Try It Out

Unless you can name all the parts of a standard banjo, now is the time to check out Anatomy of a Banjo:  (I’ll be using these terms pretty often.)  I’ll wait while you educate yourself.

If you already play the 5-string banjo (or any fretted instrument), you may be curious to try a capo-ble banjo.  First the bad news: nobody that I know of makes them.  The good news: you can get around that.  There are several ways; I’ll start with the easiest and progress to the hardest.

The easiest way is if you have a guitar (6-string) banjo.  Just remove the 6th string, and replace the 1st-5th  with 11, 13, 17, 28W, and 9 gauge strings.   For 24” length strings you will need to tune to F rather than G: C, A, F, C, F.  (If you try to tune higher, you’ll break a string.) (If you play the C tuning, you’ll need to tune the 4th string to Bb)

Next way is on a standard 5-string banjo.  Replace the 1-4 strings with 11, 13, 17, and 28W gauge strings.  Capo at the same fret as the 5th string, and tune to the key of C: G, E, C, G, C.

Next, you can get your local luthier to make a neck to fit your pot.  The fretboard must accommodate a 22” string length for the regular G (or C) tuning.

Finally, you can build your own capo-ble banjo, which is what I did.  It’s easier than building a standard 5-string, but only a little easier.  I was proud to have completed it, but not proud of its appearance.  Someone called it “the ugliest banjo he ever saw.” But he liked playing it.

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