Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Sharp at 4th Fret

I tune my banjo (using a tuner) to perfect pitch to the open “G” chord. But when I do a slide on the G-string from the 2nd to the 4th fret, the 4th fret note (B) is really sharp. I’ve noticed other notes on other strings around the 4th and 5th frets are sharp as well. Is this a "worn fret " issue?

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Could be worn frets. I had the first 12 frets on my banjo replaced last year at Swannanoa by Lynn Dudenbostle. It made a big difference. It can also be caused by worn out strings. If the metal loses its tensile strength then the string will stretch lengthwise when fretted and go sharp.


Mike gave some good advice. In addition to his, check to see if the notes continue to get sharp going up to the 12th fret. It could be something as simple as the bridge placement. Too close to the neck or too close to the tailpiece and the tuning will be off.

If memory serves me correctly, too sharp means the bridge needs to move toward the tailpiece.

Also, if your action is too high, it can cause this problem because you’re stretching the string to fret it properly.


@Mark_Rocka is correct. I’d say probably the majority of simple intonation problems come from a misplaced bridge. Check out this setup lesson with Steve Huber:

For the record, I once had a bad intonation problem with my old banjo. The first string was about a semitone flat all the way up the neck. It turned out the problem was because I literally hadn’t changed the strings for about 8 months… it was awful.

By the way, I think most banjos are sharp on the third string most of the time. If sliding from 2-4 on the third string is sharp, try sliding from 2-3 and then bending towards the B note. This is what I do as I think it sounds better and helps remedy some intonation problems.


@Chuck_R, all of the advice above is awesome stuff! After reading the one from @Michael_Mark, it brought to mind a similar observation picked up along the way: Some players tend to tune the open B string (second from the bottom assuming open G tuning) just a tiny bit flat on purpose! Apparently, this string is notoriously sharp when fretted on many notes. I’d be curious to know if that’s a universal observation.


Surprisingly enough, I actually have to tune my 2nd string a little bit sharp to match with the 1st string when played at the third fret. Some compensated bridges sharpen the 2nd string when fretted as well.


@Mark_Rocka at the 12th fret, all strings are in tune. I think I’ll try the less expensive way first and replace my strings, then go from there…

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It might help to try a compensated bridge as well; I think Ben sells them on the store.

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Recommendations on high quality banjo strings?


The GHS PF185s (medium light) are my personal favorites, and I know several people on here like the PF135s (light) too. Huber banjo strings are great as well.

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I like the GHS Americana series…cryogenic treatment for the win!


I wouldn’t worry too much about it, depending on how sharp it is. It’s definitely going to be sharp, for the record, but I’d have to hear it. Here’s mine when I press somewhat stout on the 4th fret:

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@BanjoBen add about 2 more sharp bars to that and that’s where I’m at… I’m going to try a new set of strings first, then go from there.


I love how this community helps each other out. And i’m certain the neighbors approve! :banjo::joy:


I normally play PF135’s. The B string always plays sharp on the 4th fret. I’ve played two sets of Stelling med/heavies. They don’t play as sharp as lighter strings but I like the 135’s.


I know I am staying the obvious but I can add to subtle points that probably are obvious… but in the interest to help in any small way… for @Chuck_R or anyone who reads this…

  1. I have encountered this and have adjusted my bridge as described. IF you do this, you must retune EVERYTHING no matter how small the move adjustment is… and play it a little while before you can evaluate the total affect of the move. It is amazing just how much the strings and bridge all interact together!

  2. This may be because I had a cheaper starter Banjo (Epiphone MB-100) which just died… But… I found that even my “clenching” of the neck for chords could affect the intonation. This may not be the case with more solidly built Banjos but I can tell you… even when I was overtly aware and tried to “fret lightly” my tuning could change slightly.

I found this out because sometimes I would end a song with a G-Lick… but when I let go… I would hear the slightest amount of a wobble or change.

I do think as a beginner, perhaps I clench harder to fret cleanly… but in MY case, I think my Banjo was so sensitive, it would literally change tone with the slightest unintended neck pressure.

Curious to hear others perspective on this 2nd point… as I hope a new Banjo won’t be THAT touchy. :banjo: