Hi Guys. I am in the UK and new to this forum and to banjo playing. I play guitar, mainly country/Country Gospel and Irish Folk. I have decided to try to expand on my "musical abilities" and am trying to start learning Banjo. I have bought a new (Cheap) Banjo to learn on made under the name of Kmise (in China) and after setting it up (Bridge placement, tensioning the head, checking action etc) it actually sounds quite reasonable and "playable".
However there are a couple of things I would like a little advice on:
Obviously this Banjo being Chinese has been produced using cheaper parts and I was wondering if it could be improved by fitting it with a new better quality head (Say something like a RENO). Also it is fitted with a bridge that has just two feet, is it likely to make any difference/improvement if I were to fit it with a better quality new bridge with three feet?
As a newcomer I would really welcome your thoughts.
Welcome to the hangout. Parles Vous Banjeaux?
Yes,, a new bridge and other tailpiece are usually the first things people can try without harm.
It's not so much the number of feet on the bridge, but what it sounds like, there are many types of bridges and many woods to choose from.
I would not change heads right away,
Tinkering is allowed and encouraged, a less expensive banjo still has music.
I'm posting too early in the day, I'm going back to sleep now.
Welcome to the world of banjo. I'm not familiar with the maker you mention, but I'd bet it's a whole lot better than my first banjo (no-name, open back, friction tuners, calf skin head, worn out frets). It's a good idea to tinker with your banjo to get the best possible sound and playability. However, I'd recommend not spending too much money on upgrade parts. Unlike an acoustic guitar, a banjo is much more a machine and it's all too easy to change a lot of components in the search for improvement and end up paying way more than your original outlay. Rather, I'd suggest getting it to an acceptable standard with just new strings and bridge and adjustments to the existing head. Use it and enjoy it to learn on, talk with other players and try their banjos and maybe plan to replace it when you're ready. A quick check of the Hangout member list shows there are three other members in Rochdale, one of whom is 'experienced/professional'. Might be good to look them up and pick their brains.
Edited by - HSmith on 01/19/2021 03:53:19
I too am English and I also started off with a banjo that was probably from the far east. You will learn that a banjo is very configurable and that is just part of the fun. As far as changing the sound, you could put on nylon strings, a real goatskin head, a better bridge or tailpiece, they all affect the sound. I have graduated to actually making banjos and tailpieces so be careful, banjos are addictive. Good luck and welcome to the rabbit hole...
Hello from York! I agree with the other points here - you can experiment on this one while you are learning, to figure out the playing style you prefer, and then that will lead you in different directions if you want to upgrade longer-term. Tinkering with the strings/bridge/tailpiece is a relatively cheap and easy way to find sounds and a playing action that you prefer. It is addictive though! Once the shops are open again, you also have Eagle music in Halifax not too far away - that is well worth a visit.
'after setting it up (Bridge placement, tensioning the head, checking action etc) it actually sounds quite reasonable and "playable".'
Thus (since you asked), leave it alone! You've done the essential adjustments, and already like the sound and the feel, so what's the objective here? Make it "better" by hot rodding it?
Might just play it for a few months, and at that point assess what you're not satisfied with or what you'd like to be different. Then you can try different parts to see if the new parts take the banjo in the direction you want it to go -- as a player. Regardless, if the banjo has been adjusted well, it will still sound 95% the same way with a new head and new bridge.
Enjoy your new banjo.
Don't change it too much, sounds like you've reached an acceptable level. Be ready at some point to pass it on to another beginner and upgrade to a better one.
I'm willing to be the head on your banjo was made by Remo (not Reno), so no need to change it. I wouldn't touch the tailpiece, I've swapped so many tailpieces and used almost every design, and truth be told I can't hear a difference between Presto/Kershner/Price/Fults/Stelling tailpieces. Some people say they can tell the difference, but I've found that's only true if they can look at the tailpiece before judging the sound.
I would probably get a new bridge though. Quick and easy and can change sound dramatically. I would also experiment with different string gages until you find what you like, but that's more of a comfort thing in addition to tone.
There is only but so much potential for one of these. I wouldn't put a lot of money into modifications. Rather, save up for a better quality instrument once you seriously decide you want to learn to play.
You don't need to replace the head with a Remo. The head on your banjo is a Remo. Presently, Remo is the only manufacturer of synthetic (not skin) banjo heads left. There is a difference between USA-made Remo heads and Taiwan-made Remo heads though, but that's setup choice which may be different for different banjos.
Originally posted by Frenchiboy
I was wondering if it could be improved by fitting it with a new better quality head (Say something like a RENO). Also it is fitted with a bridge that has just two feet, is it likely to make any difference/improvement if I were to fit it with a better quality new bridge with three feet?
You've been informed the head is already Remo. So no need to change.
A good bridge can definitely change the sound. Whether that change is an improvement or something you'll like you won't know until you do it. So go ahead.
There's a reason this is one of the lowest priced banjos in the world. If it can be set up to be playable and work with you rather than against you, that could be all you could ask of it. Obviously you want it to sound the best it can. But how good is that?
Edited by - Old Hickory on 01/19/2021 10:15:00
Thanks for all of the useful replies. Judging by what you have all said I might well try a new (Better quality) bridge and leave it at that while I see how I get on with it. (I am led to believe that the strings are D'Addario so they can stay for now anyway)
In the mean time I might well start to save a few bob each week whilst I am learning on this Banjo and then Upgrade to a better quality Banjo once I have picked up the basics and start showing some improvement.
As I said I have just started with a Banjo so I am a total novice, the main problem that I have is that being a guitar player my left hand fingers are occasionally trying to finger guitar chords, which just don't work! I guess it's all down to plenty of practice!
However I am very thankful for the replies and advice!
I learned open G tuning on guitar before I got back into 5-string
There are 14 chords many of which are two and 3 finger and are just modified shapes of guitar chords
I can now play open G 12-string with slide and banjo chords
I've fitted a new bridge on it (One with 3 feet rather than 2) but there isn't any noticeable difference in sound to me, but not to worry, I will leave it at that and just carry on practicing!
If your banjo has one of these cheap tailpieces on it I would personally change it even to a cheap Presto or Price copy. My reason for changing it would be how annoying I found changing strings with this type and replacing it would make that task a lot easier.
PaulRF - That is exactly like the tailpiece that my banjo has. Please can you explain to a newcomer what difference changing the tailpiece could make?
It won't make much difference to the sound on a budget banjo but when you go to change the strings another type of tailpiece will be much easier to complete the task. You can get cheap pesto and Price tailpiece copies cheap on ebay and there are a ton of youtube vids on changing strings.
Thanks for the "plain English" explanation Paul!
I agree, tailpieces sometimes help give overtones and some people tinker too much.
Just play now.
Playing a cheap banjo for a while won't do any harm. And you'll be better able to hear and feel the difference when you're ready to move up to a better sounding, easier playing instrument.
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