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Just bought another Banjo problems

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Just bought another Banjo problems

Postby Banjo jon » Wed Mar 15, 2017 5:40 am

Ok so I started out with a cheap type Banjo and it has helped me on the way. It doesn't have a metal tone ring inside, so is a bit lighter, and as far as I can tell has a good action and plays OK. Only one thing that bugged me, and that was the poor design of the arm rest fitting. When they put this banjo together, the arm rest was obviously a last thought as the L-shape fittings that the hooks go through are not lower where the arm rest fits, if that makes sense. So this results in the arm rest sitting up at at slight angle about 1.5 inches from the skin, and because the edge angle sits sort of 35deg nose down, it digs into my arm.
Anyway, I'd had enough of this, as there seemed no way to alter it, without stripping down the banjo and possible changing these L-hooks where the arm rest fitted. So I spotted a second hand Banjo online that seemed a better Banjo and also had a metal tone ring. Its not a big name as my budget at present won't stretch to Deering or Gibson....(wipes drool from mouth) but I thought it might help my Banjo progression.

It was a bit grubby on arrival, so I cleared off the old dirty strings, and looked online for tips on how to clean up the skin a little. Then gave the fretboard a clean and just a general wipe over. I put on a new set of strings (light weight gauge) and tuned up.
The difference in tone and playing action is a vast improvement. Even though I am still a novice, I can feel the difference.
Then I suddenly realized I had made a stupid mistake!
On winding on my new set of strings, I had stupidly wound the first and second strings around the pegs in the wrong direction!!
Anyway, it still plays OK, but maybe explains why the first string is pretty near the edge of the fretboard.

I've been looking more closely at this banjo today....and I'm not sure if the neck has a slight twist in it! (Damn) I'll see if I can upload a pic later and see what you guys think.
One day I'll get a banjo that doesn't have any problems :P

Edit...you can't really see in the image but it looks to me, looking Down the neck that the part of the neck towards the skin, is slightly twisted clockwise compared to the nut at the top.
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2017-03-15 10.49.43.jpg
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Re: Just bought another Banjo problems

Postby ez2cy » Wed Mar 15, 2017 8:36 am

It does look like it has a twist in the neck.

Not sure what your neck on the first banjo is like, but any chance you can swap them out?
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Re: Just bought another Banjo problems

Postby Banjo jon » Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:19 am

ez2cy wrote:It does look like it has a twist in the neck.

Not sure what your neck on the first banjo is like, but any chance you can swap them out?


The neck on the cheaper banjo looks OK, but not sure if this would be easy to do or not. I wouldn't want to end up with 2 unusable banjo's. Being a novice, its something I would feel nervous of attempting without more knowledge. :?
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Re: Just bought another Banjo problems

Postby bluenote23 » Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:46 am

You might also try to see if the neck is attached crookedly rather than the neck itself being twisted. The neck is only held in place by the two lag bolts and sometimes there is some play in that fitting.

You can look to see if the neck is crooked where it joins the rim. You can also loosen the strings (so you can rewind the strings properly) and then loosen the co-ord rods and see if the neck can twist straight.

You can clean the head with Magic Eraser.

If the neck is really crooked, you might want to think about returning the instrument.
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Re: Just bought another Banjo problems

Postby Banjo jon » Thu Mar 16, 2017 7:33 am

It only looks slightly crooked where it joins the pot. Looking at the head I'm wondering if someone has loosened the neck, turned it slightly as to make the headstock look level to try and hide the twist. I checked the neck rod last night and it is really stiff. I could turn it back and forth but didn't want to mess too much in case the rod snapped. I took off the resonator to check. It has one rod with a long bolt towards the head. This was loose so I just finger turned just very slightly to take up the slack. This helped lower the strings slightly near the bottom of the neck. I tried out some other bridges, 1/2 seemed to feel more comfortable to me, but didn't give a nice tone. Seemed more wooly sounding. So I put in my staggered 5/8 bridge which brought back the brighter Tone. Even though I had penciled the position, I seemed to have difficulty with the intonation. Most strings I got set OK...just had trouble with the 5th sounding a bit sharp against the others up the neck. So I fiddle with position and angle of bridge and finally got it acceptable. Maybe the slight twist is throwing out the intonation.

Is it OK to loosen the strings and rewind? Trouble is, they have all been cut and they will all be kinked where they were wound on.
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Re: Just bought another Banjo problems

Postby bluenote23 » Thu Mar 16, 2017 1:06 pm

The co-ord rods are the one (or two) rods that run the length of the rim and attach the neck to the rim. Don't confuse these with the truss rod, which is the rod that runs down the neck and usually has an adjustment nut at the headstock.

So in addition to that single co-ord rod that you have, there should also be a second screw and bolt assembly extending from the neck through the rim. Make sure that is snug tight too. You want the co-ord rod to be hand tight so that the neck is firmly against the rim. Don't use tools on the co-ord rod (yet) because you can warp your rim if the rod is too tight.

For intonation, get a tuner. Tune the first and fourth strings. Then play the first string at the 12 fret. Don't use harmonics. Check the tuner. If you are flat, move the bridge forward towards the peghead (remember the mnenomic: Flat Forward). If you are sharp go the other way. Retune and retry until you are in tune.

Then do the same with the fourth string. Then double check the first once more. This, barring any additional problem you might have with a twisted neck, should set your intonation correctly.

Different bridges can sound different so it might not just be the height that affected the sound. Don't forget that as you tighten the head, you action rises so a bridge that worked well with a loose head might be too high on a tight head. And bluegrass banjo heads are really tight.

Take a 10 inch ruler and put if edgewise against the bridge. You will see a space under the edge of the ruler where the bridge makes the head sag. If you can fit a quarter in the gap, your head is on the edge of looseness/tightness. My heads are tight and I can barely (or barely not) fit a dime in that gap.

You can probably get away with loosening your first and second string enough to reverse the wind. The most fragile is the first string but that is also the easiest to replace if you break it (you can use electric guitar strings and just remove the ball end or cut it and make a loop with pliers). Having spares is a good idea anyway.
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Re: Just bought another Banjo problems

Postby Banjo jon » Thu Mar 16, 2017 4:08 pm

Thanks for that....Yes I was refuring to the trus rod when I said how tight it seemed.
I didn'the think about using guitar strings. I will be ordering another set of strings. I'm finding the lights that I am using seem to become softer after a day of picking. I may try medium gauge. Does anyone have a preference of make and string gauge? I don't pick hard...but I find I get on better when I first put them on and they seem stiffer to pick.
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Re: Just bought another Banjo problems

Postby bluenote23 » Thu Mar 16, 2017 5:16 pm

I use D'Addario EJ61s bronze. Before that my sets of J61s (which were replaced by EJ61s) lasted me two years.
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