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Shop says bent tailpiece Lug is normal....wanted some expert advice

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Jul 6, 2020 - 9:32:35 PM

tarashp

Australia

3 posts since 7/6/2020

Hey there friends,

A few weeks ago a music site had a MASSIVE instrument sale. While perusing, I came across a beautiful (and very cheap) Bryden 4-string banjo. I've never played banjo before, but it is one of my favourite instruments, so I decided to take the plunge and learn (even if Bryden isn't a top tier brand, I gotta start somewhere!).

When I received it, I noticed 2 things:

1. The tailpiece screw/lug was bent (pictured)
2. One of the braces was loose (I have a youtube link of it rattling, but I can't post yet since this is my first time on here).

I emailed the shop back and they said that the brace was an easy fix, and the bend is normal for that style of banjo. Since I have no banjo experience, I just wanted to see if any of you pros thought that was the case. Even though the banjo was cheap, its the principle: you tell me if theres something wrong before I buy it.

Thanks for your help everyone

Taras (beginner banjo connoisseur)


Jul 6, 2020 - 10:23:03 PM
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10795 posts since 10/27/2006

That's not a tailpiece lug. It is a tailpiece adjusting screw.

Bent lugs are sometimes necessary for alignment, especially on older banjos. If the tailpiece is properly aligned with a bent lug, leave it alone.

Bent screws, on the other hand, keep you from being able to adjust the tailpiece angle. This is not normal. If you bought that banjo new, the screw should be replaced—and the shop should know it.

Hopefully, with the string tension loose, you can unscrew the tailpiece adjuster and replace it when they make good.

Jul 7, 2020 - 1:50:38 AM

4868 posts since 5/14/2007

What do you mean by "brace." That's not really a banjo term.

Jul 7, 2020 - 2:09:35 AM
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637 posts since 1/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by tarashp

Hey there friends,

A few weeks ago a music site had a MASSIVE instrument sale. While perusing, I came across a beautiful (and very cheap) Bryden 4-string banjo. I've never played banjo before, but it is one of my favourite instruments, so I decided to take the plunge and learn (even if Bryden isn't a top tier brand, I gotta start somewhere!).

When I received it, I noticed 2 things:

1. The tailpiece screw/lug was bent (pictured)
2. One of the braces was loose (I have a youtube link of it rattling, but I can't post yet since this is my first time on here).

I emailed the shop back and they said that the brace was an easy fix, and the bend is normal for that style of banjo. Since I have no banjo experience, I just wanted to see if any of you pros thought that was the case. Even though the banjo was cheap, its the principle: you tell me if theres something wrong before I buy it.

Thanks for your help everyone

Taras (beginner banjo connoisseur)


Hi,

That screw adjusts the height of the tailpiece. It is important, but a new tailpiece could cost as little as £10 on eBay over here. Not best quality, but would do the job. Relatively easy to change but does need you to take strings off, and you'll have to position the bridge correctly. Lots of advice on here on that subject. Just a bit fiddly.

So it depends how cheap the banjo is?

Could still be a real bargain to get you started.

Andy

Jul 7, 2020 - 3:18:51 AM
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2672 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

Cheap usually means fake. Fake means instead of proper material a substitute inferior material was used.

Find the pitch and size of the screw and replace it with a brass one. SAE is usually the standard for banjos made for an American market. In Australia, metric is the standard. Try an M6 screw with a knurled head.

The next trouble will be the metal this presses against. Cheap again becomes easily distorted and fails. In fact, replace the tailpiece with a quality tailpiece made of brass.

A banjo properly tensioned and tuned puts much strain on the tailpiece. The tailpiece and its attachment must be solid. Same is true for the neck to the pot fit.

You get what you paid for, is still true today. It’s your banjo. Tinker with it as we all do. Banjos are fascinating instruments to play.

Jul 7, 2020 - 4:33:38 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

12726 posts since 8/30/2006

tarashp First, welcome to the hangout. Imagine what environment the banjo has been played in. Perhaps a person like me who used his banjo neck as a brace while standing up out of a chair when my knee was replaced. That certainly didn't keep me from playing banjo.

I keep extra of those screws in my shop, I get black steel ones from the local hardware store because sometimes they just go missing.

I don't agree you need a new tailpiece (yet). Yes, the seller should have known that, but not every banjo gets banged against the floor, well not most banjos anyway.
Perhaps they could lower the price,now you are informed.   I suggest you buy the banjo.  We help with other questions later.
We enjoy and support your enthusiasm, once you get your "race car" sorted out, you'll be going fast as you can learn, we hope

Personal aside:  Keep an eye on the little nuts and bolts, get a 6mm nut driver or such and keep  a little kit with you.   While on tour in Germany, I checked my tailpiece lug just before a crucial performance, The lug nut was ready to be lost in a foreign country, lucky, I was, Grasshopper to catch it before it was gone.

