Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Can you have too many railroad spikes?

Right now I have a railroad spike at 7, 9, and 10. There’s a couple songs I like in B flat, and I’m longing for a railroad spike at 8. Any downsides to this?

I’ve been spiking the fifth string at 7 and then tuning half a step up. Should I just keep doing this and call it good?

The dog couldn’t tell me, so I’m asking you guys.


I used to not want too many railroad spikes because I thought it looked kinda funny especially if I ever was to sell it. But I decided I’d way rather have the convenience then the looks. Every key that I need to play in a lot I have a spike for. For example I used to just have A, Bb, and B. But as we started doing songs in C and Ab I had to get those as well and don’t regret it one bit.


One of my son’s banjos has a long sliding 5th string capo, the other has A LOT of railroad spikes. Reason being he used to pick with several different people & they’d be singing songs in almost all keys, & it just made it easier for a quick switch so nobody had to wait for the banjo guy tuning & retuning. He’s had a couple questionable eyebrows raised at him, and even a few comments like “why not just learn to play in different keys without the capo…”
But it worked out well with all those options, especially on the fly - “oh I sing this in Ab” or “C”
(in church/playing for people.) He never regretted it either.


That’s a good point! I would rather get weird looks for too many spikes than be the person everyone is waiting on to tune!


I have a spikes at 7, 8, 9, and 10. They don’t get in the way, especially when installed by a good luthier. I don’t have one at 6 because I’ve never had to play in Ab at a jam. If I wanna play in Ab at home, I like to tap tune the head tension to A and tune all the strings up a half step :nerd_face:


There have been four spikes in all the banjos I’ve owned. The first banjo I owned (used) had a slide capo screwed to the neck. Snuffy Smith took that off and installed the spikes. I would rather have them and not need them.


I simply have a 5th string capo :joy: You can capo anywhere with it. Spikes definitely seem a bit more convenient though.

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I have spikes on frets 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12, and I do use all of them.
The only downside is that if you often fret the fifth string you can hurt yourself on the spike (rare) or actually sometimes the string frets out on the spike, giving you microtones


I like them on 7-10. There’s nothing wrong with tuning up like you are until you have to fret the 5th string and it’s off a half step.


Has anyone ever had the situation where one of the spikes suddenly stops working - the fifth string won’t stay under the spike? Happened right after a string broke - maybe a tiny piece of string stayed under the spike?

I haven’t had that happen. Maybe it broke the little hook off? I’d check it out with a magnifying glass.

It’s probably pulled out a bit or the end bit up a bit. You can fix it getting a gap gauge and gently tapping it back down.

No, I think it’s impossible!

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