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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: How often do you need to tune? How long does a new banjo take to break in?


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/378989

Alrashid2 - Posted - 11/09/2021:  06:33:37


Hey guys appreciate the help here! I bought my Gold Tone Cripple Creek 50 banjo 6 weeks ago and have been loving it. Have played it everyday from anywhere from 10 min to 1 hour a day...

Anyway, I notice I have to re tune it every few days. It will be spot on, then a few days later it will be slightly down (sorry still learning the right terms here). All the strings seem equally out of tune (low?) and I slightly tighten all of them and then check and theyre all good! Anywhere from 3 days to a week later, theyre "low" again.

The good news I think is, they arent jumping back and forth. When theyre out of tune, theyre always a bit "loose" and I tighten.

Is this just normal? Do you guys retune every week? Or maybe this is normal for a new banjo with new strings? I would have thought playing 40+ hours on it would have been enough to break it in but maybe not. I have followed some advice I read online about stretching the strings out. Already did that and it didnt seem to help.

Thanks all for the tips!

YellowSkyBlueSun - Posted - 11/09/2021:  06:37:23


"A banjo player spends half his life tuning, and the other half playing out-of-tune"

AGACNP - Posted - 11/09/2021:  06:40:42


quote:

Originally posted by Alrashid2

Hey guys appreciate the help here! I bought my Gold Tone Cripple Creek 50 banjo 6 weeks ago and have been loving it. Have played it everyday from anywhere from 10 min to 1 hour a day...



Anyway, I notice I have to re tune it every few days. It will be spot on, then a few days later it will be slightly down (sorry still learning the right terms here). All the strings seem equally out of tune (low?) and I slightly tighten all of them and then check and theyre all good! Anywhere from 3 days to a week later, theyre "low" again.



The good news I think is, they arent jumping back and forth. When theyre out of tune, theyre always a bit "loose" and I tighten.



Is this just normal? Do you guys retune every week? Or maybe this is normal for a new banjo with new strings? I would have thought playing 40+ hours on it would have been enough to break it in but maybe not. I have followed some advice I read online about stretching the strings out. Already did that and it didnt seem to help.



Thanks all for the tips!






Welcome to the banjo club!



Regarding tuning: I find I have to adjust the tuning every time I pick either of my banjos up...and micro adjust while I'm practicing or playing in a jam...and readjust after putting on/taking off a capo. It's the nature of the beast.



I find I have to adjust the tuning on my upright bass often as well, especially with the gut strings.

Alrashid2 - Posted - 11/09/2021:  06:43:41


Thanks AGACNP for the input! Makes me feel better. I'm new to stringed instruments - wasn't sure if they would hold a tune for a year or a day!

And YellowSkyBlueSun , going to incorporate that quote into my repertoire haha. Thanks!

The Old Timer - Posted - 11/09/2021:  06:55:32


It may not be the banjo so much as the strings you have on it. STRINGS do take a couple of days (at least) to fully stretch (break in). A well adjusted banjo should hold tuning quite well (this also presumes good tuners, properly adjusted).



Since your banjo is new, give it a critical going-over to be sure nothing is LOOSE. The head being first. It should not "saggy" under the bridge, or feel soft and floppy. If it does seem loose it might not have been tight enough in the first place, or hasn't had time to fully stretch and break in. Look in the archives here for the Steve Davis "dime and ruler" way of checking your head tightness.



Check the tailpiece to be sure it is secure and not be pulled out of position continually by string tension.



Look at your tuners. They should not turn with greasy/slick ease. You should feel some significant resistance (but NOT stickiness) when you turn them just a bit. You tighten them by tightening the little screw head protruding from the button. It doesn't take much so go slow.



For a newish banjo, your bridge might not be standing perfectly upright. If it's tilting either back or forward, over time string tension will keep tilting it (thus your tuning will continually go flat/lower). Eventually the string tension will make your bridge tip over, which sounds slightly like a shotgun going off. Examine your bridge very carefully to be sure it's standing upright and plumb under the strings. (Some expensive bridges are designed to lean back at a slight angle though.)



