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Oct 13, 2021 - 11:21:42 PM
47 posts since 10/21/2013

Have "new" 04 Granada, sounds...thumpy. Probably head too loose, other things. I realize that many like to tinker, but I am not that type. I prefer NOT to mess with it. Is it worth shipping to
"famous" setup guys (Huber, Neat, etc....???) or just find some shop with "a banjo guy?" Btw, I live in Tx, with no local reputable banjo setter uppers beknowst to me.

I'm sure this has probably been touched on before, but I feel like posting my own query! Thanks for any help to come my way..

Oct 14, 2021 - 4:44:30 AM

2881 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

Yes. Having an experienced setup person can be a welcomed relief. However, shipping a banjo to be setup and the shipped back is not welcomed. The changes needed would be remove to prevent shipping damage.

Best to take a trip, by appointment, and meet the expert. Then, the process can be observed.

Edited by - Aradobanjo on 10/14/2021 04:45:00

Oct 14, 2021 - 5:05:39 AM

BobbyE

USA

2921 posts since 11/29/2007

I would at least check the head tension and make sure the bridge is in the correct place unless you already know that it is. Also when were the strings last changed? What strings are on the banjo now as to the gauge size of the different strings. I hate shipping a banjo because of the possibility of damage but know that it is done all the time. I would just check out a few things that I could change before I shipped it. It is a good way to learn a bit on your own about setup and how to achieve the sound that you want.

Bobby

Oct 14, 2021 - 5:25:26 AM
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42 posts since 6/6/2015

Everyone I spoke to told me that the set-up guy to go to for a Gibson was Charlie Cushman. If you don't know, Charlie is the banjo player in the Earls of Leicester. Charlie worked for Gibson doing their banjo set-ups around the same time your banjo was manufactured. And yes, I have made the trip. I wouldn't trust shipping a nice banjo even though it is often done. Charlie lives in Cottontown, TN.

Oct 14, 2021 - 5:55:14 AM

1428 posts since 7/12/2004

If you just got the banjo and don't know its history, it's possible the head has failed. Sometimes these can be in the glue channel that holds the mylar to the hoop, and be completely invisible. Sometimes it's not even a structural problem - the head is just bad somehow. If that's the case, you can tighten the head all you want and it won't help. Before you go through the expense of a drive to Tennessee, try tightening the head yourself. If the head is damaged, you have little to lose - you'll have to replace it anyway. If it's not, you have the gratifying feeling of making your banjo come to life.

I worked on a 90s Mastertone recently that was like this. The head seemed to be fine, held tension, cranked up to a decent number on the drum dial and tap toned correctly, but still sounded bad. A head change fixed the problem. Even with the old head in my hands after the change, I never found a defect - it was just a bum head.

It's possible there's other damage that's not easily seen - a crack in the tailpiece, for example - or other easily adjustable problems like loose coordinator rods. Explore the instrument and get to know it. I've had my Granada for 33 years, and I know lots of other people who bought them new back in the day and still play them.

If you don't feel confident tweaking the banjo yourself, especially the first time, that's understandable on a valuable instrument like the Granada. I'd seek out a local luthier with banjo experience and a good local reputation to adjust or replace the head and do whatever else is necessary. That will get you 95% of the improvement you're looking for at about 10% of the cost. Charlie's reputation comes from getting that other five percent, and nobody does it better, but your first step is to get the basic setup right.

Maybe pay your local luthier a little extra to show you around the instrument so you know what to do and what not to. Once someone has gotten it close for you, you should settle in to the routine maintenance. If you want to splurge and send your banjo to the spa in Cottontown, you'll know you're starting from a good place.

Oct 14, 2021 - 6:03:20 AM
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295 posts since 4/17/2011

Hey Steven, go see Jim Penson in Arlington. NorthTexasLuthier.com. Does great banjo setup work (real good banjo picker, too). Closer than Nashville.

Edited by - BigFiveChord on 10/14/2021 06:03:55

Oct 14, 2021 - 6:50:18 AM

74951 posts since 5/9/2007

Learning to properly set up a banjo is quite simple and not "tinkering".Tinkering is trying out things to see what happens.
Loss of tone is most likely simply the head losing tension over time and fixed by tightening the head by starting at the nut beside the heel and adding 1/4 turn to each nut consecutively until arriving at the nut on the other side of the heel.
If the head isn't ripped this addition of 1/4 turns should brighten up the tone and projection especially above the 5th fret.
A quick check of head tension is found by placing a dime under a 6" ruler as in the picture.This tension yields a G# head note which is simply a great working tension for good tone and power over the entire fingerboard.
Too bad to have to send the banjo away and pay someone to do what would take you 5-10 minutes at home.

All answers are found here in the BHO.Most solutions are extremely simple and free.


 

Edited by - steve davis on 10/14/2021 06:55:48

Oct 14, 2021 - 8:31 AM

1532 posts since 5/19/2018

Since really talented Banjo set up folks are quite rare, and it seems like no matter where you live, the closest one is always a 15 hour car ride away, it is a very rewarding process to set up the banjo yourself.

There are many YouTube videos, threads here, and those things called “books” that can help you learn the process.

Buy a few tools, a few different bridges and spend many hours doing research and you will find the sound you want.

