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Head Tension using Pitchlab

Posted by MildBill on Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I changed the head on my banjo and was trying to adjust the head tension.  I watched Warren Yates video, but I'll be darned if I can hear head tones.  My Snark didn't work either, so I decided to try the tuner app on my phone.  Pitchlab is its name and I think it actually worked. 

I don't have a drum dial, but I do have a dial indicator and depth base (that is bigger than a drum dial).  I used the dial indicator/base to get the head tension even, but didn't try to set it to 90 as you do with a drum dial as my base is much different.

I used the following settings on Pitchlab:

1) Choose Banjo (5 string), Standard/Open G as the Preset Instrument

2) Set the Analysis Rate to High

3) Use the Spectrogram mode


With the resonator off, I put the banjo neck on my shoulder or on a towel on a table.  Then I used one hand to mute the strings on the neck near the pot and the other hand with a finger pick to tap the head. 

I'll be darned if it didn't register on the spectrogram!

If the head tension isn't even, you will get a very blurry reading of several frequencies on the spectrogram.  With it even, and tappng near the rim at about one second intervals you should see a line on the spectrogram at the head frequency.   Then just tighten or loosen the head evenly until you reach your desired head frequency.

The difference between G# and A on my banjo was less than half a turn on all the nuts, so go slow.


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