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Gretsch Dixie for my niece - improving setup / components

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Jan 23, 2020 - 4:32:31 AM
46 posts since 6/22/2019

Hi guys

Landed myself the Gretsch Dixie banjo for £120 second hand. Believe they go for £250+?

Anyway it was in clear need of new strings and a set up, drum was incredibly lose to a point of sounding like a wet flannel but I've fixed all that now with a polish and new strings.. tightening the bolts...But I notice like most store banjos the action is a little stiff.

Regretably it has a smooth head which I can already tell I don't like. It sounds like a cheap drum! haha. I had a goodtime with frosted head and I know I like that better. Ashbury was frosted head too...not sure if I'll change it as it is just for my niece to learn on. But the reason I care is I think most people are put off banjo by the brash / bright tone of cheap nasty banjos. I think this can be fixed with the right strings, head, and maybe the right cloth or stuffing in the back (if at all) but I think the cheap banjos benefit from a small cloth in the back more than banjos like mine (I like the tone with or without)

What's really ticked me off though is the nut width. I thought they were standard on banjos but this banjo definitely seems narrower at the neck and for clawhammer and later drop thumb this just seems to be not ideal. It did say it was a 'bluegrass' banjo but it's an open back ... so thought it would work fine. She is small though for now so maybe not an issue... just I was planning to use / borrow it for campfire stuff... to be fair, it's probably not really even loud enough for that.

There's no scoop. But frankly it just seemed like a very good price which I could easily sell on if it turns out not to be ideal. There was a walnut pilgrim banjo that was perfect but nearly the same as retail price... £300+I think she's interested in frailing too so a scoop in future may be required (personally I think they make it considerably easier) If she sticks with it we'll upgrade probably to a deering or a Grafton, most likely a Grafton as I felt they were better value for money and more options available...Do let me know if any of you have a Grafton knocking about.

 

I basically would like to know..

One of the coordinator rod nuts was really lose - I don't actually have the tool to tighten them. I'm in the UK - what do I need to buy?

A good resource on adjusting action if I need to...

how to fix the buzz on the 5th string

Jan 23, 2020 - 4:56:40 AM

1050 posts since 2/4/2013

I have something similar with my Pilgrim Jubilee. I avoid stuffing. I put on a renaissance head and a thicker bridge and there's no brashness. I also thread something through the strings between bridge and tailpiece. It works out fine and is not over bright. I do have the walnut Pilgrim you mentioned which is hard to recommend. Took much work to get it sounding OK.

As to something better keep an eye out of the better Gretsch Dixies - the G9455 Dixie Special and the G9451 Dixie Deluxe.

Jan 23, 2020 - 5:17:27 AM

Nickcd

UK

197 posts since 1/28/2018

Re the head and tone - you just need to try different things - I have found just putting some strips of masking tape on the back can help.
A thicker bridge may help - the compensated ones are usually quite thick - but again try some different ones (quite cheap from say Andybanjo.) 
Re co-ordination rod nut - I would think a spanner would do (you can get a cheap set of Rolson ones from Machine mart - or get an adjustable spanner)
Re 5th string buzz - could be the tuner?
Anyway looks like you have lots of fun ahead trying things out.

Edited by - Nickcd on 01/23/2020 05:18:10

Jan 23, 2020 - 7:26:27 AM

9 posts since 2/6/2018

These are the things I did to improve the sound/playability of my Gretsch. 1. Deepen the nut slots for .011" clearance at the first fret. That really made a big difference in comfort and action. 2. I switched to a Spillway Dam Clawhammer Special bridge. It raises the 5th string, and may eliminate your string buzz. A heavier, wider bridge helped tame it down a lot. 3. As mentioned, weave a strip of leather through the strings between the tail piece and bridge. That helped eliminate a lot of strange harmonics. 4. A little stuffing between the head and coordinator rod. 5. Changed to GHS pf 160 medium strings.

I eventually replaced the plastic nut and 5th string pip with bone. I think it sounds better with bone. Just my opinion.

The 1 1/4" nut width was standard for a long time. Not unusual at all.
Hope this helps

Clif

Jan 23, 2020 - 7:47:45 AM

46 posts since 6/22/2019

thanks all I'll have a look at this. I though I did have the 9451 version but maybe I'm mistaken. It has the rolled brass ring in it.

Jan 23, 2020 - 8:18:04 AM

1050 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by DeepRiverRuse

thanks all I'll have a look at this. I though I did have the 9451 version but maybe I'm mistaken. It has the rolled brass ring in it.


The G9451 is the White laydie model, essentially the same as a Gold Tone Whyte laydie. the G9455 seems to be a Recording King RK-OT25 with a rolled brass tone ring (same rim and hardware otherwise).

Jan 23, 2020 - 12:15:48 PM

46 posts since 6/22/2019

it really makes me appreciate my Grafton clipper #4 (tubaphone)

The tone difference is night and day... set up too... mines got such a lovely easy action, almost a little too low...

Feb 11, 2020 - 1:08:21 PM

46 posts since 6/22/2019

Thought I'd reply with an update here rather than make a new threat.

So I (bravely) mucked about a little with coordinator rods on the banjo, and actually on my own banjo too...

I'm not sure that I really changed much. I tightened the rod thinking that may be the issue with the buzz but not much seemed to change really. It got a little better I guess.

