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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Straightedge & Coin Head Tensioning Cheat Sheet


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/343194

rudy - Posted - 05/30/2018:  06:59:47


Here's a single page pdf to save or print of the "Straightedge / Coin" head tensioning method that's sometimes suggested as a way to initially set head tension on a banjo.  I don't use the method, but it is useful for someone new to setting tension when they have that "How tight is enough and how tight is too tight?" question.



 


Bart Veerman - Posted - 05/30/2018:  07:52:37


Great!

MODS: MAKE THIS A STICKY PLEASE

rudy - Posted - 05/31/2018:  05:17:10


Glad you liked it, Bart.  It should be pretty easy to find when doing a search.  I tried to incorporate the right words in the title that would match a lot of searches when someone is looking for that information.

steve davis - Posted - 05/31/2018:  05:29:10


I like knowing that a 6" ruler with a dime produces a G# tapped note.
I suppose a 7" with a dime might be an A tapped note.

Ira Gitlin - Posted - 05/31/2018:  06:45:39


Looking at that photo, Rudy, I don't see any information or explanation about what those numbers (I assume the thicknesses of the coins?) mean for head tension. In other words, I see no practical way to use that photo, without some added information along the lines of, "If you want head tension x, use coin y at distance z from the center of the head" or something like that."

rudy - Posted - 05/31/2018:  08:39:57


quote:

Originally posted by Ira Gitlin

Looking at that photo, Rudy, I don't see any information or explanation about what those numbers (I assume the thicknesses of the coins?) mean for head tension. In other words, I see no practical way to use that photo, without some added information along the lines of, "If you want head tension x, use coin y at distance z from the center of the head" or something like that."






Hi Ira,



The problem with "straightedge and coin" head tensioning is there are so many variables that change the RESULTS that simply spitting out "tension numbers" is meaningless.  If you think about what happens when you simply substitute a higher bridge you'll realize that you haven't changed "head tension" (or very minimally as a result of increased down force of the strings), but the distance under the straightedge changes substantially.



That's why there's no "Use a dime to get a Bb tap note" included.



Anyone that suggests that the process isn't really about BASIC tensioning is assigning it way too much credit.  Use the diagram, adjust the tension for preferred tone / volume, and re-check so you can check and/or repeat your personal setup any time in the future, assuming there has been no change in components, bridge height, neck angle, etc.



The diagram is simply a way to demonstrate HOW the straightedge and coin method is done, not a primer on how to optimize tension for any particular instrument.



The text included with the photo should be enough to inform the reader that YMMV applies when using the method.



Anyone who wants additional information can view the Dan Erlewine video on basic banjo setup Tips at the StewMac website.  Dan demonstrates the method (zoom ahead to 2:15 in the video...) although he places the straightedge parallel to the bridge and under the strings and uses a quarter.  He states that's how he was taught to do it.





 


Edited by - rudy on 05/31/2018 08:45:55

Ira Gitlin - Posted - 05/31/2018:  08:46:01


Thanks for the additional info. I understand that ANY guideline--coin-and-ruler, tapped note, drum dial--is just to get you into the ball park. As I understand it, you're saying in your most recent post that once you get it to where you like it, you can then use the coin-and-ruler method to document what you've found to work well. Is that an accurate description of what you're trying to say?

rudy - Posted - 05/31/2018:  08:57:00


quote:

Originally posted by Ira Gitlin

Thanks for the additional info. I understand that ANY guideline--coin-and-ruler, tapped note, drum dial--is just to get you into the ball park. As I understand it, you're saying in your most recent post that once you get it to where you like it, you can then use the coin-and-ruler method to document what you've found to work well. Is that an accurate description of what you're trying to say?






Hi Ira.



Sorry if it seems so obtuse.  Here's my last post "explanation":



Use the diagram, adjust the tension for preferred tone / volume, and re-check so you can check and/or repeat your personal setup any time in the future, assuming there has been no change in components, bridge height, neck angle, etc.



"Using the diagram" gets you in the general ballpark for head tension without the head being overly flabby or risking breakage of the head.  Do take that in the context of what I originally posted, relating to new players asking "How tight is enough and how tight is too tight?"



Yes, as with any mechanical reference, once you get past the basics of head tension then you "season to taste" and use whatever methodology you prefer to repeat your setup in the future.

Bart Veerman - Posted - 05/31/2018:  10:28:38


Many people have never had the opportunity to experience what a properly tensioned head feels like when you push it to check how tight is tight. This included people who have been playing for many years. Because of that many people have never had their banjos sound to their full potential. I've come across quite a few banjos who's owners told me "the head's really tight" while in fact they were way loose.