If your neck is loose to the pot, it can cause all kinds of havoc with tuning.



Finally, how you store your banjo between picking sessions might be prompting it to go flat. Anything that significantly pushes the neck forward of the plane of the pot could lead to the tuning going flat/lower. Always best to store your banjo in a case, which holds it properly.



Banjos are pieces of hardware and subject all the stresses of a kid's Erector Set.  Be sure everything on your banjo is SOLID and tight.



Good luck.


Edited by - The Old Timer on 11/09/2021 06:56:09

kwl - Posted - 11/09/2021:  06:55:56


With a banjo you are lucky if it stays in tune through one tune/song.

banjered - Posted - 11/09/2021:  07:34:21


"It was in tune when I bought it?" "Do I need another banjo?" "The ash tray is full, I need to buy a new car..." Ha! The above comments are spot on about banjo tuning realities. banjered

Alrashid2 - Posted - 11/09/2021:  08:29:48


Ha thanks all for the advice and input!! The Old Timer I will check on all of those things tonight

Alex Z - Posted - 11/09/2021:  08:45:13


"It will be spot on, then a few days later it will be slightly down (sorry still learning the right terms here). All the strings seem equally out of tune (low?) and I slightly tighten all of them and then check and theyre all good! Anywhere from 3 days to a week later, theyre "low" again"



Perfectly normal.  The banjo is settling in.  Head stretches a tiny bit, strings stretch a tiny bit.



The fact that the banjo will stay in tune for a few days, and that all  the strings go equally out of tune on the low side, but only a small amount, means that there are no structural or mechanical deficiencies in your banjo.



Enjoy!

R Buck - Posted - 11/09/2021:  08:56:13


WAIT! You mean you can actually tune a banjo? What's next!

BeeEnvironment - Posted - 11/09/2021:  09:05:03


Hey Pal! It's me again! How are things going for you?

Well, I have been playing the banjo since the begging of the year only, but re-tuning is quite normal, especially for the first few years of a banjo's life with new strings.

Russ A.

RB3 - Posted - 11/09/2021:  09:34:34


This is a question that begs for a snarky response, but I'm going to resist the urge.

You don't mention how you tune your banjo. If you don't have a digital tuning device, I would recommend that you get one. Then, each time you pick up your banjo to practice or play, the first thing you should do is to turn on the digital tuner and check to see if you're in tune. If not, re-tune your banjo. In addition to making the banjo sound better, because it will be in tune, it will also help you begin improve your ability to recognize differences in the pitch.

Alrashid2 - Posted - 11/09/2021:  10:07:09


Ha, these responses are killing me! You guys are too funny

Hey BeeEnvironment ! How are you bud? Thanks for your input, seems to be the consensus here

RB3 Thanks for your input. I actually have a free app on my phone that seems to work quite well. Used to use it when tuning my wife's ukulele and it worked good enough for us!

struggle_bus - Posted - 11/09/2021:  12:20:12


I assumed my banjo was tuned when it left the factor 16 years ago, so why would I have to tune it?

But really, I check to make sure it's in tune with itself whenever I get it out to play and will make adjustments while I'm playing if and when things sound sour. Whether or not I'm actually at A=440 isn't a big concern when I'm playing by myself.

rvrose - Posted - 11/09/2021:  17:21:27


You know what they say you can tuna fish but you can't tune a banjo!

Rick

Bill Rogers - Posted - 11/09/2021:  21:19:05


I’ll give the lawyer’s answer to both questions: It depends….

carlb - Posted - 11/10/2021:  05:44:38


As a natural skin player, depends on changes in temperature and humidity.

Alrashid2 - Posted - 11/10/2021:  06:07:32


Thanks all appreciate the input! The consensus is in - tuning often is normal and a must.

carlb In Gwynedd? Cool, not too far from me!

steve davis - Posted - 11/10/2021:  07:06:06


If it continues to always needing retuning up there may be a tear in the head that won't stabilize.

