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Jun 19, 2021 - 10:56:16 PM
318 posts since 8/17/2010

Is a drum dial an essential component of a properly outfitted banjoist's tool box?

Jun 19, 2021 - 11:03:09 PM
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Foote

USA

497 posts since 3/25/2009

Yes.

Jun 20, 2021 - 4:01:37 AM

DSmoke

USA

1014 posts since 11/30/2015

I like having one. It's not necessary to setup a banjo but it is nice to have to record head tension if testing out different setups.

Jun 20, 2021 - 4:38:17 AM

13698 posts since 6/29/2005

Certainly not an absolute necessity, but I wouldn't want to do without mine and go back to more complicated methods.

Jun 20, 2021 - 5:25:55 AM
Players Union Member

Edwards

USA

167 posts since 3/26/2014

Makes yearly maintenance easier, and it’s something You can buy once I never have to buy again.

Jun 20, 2021 - 5:29:35 AM
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HSmith

UK

410 posts since 12/30/2005

I managed perfectly well without one for more than forty years, including a few years playing bluegrass semi-professionally. I always relied on my ears to tell me when my banjo sounded right.
However, I bought a drum dial a couple of years ago and certainly wouldn't be without it now. It's not magic, and doesn't guarantee to make your banjo sound like Earl's (or anyone else's). What it does do is help ensure head tension is uniform and provide a way to quantify the tightness of the head.
Absolute necessity ? No. Really usefull ? Definitely.

Jun 20, 2021 - 5:59:38 AM

5000 posts since 6/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by HSmith

What it does do is help ensure head tension is uniform and provide a way to quantify the tightness of the head. Absolute necessity ? No. Really usefull ? Definitely.


Agree!
The ability to have the even head tension that the drum dial can provide is worth the price of admission. 
Often times there are slightly used drum dials for sale on BHO Marketplace or Reverb etc.
 

Jun 20, 2021 - 6:01:46 AM

beegee

USA

22431 posts since 7/6/2005

I bought one and have never found a use for it other than as a paperweight.

Jun 20, 2021 - 6:39:11 AM
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RB3

USA

1007 posts since 4/12/2004

Does anyone here know if the folks who manufacture and market the Drum Dial have a patent on the device?

Jun 20, 2021 - 6:39:35 AM

145 posts since 2/20/2004

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

I bought one and have never found a use for it other than as a paperweight.


My fear exactly, I don’t have one but often thought about buying one.

Jun 20, 2021 - 6:45:59 AM

hbick2

USA

381 posts since 6/26/2004

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

I bought one and have never found a use for it other than as a paperweight.


I'm in total agreement. There is a very small range on a banjo head between too tight and not tight enough. You can use your thumbs, pressing on the head, to get within the proper range and your ears to adjust it to the sound you want. All banjos are different, so what is the correct number? Is the number that is "correct" for one banjo the same as for another banjo. There is no "correct number" for all banjos. The correct number is what you decide it is and if you found it once, you can find it again. 

Jun 20, 2021 - 6:57:30 AM
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122 posts since 9/2/2014

I would highly recommend owning a drum dial. Just like the small electronic tuners, these tools were not available a few years ago, so we used our ears to try and set head tension, and a tuning fork to get in tune. NOW we have these great tools that make life much easier.
This is not apples to apples, but my father-in-law would have lived many more years IF heart surgery was available in the early 1960s like it is today. In other words, get a drum dial and you will not be sorry.

Jun 20, 2021 - 7:34:44 AM
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28 posts since 4/10/2008

Ah, if only players like Fred Van Eps, Vess L. Ossman, Harry Reser, Eddie Peabody and a few others had a drum dial. Think of the great performances they could have given us. Sadly, when we hear them now their musicianship will be marred by knowing that their banjos aren't perfect.

Jun 20, 2021 - 8:19:09 AM
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Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

1257 posts since 10/15/2019

My great grandma used to say she didn't need no frigidaire, she liked her icebox JUST FINE.

Get a drum dial.

Jun 20, 2021 - 8:25:56 AM
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458 posts since 5/29/2015

Integrating the above answers, I would suggest doing lots of experimenting with several DIFFERENT styles of banjos--adjusting the tension and listening. Once you have done this manually, take measurements with a drum dial. As you progress over the years, you can more and more depend on a drum dial to quickly adjust a given banjo to a reliable head tension for a particular type of head. The 91 and quit is a good formula for a music store full of electric guitar players.

