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Thread: Moon Bridges

  1. #1
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    Moon Bridges

    Might as well get this out of the way early. You know banjo nerds can't talk about gear for very long before the subject of compensated bridges comes up.

    I love the heck out of my custom Ome Jubilee open-back banjo, but the intonation of the 3rd string goes noticeably sharp by the 4th fret when using the straight bridge. I've tried setting intonation by the 1st and 4th strings, as well as the 1st and 3rd strings, and I just can't find a happy medium. So I'm likely going to try out a moon bridge and see if it does the trick.

    So who are your favorite or recommended moon bridge makers? And what advice would you give, in terms of the best type for an open-back banjo played clawhammer style?

  2. #2
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    Re: Moon Bridges

    Nothing wrong with a Moon bridge but I'd think about a Snuffy Smith with a compensated 3rd string. Mike Smith at Kat Eyz now makes the Sunffy Smith bridges. Another option is the Nechville Enterprise bridge that has the compensation built in as part of the design. You can get those from Nechville Musical Products.

    One thing I've found that helps with intonation is checking at the 19th fret for both the harmonic and the fretted note. I've had folks use electronic tuners and a few other ways and the 19th fret always seems to be most accurate. Plus you just drop back to the 17th fret for the 5th string which is the equivalent of the 12th fret for the other strings. It never hurts to check both at the 12th and the 19th on the other 4 strings.

    Best regards,

    Leon

  3. #3
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    Re: Moon Bridges

    Quote Originally Posted by LeonEvans View Post
    Nothing wrong with a Moon bridge but I'd think about a Snuffy Smith with a compensated 3rd string. Mike Smith at Kat Eyz now makes the Sunffy Smith bridges.
    I've been thinking about those as well, and I hear good things.

    One thing I've found that helps with intonation is checking at the 19th fret for both the harmonic and the fretted note. I've had folks use electronic tuners and a few other ways and the 19th fret always seems to be most accurate. Plus you just drop back to the 17th fret for the 5th string which is the equivalent of the 12th fret for the other strings. It never hurts to check both at the 12th and the 19th on the other 4 strings.
    My fretboard is scooped for frailing, so I only have 15 full frets and two half-frets. The highest I can go is the 17th fret.

  4. #4
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    Re: Moon Bridges

    Different curves yield different results based on string gauges and action. We need to experiment and we judge by results.

    It's not so hard to make a moon bridge. You can start by making a very thick bridge, and then carefully subtracting the material that's superfluous. Here's one I made about 25 years ago that recently came back for a visit. The little bone inserts were an amendment to keep the outside strings from tearing up the wood, which IIRC was something like koa.



    I like making bridges from different materials, including grapefruit, madrone, and of course good old maple.

    Jason Romero, the very fine maker from BC, uses moon bridges on his fretless banjos, because he feels they are less likely to tip.

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    Re: Moon Bridges

    The problem I have found with the curved bridge is that you still find yourself having to angle the bridge to compensate the 4th string. Try a couple of different straight ones first. I usually like a heavier straight grover type but find a remarkable amount of difference from even two apparently identical bridges. Also, as has been said, banjos are an instrument of compromise.

    If really serious, once you set the bridge at the scale length and angled according to harmonic and fretted 12th (matching the open string) you would have to check each fret on an un-capoed instrument to see what kind of tuning adjustments you have to make which will vary by key and tuning. SO much more to this than just a bridge and I personally have never felt the need or seen/heard any advantage of a $30+ bridge to a $4 Grover style.

    Play Nice,
    Dan
    www.Clawdan.com

  6. #6
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    Re: Moon Bridges

    Quote Originally Posted by clawdan View Post
    The problem I have found with the curved bridge is that you still find yourself having to angle the bridge to compensate the 4th string.
    Angling the bridge doesn't bother me. I'm used to it with mandolins, and those bridges are usually compensated so that if I set the intonation correctly at the 1st and 4th courses, the middle two courses will be pretty much correct. That's really what I'm looking for in a banjo bridge.

    If I set the 1st and 4th string intonation with this straight bridge, my 3rd string is way sharp when fretted. If I set intonation based on the 1st and 3rd, then my 4th string sounds flat when fretted. And to be fair, it's not so far off that it sounds terrible, but I'm kind of particular when it comes to intonation.

    I don't mind trying a couple of different straight bridges, but I don't think they will solve the problem unless they have compensation built in.

  7. #7

    Re: Moon Bridges

    I think you should consider a compensated bridge from Bart Veerman. Not only does he have really cool bridges (the untopped mystery wood is great for old time clawhammer) he also makes custom compensated bridges and runs you through how to measure the amount of compensation on his site. No stock "compensated bridge" will really give you true compensation, it's a guesstimate and a crap shoot that may end up actually making it worse.

    Heres the link to the article explaining how to get the measurements. Then you just tell him the measurements when you order. I always just get straight bridges because the intonation usually doesn't bother me, but if I had a banjo that had a particularly annoying issue this is the way I would go.

    http://banjobridge.com/br-06.htm

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