You will need to remove the resonator to check all of the j-hook nuts, learn to tighten them across from each other, I use two nut drivers to do that. 


 

Edited by - Helix on 07/07/2020 04:45:18

Jul 7, 2020 - 5:18:28 AM
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tarashp

Australia

3 posts since 7/6/2020

I knew you guys would be bloody legends when I signed up.

mikehalloran thankyou for correcting my terminology! Yes it was bought new, but it was a floor model. Still, if I can get them to send me a new adjusting screw then I'm ahead.

John Gribble Im sorry I lack the terms to describe it. Ill post a link below of a video if it works for me. But it rattles thats for sure.

Andyrhydycreuau Ok good to know! I'll let the shop know and potentially they can send me one (if they have one). I would bring the Banjo in for them to look at, but theyre a 3 hour drive away. Bit too much for me to drive there and back I reckon.

Aradobanjo Yep totally. I felt guilty posting about my cheap and low quality banjo here because you'll all have such incredible instruments between you. This is more of a transitional instrument, just wanted to get a feel for it before I hock out for something more expensive. I'm so happy that I don't have to use Midi banjo in my recordings anymore (it just isnt the same).

Helix Bloody legend. Thanks for the advice man. I can see why you used it as a brace, they really are the perfect sized walking cane aren't they. I already own it, it got delivered a little while ago. Its so nice that I'm a passable finger picker on guitar. It means I don't have to start from scratch, and can make what some might call music on my banjo already.

Thanks for your help again my peeps. Im playing it right now again. Gotta buy me some of those metal finger-nail pickin things (I'll learn the right word for it soon enough).

Jul 7, 2020 - 6:03:01 AM

7414 posts since 8/28/2013

I wouldn't be too concerned about the bent screw, which can be replaced. However, I do wonder how it got bent in the first place. Something like that usually happens with mishandling, which might indicate other issues. Be sure to check the entire banjo for possible damage.

I do believe that because the banjo appears otherwise intact, that the screw is the only problem, but please make sure.

I am assuming by "brace" you mean one of the hooks holding the metal ring (correct term: tension hoop) that keeps the banjo head in place. That can easily be tightened with the proper sized wrench, and once snug, it should stop the rattling.

Jul 7, 2020 - 7:12:24 AM

10958 posts since 6/2/2008

Is the tailpiece screw bent or just going in the hole crooked?  If the latter, perhaps you could remove it then reinsert and try to screw it in straight.

From the photo, it appears to me tht the screw is already backed out so far that it's not doing anything.  For the screw to perform its function of keeping the main body of the tailpiece set at the desired angle, the tip of the screw needs to be pressing against the lower leg of the tailpiece.  Some brief fiddling with the tailpiece will show you how it functions.

If you can't get this screw to go in straight, then replacing it with one from a hardware store is the thing to do. Since the banjo was probably made in China and is not one of the leading brands known to use traditional US thread,  I'd expect the hardware to be metric. Just take the screw to the store and match it.

Good luck and have fun.

Jul 7, 2020 - 7:55:13 AM

13122 posts since 10/30/2008

Welcome Taras.

The "bent" adjusting screw on the tailpiece is of zero importance to you as a beginniner picker. Ignore it, don't worry about, even though it is "wrong" for it to be bent or mis-threaded like that. Simply not important. Play the banjo!

The loose "brace" is probably what we call a "tension hook", "j-hook" or "bracket". Did you happen to get a little tool with this banjo, looks like a squat letter "t"? That is the hex head socket to tighten/loosen those tension hooks.  Figure out how to take off the wooden back of the banjo (the resonator).  Take that loose tension hook (yes, they rattle!) and remove the nut from the bottom end of it with your fingers. Take that to a hardware store and find a little socket that fits it properly (again, as said, it could be metric, might be English inches). I would recommend a socket that fits on the end of a tool shaped like a screwdriver (socket driver). Cheaper than a right angled socket "wrench" unless you already have one of those. If you do, make sure it's SMALL so it will fit in that close space next to the wooden rim at the bottom end of the tension hook. Put the nut back on by hand and tighten by hand til it won't slip, and then you use your new socket driver to tighten it JUST ENOUGH that nothing rattles. If you over-tighten, you'll find the neighboring tension hooks all get loose and then you'll start on a spiral of tightening more and more and more of them. Every one you tighten will make its neighbor get loose. Check all the others to make sure they fit snug, and aren't on the verge of getting loose and rattly.

