Banjo Bridges - how to tweak them

Tweaking a banjo bridge

To fine tune the location of your bridge you should be able to play a distinct and clear sounding chime, or harmonic, on the first string at the twelfth fret. Can't hear it? Play the chime while moving a little up or down from the 12th fret until you do. As soon as you can hear the chimed note clearly you've discovered the right location for your bridge. The chime should be fairly close to the twelfth fret, three or four millimeters up or down tops. If it's a lot more than that, repeat the exercise because you've goofed up somewhere. Position the bridge at a ninety degree angle to the third string, make sure you re-tune your banjo and repeat the match tuning procedure in the previous paragraph. If you have a hard time hearing the chimed notes you might be due for a set of new strings because as they get older, clear sounding chimes are one of the things strings start to loose out on. Anyway, with luck you're all done but don't be surprised if still more fine tuning is needed.

Further tweaking

Here's where the real fun starts. You're going to check if the pitch of the fretted note at the 12th fret matches the pitch of the chimed note for each of the strings. I recommend using an electronic tuner while doing this to get the best possible results in this experiment. Starting with the first string, play the fretted note on the twelfth fret and the chimed note at the same fret and compare the sounds - if they are the same pitch for all strings, pat yourself on the back: you're all done, your bridge is in the proper location, you've done well and be proud, you've got yourself one heck of a fine instrument! If any of the pitches are still not equal, you need to "real fine" tune the bridge position. There's one exception: if string one through four check out fine and only the fifth string is off - if you never fret the fifth string in your playing, consider yourself graduated; because if you don't fret it, it simply can't affect the intonation so you won't need to bother unless you're a perfectionist. Oh, while playing the chimed and fretted notes, make sure you deaden the other strings else they might start resonating and confuse your ears or your tuner.

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