Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Bridges

I was skeptical when I would read how different bridges would make a difference in tone,volume and making it easier to play a banjo so I had to see for my self if this was the case, I decided to purchase several different bridges
Decided to test on my 11 inch Rickard Maple Whyte Laydie Open Back Banjo which I installed a John Balch Natural skin Head on (which so far I love everything about so far)
I purchased three Bart Veerman Bridges, four Sampson Bridges, a Neckville Enterprise bridge, and a Stockwell Moon Bridge 11/16 in Standard Spacing light
Neckville Enterprise Bridge-21/32 in tall Crow Spacing
Bart Veerman - 5/8in Mystery Wood Crowe Spacing
Bart Veerman- 5/8in Teak Crowe Spacing Light
Bart Veerman- 1/2in Mystery Wood Crow Spacing
Sampson- 5/8in Rivet Busting Maple Standard Spacing (Compensates third string)
Sampson- 11/16in Maple Compensated (looks a lot like the Neckville)Standard Spacing)
Sampson-5/8in Rosewood Bluegrass Banjo Crowe Spacing (Compensates third string)
Sampson-5/8in Koa Bluegrass Banjo Crow Spacing (Compensates third string)
the order I have these listed means nothing as to my likes I just wanted to test and see if in fact different bridges can make a difference
they are all vary nice looking bridges and seem to be well made at first glance I will post more as I try them
The one that does intrigue me the most is the Rivet Busting Bridge from the little I did read about it, it is supposed to increase the volume by a bunch we shall see
Thank you for Reading

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Looking forward to your report. If you can get some video of your most and least favorites, all the better!

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@Mark_Rocka Well I doubt seriously you will ever see a video as I do not have the know how to do one or patience for that matter, but I can tell you I like only one of the Sampson bridges so far only one out of the four Sampson’s could I get the strings to stay in the slots the only one I have liked of the four so far is the Sampson Rosewood, he just does not cut the slots in his bridges big enough or deep enough for the 1st string or the fifth string to stay in the slot , which kind of surprises me because as you know they are the two smallest strings.
i am going to have to get a set of tip cleaners and try to make them bigger I guess, The Bart Veermans I like all of his have had no issues with them except for one and it was probably my fault the Neckville I like a lot also, The Moon Bridge I am undecided on it, its kind of difficult to figure out just where to place it on the head for intonation.
I will also say that none of them were actually spaced to what they were supposed to be except the neckville and none of them were actually to the height they were supposed to be and that’s according to the Dotson Banjo Bridge Ruler I have I don’t know what scale they are using but it sure was not off of the Dotson Ruler.

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My favorite is the Deering Smile bridge- might be worth a try for you too. I use Crowe spacing.

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Was able to correct the issues with the three Sampson bridges used welding tip cleaners to fix the issues on all did not take much, after fixing the bridge slots I can tell you my favorite well i have two favorites, the Sampson rivet buster and the Sampson Rosewood Bluegrass they both have a vary sweet sound although i do not know why Sampson calls the one a Rivet Buster it did increase the volume some, but had no affect on the tone which I am vary glad of, the Rickard open back with the skin head already had a sweet old-time tone.
The Veerman Teak bridge was probably my least favorite of all of them because it seemed to kill the volume big time also changed the tone completely which I did not like at all.
The Sampson Rosewood Bluegrass Bridge had a really sweet tone to it and never changed the volume at all, and it looked really nice with the Skin Head. I am leaning real hard at putting the Rosewood Sampson on and leaving it on, it also seemed to be the easiest one to get the intonation correct.
All the bridges actually changed things as far as sound but only one affected volume,the Sampson Rivet Buster.
The Veerman Teak would be a good one if you wanted to loose a lot of volume

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@Don_Smith, wow what a cool test! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these…that’s quite a long list of bridges. This is something that sounds like a wonderful little experiment. Looks like you noted the Sampson Rivet Buster is a compensated bridge, which you also noted produced an increase in volume. Cool!

I’ve only tried swapping one bridge out ever, and it was on a used 2005 Deering Sierra with the original bridge that I bought from a friend-of-a-friend earlier this year. I put a 5/8 Deering Smile bridge on it from the General Store based on some online reviews and it did indeed make a big difference in that instance. It was indeed louder and more even in volume across all the strings, presumably due to the more evenly distributed contact across the head to compensate across the middle.

