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Banjo Care Following Auto Accident (Wisconsin)

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Sep 12, 2019 - 9:36:51 AM
3 posts since 9/12/2019

This is a weird one (and also my first post here, so thanks for bearing with me). Short version: I'm a novice banjo player who is not familiar with the proper "set up" of a banjo and would like some advice as it pertains to a banjo that had a rough day.

I purchased a Goldtone OB-250-LW earlier in the summer. Four weeks ago on the way home from a gig, a Dodge Ram blew through a red light when I was turning through the intersection. I'm nursing a fractured vertebrae and my wife has two plates and twelve screws in her arm. Additionally, the impact sent my banjo (in its case) flying out the back window where it went end-over-end a couple of times, bounced off the street and landed in the grass between the street and the sidewalk (I know this because we've obtained surveillance footage of the accident).

Once I was cleared to grab my belongings, I feared the worst. But when I opened up the banjo case, everything looked normal. However, after having played it for a couple of weeks now, I can tell some things are off, but I'm unsure of what to look at as being the cause. I haven't made any adjustments or tweaks myself yet, as I'd like to get some advice first. Some of my observations:

- the banjo doesn't seem to stay in tune as well as it did before the crash.

- the amount of pressure that I use when fretting notes, especially closer to the neck, will affect the pitch of the note. In other words, I have to fret those notes very softly, or they'll be sharp. This was not at all the case prior to the crash, and I don't even notice this phenomenon on my cheap little Bean Blossom.

- the neck itself does not appear to have shifted at all, though I haven't taken calipers to it to verify this.

- the action seems lower than it was before, which seems to accompany a duller (less-bright) sound than what I had before; if feel like this might be related to the pressure/fret issue I mentioned above, but don't know for sure.

- I am unsure how much, or if, the bridge moved during the crash. I was slated to put on its first new pair of strings the day after my gig, at which time I was going to mark the original positioning of the bridge. The banjo came perfectly set up when I received it from Goldtone.

- I am NOT noticing any buzzing or dead frets.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this, and any thoughts or advice you might be able to offer. The banjo is very much "playable" right now, but I'd like to restore it to its former glory as soon as possible.

Edited by - dune_banjo on 09/16/2019 09:28:33

Sep 12, 2019 - 10:04:10 AM
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14251 posts since 12/2/2005

Welcome aboard! I think I speak on behalf of many when I say I'm glad the injuries to yourself and your wife weren't more serious.

Your Gold Tone is a good quality instrument; it's not like we're talking a cheapo bottlecap here. I would send it to a good set-up person for a complete evaluation. There are any number of things that could have happened to it considering the forces it sustained. From what you're describing, at minimum I'd be suspicious of the integrity of the head. But there could be other things going on, too.

I'd also try and get the other driver (or more specifically, his/her insurance company) to pay for getting the banjo set up.

Sep 12, 2019 - 10:16:35 AM

3 posts since 9/12/2019

Thanks for the kind words. Ultimately I think I'll end up taking it to the local guy here just to be safe if there aren't any obvious starting points. I knew I wouldn't get that lucky. :)

Sep 12, 2019 - 11:52:46 AM

109 posts since 3/16/2008

I second the notion that I'm glad you're OK. It sounds like the bridge could have moved (sharpness up the neck) and possibly the coordinator rod needs readjusting (action being lower than before). I agree you should have a professional look at it.

Sep 12, 2019 - 1:13:42 PM
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444 posts since 5/19/2018

The heck with the banjo. Just be very very very thankful that you are here and able to ask a question on this forum.

Welcome aboard.

Since some one above took it upon themselves to protect and take care of you both, let’s assume the same goes for the banjo.

Take it to a competent set up person and unless there is a crack or damage you have not seen, I’m sure the instrument will be back to spec as I hope will be the case for the both of you.

Sep 12, 2019 - 1:21:15 PM

457 posts since 7/10/2012

Yikes! Sounds like quite a smash up, glad you and your wife are doing well.

Two things you can do right away are to check the bridge placement and head tightness as both could have been affected by the accident.

Strike a string open, then fret the 12th fret and strike again. If the fretted note sounds sharp compared to the open note, move the bridge towards the tail a bit, if the fretted note sounds flat, move it toward the neck.

Push gently down in the middle of the head, it should give a little bit, but not much. If it gives more than a little, you can tighten it up by tightening all the lugs around the rim starting at 1/4 turn each, all the way around, and see if it brightens things up for you.

If that doesn't help, take her in then.

Sep 12, 2019 - 5:43:34 PM

6040 posts since 8/28/2013

I'm sorry to hear about your accident, and I hope you and your wife heal quickly and completely.

