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Tweaking the Hohner HTB Travel Banjo

Posted by banjopogo on Thursday, July 29, 2010

When I got my Hohner HTB Travel Banjo, it sounded good enough that it inspired one of the local jammers to get one too, since he wanted to get started on clawhammer, and I think he didn't like the sound of his wife's banjo.

However, it didn't sound as good as mine, although I did some superficial tweaks to it.  So I brought it home, and did EVERYTHING I could think of doing to it that I'd done to mine except changing the tuners.

I suspect that many of these adjustments will improve other Hohner banjos too, since I think they share the same rim and hardware.  But WARNING... when I say "tight" I mean firm, but not thread strippingly tight.  I find that any nut or screw that is loose is dampening and sucking tone, not transmitting it.  But when I feel firm resistance against my hand, I stop.

1. I tightened the brackets

2. I tightened the shoes and found they were VERY loose, much looser than mine had ever been.

3. I tightened the nut above the "perch rod" that helps hold the neck in place.

This was surprisingly loose (you could shift the fingerboard out of line with the tension hoop before I tightened it!) and made a BIG improvement in the volume when tightened.

4. I tightened the 7mm nut holding the bridge on, since it was loose.

5. I even tightened the small screw holding the tuners and truss rod cover on!

6. I tightened the nuts on the perch rod on both sides of the rim.

7. I removed some protective plastic from the truss rod cover.

8. I had previously used guitar picks as shims on both his and my HTBs.

I've switched to pieces of wooden craft spoons and popsicle sticks under the feet as shims.  This added a pleasant touch of woodiness to my banjo, and seemed to improve his as well.

9. I removed the bracket closest to the top end of the fingerboard, since it gets in the way of the sweet spot for the right thumb just between the last fret and the tension hoop.

10. I used that bracket to replace one that tended to twist off of the tension hoop. Odd, both his and mine had problem brackets like that, and in just about the right space.

11. His 1st string seemed weak, and I noticed that it was sitting deep in the notchs of both the nut and the bridge, so I use an emery board to sand those down, and the 1st string got louder.

12. I had put masking tape crosswise under the bridge to cut some of my HTB's treble.  His HTB, on the other hand, doesn't have a problem with too much treble, even after the tweaks- his sounds tubby.  So I decided to remove the strapping tape I'd used in his.

He however had half a sponge, and I put it towards the tailpiece, and kind of tucked it under so it wasn't right up under the bridge.  I think it cuts the tubbiness and ringiness, but doesn't kill the volume.

So, his HTB banjo is sounding a lot better, and I demoed it for him, and he seems to be happy.

To my surprise though, I demoed it both with and without the sponge, and the difference that was so apparent to me wasn't apparent to him and another banjo picker also present.

The Wilkinson Waverly Tuner copies I bought and installed on my HTB did improve the sound, I think they increased my banjo's  volume, and give it a better tuning ratio.

BUT, they aren't any more stable than the stock tuners.  You still have to retune often, just that when you do retune, it's easier to get it right on!!!

So I'm thinking of installing some other tuners, maybe sealed.

Part of the problem is that these HTB Travel banjos are a lot shorter than standard or even an A-scale (in fact, you could take off the fifth string, change the bridge, tweak the nut and restring and they'd make a great cheap tenor!!!) but they are tuned like an A-scale to open A or 2-C's tune up a whole step to be 2 D's!!!  So there isn't a whole lot of tension on the strings OR the tuners, and I think that affects the stability of the tuners.

I have never had a banjo that seemed to need it's hardware tightened so much.  I wonder why that is???  Or maybe I wasn't as meticulous about it when I owned previous banjos.  I got really meticulous about these kinds of things when I got into Stratocaster electric guitars- they have LOTS of screws to be tightened... more than 60!!!!

1 comment on “Tweaking the Hohner HTB Travel Banjo”

neighbordog Says:
Tuesday, July 3, 2018 @1:25:15 PM

I bought a Hohner travel banjo and had to go through the same procedures you did. Of significance is the fact that all of the bracket shoe screws were too short. As I attempted to tighten the shoe screws the threads would tear out. Remedy: I ordered slotted, round top brass screws in size 10-32-3/4". They are 1/8" longer than the OEM screws. Be sure and use the washer that came on the original screws. Result: perfect screw size.

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