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Thread: 5th string capo

  1. #1
    I pick therefore I grin
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    5th string capo

    So what's the general concensus here regarding 5th string capos? Which do you use? Or do you use a spike & if so why? I'm thinking about trying the Banjo Highway because I'm not thrilled at the aspect of drilling holes in my fretboard or permanently mounting the Shubb.

  2. #2

    Re: 5th string capo

    I use spikes on my banjo. Tried a sliding capo about 38 years ago and couldn't stand the feel of it. Had Stelling install nails at 7,8,9 and 10 on my Masterpiece in 1981. Never looked back.
    Cheers
    Homer

  3. #3
    I pick therefore I grin
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    Re: 5th string capo

    So Homer you've had the same spikes in since 81 with no problems? Do they interfere with your fingers when playing up the neck? I'm new to banjo but played guitar for decades so based on my experience sliding barre chords I imagine ripping a finger open on the spike! Or do you not slide barre chords on the banjo? Also I wonder if it causes the 5th string to wear faster than the others or is that not an issue?

  4. #4

    Re: 5th string capo

    I use spikes on all my banjos except 1. I love them! They don't get in the way and I've had no problems with string wear when using them. I have been using them for 20 years and have never cut a finger on them.

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  6. #5
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    Re: 5th string capo

    I prefer spikes as well. I don't play a style that frets the 5th string, though, and they can indeed get in the way if you do. But I just haven't found any easier or faster way to tune up to a different drone note on that 5th string. Just slip the string under the spike, adjust the tuning (since it will always go sharp when spiked) - it takes about 3 seconds.

    One of my banjos had the spikes all messed up and the shop I took it to ended up taking them all out, which I was not too happy about. But they threw in a Reagan 5th string capo. I've used it a few times, and it works OK. It just sits on the fretboard, butted up to the fret, and clamps down to the string. But being a clawhammer guy, I tend to ping that 5th string pretty hard sometimes, and it can bounce around a bit. It doesn't give me as bright or clear a sound as a spike (or other method that presses the string down onto a fret). And you have to be careful not to tighten the thumbscrew down too hard which can break the string.

    But it works in a pinch, and it's relatively easy to use, I guess. It's so tiny that it's easy to lose. And it gets in my way when I'm fretting the 4th string next to it. For only $11, it's worth trying out.

    I've been eyeing the Banjo Highway capos for a while now. I'm just not sure I want to spend that much money on one.

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  8. #6

    Re: 5th string capo

    I'd never seen one of those Reagan capos before I came back to this thread to post this:

    http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Musi...encapcapo.html

    I typically only ever capo up to A, so I just tune the g up a step and capo the 2nd fret. But maybe if I had spikes installed I would expand my horizons....

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  10. #7

    Re: 5th string capo

    Mark << ... Do they interfere with your fingers when playing up the neck? I'm new to banjo but played guitar for decades so based on my experience sliding barre chords I imagine ripping a finger open on the spike! Or do you not slide barre chords on the banjo? ... >>

    There's no money above the 5th fret...

    And I'm proof of that because I mostly live at the 7th to 17th fret and I'm dirt poor.

    Until a recent acquisition, I used Shubb sliding capos on all of my banjos. In the live studio there just isn't time between songs to use anything that requires re-tuning, including spikes and a standard capo. So I've learned to play in any key without any capo and when I absolutely had to capo the 5th string, I used the Shubb because it doesn't require re-tuning when either applying it or un-applying it.

    My newest banjo acquisition came to me with spikes in it at frets 7 and 9. It's an all original high-end moderately old banjo with a very nice original 5-string neck and I don't want to damage it any further. And yes, installing spikes does damage a fingerboard, but this fingerboard damage is typically easier to touch up than the binding and/or purfling damage that is done by installing a Shubb.

    In the live studio with this banjo, I do two things: I avoid hitting my open 5th string if it doesn't go with the chords I'm playing, and if I do use the spikes I don't re-tune the 5th string, but play it only very softly if the out-of-tune state is too pronounced. This gets me by. I do miss the Shubb on this banjo, but I also like exercising choice about hitting and how loudly to hit the 5th string; and I like that this banjo's neck has only damage from the spikes.

