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Banjo Checklist

Posted by nechville on Sunday, November 22, 2009

Making music is a great hobby. It's a fun and creative outlet, It can be expensive if you collect expensive instruments.  But compared to Cable TV, Golf, Boating, skiing, and driving, hunting, raising pets, or sky diving, it's cheap. Especially if you are wise and purchase good instruments with high resale value. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to buy the best instrument you can afford. I know many people who have wasted money on banjos that looked good, and even sounded pretty good for a while. Then the instrument starts needing continual adjustment, and unfortunately never delivers top-tier performance. Then people loose money on a trade for a slightly better instrument which still doesn't measure up over time. Even after a player has lost money several times over on inferior banjos and settled on one he thought would be his last, invariably a picky player's ear begins to seek alternate sounds. Please don't just go out and buy a banjo just because somebody said it was the best. Make your best choice by learning what really makes a banjo great, Here's a practical checklist for those of you looking. The following list are things that I find important as a player and a builder. You'll have your own priorities however, like how it sounds and looks, but the following are banjo luthiers' details that may not be obvious to you but are worth considering when looking for a banjo.

Smooth dressed frets (wider frets wear slower)

Two way adjustible truss rod. (Be sure to check neck and look under truss rod cover)

ergonomically contoured playing surface (compound radius retains neck integrity while improving playability)

no excessive weight (professional banjos can be 7 pounds or less)

Neck angle adjustability (don't expect coordinator rods to give you much if any adjustment)

evenly tensioned head (Helical mounting guarantees even-ness)

Low enough string height with high enough bridge (taller bridges increase power and sustain)

beveled non-metal armrest (metal armrests cut down circulation in your arm)

Bridge properly compensated for intonation and optimal action on each string (bridge should be custom fitted to each banjo)

Easy head changing (Save time for more practice)

Wide and generous Neck to body interface (for tuning stability and solid sound)

 Dual point anchoring for tail piece (tailpiece shouldn't move from side to side)

Easy string changes (avoid tailpieces with covers for quickest changes)

Straight-line tailpiece design (keeps string energy directed straight into head)

Flexibility of options (does it have adaptability for alternative tone components or necks?)





4 comments on “Banjo Checklist”

banjorino Says:
Monday, November 23, 2009 @8:04:33 AM

Exellent Tom! Ive been playing my Phantom/Moonshine ever since I got it. I really dont need any other banjo. For me it is a total allrounder. Everything I hoped for is there. Cheers :)

Blake507 Says:
Monday, November 23, 2009 @3:12:52 PM

You have made a great list of necessary item that are rarely talked about or even advertised. I also have built a few jo over the years and I think about quality at its highest level for all parts. Tuners, J-hooks, resonator attachment hardware and so on. Keeping in mind highest quality for all the components and you will have a great instrument.

Tango_grass Says:
Friday, December 4, 2009 @6:22:03 PM

Good blog yes....but Tom, your new picture there rules. The *Deer in the headlights of new tonal discovery* look, can't beat it!

nechville Says:
Saturday, December 5, 2009 @2:05:03 PM

I wish my addiction to new tonal discovery wasn't so hard on my relationships

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