I’ve read about 6 and 7 string banjos over the years (that is, banjos with 5 or 6 long strings and a short drone sting – not guitar-banjos/guitjos/banjitars etc.) and thought it would be good to have the extra range to be able to play the high part of a tune an octave down, or to give the effect of Tommy Jarrell’s ‘John Brown’s Dream’ tuning (with the low D tuned down to G). Well, after finally hearing a 6-string played, by Chuck Levy courtesy of the internet, I decided to get one. A little hunting and I got a 7-string beauty made by J. Viner, I’d guess from the 1880s or 1890s, which needed a little work. It was missing a tailpiece and bridge so I made those. Someone had glued a piece of an old bone domino in place of the nut but had never cut it down or notched it, so I worked it into something useful (and a good story!). I have it set up as a 6-string. I’d put 7 strings at first, but you need pencil size fingers to play it that way, the strings are so tightly spaced. The action is horrible but I’d have to recut the heel to fix it and I don’t feel like doing that yet. Here are some pictures, and below that a video of ‘Tater Patch’ on it, going down into the lower octave.
Here’s the video of ‘Tater Patch’ in the equivalent of gGDGBD (actually tuned down to around E with minstrel gauge Nylgut strings plus a classical guitar low E). The danger with it is I get so used to the spacing that going back to a normal 5-string discombobulates my hand! I end up drop-thumbing to the 1st string instead of the 2nd that I’m aiming for… (May 2012: after a few years that’s not a problem anymore, but it did take some getting used to!)