Be patient putting the resonator back on.  On even wildly expensive banjos you sometimes have to "fuss" to get the fastening lugs in EXACTLY the right position to tighten them up.  You can do it.

Mostly, play the thing! If you can't get a socket driver, take off the loose tension hook and nut, and put them somewhere safe until you get a socket. That will at least stop the rattling, with no harm to the banjo.

Banjo playing is at least 10% banjo tinkering!!

Good luck.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 07/07/2020 07:57:07

Jul 7, 2020 - 8:16:06 AM

tarashp

Australia

3 posts since 7/6/2020

"The "bent" adjusting screw on the tailpiece is of zero importance to you as a beginniner picker. Ignore it, don't worry about, even though it is "wrong" for it to be bent or mis-threaded like that. Simply not important. Play the banjo!"

Love this sentiment The Old Timer . Tbh I'm enjoying just noodling on the Banjo so much none of this can get me down.

Really appreciate the effort you put into the text. From reading all this, I had a go at fixing what I term the brace, and I think I did a bloody good job of it. No more rattling. I was concerned that it would damage the banjo (I'm always concerned when having to put too much pressure into a screw) but after a bit of force it twisted and tightened.

Going down the Ralph Stanley rabbit hole at the moment....

Jul 7, 2020 - 8:46:56 AM
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7728 posts since 1/7/2005
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As noted, it looks like the tailpiece screw got bumped. I'd loosen the strings, remove the screw, straighten the screw, and reinstall the screw. A one minute repair.

If the screw breaks or for some reason can't be straightened, you can get a perfectly good replacement at your local hardware store. A stainless steel screw would look best against your nickel plated tailpiece. The screw should be adjusted to put a little down pressure on the strings behind the bridge.

DD

Jul 7, 2020 - 11:21:43 AM

123 posts since 12/21/2012

If you're just starting, the screw on the tailpiece shouldn't make a difference. You could forget it.

It just adjusts the tension the strings have on the bridge, and thereby slightly altering the tone produced. Closer to bridge, more clarity. Farther, more warmth and "Plunk"

Some folks like more tension, others less. I would say the majority of players couldn't even tell the difference.


Naturally since they're so cheap, it certaintly wouldn't hurt to replace it either though.

Good luck! :^)

Edited by - Red Squirrel on 07/07/2020 11:26:02

Jul 7, 2020 - 2:23:37 PM

55110 posts since 12/14/2005

Welcome to the HangOut.
And congratulations on being the only member named Taras.
There are HUNDREDS of Mikes and Michaels.
So, have we determined that by "brace", you meant "tension hook"?

Here's a chart of what most of the bits are called...

HELPFUL HINT:

BEFORE you change or remove the strings, make sure the bridge is in the right place.

THEN, trace around the feet with a fine pencil.

THEN, remove and replace the strings ONE at a time, so the bridge doesn't lose position.

Jul 8, 2020 - 10:16:10 AM

123 posts since 12/21/2012

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory

Welcome to the HangOut.
And congratulations on being the only member named Taras.
There are HUNDREDS of Mikes and Michaels.
So, have we determined that by "brace", you meant "tension hook"?

Here's a chart of what most of the bits are called...

 

Hahaha! Yeah Mike, whats up with your name? I've been in a music store my whole working life. The number of Mikes playing banjo/guitar is WAY unproportionate to the general population here. Me and my coworker were just talking about that the other day. 

Jul 8, 2020 - 11:43:31 AM
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7414 posts since 8/28/2013

Speaking of names, I once worked in a piano shop where there were three people named George and two people named "Edward." It got confusing at times, so I volunteered to go by my middle name. I revealed it was a joke, though, because my middle name is Edward.

Jul 8, 2020 - 12:36:33 PM

1651 posts since 2/12/2009
Online Now

I worked in a touring band where the drummer was called Nick, same as me, to avoid confusion we hit on the idea of using our middle names, his was Alfred mine is Alan, problem solved we were called al !

Jul 8, 2020 - 1:43:59 PM

kww

USA

148 posts since 6/21/2008

And, as a newbie, congratulations on buying a banjo with the correct number of strings. Too many people are tricked into buying five-string banjos instead of musical instruments. How big is your four string banjo? Little bitty, under two feet long? It's probably a ukulele banjo if it is. If it's a bit bigger than that, it's probably a tenor banjo, and if it's a lot bigger, it's a plectrum or a cello banjo. How long from the nut (the bar under the headstock) and the bridge (the piece of wood on the banjo head that the strings go over)? How big is the banjo pot (the round bit)?

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