Modifying the Reagan Banjo Capo

I use a Reagan banjo capo on my nylon-strung Harmony banjo. It’s a little chunk of brass with a saw-cut to take the string, a thumb-screw to keep it tight, and some felt stuck on the bottom to protect the fretboard.

As supplied, the string slot was too narrow to take nylon strings, and too low to effectively fret the string. What I did was:

  • Open out the slot with the patient application of fine sandpaper. This took a long time, and kept gouging up the edge of the sandpaper sheet.
  • Replace the felt with a thicker piece of neoprene cut from an old mouse mat.

The capo still bobs about, but stays on the neck where it should. I still haven’t solved the problem of where to store it, though.


Pleasantly surprised that a local store – Scarboro Music, at Vic Park and Kingston has autoharp strings.

It also has a very fine old Dobson banjo for $1500.

banjo chord forms

I’ve been trying to learn banjo chords for a while, and the books I have keep flopping closed. So I resolved to make a blank chord form that I could fill in, like this:

You might wonder why it goes to the 7th fret. If you’re in Double C tuning, you’ll need that if you’re drawing a tuning chart.

So for G tuning, the F chord would look like:

There are 12 fretboard images to a page – that’s enough for four whole folk songs!

Download: stewart’s banjo fretboard / chord grid [PDF].

at Bill Rickard’s

I went up to Bill Rickard‘s yesterday to have Hugh Hunter tweak my banjo. Unfortunately Bill wasn’t there; he father died earlier in the week, and the memorial was later in the day. My condolences to Bill and his family.

Hugh was busily turning a banjo-uke block rim on the lathe when I arrived. After a little setup work (file the second string nut to kill a buzz, reduce the head tension to get the tubaphone sound), I looked around the shop.

Tone Rings and rims – including Bill’s new Dobson tone ring

Hardware – bracket bands, Whyte Ladye parts, etc.

The work in progress rack

Whyte Laydie at rear, Tubaphone up front.

For a banjo and engineering nerd, Bill’s shop is amazing. Get yourself invited up there if you get a chance.

Old Man Luedecke in Toronto

I saw Old Man Luedecke play The Drake on Thursday night. After being snowed out of seeing him in Guelph, it was great to finally hear him play. Wasn’t disappointed; really fun show. Superb lyrics, fantastic technique (his clawhammer and Seeger up-picking are spot on) and gently self-deprecating stage banter make it a fun night. Go and see him if he’s playing near you.

banjo nails from the axis of evil

I tried taping pistachio shells to my fingers to get those perfect frailing nails. It was, at best, a partial success.

But why axis of evil? Well, these were very fine Iranian pistachios from Rafsanjan. If we lived in the USA, we couldn’t buy them. We’d have to make do with the tasteless little California pistachios. Go Canada!

CBC Radio 1 Bandwidth: It’s a Banjolution!

CBC Bandwidth had a good show yesterday on the many banjo players and styles in Ontario. It features, amongst others: Jayme Stone, Jeff Menzies, Chris Coole, Chris Quinn, the Foggy Hogtown Boys, Andrea Simms-Karp, the Barmitzvah Brothers, Jenny Whiteley, Sheesham and Lotus, Feist and Elliott Brood.

If you missed it, I saved a copy of the stream here: (25 MB).

There’s a faint click in some of the audio (I always seem to get it from CBC’s streams), but it’s not too noticeable.