Hello all, I have an Epi MB-250 that has sounded a bit muddy and hollow since I bought it. One of the things I was suspecting is possibly a slightly separated head. However, the head is holding a good tension and measures a consistent tension around the rim. Would this exclude the possibility of head separation? If not, are there other indications I can check for without disassembly? The head is a Taiwan Remo (original, I assume). btw- the only luthier in my area has very limited banjo knowledge, so I'm on my own on this.
Thanks Steve, As I said, the tension is good and is consistent around the rim. The question was: are there any symptoms or indications that would give me a better idea of whether the head is separating WITHOUT disassembly?
I would believe it highly unlikely the head is separated if you can attain a G# to an A using Steve's suggestion . You might remove the arm rest to use strong thumb pressure around the head about 1" away from the hoop to detect looseness .
If you find that it's not separated, I've tinkered with a couple hollow sounding cheap banjos, and aside from all of the usual advice you might run into here, I've got three pieces of my own: upgrade the tailpiece to solid brass (my fave being the Price Straightline); upgrade the nut to TUSQ (only costs about 15 bucks for a slab that'll make two nuts if you cut it in half, plus the price of a file set, since they've not yet made a banjo bridge); and third (my favorite for hollow, flighty sounding banjos), spray down the head. My spray of choice is Rustoleum American Accents in a brick red, which adds a sandy texture (helping to weigh down the head a bit, plus it gives excellent purchase [grip] for your plant fingers and looks cool to boot). I highly recommend the third point here, as it has really helped me tame a couple hollow-sounding banjos, but if you try it and don't like the results, you're only out about 25 bucks. Godspeed, David
Would the tension typically read lower (on a drum dial) around the affected area, or is this totally unreliable?
I located two broken heads using the drum dial. It read low where the break was behind the tension hoop. Everywhere else on the head read 90 and the break was at 87 or 88. No matter how tight I tried to get it, the broken area was still low. I took my measurements at each hook. I would suspect that if you have a low reading in certain areas of the head, it would be indicative of a broken head.
So we're talking about quite small deviations... I was expecting it to be more pronounced. I will re-check the readings at each hook.
Try tightening on the hooks that are low and look for a tension change. If no tension change, try a hook(s) where it's 90 and look for a change. If you get it at 90 but not in the 87 area, I would suggest a broken head.
I don't know if location matters or not--heads can break or split anywhere I would suppose. On one of mine, the splits were above the neck and below the tailpiece, and on the other it was below the neck. Your mileage may vary. :-)