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head aches and pain

Posted by robin jones on Friday, November 7, 2008

Man have I had a rough time getting my banjo straightened out after changing heads. This entry is intended as yet another cautionary tale. As of yet I'm unsure of the moral of the story. Perhaps "don't fix it if it ain't broke". (Hat-tip to Chrome as to the moral.)

Anyway, a couple weeks back I decided I wanted to put a new head on my banjo. I've never liked the way new banjos tend to come with the logo on the head in plain sight. Having worked in advertising I've developed a very healthy hatred of it and have always preferred to wear my labels on the inside. Additionally, I thought a new, clean head might provide evidence as to where I need to try and clean up my picking because of the tell-tale wear that shows as the frosting is worn off. There may have been some other idiotic motivation, but if so it alludes me now.

So Sunday afternoon I took the original head off, shined up the metal and wood on the banjo and began the task of reassembling the contraption. Within a relatively short time I'd broken two brand new Remo high crown frosted top heads. The only other new head I had on hand was a 5 Star clear. So I put that medium crown bad boy on there and barely tightened it at first. Finally I got it tight but my banjo sounded absolutely horrible.

So I order three more frosted tops from Elderly and had them fly those gems right on down here. Got one on and tight. And to my chagrin, my banjo still sounded awful. After playing, eyeballing, and reflecting, it began dawning on me that the culprit almost certainly had to be the tailpiece. The tension hoop is riding much higher on the new head and that coupled with my complete inability to fathom the secrets of anything mechanical conspired against me. After trying to adjust it for several hours I mostly gave up and completely freaked out. (Here are links to a couple of threads that bear witness to the fact: head change, tailpiece problem? and More high crown head questions.)

Well, the original head is back on now. My banjo sounds alright. Not nearly as good as it did, but okay none-the-less. I've vowed not to do anything to it other than play the strings on it out. That should take about a week, maybe two since I've got a new guitar I'm in love with and playing a lot. Then I'll try again. In the meantime I'll read all I can on heads and tailpieces. I'll formulate a plan. If it doesn't work I'm going to holler for help. Thanks to several of you, and Dean in particular, for helping me put this in perspective. And thanks to my friend Johnny for volunteering to help out in meat space.

3 comments on “head aches and pain”

TopCat Says:
Friday, November 7, 2008 @1:54:28 PM

Oh dear! I must admit this made me chuckle, Robin.

robin jones Says:
Saturday, November 8, 2008 @4:38:23 PM

 For the life of me I can't solve the tailpiece dilemma. Can't seem to get any tension on the strings. Oh well. It's probably not serious. Just inconvenient.

DeanT Says:
Saturday, November 8, 2008 @6:12:50 PM

Thanks for the comments!!!

The tailpiece on my Calico was the same way, tightened to the tension hoop, and then bent out in the back. when you look at your tailpiece from the side, the angled piece should be bent at 90 degrees! It can easily be bent back into shape, in fact I even went a little further on my Calico's tailpiece, so I wouldn't have to rely on the little adjustment screw in the back so much. I've even read on the forum that some people through that little screw away, and  simply bend the tailpiece where they want it. Hey good luck and keep us posted!

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