Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

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.

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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.

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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.

@BanjoBen, you gotta get that banjo over to Alaska to complete it’s American tour, also you could bring it by my house if your ever in north Mozambique :roll_eyes:

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One thing I will add is Nechvilles are really great when it comes to making adjustments. As you become more familiar with your instrument, these become less and less necessary but it took me four years to get to the point where I could really properly understand what I needed to adjust to make things right.

Tightening the head and adjusting the neck angle on a Nechville is so, so easy.

I’ve been playing for a while now. I have to say that when I started out, I would sometimes get tangled up with the 5th string peg but now I don’t notice it at all.

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