I'm not sure how to go about getting a good angle to show my concern but the bridge seems to be leaning toward the fretboard.
1) can you see it in my pics or should I try photographing another way?
2) is this bad enough that I should do something?
3) it just started but I originally set it up about a month ago.
4) any tips for how to do it better so it doesn't happen again?
This really isn't an uncommon thing. Just gently rotate the top of the bridge toward the tailpiece until the feet, unmoved, are flat on the head.
I wouldn't worry about it too much. It's not as if you have a soundpost to worry about if it falls over.
You could tighten/loosen head or change bridge to try and stop it happening. Or maybe just try a different bridge. I've never really noticed such a thing on my banjos but then I've possibly never left my bridge alone long enough for it to happen.
Edited by - AndyW on 06/16/2021 00:24:07
I always use a little graphite where the strings contact the bridge and nut.
Every case has friction. Every case allows freedom to move.
After resting in my Hoffee case, I always check my bridge placement first before playing. Invariably, the bridge is either leaning or moved.
I am more interested in intonation than looks. I use the 19th fret to set the bridge. With intonating the bridge, its alignment is part of the process. I usually have to move very small increments. I use both hands and check my efforts to keep the grimace and not a smirk.
I learned that when I didn’t set the bridge after removing from the case, nothing tunes right and upper frets sound very off. So, I use this routine. When not moving the banjo around, it is not every day I have to adjust the bridge. I check.
Now, my banjos use Fults tailpieces. Any other require adding the lining up the third string first before setting the bridge. Movable tailpieces are jostled around the rim.
These do not take that much time. Having a playable instrument is the fruit of these routines.
Aside from being in proper position, I usually be sure that the feet are sitting flush to the head. Proper transfer of vibrations, etc.
Bridges that are already leaning forward never lean back on their own. They always get worse and sometimes tip over when you least expect (when you're picking) sounding something like a shotgun going off.
To avoid breaking it when gripping it by the ends or in the middle, with string tension on it, I always use a pencil just under the strings as a straight edge to evenly distribute the force of GENTLY pushing back into a true vertical postion, with the feet FLAT on the head. It doesn't take much pressure. Go slow.
Yes, what John said: bridges, being moveable, they do like to travel and it wouldn't hurt to check, once a month or so, if they're still in the proper location where they intonate the way they should.
Dick mentioned the gun shot when they splat towards the neck. Yup, that sure makes for a big surprise all right
The steeper the string break angles are, the more likely a bridge is to travel away from the tailpiece. Also, the longer the tail piece is, like some of the later model Framus ones, travel is the norm. Tilting the top of the bridge towards the tailpiece a bit on purpose will mitigate bridge travel. Don't worry, the banjo's head is flexible by design so it will adjust itself immediately to whatever angle the bridge's feet are at.
Graphite in the string slots doesn't hurt but it doesn't really do anything either so it's ok if you don't bother with that.
On a cool, dry night, you can still hear the echo of my exploding heart from when I was futzing with my kid's cello and the bridge slipped. So if there's some kind of "check it once in a while to avoid a gun shot sound" consideration, I will definitely be attempting to straighten this out - thank you everyone :)
Ok i was able to get it a bit better. Used a flute cleaning rod the way a pencil was suggested to disperse the force, but on this attempt I did not rub a smidge of graphite where strings drape over bridge slots. Bridge leans a tiny bit after tuning up.
I'll take another crack at it tomorrow.
I usually do the graphite in the slots on my other instruments. I wonder if it's been the placebo effect all this time, or if it's just different with the fatter, softer strings.
The bridge pic on the right looks fine.
It is possible that the feet on your bridge where it contacts the head is not perfectly flat but rather has a slight roundness to them ....this will let a bridge top rock to and fro ... remove the bridge and put the feet on some sand paper and try to hold it straight up and down and give it a few back and forth strokes to flatten the feet bottoms. The tiny amount of wood removed will not effect your string action unless you get carried away ...when you first remove the bridge place it on its feet on a hard flat surface (counter top ) and look at its natural stance without down pressure ...gently bump the bridge top area with your finger ....if it just slides around the feet are probably flat ...if it wobbles when you nudge it the feet bottoms need flattened with sandpaper
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