I'm just finishing up a fun little banjolele build and was wondering if anyone has any guidelines on head tension for one these guys?
Do I want a bit of head deflection, comparable to when I setup a head on a banjo?
If so, with such light strings and lack of downward pressure I obviously have to have the head quite a bit looser than I would with a banjo, which I'm sure robs it of some 'pop'
Or, should I just crank it up pretty tight to get some sparkle?
Any tips appreciated...
I have a dozen old ones sitting here waiting for refurbishing. I have not started so I have no input. I intend to have a grand time messing with them. Time for you to experiment and become the expert. Add bridge (light, heavy, style of footing) to your list of variables. And let us know what you learn. Keep in mind that a banjolele should not be judged by whether it sounds like a wooden ukulele, rather what novel uses can be created with its unique timbre. I see people making this error with banjo mandolins--rejecting them because they do not sound like a wooden mandolin.
You want the head to have a quick response, no more. I have had good results by tensioning the head a bit, then rapping on it with my knuckle. Tighten until the response is a "boink".
Tighten it or loosen it until you find the response that suits you best.
Qualitative assessments are subjective. Use a straight edge across the head and under the strings. Measure the gap caused by the bridge dimple with different coins. When a dime cannot go under the bar, the head maybe too tight. Use a penny as the final gage.
An unused new pencil would work.
All depends on the sound you're after, and I've heard banjo ukes with a tone very close to that of a standard wood body ukulele, others so bright and percussive as to sound more like scratching a washboard with a church key (and with so little sustain you can hardly tell what chord is being played!). Head tension adjustment, choice of bridge and strings, (and of course playing technique!) can move nearly any given banjo uke through a significant portion of the timbral spectrum between those two extremes.
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