1920s Bruno 6-String Banjo-Guitar

I love 6-string guitar-banjos. It's not necessarily because I play them all the time. I just enjoy them. Louis Armstrong's band had a 6-string player and the chunky jazz and ragtime style suits them like crazy. It's unfortunate that old ones are so rare, though, because otherwise I'd have them in the shop more often. This one came in via a customer who was just itching to have one strung-up with nylon for folksy recording ventures.

It's a Bruno-branded instrument that I think was probably made by Lange. Its design is similar to many lower-to-mid products of theirs from the time that were sold under other names. Thankfully, the pot is 12" and there's no tonering so it has the wide, full sound of a bigger pot but not the ping and krang sound that you get with tonerings and 6 strings of mighty, ear-killing power. Work included a refret, minor modifications, a replacement tailpiece, new StewMac repro-style tuners, a new bridge, and a good setup with Aquila "New Nylgut" strings.

It plays spot-on with 3/32" action at the 12th fret and the new, medium-sized frets feel "ace" on it. I made a second bridge for slightly-lower action but I like nylon at 3/32" for guitars to keep the sound clean with heavy fingerpicking.

It's hard to argue with that headstock!

The maple neck has a 1 11/16" nut width, flat-radius stained-maple fretboard, pearl dots (I added plastic side dots), and a medium-sized round-C profile to its rear. It has a Fender-style 25 1/2" scale.

Because it was a straight 12" rim, I was able to use a slightly-nicer-quality Elite-branded Renaissance head.

The tailpiece is a '60s German one I've modified for use on this instrument. I needed a tail that wouldn't rip the nylon strings and this was the only one I had that was adequate for it. It also looks great.

The rim is ply-maple and sturdy. The hardware is all-original on the rim, too.

This had a modern repro-style neck brace installed, but I don't think they're secure enough for the most part. I swapped it for a couple of screws and washers -- which is far more secure and stable, if a bit ugly. Since it's a bit beat-up, I didn't see any reason to worry about "aesthetics over function." I have no idea what the hole in the back of the heel is about.

I changed the neck angle just slightly, so had to move the dowel's mount up a hair.

Note how I have a pad of foam under the tailpiece's string-hanger -- that's to damp overtones on the head just a bit. Usually 6-string banjos are filled with overtones like mad, but this one has a good focus due to the damping and no tonering. It's still hecka-loud, though.