Positioning the bridge on a fretless banjo

The short version: drop it anywhere you like. The long version: drop it anywhere you like, sorta.

The fretboard of a regular size neck is about 19 inches (48 cm) long and the scale, the distance between the nut and the bridge, for a typical bluegrass banjo is usually about 26 3/8" (67 cm). Scale lengths vary from about 25 1/2" to 27" (65 to 71 cm) and the sound/tone varies from bright to a dark growl given those scales. I like the sound of Ode/Ome banjos with the longer 27 inch scale, then again, the shorter scales also do a real fine job.

The beauty of a fretless banjo is that you get to pick your own favourite scale. Fingering is slightly different, the shorter the scale, the closer "fret" spacing becomes - meaning of course, your fingers are closer together. Measuring your scale is simple: use a ruler, or tape measure, and measure the distance from the nut to where you want to be.

Another way, my preference, of is placing the bridge is to go it the sound/tone approach. Most banjos have a sweet spot where they sound the nicest to your ears so pick a few notes, move the bridge to another spot and listen if the notes sound nicer there. Start at about 25 1/2 (65 cm) from the nut and move the bridge about 1/8" (3mm) at the time, it won't take you long at all to find the right sound/tone.

That's really about all there's to it. In case you're wondering about intonation, hmmm, it doesn't really come into play here. Your fingers need to find the right notes and if they're off then they're off so you need to slide your fingers up and down a bit. Whether that's a couple of millimeters up or down, who cares.

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