Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Melodic Scales

Found an article on Deering’s website about melodic scales for the banjo. So, I made a TEF file from it, and tried playing some.

They sounded… weird.

So, I pulled out my tuning app that tells me what the actual notes played are, and found that the fingered notes were all either high or low of the intended note. I checked the open strings tuning, and it was perfect - dead center on the tuning app scale. Checked with a Snark tuner, and also dead on.

What would cause the fretted notes to be so far off? Is it my playing? I tried varying where in the fretted I pressed down. Tried different pressures. The notes continued to be off.

Any ideas?


I would say the first thing to do is check your bridge placement; probably most of intonation problems are caused by a misplaced bridge, especially if it’s all across the fingerboard that it’s happening. Play the harmonic at the 12th fret and then play the fretted note at the 12th fret; on a perfectly intonated banjo, they should be the exact same pitch (It’s highly unlikely they will ever be the EXACT same pitch, but you know what I mean). If the fretted note is sharper than the harmonic, move the bridge back towards the tailpiece; if the fretted note is flatter than the harmonic, move the bridge toward the fingerboard. Check out this lesson on proper bridge placement:


OH! That’s what he meant by checking the harmonic. I didn’t understand that part before. I’ll check it now and futz with the bridge.


Okay, I guess I’m still confused. What’s the difference between the harmonic and the fretted note? Fretted note, I get. What’s the harmonic?


A harmonic is a note produced when you hold your finger lightly on the string, then play the note. You can see an example of harmonics in this arrangement:


I think I got it. Watched a couple videos, including the one you posted. It makes more sense now. It appeared that all the fretted notes were a tad sharp. I moved the bridge towards the tailpiece, checked open string tuning, and tried again. Sounds much better. Maybe not perfect, but I’m chalking that up to my ear not being “pro” yet. Remeasured from nut to middle of the 12th and middle of 12th to the bridge, and the bridge is 4 mm further than the first measurement.


Glad that helped, Mike!