As for the banjo, I would take it FIRST THING to a banjo expert (not some doofus at Guitar Center). There could possibly be some hidden damage you wouldn't notice that a banjo luthierwould; damage that could be made worse by messing with even the most simple aspects of a banjo, such as the head or tailpiece.

While you are there, get an written estimate for repairs and set-up (and that includes case repairs such as scuffs or bent hinges) and send a copy to the insurance adjuster.

Sep 12, 2019 - 6:54:02 PM
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52170 posts since 12/14/2005

Welcome to the HangOut.

If you'd update your profile, to give us a clue as to where you ARE, maybe somebody could recommend a nearby person with the necessary skills.

OR, edit your topic title to read
"Setup and/or Repair Help Needed near (__________)"

and, if you're nervous about giving away your home town, just fill in the blank with the county and the state.

That WILL get the attention of OutHangers nearby.

Sep 12, 2019 - 8:28:30 PM

12110 posts since 10/30/2008

My first thought is that the neck has moved slightly in relation to the pot, due to the tremendous torque forces involved in a cased banjo flying end-over-end. Not something for a beginner to deal with. I can't believe none of the wood cracked or broke!

I agree with everyone to find an experienced banjo person to probably disassemble and re-assemble it.

Sep 13, 2019 - 5:20:29 AM
Players Union Member



14380 posts since 3/27/2004

Given the symptoms you list I'd look to the neck to rim tightness as a first suspect.  You can check this by laying a finger along the joint between the neck heel and the rim and physically pulling the neck back and fourth lightly.  If the neck isn't tight you'll be able to feel movement.  (On a resonator banjo this requires removing the resonator first.)

If there's obvious movement then it should be looked at by a competent banjo tech.  If  the forces of the accident were strong enough to loosen the lag screw connection then this might be best if a professional evaluated the integrity of the lag threads.

You can usually spot the infamous cracked peghead, but sometimes it's difficult to see until you apply a bit of pressure there, also.

Sep 13, 2019 - 8:09:03 AM
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52170 posts since 12/14/2005

Originally posted by Alvin Conder

The heck with the banjo. Just be very very very thankful that you are here and able to ask a question on this forum.

Welcome aboard.

Since some one above took it upon themselves to protect and take care of you both, let’s assume the same goes for the banjo.

Take it to a competent set up person and unless there is a crack or damage you have not seen, I’m sure the instrument will be back to spec as I hope will be the case for the both of you.

I wonder who THAT might be.....

Would have to be someone who CARES about banjos!   wink

Sep 13, 2019 - 1:42:19 PM
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1825 posts since 2/7/2008

Like the others, I'm glad to hear you're OK. After hearing the details of the wreck, I'd think you could maybe make a few bucks to pay for your setup by doing an ad for the company that makes the case!

Sep 14, 2019 - 7:37:34 AM

Alex Z


3616 posts since 12/7/2006

A.  "a duller (less-bright) sound than what I had before"

B.  "the banjo doesn't seem to stay in tune as well as it did before the crash."

While the vertabra and arm bones are healing, you can tend to the important stuff, such as whether your banjo bridge is in the right spot.  smiley

Seriously, glad you're still alive.

Considering what happened to the banjo case, you might want to have someone check for a crack in the neck, in light of A and B.  Might not be able to even see a crack unless you know where it is, especially if it is along a grain line.

A duller sound, that has occurred suddenly, is a notable sign of a crack in the neck/peghead.   Coupled with difficulty in tuning, those are two symptoms of a crack.  They are also symptoms of a loose connection of neck to pot, but then the change in tone is much smaller and not obvious.

Now, I'm not saying there is a crack -- I haven't see the banjo -- only that when there is a crack in the neck,  the two symptoms you've described are typically noticed.  Been there, twice, with guitars.

Sep 16, 2019 - 9:31:38 AM

3 posts since 9/12/2019

Thank you all for your replies and your kind words! I'm in Wisconsin and have a trusted guy I took my other banjo to in the past so I'm going to try to squeeze into his schedule.

I really appreciate all of the ideas in terms of what could be wrong; I never thought to look for a hairline crack, but I think I might just print off this thread and give it to him to maybe save him some time.

Sep 16, 2019 - 3:28:16 PM

52170 posts since 12/14/2005

While waiting for your banjo to be up and playable again, may as well memorize the lyrics to the Wisconsin Geography Song:


This land is YOUR land,
This land is MY land,
From south of Cudahy (ain'a hey?)
Up past Sheboygan!

Clear to the BOR-dah
Of MinneSO-Dah,
This land is good for beer and cheese!


Sep 18, 2019 - 2:11:17 PM



1097 posts since 7/21/2004

Glad you're doing better & hoping for a speedy recovery for all parties involved!

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