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4 April 2015

How to make a Pete Seeger banjo bridge - Part 2

If you're interested in knowing how I got to where I did today, then you'd probably be best jumping back to Part 1 in my quest to build a Pete Seeger style bridge.

I did a l little more work on the bridge and got it playable. There's a short sound-check below for you to get a feel for how it's all gone.

Let me start with a close-up of the bridge as it looks fitted to my Highwayman Banjo. I've trimmed off the arm tabs that were poking through the bridge and rounded off most edges. I keep listening for a gunshot sound as it collapses under the weight of the strings, but so far it is looking like it is up to the job!


"Pioneering single-foot bridges since 2015"

Here's me cutting the notches for the strings. I put a strip of masking tape on the bridge, drew the marks and cut through with a hacksaw. Pictured is a standard three-legged Grover bridge in comparison.

I remind you of that question I left hanging in my last post... over whether a single-foot bridge would work. I'd said that I need to hear it play before making my mind up. Well, I've heard it play and I've made my mind up... to my ear, it sounds no different to the Grover I started with. I'm marking this up as a success.

I'm going to leave it as it is and from this day forward this version of the Seeger-style bridge can be known as the "King Uke Bridge".

Enough of the close-ups: Here is a full-banjo shot with the King Uke Bridge (yep, I like the sound of that). The full-ebony bridge works well with the Highwayman Banjo design. I like the esthetics a lot.

For anybody still not convinced that this bridge works, I will present the video very shortly, but before I do, I want to call out a fantastic page I came across the other day called "Myths about banjo bridges" by Bart Veerman.

I'm coming to the conclusion that Bart knows his beans. In the article Bart explains how bridge height doesn't affect loudness; that bridges will sound just the same finished; that bridges don't just need to be made out of maple tipped with ebony; and lots of other interesting things. It's well worth a read.

Bart does talk a little bit about two and three-legged bridges suggesting that the head will vibrate more with a two-legged bridge, but I'm not convinced that the difference will be noticeable to mere mortals such as you and me.

I think that historically, the preference was very much for two foot banjo bridges - probably because they are easy to make. The trend over the years has been to move towards three-feet bridges (like the Grover I pictured above), but my suspicion is that this was probably more for strength (allowing thinner bridges to be manufactured without snapping in the middle; less wood = cheaper) rather than for sound. Out of interest, there is also such a thing as a "Bill Morris" five-foot bridge.

I think it's time we went the other way... to single-foot bridges!

Are you with me Brothers? ;-)

Okay... I kill two birds with one stone here: On the one hand you get to hear my Highwayman home-made banjo; and on the other, you get to hear the King Uke Bridge in action. What do you reckon?

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