The regular advice in many posts over the years is to tighten the head with a total disregard, or warning, that over-tightening can bust the head or damage the tension hooks. Many years ago, as a newbie back then, I busted a head myself as a result of such a what-were-you-thinking recommendation.

This coin and straight edge technique, like Rudy said, lets people get in the proper tension range without ruining there stuff.

Caution: this technique should not be used for budget priced Asian-made banjos with flat hooks as they will definitely not survive proper head tension, they'll uncurl and won't hold the head properly any more.

Yes, there are a lot of variables that this technique does not address - even head tension all the way around comes to mind. In the mean time, banjos will sound a whole lot better using this technique.

Newcomers should also realize that new heads stretch and they need re-tensioning several times before they stabilize. Oh, that means you need to do that even if the folks in the store you bought it from told you that it is setup already.

steve davis - Posted - 06/01/2018:  06:20:34


Coin and straightedge head tensions are old news.

A quarter under a 10" ruler is a G# tapped note as is a dime under a 6" ruler.

They are consistant tensions because 11" heads are always the same thickness using a Remo/Weatherking as a benchmark.



The 9 1/2" archtop is also consistant in the tapped note (a quarter deflection gives a C note) and general bridge load as in string gauge.



I believe the archtops I figured had 5 Star heads.


Edited by - steve davis on 06/01/2018 06:23:59

Old Hickory - Posted - 06/01/2018:  08:35:58


quote:

Originally posted by Ira Gitlin

I understand that ANY guideline--coin-and-ruler, tapped note, drum dial--is just to get you into the ball park. As I understand it, you're saying in your most recent post that once you get it to where you like it, you can then use the coin-and-ruler method to document what you've found to work well.






Yes. They are all ways to measure and record your setup so you can check it from time-to-time or go back to it after you've done something like change the head, strings, tailpiece setting or bridge. They are not hard and  fast targets or rules for what sounds good on every banjo.



Unlike the tap note that some people misinterpret or don't hear at all, Drum Dial and coin under stick are objective and repeatable.



Another vague head tensioning guide that always makes me laugh is the suggestion that the head should give about 1/16 of an inch when you push on it.  Measured from what and how?

steve davis - Posted - 06/01/2018:  09:49:59


Tapped notes are more easily learned knowing that a dime under 6" gives you a G# note.

OldPappy - Posted - 06/01/2018:  10:02:29


This has commonly been called the "Steve Davis method", and I do use it. It is easy, fast, and more importantly it works.

There is no need for the "drum dial indicators" so many folks rely on. KISS.

Quickstep192 - Posted - 06/01/2018:  11:51:40


The head on my most recent banjo is at about 89 on the drum dial and although it's really hard for me to hear the head note, it sounds like its at "G" when I play a g note on the 5th fret of the d string.

How much higher do you think I'd need to go on the drum dial to get to a G# head note?

steve davis - Posted - 06/02/2018:  08:49:45


Add 1/4 turn once around the hooks for the next halfstep of tapped/scratched head note.
I've heard of 1/6 turns becoming the next halfstep,too.
Try for yourself.

90 on the dial has been called G#.

rudy - Posted - 06/02/2018:  10:45:15


I always use 1/6th turns because it's easy to keep track of moving the nut by one flat.  It's much easier to change the relative amount that nuts are moved if using quarter or half turns.

steve davis - Posted - 06/02/2018:  12:33:55


1/2 turn is my habit for new heads or heads that haven't regularly been at the new tension.
Either gives very consistent results.
I have a square "X" on the handle end of my favorite nut wrench,a screwdriver/socket which shows a very easy and quick to read 90* turn.

rudy - Posted - 06/02/2018:  13:18:40


quote:

Originally posted by steve davis

1/2 turn is my habit for new heads or heads that haven't regularly been at the new tension.

Either gives very consistent results.

I have a square "X" on the handle end of my favorite nut wrench,a screwdriver/socket which shows a very easy and quick to read 90* turn.






The square "X" is a great idea!



One thing for everyone to remember is 1/6th, 1/4, or 1/2 turn does NOT produce the same results on all banjos.  Much of the new hardware that small shop open back makers are using is #8-26 thread pitch.  A lot of the import instruments are using metric j bolts that have a much finer thread pitch, so 1/4 turn of the metric threaded nut would be pretty close to 1/6th turn of the standard hardware used by small shop builders.



As stated, consistency is the byword.

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