Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

3rd string tuning question

I have a question about tuning. I use a tuner to tune my banjo. When I play the 3rd string it is in tune, but when I fret the 2nd fret it is noticeably sharp. The tuner verifies it is sharp. I’ve check the measurement from nut to 12th fret and 12th fret to the bridge and they are the same. What else can I do to try to correct this. It seems that the 3rd string is the only one that has this issue.

Using a very high quality tuner, (I believe it’s called a strobe tuner), and adjusting the bridge may help. That G string can be a bear.

If I’m thinking right, that might mean that your nut is slotted improperly. There should be a sharp drop off in the slot where the nut meets the fret board, but if whoever created those slots didn’t have a proper angle on the file, the bottom of the string may be resting behind the leading edge of the nut, which would create more overall distance to the bridge on that one string.

See if you can either peek under that string or lift it out and get a look at that slot.

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Good point Mark…Jake’s got a video out there somewhere on this.

Thanks. I’ll check it out.

Here’s the video I was thinking about, though not sure it addresses the issue.

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Anytime we fret a string it’s going to be a bit sharp, but you’re saying that your 3rd string fretted at 2nd fret is more sharp (cents wise) than the other strings at 2nd fret?

Yes. When I tune G to 0 cents the second fret can be sharp up to 13 cents. The other strings are not as noticeable.

I put on new strings, check the seating at the nut and bridge. Sanded the notch a wee bit at the nut and those things seemed to have helped. It is still a little sharp, but no different than the rest of the strings. Thanks all for the responses.


Great! Yes, it will necessarily be a bit sharp because you are bending the string ever so slightly.

Interesting thought… if I understood @BanjoBen properly.

In essence, I guess it is fact that the very act of taking any in-tune stringed instrument that is tuned in open position means… pressing the string to “fret” it will bend it ever so slightly out of tune, is that right?

This is eye-opening to me. The distance pressed to fret the string will have a tendency to de-tune it to the sharp side?

I am curious to know… When you walk up tuning… Meaning… You tune from a low string by fretting to tune the next… And then fret the next to turn the 3rd string, and so forth… up through all the strings… the highest string will sometimes feel like it is tuned to the sharper side from where the first string started.

Is that the “stacking up” of this sharpening - each string to the next?

I imagine all you experienced players rolling eyes at the question… But it boggles my mind… I guess just because I have never put it in this context or really thought this through at this level before.

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A proper scale length and good set up will eliminate the compounding sharpness. If it’s set up right any fret will raise it near the same amount of sharpness.

Umm, isn’t the slight bending of the string compensated for by the location of the frets? My banjo is not sharp when fretted, and I think that should be normal?

It’s not sharp at all, not one cent? Do you have a tuner that shows cents?

I have a snark tuner mounted on the pot. I actually just checked, I was wrong, there’s quite a variance from fret to fret, some sharp, some flat, some perfect. But none noticeable

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