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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Lotus Banjo Setup

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dkforge - Posted - 05/23/2010:  15:31:55

New to the banjo and found your great site. Been reading a lot of posts on here but wanted to see what you all thought. I bought a Lotus Banjo at a garage sale. I know from reading some posts on here that it is an Asian banjo, not very expensive and I shouldn't expect it to sound like a higher end banjo. I got it tuned up and honestly I was really impressed with how it sounded. It was clear and had what I would call a warm sounding tone to it. Not "tinny or twangy". I really like the way it sounded.

Well now for the question. Based on reading on here and some other sites I decided to put some new strings on it. Now I am kicking myself! I tried a light set, I tried a medium set I tried a different bridge, original bridge, and no matter what I try my banjo sounds awful. Now it does sound tinny. So what should I do? Keep buying different strings and bridges to try to get the sound back? Take it to a luthier? I am not far from Randy Wood but I don't know if they would even work on a Lotus or if it is worth it. Everything is tight on the banjo. I know the strings are higher at the 12th fret then 1/8" but don't know if that just means the whole setup should be looked at by someone who knows more than I do.

I guess my problem is I heard it sound like I really liked it and now I am at a loss to get that sound back.

Thanks for any advice

1four5 - Posted - 05/23/2010:  16:00:30

I'd almost be tempted to say something changed. Maybe the tailpiece got cocked sideways, or the adjustment screw fell out. Are the tailpiece pivot screws tight? Do you change one string at a time, or all at once... could the bridge be out of place. I've also had a tipping bridge sound horrible, so make sure the feet are flat. There's also a short "break-in" period for new strings before they loose their twangyness (especially the 4th string). Have you messed with the co-rod or truss rod? These also effect sound.

Welcome to the forum! BTW, I had an old Lotus banjo for awhile. It was an aluminum pot rim, but heavier walled than usual with a clover leaf cut-out pattern, and it sounded fantastic for what it was.

dkforge - Posted - 05/23/2010:  16:06:59

Thanks this one has a clover leaf pattern as well. Thanks for the suggestions that gives me more to check. I haven't messed with the rods as everything I have read says don't do it unless you know what you are doing which I don't at this point.

I have placed the bridge based on the harmonic off the 12th fret so I think I have that right. I did change all of the strings at one time. Could that have made something change?

Actually could you explain the tailpiece adjustment screw? Is that the screw that goes horizontally into the tailpiece of is it the vertical bolt that has a nut under the back of the tailpiece.
Thanks for your help.

banjobubby - Posted - 05/23/2010:  16:21:31

d'addairio medium gauge, the high D string should be a 10. they sound great on anything. that and you will have too bring your neck down and get your intonation right and back in gear haha

1four5 - Posted - 05/23/2010:  16:22:30

I'm going off memory, but I think you have a tailpiece that hooks over the tension hoop. If that's the case, the vertical screw (that holds it to the banjo) should be tightened evely with the j-bolts. The horizontal screw will "tip" the taipleice at a higher or lower angle to the strings. I've seen it before where people think it's a loose screw and tighten it down. This will put a lot of pressure on the strings and could cause what you are experiencing. Where you adjust this screw is up to you, but changing the tailpiece pressure on the strings can definately change your banjo's tone.

1four5 - Posted - 05/23/2010:  16:30:33

Hey, I found an old photo of my Lotus:

dkforge - Posted - 05/23/2010:  17:06:50

LOL yep that looks just like this one. Did you ever bring your neck down on your Lotus? There is a philips head screw that appears to go through the rod but I don't know how to actually get the neck closer to the strings.

mike gregory - Posted - 05/23/2010:  17:31:04

That Philips screw is just to anchor the co-ordinator rod. Don't try adjust the neck there. Loosen the nuts inside the banjo body, and you can slide the neck up & down, or you can put shims between the neck and the body to change the slant.

Edited by - mike gregory on 05/23/2010 17:31:39

grm405 - Posted - 05/23/2010:  18:44:34

Sounds like you may have moved the bridge. You don't use the 12th fret harmonic to place the bridge, but the 12th fretted string. It should be one octave above the open string. Use a tuner, or (here is where the harmonic comes in) compare the 12th fretted note with the harmonic above the same fret. They should be the same.

Note that the harmonic is only used to generate a reference note, not to place the bridge. Placing the bridge is to compensate for the fretting of the string. If you don't fret it, you cannot place the bridge correctly. A very small movement of the bridge can make a very large difference. If it is not placed the the proper spot the banjo will sound awful.


slou92 - Posted - 05/23/2010:  18:54:28

just sounds like you replaced the old strings w/new ones and you dont like the bright tone of the new strings. Give it a few days and see if it gets better; the more you change the farther off you're going to be.

dkforge - Posted - 05/23/2010:  19:09:33

Well thanks for all of your advice I am going to stop messing with this because I feel like I am getting further away from where I want to be. Maybe tomorrow when I look at it with fresh eyes I might start over. Maybe even put the old strings on to see if I can replicate the sound I liked.

John Gribble - Posted - 05/24/2010:  02:18:34

Whenever you make a change to an instrument, the sound changes, at least temporarily. Brand new strings are bright. Some people like that, some don't. Play the new strings awhile and see if the instrument "mellows out."

It is usually best to change the strings one at a time, because the bridge won't get moved around and the tailpiece won't shift. Bridge position affects intonation ("in-tune-ness") rather than tone. Tailpiece position and angle can affect tone.

But again, play the thing a few hours and the tone will probably return to what you remember. Putting the original strings back on probably isn't a good idea, but you can take them to the local music store and find strings which match the gauges of the old ones.

And have fun with it. Break a few strings, break a few heads, learn something about what makes it tick.

Dale Morris - Posted - 07/05/2010:  05:51:57

By now you probably have figured out the banjo issues..if not, here's another thought or two.

Perhaps the banjo was tuned lower (not standard tuning) when you got it-which would give it a lower tone.

In changing strings..take one off-replace with a new string..then take another off..etc..Never take them all off at once.

Good luck,
Dale Morris

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