To Tunnel or not to Tunnel


I’ve been starting to think about buying a new banjo and one of the things I’ve recently run across is a banjo that tunnels the 5th string thru to the top of the neck instead of putting the nut for it on the side of the neck.

Like this guy:

To me that would make a ton of “practical” sense (not getting your left-hand thumb tripped up by the nut when moving up and down the neck)… but from a “traditional” sense it’s very… well, not traditional.

Just curious if anyone has had experience with a tunneled 5th string and has some maybe not so obvious pros/cons.

Appreciate any thoughts.


There’s one guy here who has a little experience with that. You might have heard of him; he’s kind of a big deal around here.


I don’t play Banjo , but I sure enjoyed that video!


Hi Scott
I’ve never tried a banjo with a tunneled 5th string but I have had an opportunity to try-out a Nechville Anthena and they are great banjos.

Can’t recall ever having my thumb get caught up on the 5th string peg or tuner.


Mine does nearly every stinkin’ time I play Cumberland Gap or Banjo in the Holler


Hi Scott, I would encourage you to make a video and post it in the Video Swap area and seek out @BanjoBen 's advise on your hand position. You have obviously acquired a bad habit somewhere in the learning process and it needs fixing fast if your playing is to move forward.


I can see the benefits of the tunneled 5th string, especially for advanced songs. The first problem I can envision is that if you get used to playing on one and then switch to a traditional Banjo, it could really throw you off.

Looking forward to Ben’s input.


MY INPUT HERE: I did play a tunneled banjo for many years and it played like a dream. I did experience, several times, what Mark described above where I picked up another’s banjo and had a couple crashes. But honestly, it would take about 2 songs to get over.

I will say that the Nechville banjo is one of the finest designs if you’re going to go tunneled. Tom Nechville is a mad scientist with the banjo and he’s brilliant. If you want to go that route, I’ll fix you up with you being a Gold Pick member.

If you want to play a tunneled 5th string, like a Nechville, you have to not be swayed by the traditional side of things. Honestly, that’s the way I am. I love the traditional, don’t get me wrong…I have Huber making me a gold Granada right now, as close to Earl’s specs as possible. But, I love playing good instruments, and the playability, tone, and craftsmanship VASTLY outweigh whether it’s “like Earl’s.” If I like it, I really don’t care if some grumpy ol’ grasshole at a jam is gonna like it or not.


Thanks for all of the replies! I had never seen that “This is my banjo” video so thank you for linking that!

What a coincidence you mention Huber in your response because the two I was flip-flopping about are the Nechville and a Huber (that VRB-G… the one with the cool looking “gumdrop” amber tuners).

I haven’t really been getting hung up on the nut yet but I can foresee that having no nut there would just seem to make it a bit easier to go up and down… I guess where I do get caught up from time to time is Melodic playing where you have to cross over the 5-7 fret areas… but i’m also quite a newb and working on it. :slight_smile:

I probably wouldn’t end up buying something until closer to the end of the year.


Cool, well let me know if you have any more questions. I’m a dealer for both Huber and Nechville and can help you out.