Hi everyone! I got a cheap banjo (used). The bridge was deeply down. In a point that the banjo didn't sound like a banjo. I decided to screw all the hooks and making all the adjustment possible (youtube). I ended up with a banjo sounding like a banjo. And I stopped the "buzz" from the freets and tailpiece. Was very proud and enjoyed it, until "bing" the banjo head broke. I know that the global tension wasn't too much but some screw could have be install badly previously. My question is: should all the hooks be screw in about the same distance (visually)? And should the tailpiece "hook" be drew to touch the metal ring? I hope my description was kind of clear. Here some pics to help
Benedictus, we can't see your photos (at least I can't).
That is why your banjo sounded so good, indeed. That's exactly how tight they ought to be. Tight enough to bust the head! (Not really, thought, but it happens a lot!)
There are a variety of techniques, informal and formal, to judge if you have "enough" tightness of your head. Generally, if you do it right (and in slow increments) your tension hooks all end up at roughly the same amount of "draw". But that's not the goal -- that's just the result of a good job. Your "global tension" was in fact, too high for the head. It wasn't a single tension hook that broke it, most likely.
Were you using a plastic or skin head?
I don't really understand your question about the tailpiece hook. Normally there is no tailpiece hook that tightens the head.
Check around here on BHO for various instructions on how to evaluate head tightness. The Steve Davis "ruler and dime" method is appropriate if you can't hear tap tones, or if you don't have a drum dial.
You didn't say if your banjo is a resonator type or open back.
The way I test head tightness is by the "tap tone" of the head. Done with ears.
When you START tightening the head you hand-position the stretcher band (tension hoop) as level as you can, by eye. Then you slowly tighten each tension hook, maybe 1/4 or 1/2 turn at a time to begin, in a staggered pattern around the head (like changing a tire when you alternate lug nuts). After you go all the way around, you evaluate your tension hoop level by eye, and make any tweaks. Then you do it again, another 1/4 turn. Evaluate. Once it gets tight enough to make a tone when you rap the head, start going slower. Depending on your type of banjo and music, most folks will aim for a tap tone from an F on the low end, up through G and G# (especially for bluegrass flat heads) and even up to B for bluegrass arch tops. These would be as sounded on the middle strings of a guitar, for comparison. You can hear that head tightness and tap tone come up as you repeatedly tighten and test. It will remind you of tuning a tympani drum in an orchestra. Once you get up to around F, just tighten 1/8 of a turn all around. For most folks with 11" plastic heads, that gives you roughly a half step increase in the tone, like from F to F#. Or F# to G.
Once you get around G, tune the banjo up and play it and see what you think of its sound. If you want it brighter, ringier and pingier, go to G#, A, or Bflat and see what you think. 1/8 of a turn at a time though. If you like it bassier maybe somewhere between F and G is for you. You are the judge.
Be aware if you are trying to LOOSEN the head to achieve a lower tap tone, heads loosen slower than they tighten. You have to wait a fair amount of time between turning the nuts and hearing the lower tap tone. Heads are "sticky" that way, in loosening up. I suppose it is friction on the tone hoop, tone ring or rim that slows the loosening.
This is basic banjo mechanics, and you sure don't want to either pay someone to change your heads, or bust any more. Good luck, you can do it.
NOW I see your photos.
Your head didn't bust in the classic way, the glue bead that holds it structurally "locked" to its internal metal hoop, well the glue let go. Your head came apart. Slightly different than bursting a head, but the end result is the same.
That's a modern plastic Remo head, and frankly it's a bit unusual to see them come apart like this. But it does happen.
Try again. Be SURE you get the correct diameter replacement though.
Frankly, those tension hooks on your banjo may not even be strong enough to make a plastic head burst in the usual way. More likely your tension hooks would break! I believe those are just made of cheap pot metal.
I think you got ahold of a bad head!
Don't be afraid to try another Remo (of the exact correct diameter!) A proper diameter Remo should be nearly impossible for you to burst.
Thank you so much for your answers dick. I just posted another picture to see the difference that was on those hooks. When I put the new head should all those screw have kind of a same distance? Thanks again
On those banjos there is a problem with the neck notch not being cut deep enough. It is difficult to draw the head down evenly. But banjo heads do break. I would use a medium crown head.
The challenge is to tighten the head in very small increments until it's tight enough. Try to keep the tension hoop even above the top of the head. There are different methods for determining head tension. You can use the Steve Davis ruler-and-coin method or a Drum Dial or years of experience.
Edited by - beegee on 01/23/2021 16:19:05
Those hooks look odd B, especially that one in the center. If that nut feels tight on that hook, something is wrong. It looks like it ought to be all loose and floppy to me. If it isn't, it means the "J" hook at the top is perhaps cockeyed in the groove, such that the hooked part is not seating correctly.
Alternatively, you could have rough threads on the J hook or on the nut, such that they just don't tighten correctly. In other words binding of the bolt/nut assembly.
As long as the hooks are fimly pulling on the tension hoop (stretcher band), don't worry too much. Those particular parts are the cheapest, and who knows how consistently made they might or might not be. What counts more is does the top of the stretcher band look more or less flat/planar and even and "plumb". The appearance of the tension hooks is not important as long as they're tight enough so they don't rattle.
Also when I am attempting to get a banjo head to "settle," to "even out," I rap all over the head pretty hard with my hand to work out those kinks. Oiling the hook threads is helpful too so they feel similar from hook to hook as your tighten down the head. banjered
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