HI, I've been working with my Earl Scruggs TB-3 banjo to try to improve the sound. I tightened the head a lot... Too much... Sound was diminished at high tension. So I then loosened it a bit. (I was experimenting... Trying different head tensions...) Then when I capoed to the second fret, the third string would buzz. Other strings too somewhat.
Checked all the conventional string buzz causes. Didn't find anything. Was driving me nuts. Finally disassembled and inspected the drum head. Discovered teeny-tiny tears near the metal rim of the head. (See attached photo.)
Replaced the drum head and tightened to 89 using DrumDial.
Buzzing is now gone.
So if you encounter a banjo with undiagnosable string buzz and you are at wit's end trying to solve the problem, it might be worth a look at the drum head.
Check all the OTHER normal string buzz causes FIRST because disassembling is a pain-in-the-neck.
Very interesting. It may have broken when you really had the head tightened a lot.
Earl himself said, joking, in a radio interview that in the days of skin heads, they would "tighten them until they broke, then back off a little".
I have seen this with skin heads twice—one person didn't realize the head was broken under the tension hoop and kept tightening the tension hooks until a couple of them bottomed out and sheared off.
I have had lots of banjos brought to me because they don't sound good. Almost every one had the head tightened too much. Loosening them just a little made them sound fine.
If you can't depress the head a little with your thumbs it's too tight.
I bought a banjo once where the aluminum bead of the plastic head had bottomed out on the neck notch and the guy kept on tightening it. He broke several of the hooks and still kept on tightening. He ended up cracking the heel.
'Nechville Phantom' 6 hrs