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Quick question regarding estimating head tension

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Jul 19, 2019 - 10:00:08 AM
72 posts since 6/22/2012

Will a pencil work as a straight edge under the bridge?

They seem fairly uniform.

What do you use under the bridge to do your quarter test?

Jul 19, 2019 - 10:55:19 AM
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beegee

USA

21277 posts since 7/6/2005

Steve Davis Tension MethodYou don't use anything UNDER the bridge.

Jul 19, 2019 - 11:28:24 AM
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Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14258 posts since 3/27/2004

Here's what I recommend.  You can pick up a length of 1/4" key stock at your local big box or hardware store.


Edited by - rudy on 07/19/2019 11:30:06

Jul 19, 2019 - 12:05:18 PM
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hbick2

USA

155 posts since 6/26/2004

Set the banjo pot on your lap, head facing up. Hang the fingers of both hands over the bottom portion of the rim and press down with both thumbs. The head should depress a slight bit. If it feels real tight, loosen it. If it feels too loose, tighten it a little. Once you hit a happy medium, play it a while and see if it has the tone you want. If it is too harsh or tinny, loosen it. If it is too tubby tighten it. Once you get the feel for it, it's pretty easy.

Jul 19, 2019 - 12:12:30 PM
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9955 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by sirtwangalot

Will a pencil work as a straight edge under the bridge? They seem fairly uniform.


Yes, anything straight will work. But the tension indicated by a coin's thickness varies depending on the length of the stick.

I believe Steve Davis (associated here with the coin and stick method) has written that a quarter-deep gap at the bridge under a 10-inch stick is the same as a dime-deep gap under a 6-inch stick.

Jul 19, 2019 - 2:09:08 PM
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69687 posts since 5/9/2007

That's true,Ken.Those choices (quarter/10" and dime/6" ) yield G# tapped notes and a very full sounding head tension.
Great balance of lows and upper neck highs.

Jul 19, 2019 - 2:52:35 PM

Alex Z

USA

3559 posts since 12/7/2006

There is a point on the 10" and 6" straight edges that should be even with the bridge.  Where is that point?

Jul 19, 2019 - 4:02:47 PM
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10513 posts since 2/12/2011

10" ruler on its edge parallel to the strings and maybe and inch from the strings. A quarter should fit under it at the bridge. Snug.

Jul 19, 2019 - 5:49:28 PM

9955 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

There is a point on the 10" and 6" straight edges that should be even with the bridge.  Where is that point?


Steve has often said the 6-Inch rule is placed with the 2-inch mark at the bridge. For the 10-inch stick, I’ve found it works just to place it with ends equidistant from the tension hoop.

Jul 19, 2019 - 5:56:32 PM

72 posts since 6/22/2012

Thank you so much! I didn't actually mean under bridge, I meant under the strings coming off the bridge. I see the 10" straight guide (or 6") is critical now.

I just ordered a drum dial as well. I feel like this is the beginning of a middle school science project.

Joking aside, the above was the best explanation I've seen. The images are awesome.

It's a very clever solution, apparently  the results have been repeatable across different players and banjos. I imagine the only thing missing is 11" banjo head in the pic.

Edited by - sirtwangalot on 07/19/2019 18:01:30

Jul 20, 2019 - 5:58:14 AM

72 posts since 6/22/2012

quote:
Originally posted by rudy

Here's what I recommend.  You can pick up a length of 1/4" key stock at your local big box or hardware store.


It says 7" in the pdf. Does it matter?

Jul 20, 2019 - 10:46:05 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14258 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by sirtwangalot
quote:
Originally posted by rudy

Here's what I recommend.  You can pick up a length of 1/4" key stock at your local big box or hardware store.


It says 7" in the pdf. Does it matter?


Not much.  You want the length to comfortably fit on the head.  It obviously can't exceed the diameter of the head, but needs to be long enough to span the majority of the deflected head so the gap created by the bridge is easy to slide a coin in.  Seven inches is easy to remember and a good length that can still be used on smaller pots such as found on banjo ukes.  The length was chosen also because the gap that's crated by the "average 11" banjo" creates gaps that can then be measured with the standard American coinage as shown.

If you use a shorter of longer length of keystock then you might need to season to taste.  The keystock stands by itself, is straight, is cheap, and is easily cut with a hacksaw.

As the pdf states, there are many variables in using the straightedge and coin method.  It's not an exact science and is meant to give newbies a frame of reference for determining head tension.

An earlier suggestion was to put thumbs on the head, push down, and determine by feel if the head is tight enough.  Those sort of suggestions are all based on someone being able to somehow know what "correct feel" is, and that's an unknown to a new player.  Good idea, but not very helpful for the new player.

Edited by - rudy on 07/20/2019 10:51:41

Jul 20, 2019 - 11:06:52 AM
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2475 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

Steve’s method uses a 6” ruler and a dime. 7” is tough to buy. One inch more is a different method.

The two inch mark on a 6” ruler aligns with the bridge. But, the dime with 6” is Steve’s Method.

Everything with the banjo is imprecise. The best resource with any banjo setup is our and a neighbor’s ears.

I use a drum dial and Steve’s Method to confirm I tightened the head Appropriately. Then I and my wife listen. If we like, then we are very close.

I look at the tension hoop to ensure my method is not distorting the hoop. Since I use a Fults Tailpiece, the height above the head is less important. Uniformity is my goal.

Enjoy the process. A banjo is such a shareable instrument. Nothing about it sad.

Jul 20, 2019 - 11:20:34 AM

2475 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

Why 2” mark with Steve’s Method? The dimple is not uniform. The 2” mark allows the dime to slide under cleanly. The Method has a reference point for the dime to work.

Jul 20, 2019 - 11:29 AM

69687 posts since 5/9/2007

I used the 2" mark when I matched the dime to G#.
That's where I found the ruler's 2 at the bridge.

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