likely got somewhat higher frets than a vintage banjo would have so flat spots could develop under the wound string I guess, against this eventuality I would probably buy a spare wound string with every set, making I guess a ratio of 2-1 .  I too would caution against adjusting the truss rod or co rods  if it played well with steel strings it probably just needs a bridge of similar height to the Deering bridge it came with, Labella 17s are not really noticeably thicker than medium steel strings.

Richard William Ineson said:

One factor involved in the 'how many fourths' to buy in ratio to  unwound strings depends on if you play a lot of banjo tunes with bass string solos in them, Hunter's 'Alhambra March' can be quite heavy on fourths as can Morley's 'Thumbs Up' and 'The Mountaineer's March'. I find that the windings wear through at the critical frets, publishers like Essex probably encouraged the banjo composers to incorporate bass solos in their compositions to increase the sales of fourth strings. I find that the C.Essex 024 fourths are quite hard wearing, in the past the worst fourths as regards longevity were the copper wound fourths which sounded wonderful but the windings soon disintegrated. 

The neck had almost no relief in it. So, I just loosened the truss rod it to get a little relief. Now, I have a clearance of about 1/64” on the 7th fret when a string is fretted on the 1st and 22nd frets. This is what Deering recommends. I also now have an action height a hair over 3/16” at the 12th fret. 

Truss rods and coordinator rods are very easily adjusted. If I one doesn’t like the results, it is actually very easy to reverse them.


Jody Stecher said:

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. 

  
A sincere thanks to everyone for all of the input!

I’ve now got my banjo playing and sounding good. I have managed to get an action height just a hair over 3/16”. So, Now it sounds great even when played hard.

I’ll also order an extra wound string with each set to start with.

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