    -- Don

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  12. #8
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    Re: 5th string capo

    I've used the Shubb sliding capos, the Reagan, the modified pen cap and about everything else and always come back to spikes. I've had spikes in my OME Columbine III since it was made in 1984 and never had a problem with them. I bought my Nechville in 2009 and had them placed at 7, 9 and 10 and they work like a charm. I don't fret much up the neck on the fifth so it's never been an issue.

    Leon

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  14. #9

    Re: 5th string capo

    I have preferred and use spikes...no issue with sliding or banjo Barre chords...YMMV...


    Nick

  15. #10

    Re: 5th string capo

    I spikes are installed properly, the edges will be filed down to where you wont have to worry about cutting a finger.

  16. #11
    I pick therefore I grin
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    Re: 5th string capo

    Thanks everyone for your input. It seems like spikes have dominated the thread so that's the direction I believe I'll go. Plus there's that whole "if it's good enough for Earl" thing.

  17. #12

    Re: 5th string capo

    I have spikes in my Pisgah at 7 and 9, but I've been thinking about picking up a Banjo Highway or Shubb sliding capo to give me more flexibility. I've also been thinking I want to try nylon strings, and I'm not sure if they're going to fit under my spikes.

    I have a Reagan, and it does work, but I find it dampens the 5th string and moves around a bit too much for me.

  18. #13
    banjoist music historian
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    Re: 5th string capo

    I have spikes on two of my open back banjos, a custom made super tubaphone O ring made to be the loudest open back possible and on my Enoch tradesman. Frankly, I never figure out how to make them work. Anyone can point to a video on Youtube about how to use them. I usually just tune the fifth string up, though sometimes it breakes the fifth string. I do keeo one of my banjos, a Gold Tone WL 250 tuned up the DD, and so I avoid having to do that when playing with D fiddlers. Sometimes I find it just easier to return that banjo to open A rather than struggling to capo and tune up the fifth string with a G banjo (if I go to gig or jam with OTM folks I take one banjo for each tuning I intend to use, generally just a D banjo and a G/A banjo, but for a concert I did bring 4 banjos and a guitar when I used several tunings). I dont play bluegrass banjo though I regularly play guitar with pretty good bluegrass pickers, I do see what the bluegrassers have to go through just in the jam today we did a bunch of songs in B, a lot in A as well. Any help on an online source on spikes or alternative to them for the open back user will be appreciated

  19. #14
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    Re: 5th string capo

    Quote Originally Posted by TonyThomas View Post
    I have spikes on two of my open back banjos, a custom made super tubaphone O ring made to be the loudest open back possible and on my Enoch tradesman. Frankly, I never figure out how to make them work. Anyone can point to a video on Youtube about how to use them.
    OK, so I have to ask: are you pulling our collective leg? Banjo spikes are so self-explanatory, I couldn't find any videos showing how to use them. All you do is slip the string under the lip. It pulls the string down so that it's bearing on the fret just like a capo would do. There's a photo on this page of the 5th string under the spike head. As you can see, it does bend the string a bit, which is why it goes sharp when spiked and requires retuning.

  20. #15
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    Re: 5th string capo

    Hey all! I have spikes on three instruments - they work fine, but sometimes rip into your fingers on the fifth - but I have a new instrument without anything for the fifth. So, I'm contemplating a Banjo Highway. Or a pen cap.

  21. #16

    Re: 5th string capo

    Hi from me too! I have a suspender 5th string capo. It slips off every once in a while.
    But since I only play for myself, that doesn't bother me too much.

  22. #17

    Re: 5th string capo

    Spikes since 1982

  23. #18

    Re: 5th string capo

    Banjo spikes seem the way to go, my instructor recommended it and I'm glad that I did it. Deering banjo will actually include them on several of their models right out of the factory. I'm learning Scruggs style and the spikes haven't been any trouble at all.

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