But I think the problem is the little nodule that the ring sits on. How do I fix this or raise it any ideas?


Also on my own banjo I get a horrible metalic buzz on both the drone and the first string (the highest strings) It seems quite random but is a bit worse when tuned down. I now don't think it's an issue of the coordinator rod but more likely the nut being too low, or the grooves making the action at the first fret too low as I THINK the buzz is happening at the first fret...

again, any ideas how I fix this? will make a new thread if needed.

Feb 11, 2020 - 1:20:22 PM

173 posts since 8/25/2009

Have you tried capoing the banjo at the first fret, to see if that makes the buzz go away?  If it does then you might want to tune the banjo down one semitone, to make the frequency when you capo the same as the uncapoed. 

I've never done it, but making a new nut with higher slots ought to be fairly easy..  In fact, any guitar or fiddle repair guy ought to be able to do it in his sleep.  They or you could even turn the old nut over, and save the cost of a nut.  I've had my luthier do that to widen the string spacing a little.

Good luck,

Bill

Feb 11, 2020 - 7:12:47 PM

6892 posts since 8/28/2013

Bill, it's the 5th string that's buzzing, so a capo at the first fret won't tell him anything. He could, however, test by fretting the 5th string. If the buzz stops, it's probably a problem with the 5th string nut.

Feb 16, 2020 - 6:02:33 PM

46 posts since 6/22/2019

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Bill, it's the 5th string that's buzzing, so a capo at the first fret won't tell him anything. He could, however, test by fretting the 5th string. If the buzz stops, it's probably a problem with the 5th string nut.


Yes on the Gretsch, it's the fifth string, on my own banjo, I developed a horrid metallic buz on both the 1st and 5th string. Not sure what is causing it.

Feb 17, 2020 - 5:44:25 AM

6892 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by DeepRiverRuse
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Bill, it's the 5th string that's buzzing, so a capo at the first fret won't tell him anything. He could, however, test by fretting the 5th string. If the buzz stops, it's probably a problem with the 5th string nut.


Yes on the Gretsch, it's the fifth string, on my own banjo, I developed a horrid metallic buz on both the 1st and 5th string. Not sure what is causing it.


I missed the part about the ist and 5th buzz, and I'm sorry about that.

I would definitely try Bill's advice about capoing at the first fret. You can try fretting the 5th string at a fret above its nut. That can eliminate the nuts as suspects if there is still buzzing.

It seems plausible that if these buzzes began after tweaking the co-rods, that you have gone slightly too far and the strings are now too close to the fretboard.

Feb 17, 2020 - 5:48:38 AM

46 posts since 6/22/2019

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie
quote:
Originally posted by DeepRiverRuse
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Bill, it's the 5th string that's buzzing, so a capo at the first fret won't tell him anything. He could, however, test by fretting the 5th string. If the buzz stops, it's probably a problem with the 5th string nut.


Yes on the Gretsch, it's the fifth string, on my own banjo, I developed a horrid metallic buz on both the 1st and 5th string. Not sure what is causing it.


I missed the part about the ist and 5th buzz, and I'm sorry about that.

I would definitely try Bill's advice about capoing at the first fret. You can try fretting the 5th string at a fret above its nut. That can eliminate the nuts as suspects if there is still buzzing.

It seems plausible that if these buzzes began after tweaking the co-rods, that you have gone slightly too far and the strings are now too close to the fretboard.


Sorry if it's not clear

I have two banjos. One has only 5th string buzz, and the action is fairly high, I'd like it lower but don't know really how to do it... I think its that nodule on the 5th string being set to wide/low

My other banjo, Grafton, has a metallic buzz that doesn't seem related to the same issue. Seems it is a different issue.. No idea what.

The capo solution isn't a permanent solution right just temporary?

Feb 17, 2020 - 9:09:18 AM

6892 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by DeepRiverRuse
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie
quote:
Originally posted by DeepRiverRuse
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Bill, it's the 5th string that's buzzing, so a capo at the first fret won't tell him anything. He could, however, test by fretting the 5th string. If the buzz stops, it's probably a problem with the 5th string nut.


Yes on the Gretsch, it's the fifth string, on my own banjo, I developed a horrid metallic buz on both the 1st and 5th string. Not sure what is causing it.


I missed the part about the ist and 5th buzz, and I'm sorry about that.

I would definitely try Bill's advice about capoing at the first fret. You can try fretting the 5th string at a fret above its nut. That can eliminate the nuts as suspects if there is still buzzing.

It seems plausible that if these buzzes began after tweaking the co-rods, that you have gone slightly too far and the strings are now too close to the fretboard.


Sorry if it's not clear

I have two banjos. One has only 5th string buzz, and the action is fairly high, I'd like it lower but don't know really how to do it... I think its that nodule on the 5th string being set to wide/low

My other banjo, Grafton, has a metallic buzz that doesn't seem related to the same issue. Seems it is a different issue.. No idea what.

The capo solution isn't a permanent solution right just temporary?


The capo is temporary; it's not a solution, but a tool for diagnosing the buzz. It removes the nut from the equation, so if you still have a buzz when the capo is in place, you've ruled out the nut as the source of the buzz.  If there is no buzz with the capo in place, then chances are good that the nut is the problem.

Feb 17, 2020 - 9:21:14 AM

46 posts since 6/22/2019

Ok well I'll give it a try.

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