Is the Standard Banjo Better?

I promised to take up the advantages of the standard banjo over the capo-ble banjo.  They are important, but not for everybody.

The main advantage is that the standard banjo has three more frets.  That’s not my whim; breaking strength rules the length of steel strings.  A string longer than 22 inches will break if you tune it up to 5th string G.  The shorter 5th string on a standard banjo makes the longer 1-4 strings possible.  On a capo-ble banjo all the strings are the same length, constraining the length of the neck.

Those extra frets on a standard banjo mean a lot to the most accomplished banjoists; they venture high up the fingerboard  all the time.  If you, like me, are not one of those stars, you probably don’t care about those missing frets.  The highest I go on the fingerboard is the 14th fret in Janet Davis’s wonderful arrangement of “Chopsticks,” in Famous Banjo Pickin’ Tunes.

Those shorter strings 1-4 and the slightly longer 5th string have to affect the tone of the banjo.  I really don’t know what that affect is, though, because the only capo-ble banjos I’ve ever heard are my homemade ones.  I think the difference would be small, but I can’t make a fair comparison.

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