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@xmark I am not one to just take the word of what someone tells me I am the type I have to find out for myself, I will note that I have one bridge I forgot to even test it is another Sampson bridge which is a Koa 5/8 Bluegrass bridge with crowe spacing also with a compensated third string,
All of the Sampson Bridges are compensated in some way or another most have a third string compensation, the one that was the most dramatic compensation was the Sampson what he actually calls a compensated bridge, (which looked a lot like the Neckville Bridge), almost all of the other Sampson’s he does not list as compensated, but they are because of the way he makes them the third sting on the Sampson’s actually makes it so the third string on the banjo hits the bridge about a 1/16th inch further back after the other stings so to me that is a slight compensation, if my thinking is wrong then someone please correct me as I am pretty much learning as I go, I actually liked all of the bridges I purchased as each one gave the banjo a little something different the one that was the most disappointing to me was the Veerman Teak the change it gave my banjo it was like I had stuck a Mikes Mute on that’s how much volume and tone I lost when I put the teak one on and tried it, it was kind of shocking to me I was not expecting it to affect it that much but it did it literally cut 60% of the volume from the instrument and I do not know why. other then the wood it was made from because it was just like the other Veermans.

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@Don_Smith Wow on the 60% comment…that’s dramatic! I can relate to the Mikes Mute comment since I have one of those. I know wood types can make a big difference on musical instruments of all sorts, so it’s not too surprising to see variations in response across a mixture of woods…but surprising that a wood that dampens the volume that much would be a possible selection. Maybe that was the design intention…interesting!

In the past, I’ve spent a couple hours going through a whole selection of “identical” bridges, made by the same person, from the same piece of wood…and found a variety of tones & volumes on the same banjo…

I’ve compared the same bridge on Four different banjos as well, and it affected each one differently…

Being made of natural wood, the fibers, density , response, etc. are not identical on any two bridges…

Find what you like…

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@Fiddle_wood and @xmark it was a vary interesting test for me just hearing the differences in sound,tone and how much easier some seemed to make in playing as well as how much easier some was to get the intonation rite with the different bridges and different woods they were made of for me it was a confirmation in everything I had read about different bridges, you would not think a little piece of wood would make that much difference but it does in fact, some differences are good and others not so much

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well I have to give another bridge review i posted this same thing up on a different site when I did the bridge comparisons and my comments about Bart Veermans teak bridge caught his attention it was not my intention to receive anything for free but Mr Veerman messaged me and next thing I know he says he is going to send me a different bridge to try because my review of his Teak bridge concerned him, just stated my findings as to what I experienced, well he not only sent me one bridge he sent two which totally shocked me he seems to be a vary nice person, the two bridges he sent me one he calls the Dark Star and the other he calls an Archie Bridge, upon opening the package and taking my first glance of the two bridges I was thinking it was going to be similar but boy was I surprised at first glance both these bridges are really thin compared to all others but the Dark Star for such a thin Bridge is quite heavy, it is a beautiful black bridge he does not state what the wood is, I proceeded to set it up on My Rickard per Mr Veermans instructions which I followed after bringing up to tune and getting the Intonation set i sat the banjo back in its case to let the Dark Star settle in for a couple of days per Mr Veermans instructions I have to say it was probably the hardest bridge out of all I tried just to get the strings tensioned because of how thin the dark star is you have to start with the third string and then do either the first or the fifth because it wants to swing if you do not, now for the great stuff this little thin bridge is probably the best sounding out of all I tried nice even clear notes up and down the neck and volume to spare the strings with the Dark Star respond with the lightest of touch Intonation is spot on it is just a great bridge in every aspect I have been loving The Dark Star so much I have not even tried the Archie at all the Dark Star is staying rite where it is.

Mr Veerman is a really good person to deal with and is a fantastic bridge builder

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Just curious does Crowe spacing make pull-offs any easier as far as catching other strings when you let the string performing the pull-off go.

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I’ve played a couple Crowe spaced bridges, and it affects your picking hand more. The nut width makes more left hand difference

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@Lone_Wolf I would say yes it does a little what was on the Rickard was a Crowe spaced bridge when I purchased it but one or two of the bridges I tested were standard space and I did not care for the standard spaced bridges they seemed to make things a little harder to play for me so I went back to the Crowe spacing which is just a little wider than standard spacing

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It makes pull offs slightly roomier if you have larger hands, yes, as it changes the neck spacing slightly. A wider nut like those used on many modern banjos and sometimes a radiused fingerboard will also make pulloffs easier.

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Thanks @Luke_L, @Dragonslayer, and @Don_Smith. I might have to experiment with this in the future.

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@Lone_Wolf you are vary welcome where are you located if you do not mind me asking

The reason I ask I have a good supply of bridges with crowe spacing if you are located somewhere that shipping will not cost me five toes and a leg to ship to you I would send you one or two so you can try the crowe spacing
I was going to order a couple of bridges from a builder in Europe which were not that expensive but by the time shipping was added it would have cost me over a $100 including the cost of the bridges so I did not get them

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Thank you @Don_Smith I sent you a PM.

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I will look at your message when I get back home

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@Lone_Wolf I replied to you PM

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