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  #1  
Old 10-20-2016, 07:10 AM
JimmyJeff1 JimmyJeff1 is offline
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Default beginner banjo scale length question (playability)

I am starting to explore the banjo a bit, and as an early intermediate guitarist I've found that I find short scale guitars significantly more playable; 24.75 is my preference and I can feel a clear difference between that and my 25 1/2" Taylor GA, not to mention something standard scale. Since my hands are small and my fingers not especially stretched out (and since I'm starting into this middle age), how should this impact my choice of banjo scale length? Or for that matter, if scale length seems to influence playability for me on guitars to this extent, should I even try banjo? I know playability is determined by additional factors and I don't have a good feel for how the narrowness of a banjo neck might positively impact my ability to work with a longer scale, for example.

I realize some of this will be resolved by exploring the instrument, but I have to buy something initially. My default plan at this stage is to get a Deering Goodtime open back, but I thought I would seek some input first.
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Old 10-20-2016, 12:48 PM
cu4life7 cu4life7 is offline
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First off the the Deering Goodtime open back is a fantastic starter banjo. I really enjoyed mine, and it served me wonderfully. I kind of wish I had kept it so I would have a campfire banjo, but either way...

I personally haven't had any issues with banjo play-ability due to scale length. Banjos are far easier to fret than guitars in my experience across the board. That being said, I play an Enoch Tradesman with has a scale length of 25 1/2 where the goodtime was 26 1/4. This was a notable transition to me and I found the shorter Enoch more comfortable to play. But it wasn't so much fretting as it was reach, which sounds like what you are concerned with.

I would personally give the regular goodtime and try for 30 minutes at the store and see how it feels, and if it feels cumbersome or tiresome than investigate other options. The Deering Goodtime Parlor might be an option for you as an alternative, but I haven't played one. I generally err on trusting deering across the board for good sounding entry and intermediate level instruments. Another option for you would be to investigate A-Scale banjos. They are generally in the 24inch range for scale length. There are numerous makers that do A-Scale.

And finally, while learning, you can simply keep a capo on the second fret and add a 5th string spike to capo it up as well. What would likely be the easiest and cheapest option. Happy hunting, and let us know what you decide on. Banjo is amazing.
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Old 11-26-2016, 08:49 PM
Twangcat Twangcat is offline
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I recently started playing banjo as well and had concerns identical to yours because my fingers aren't long and I am firmly in the 24.9" scale camp on guitars. The shorter scale length is simply more comfortable for me. That being said, I started playing banjo on a borrowed Deering Goodtime while doing some consumer research on my way to buying a banjo of my own. I ended up with a Pisgah Woodchuck banjo, which has a 25.24" scale. The shorter scale Pisgah is quite comfortable for me, and the feel of the stretches between frets is pretty similar to my short scale guitars. That being said, I didn't find the longer scale length of the Goodtime to be troubling while I was playing it. Perhaps the thinner neck between the nut and 5th fret of the banjo neck neutralizes some of the hand issues of the longer scale. Just conjecture on my part, but as I mentioned, I didn't feel like the stretches between frets were problematic. I am happy that the Pisgah scale length is closer to my guitars, and I've become accustomed to switching between instruments pretty seamlessly. As well, at least in the Old Time repertoire, a lot of banjo parts are played in the "double D" and "A-modal" tunings, which involve placing a capo at the second fret (banjo tuned to standard Double C or to G-modal) and then either tuning the 5th string up to A or hooking it underneath a model railroad spike (tuning the 5th string back and forth between G and A is easy and hasn't resulted in any string breakage for me using a 0.010 5th string). My point being that with a capo at the second fret, you're playing that much farther up the neck where the fret distances are a little shorter. I think the summary statement here is that in my experience the longer scale of the Goodtime was not a hinderance despite my preference for shorter scale length instruments. Hope that helps...Feel free to contact me off list if you have other questions about any of this.
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Old 11-27-2016, 05:29 AM
JimmyJeff1 JimmyJeff1 is offline
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I really appreciate the input from both of you on this. Very helpful. Thanks. JJ1
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Old 11-28-2016, 05:23 PM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is online now
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Here's some scale length info from my old website:

http://web.archive.org/web/201603282...oDesign.html#1
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