im very new to banjos and am looking to build my first tambourine body banjo and have some questions that im struggling to find answers to online.
i have built two CBGs so far and have had a blast so i am very keen to start my banjo project but my issues are:
i wanted to do a 5 stringer but after looking everywhere it seems they are the tricky ones to A) build and B) play so was interested to hear your thoughts on that. im sure i could play a four string alot better.
where can i find a fret calc for a banjo and does the nut to bridge mesurement have to be specific lengths for a banjo. (for my two cbg builds i just copied the measurements and fret positions from a guitar i had at home. so my resolution thoughts for this issue could be solved if i just borrowed a friends banjo i suppose)
also some calc mesurements ive seen for other things are in inches which is braille to me so any info in cm/mm's would be awesome.
thanks guys, any help or info would be greatly appreciated.
The first questions are really something you have to answer.
Yes, the fifth string adds challenges for building. A five string neck would indeed require some skills beyond the basic CBG, and only you can guage your ability, talent and tool inventory. Its not extremely advanced, but its beyond the basic CBG skill in my opinion. Study one, measure it, make a plan, you be the judge of what you can do. You can buy banjo necks, but I have found them to be on the pricey side. I'll also warn you ahead of time, things like decent banjo tuners can cause some sticker shock as compared to the stuff we can get for building CBG's. Some have been creative and used economical guitar style tuners, but a decent compact fifth string tuner price alone may give you pause.
Playing wise my answer is going to be similar. I am currently trying to overcome the "intermediate guitarist teaches himself banjo blues" myself, and can assure you that fifth string messes with my head. My brain tells my fingers to reach for the note on the wrong side of the neck on a fairly regular basis. I am still convinced however that with enough time and determination I will get better. I have considered trying some hybrid, a tenor or something, but have found most any variant has its own set of idiosynchracies. And I am determined to learn some basic five string. I have made some small progress here in the last month or so, partly due to some good videos and books. But I can tell you that thinking clawhammer/frailing is a much easier approach than learning those alternating Sgruggs rolls is a misleading theory. It takes practice. Lots of it.
However, if the combination of building/learning to play a five string is intimidating you, you might consider that you can get somewhat close to SOUNDING like a banjo and avoid the pitfalls by building a hybrid. Something with a banjo style pot and a neck you are familiar with navigating, along the lines of a banjitar may be of interest to you.
As to the second set of questions, Many fret calculators do metric measurements, and most builders (myself included) prefer to use mm's for the more convenient resolution.
The fret calculation for ANY stringed instrument is based on the scale length, and doesnt change for the type of instrument.
Common five string scale lengths are 26.25" and 27". There are some long necked versions (with the fifth string "nut" relocated) that are 32.25" and there are tenors at 22.25" And I recently learned that while "standard" tenor tuning is functionally similar to a five string, there are alternatives that you might find easier to learn on as they are more like mandolin or guitar tuings. There are many alternative tunings for the standard banjo as well, depending on the style of music for instance. I am currently learning an old time banjo song in whats known as "double-c" tuning. And that doesnt even get into pitch transposition, capoing etc.
Another thing to consider, many banjo playing styles rarely involve playing up the neck, so for some, fretting accuracy and intonation beyond the 7th fret or so isnt real critical.
Heres some more information to get you started.
Wiki article on banjos and banjo history.
Play nice and have fun.
Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a detailed response Mark.
Gunna go for the 5 string coz i like the sound of a challenge and my friend has a 5 string i can borrow scale and ideas from so cant wait to begin.
Glad to help, share whatever I can any time Kyle.
Once you build or aquire a 5 string, perhaps my recent post on resources for learning to play the darn thing would be helpful!
Check it out here.