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Jan 16, 2021 - 2:15:33 PM
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131 posts since 11/28/2006

I had been less than satisfied with my banjo's tone lately, so I decided to invest in a Drum Dial. Plus, I had a calf skin-head break on my other banjo (Reiter standard). I placed my order at Banjo Ben's on. a Friday night, they shipped it on Monday and I had it by Thursday. Free shipping and a 10% discount for my first order. Hat's off to Ben and the crew. Gig'em. (If you're wondering about the gig'em, it's a Texas A&M thing, Ben's an Aggie, he'll get it.)

I had previously tap-tuned my head to about a G#. When I put the drum dial on, the tension was 90 - 92 on the neck side and 85 - 87 on the tailpiece side. It didn't seem like a huge difference but I tightened some nuts and loosened some nuts and got it to 90 - 91 all the way around. WOW! the difference in sound was amazing. Clear and sharp, rings like a bell. It's like a whole different banjo. FYI it's a Bishline Cimarron that's about two years old and the only non-stock item is a heavy Moon bridge that I had and couldn't resist using. I can't believe that small of a change made such a big difference in the tone.

I put the original Elite head back on the Reiter and tuned it up to 90 too. But, with the head change I don't have any basis to compare the sound difference on that banjo. I may try a little looser head and see what that does.

I just wanted to share how such a small change made a big difference for me. Plus a shout-out to Banjo Ben for great service and a good deal. I guess buying a $60 tool for an occasional use may seem a little extravagant, but I'm an engineer in my day job so I'm a sucker for good tools and hard numbers.

Jan 16, 2021 - 3:02:01 PM
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slammer

USA

3089 posts since 12/30/2008
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This is good news for you and very informative for us!!! Can’t believe you’ll ever go wrong with a Bishline!!! I don’t own one ..............YET !!!
I’ve had a few banjos that just “opened up” when the head was set just right!!!
Congrats!!!
Slammer!!!

Jan 16, 2021 - 10:03:42 PM
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Foote

USA

433 posts since 3/25/2009

I've always done my own setup for 45 years, thinking I was pretty good. After reading reports here, I bought a drum dial. I found that all my banjos were not uniform pressure and when I got them to the 89-91 range, they all opened up and sounded remarkably better. The best thing to have.

Jan 17, 2021 - 7:12:13 AM

26 posts since 10/8/2020

I just ordered one. When I get it and learn how to use it I can check by ear, but is 90-91 head tension equivalent to about a G#?

I’ve been thinking about getting one and this thread totally convinced me - thanks!

Jan 17, 2021 - 5:56:03 PM
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Players Union Member

Edwards

USA

130 posts since 3/26/2014

I don't know where I'd be without a drum dial,I know there's a twack noise. But I Prefer precision As I have in the past Basis for comparison

Jan 18, 2021 - 12:34:32 PM

131 posts since 11/28/2006

quote:
Originally posted by EnjoyPikin

I just ordered one. When I get it and learn how to use it I can check by ear, but is 90-91 head tension equivalent to about a G#?

I’ve been thinking about getting one and this thread totally convinced me - thanks!


Eric,

I think the actual tap note will depend on your specific banjo and set up, although I don't have the experience many of the others here do. What surprised me was the difference in tension around the head and how a small change made such a big effect. I'm going to tinker with my open back Reiter to get a better feel for what different tensions do to the tone. I started with a 90 reading because that seemed to be the most common value discussed here on the Hangout.

Edited by - Ron Lacey on 01/18/2021 12:40:35

Jan 18, 2021 - 2:29:03 PM

26 posts since 10/8/2020

Ok, understood, makes sense, thanks!

Jan 18, 2021 - 5:49:01 PM
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1523 posts since 11/17/2018

Good video from Jake at Banjo Ben on getting consistent banjo head tension -

youtube.com/watch?v=bA61RQ23kGo

Edited by - OldNavyGuy on 01/18/2021 17:50:08

Jan 18, 2021 - 6:03:27 PM

5 posts since 1/16/2021

For my snare, kick, rack tom and floor tom batter/reso heads i've used a tool called the tune-bot drum tuner. You basically go around to each lug tuning it to the note you need to get the correct fundamental note when the drum is struck. I'm pretty new to the banjo so I haven't attempted to change the head yet, but I would imagine the tune-bot will provide a very accurate way to get a G# at each lug.

Jan 19, 2021 - 11:18:49 AM

69 posts since 3/15/2015

I use a drum dial tuner. I usually check with strings and bridge in (which puts pressure on the head). You all have me wondering if I should tune the head without pressure from the strings and bridge.

Is there a correct way to measure with the drum dial or tune-bot?

Jan 20, 2021 - 5:42:23 AM

1979 posts since 10/7/2008

sojourner: You should use the Drum Dial to set even tension with the bridge and strings off, or at least the strings loose. The reason is that adjusting the head with strings on will cause you to apply less tension with the hooks near the bridge, because the bridge is already putting pressure on the head at it's location. Take the strings loose and you will see that the Drum Dial shows slightly lower tension near those hooks.

When you put the bridge and strings back on, you will pre-load the head under the strings so that the effect of the vibrating string will be enhanced. Banjo strings move the head much less than a strike by a drumstick moves a drum head.

Others may have a different opinion, but the best thing is to try it both ways and see for yourself if the difference is significant to you.

Edited by - Hotrodtruck on 01/20/2021 05:43:24

Jan 20, 2021 - 7:21:48 AM

jcland

USA

319 posts since 3/7/2006

Keep in mind that when you calibrate the drum dial, my recommendation is to do it on a piece of smooth glass. You want the surface to be absolutely smooth with no imperfections as that can mess up the calibration.

Jan 20, 2021 - 7:28:44 AM

124 posts since 1/7/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Hotrodtruck

sojourner: You should use the Drum Dial to set even tension with the bridge and strings off, or at least the strings loose. The reason is that adjusting the head with strings on will cause you to apply less tension with the hooks near the bridge, because the bridge is already putting pressure on the head at it's location. Take the strings loose and you will see that the Drum Dial shows slightly lower tension near those hooks.

When you put the bridge and strings back on, you will pre-load the head under the strings so that the effect of the vibrating string will be enhanced. Banjo strings move the head much less than a strike by a drumstick moves a drum head.

Others may have a different opinion, but the best thing is to try it both ways and see for yourself if the difference is significant to you.


I would have thought that you would want even tension with everything up to tension and the bridge in place. If not, then you are essentially back at an unevenly tensioned head on the tone ring. I always adjust and check mine with strings on and up to tension. 

Maybe I am doing it wrong

Jeff

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