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New Dead Notes on Restrung Tenor (GDAE to CGDA)

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Jul 9, 2020 - 3:29:31 PM
9 posts since 4/9/2016

Hi, everyone! I bought a lovely used Deering Vega Little Wonder with a 12" head earlier this year, which came to me tuned GDAE. I recently put a fresh set of strings on it for CGDA tuning, and I now have two dead notes on the first string: the F and F#. Plenty of sustain elsewhere on the neck, but as I reach those notes it dies out, and they just plink and die, like the note's being swallowed up or cancelled out by overtones. Up the neck the sustain starts to come back. Tried retuning, and it's defintely the pitch rather than the fret.

My hunch is that I should have done some other setup when I changed tunings, but I'm new enough to banjo (and this one is nicer than what I've been playing) that I haven't wanted to fiddle around without knowing what I'm doing and mess things up worse. Any advice?

I suppose I could just go back to GDAE tuning, but I've been listening a lot to Eddy Davis's videos since he passed, and his 12" open back sound is the mellow tone and style I'm looking for.

Thanks for any help you all can give!


Jul 9, 2020 - 4:50:13 PM

2416 posts since 3/30/2008

Occasionally some instruments need a reworking of the "set up" if changing strings of different gauges, & tuned differently, (i.e. adjusting the tailpiece, tuning the head, neck relief, et al). Perhaps one or any of these things could need inspection.

Jul 9, 2020 - 7:36:10 PM
likes this

13115 posts since 10/30/2008

I suspect head tension!

Jul 10, 2020 - 6:02:10 AM



2729 posts since 11/29/2007

"I suspect head tension!"

Don't overlook Dick's suspicion here. Just this week my five-string was doing the same thing yours was on the 1st string, 3rd fret. Sounding weak, little volume, and not ringing at all. Everything would start coming back at around the 7th fret. Got my Neary torque wrench out and ran the head up from a 9 to 10 and that brought the tone back around.


Jul 10, 2020 - 7:21:12 AM

13115 posts since 10/30/2008

I was in a hot jam one night at a bluegrass festival, with a really good pro bass fiddle player, a bunch of very talented non-pros, and a guy with a conga (?) drum (at least he could keep time). The jam got into a certain key, I forget what it was, let's say D, and on every V note (A), the bass fiddle would completely disappear from the overall sound. It was really noticeable and irritating. Turned out the conga drum head was tuned to A (I guess) and sonically it would match and cancel the bass fiddle's A note!

The bass player figured it out first and gave the drummer an earful!!! GO RETUNE THAT G-D THING!!!!!

Jul 10, 2020 - 7:40:32 AM

9 posts since 4/9/2016

Thanks, everyone! I think the quickest and simplest thing to do is for me to bring the banjo in for a set-up. I think some places are open again near me, now that we're off lockdown--will let you all know how it goes.

Jul 11, 2020 - 1:06:02 PM

9 posts since 4/9/2016

Actually, I'm going to give it a try myself--haven't gotten under the hood of my banjo before, and this seems a good time to try. It sounds like step one will be to get the proper wrench (it looks like 5/16 is the right size) and something to check the tension. I'll fiddle with that before I try anything with the tailpiece and neck relief. If there's anything else I should consider or check, please let me know!

Jul 11, 2020 - 6:40:32 PM

13115 posts since 10/30/2008

Get a real banjo nut wrench, it looks like the letter small "t".

You can't hurt your banjo turning the nuts 1/4 turn. Just do it evenly all the way around. See what happens.  On some fine bluegrass banjos a mere 1/8 of a turn can really wake a banjo up.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 07/11/2020 18:41:04

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