Richard Hauser - Posted - 11/10/2021:  07:19:52


Unlike guitars/mandolins/fiddles, banjos contain large amounts of metal. Metal reacts to temperature change and a few other factors more than wood. If a person has quality tuners
and keeps their banjo where these factors (i.e. temperatremain remain constant, the average player should not have to the banjo often during a playing session. A play who has an agressive playing style would have to tune more often.

If you are tuning often, make sure your tuners are working correctly. Make sure they are tight enough and not slipping.

Alrashid2 - Posted - 11/10/2021:  07:22:32


Thanks for the input. I should mention, my house is pretty old school. No central air, so summers are hot and humid, and we heat with a wood stove and a pellet stove, the latter of which sits about 10 feet from my banjo stand, so winter is dry and the temperature greatly fluctuates (stoves usually heat to like 78F and then slowly drop down to 60s, and repeat). I'm sure that doesnt help the poor thing!

maxmax - Posted - 11/10/2021:  08:01:19


quote:

Originally posted by Alrashid2

Thanks for the input. I should mention, my house is pretty old school. No central air, so summers are hot and humid, and we heat with a wood stove and a pellet stove, the latter of which sits about 10 feet from my banjo stand, so winter is dry and the temperature greatly fluctuates (stoves usually heat to like 78F and then slowly drop down to 60s, and repeat). I'm sure that doesnt help the poor thing!






Humidity changes will definitely effect your tuning. It can also cause other problems with your banjo. If it's too dry, your fret ends will soon start sticking out from the side of the fingerboard as the fingerboard shrinks and your neck will warp. A slight matter of neck bending can be adjusted with the truss rod, but too much or if it starts twisting can cause real problems.



I'd suggest you get some sort of humidifier for your banjo case and keep the banjo in there at all times when not playing during the winter. A slight inconvenience, but not too bad. Good luck,



/Max

BeeEnvironment - Posted - 11/10/2021:  13:53:06


quote:

Originally posted by Alrashid2

Thanks for the input. I should mention, my house is pretty old school. No central air, so summers are hot and humid, and we heat with a wood stove and a pellet stove, the latter of which sits about 10 feet from my banjo stand, so winter is dry and the temperature greatly fluctuates (stoves usually heat to like 78F and then slowly drop down to 60s, and repeat). I'm sure that doesnt help the poor thing!






Yup, a very humid summer here in SE PA! Northern and west PA though, just so nice and dry.

Helix - Posted - 11/10/2021:  14:41:09


Learn to lock your strings


Edited by - Helix on 11/10/2021 14:41:49



 

geoB - Posted - 11/16/2021:  16:08:45


Well... tuning a fair amount is normal. However if are tuning a lot your strings might be shot at that point.

When I was playing out a lot, plus rehearsals I was putting on new strings every two weeks.

chip arnold - Posted - 11/17/2021:  05:46:39


Another thing ... Even the best tuners have a small amount of slack in the gears. Cheap ones can have quite a lot. I always tune the string a little BELOW the pitch I want and tune UP to the pitch. If you just tune down to the pitch, the string tension can pull the slack out of the tuner and give you a flat note.

Quagmire - Posted - 11/17/2021:  07:51:05


quote:

Originally posted by Helix

Learn to lock your strings






The graphic you put here in your post, Helix (sorry if it doesn't appear in the current post - some kind of technical issue I don't know how to address), would make a great BHO T-Shirt!



Cheers,



Quagmire

Helix - Posted - 11/18/2021:  04:10:04


Humor is sometimes lacking, sometimes we have to flow around them that's too serious.




Alrashid2 - Posted - 11/18/2021:  05:40:23


Thanks all for the feedback! chip arnold - I think you are spot on and I am now trying to do the same (tune below, then up) - 7 days so far and it's still in tune, longest ever ha!

Richard Hauser - Posted - 11/18/2021:  06:47:53


Here I am again. Watching Youtube videos on replacing strings can provide some ideas on how to avoid tuning problems. Before you being playing, open your case and let the banjo adjust to the heat/cold/humidity in the room. Then tune your banjo.

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