Jun 20, 2021 - 8:42:59 AM

169 posts since 9/7/2014

Unlike some of the grumps in this thread, I have tinnitus that is severe enough that I probably wouldn't be able to hear the difference if trying to tune my banjo head by ear. The drum dial ensures that I have a consistent head tension, and it's not for me but for my audience.

Jun 20, 2021 - 9:48:55 AM

28 posts since 4/10/2008

So, is tinnitus a bad thing or good thing when playing banjo?

Jun 20, 2021 - 10:01:07 AM

beegee

USA

22431 posts since 7/6/2005

quote:
Originally posted by ocarina-man

Ah, if only players like Fred Van Eps, Vess L. Ossman, Harry Reser, Eddie Peabody and a few others had a drum dial. Think of the great performances they could have given us. Sadly, when we hear them now their musicianship will be marred by knowing that their banjos aren't perfect.


Don't forget Scruggs, Osborne, Crowe and some of the other obscure players whose careers were diminished for the lack of a drum dial.

Jun 20, 2021 - 10:04:31 AM
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Foote

USA

497 posts since 3/25/2009

i have played banjo since 1975 and never lived near a set-up person, so always did my own. As several have said above, I thought I was pretty good. After reading some posts here about drum dials, I bought one and found that none of my banjos were exactly uniform in tension, off by a pound, give or take, in spots. I found that when I dialed the entire head to exactly the same pressure the results were obvious. Pretty much each banjo seemed to open up, both in volume and tone. Not to mention how much easier and faster it is to tune a head. A very useful tool.

Jun 20, 2021 - 10:30:51 AM

2828 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

While our hero players of the past used “tighten to breaking then back off” as their method, they broke more than kept. What a ticket to be famous.

For others, the Drum Dial works well and is adaptable. I use it as a monitor of my progress. As a monitor, I can raise and lower the tension as needed.

Jun 20, 2021 - 1:09:23 PM
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Alex Z

USA

4374 posts since 12/7/2006

"Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must first be overcome."

    -- Samuel Johnson

Get the drum dial, or live in ignorance of the benefits.  smiley

Jun 20, 2021 - 1:34:03 PM

28 posts since 4/10/2008

Here's a challenge - can any of you who use a drum dial play as well as any of the best banjoists who don't?

Jun 20, 2021 - 2:01:56 PM
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Alex Z

USA

4374 posts since 12/7/2006

Same question, opposite side:    Can any of you who don't use a drum dial play as well as any of the best banjoists who don't?

Using a drum dial has nothing to do with how well one can play, any more than does pressing the head with your thumbs to feel the tension.

It's a tool.  To some it is helpful.  To some others it doesn't add any help.  But the fact that it doesn't help some others is irrelevant to the fact that it will still help some.

So, Mr. fretful1, if you can't play as well as any of the best banjoists who don't use a DrumDial, looks like you ought to get one. smiley

Jun 20, 2021 - 2:15:26 PM
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99 posts since 2/18/2021

I made a DIY drum dial from a  $17 Harbor Freight dial indicator and a homemade base (3D printed, but a nice hardwood base would work just as well). I can share the 3D STL file if anyone is interested.

It has no absolute accuracy at all -- it's simply shows how many thousandths of an inch the head is deflected by the force of the spring in the dial indicator.

It does seem to give very consistent readings though, so it's probably useful for getting an even tension on the head all the way around. Not sure something 3-4x the price is worth it for me, but I'm glad to have the DIY version.


Jun 20, 2021 - 3:29 PM

28 posts since 4/10/2008

"Same question, opposite side: Can any of you who don't use a drum dial play as well as any of the best banjoists who don't?" Answer - yes.
"So, Mr. fretful1, if you can't play as well as any of the best banjoists who don't use a DrumDial, looks like you ought to get one. "
Hmm, that sounds like a veiled personal attack. "Mr. Fretful1?"
Okay, I'll change my mind - Drum dials are now great. I will now look forward to only hearing banjos that all sound perfect. And I won't even make a comment about the possibility that all these pro dial comments might be planted by a DrumDial company.

Jun 20, 2021 - 4:13:55 PM
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99 posts since 2/18/2021

quote:
Originally posted by ocarina-man

... And I won't even make a comment about the possibility that all these pro dial comments might be planted by a DrumDial company.


Ah yes,  "Big Dial", the shadowy industry group that will stop at nothing to capture the lucrative  BHO forum readers market! We don't want to be taken in by them, thank you sir! laugh

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