It’s actually a pretty easy process if done slowly and correctly. And seeing that a banjo gets carried around, gets gigged with, brought to festivals and the what not, it’s a good thing to know how to adjust and temper your own instrument.

As mentioned above, in the threads here is all the info you will most likely ever need.

Oct 14, 2021 - 8:38:42 AM
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ChunoTheDog

Canada

1028 posts since 8/9/2019

Every banjo player should know how to do a basic set up.

Oct 14, 2021 - 8:44:07 AM

1428 posts since 7/12/2004

quote:
Originally posted by inwardman1

Have "new" 04 Granada, sounds...thumpy. Probably head too loose, other things. I realize that many like to tinker, but I am not that type. I prefer NOT to mess with it. Is it worth shipping to
"famous" setup guys (Huber, Neat, etc....???) or just find some shop with "a banjo guy?" Btw, I live in Tx, with no local reputable banjo setter uppers beknowst to me.

I'm sure this has probably been touched on before, but I feel like posting my own query! Thanks for any help to come my way..


What's your experience working on your previous banjos? I don't imagine a Granada is your first one. You could "break the ice" by working on a lesser instrument.

Oct 14, 2021 - 8:54:15 AM

cecil36

USA

205 posts since 4/1/2009

Fiddlers green in Austin Texas has a good banjo set up guy. Are they did a year or so back. Not that long a drive from Waco.

Oct 14, 2021 - 10:20:36 AM

295 posts since 4/17/2011

quote:
Originally posted by cecil36

Fiddlers green in Austin Texas has a good banjo set up guy. Are they did a year or so back. Not that long a drive from Waco.


FWIW Fiddler's Green has moved to Lockhart

Oct 14, 2021 - 10:38:11 AM

74951 posts since 5/9/2007

Changing the head will teach you 90% of setting up a banjo.
It changes the same on most banjos.

Oct 14, 2021 - 11:10:08 AM

Alex Z

USA

4515 posts since 12/7/2006

This is what the poster is asking:

 I prefer NOT to mess with it. Is it worth shipping to  "famous" setup guys (Huber, Neat, etc....???) or just find some shop with "a banjo guy?"

Since you asked, it is not worth shipping to anyone.  It will come back they way they like the feel and the sound, not necessarily the way you like the feel and the sound.  That's why most players adjust their own instruments -- they do what works for them. 

So go to the local guy.  Adjusting a banjo is not all that mysterious or difficult.  That way, you can talk to the repair person, let them hear what is not working well for you, and after the initial adjustments make additional adjustments as needed.

Oct 14, 2021 - 11:38:17 AM

2764 posts since 4/16/2003

OP:

Any time you "ship" a banjo, it's at risk for a broken neck from mishandling, etc.
So... don't ship it anywhere.

Learn to do the basic things to get it in order YOURSELF.
You can present no excuse to us (me) that you can't do this.

First thing to do is change the strings.
I'd suggest light gauge, any brand you choose.
Change them one-at-a-time, of course.

Check the head all around. I don't like 'em too tight.
Snap your finger along the tension hoop, a few inches at a time.
Do you get snaps or thuds?
If you get a thud in one area, and all the rest are snappy, then the head could be broken underneath, pulled loose, etc.

Take the resonator off and check the coordinator rods.
The nuts shouldn't be "loose".
BUT... they shouldn't be too tight either.

Check the neck for straightness (proper "relief")
Do this on a bed.
Lay the banjo on the bed.
Put a capo on the FIRST fret.
Now take your right hand and touch the 4th string against the fret closest to the head. Keep your finger there.
Now with your other hand lightly touch the 4th string at fret 6-7.
It should be very VERY slightly "above" the fret, no more than the width of a sheet of thick paper.
That's about the correct "neck relief".
You don't want it any higher, and you don't want the string "touching" the fret by itself. A back-bow will cause buzzing.

Check the frets for wear at the "lower" positions (1-5).
Are the frets worn down by the 1st and 2nd strings (usually the worst offenders)?
Some wear is ok, the instrument will still play well enough.
But frets will get worn to the point where they need to be replaced.

Check the bridge for proper position.
It should be ROUGHLY twice the distance that the 12th fret is from the nut.
That won't be perfect, you have to learn to do intonation "by ear".
You MUST learn to do this, or the thing will never play in tune.

With the bridge set in the right place, check the action.
Is it about right for your taste?
Too high?
Too low?

Others will disagree, and this is strictly my own opinion, but if the action is too high, the easiest way to correct it is by using a slightly lower bridge.

If the action is "close" (just a little high or just a little low), sometimes a VERY SLIGHT tweak on the bottom coordinating rod will "set it right".
But NOT TOO MUCH... just a little bit.

Hope this gets you started.
Maybe there's another BHO member not far off who might be willing to lend a hand...

Oct 14, 2021 - 11:45:42 PM

47 posts since 10/21/2013

Thanks to all responders, esp. Alex who answered to the point. I get it, that we all should get to know our banjos and at least some of how to set them up. Should, perhaps. Little Roy once said that he didn't know how to set up his own banjo, that he just let Frank Neat do it.

I realize that he probably is able to do his own. I hardly take time to practice, much less setting up even my own banjos. I've played them as they've come set up to me. Never changed a head in 40 yrs. No apologies here, and no offense taken either, by the way, from your opinions.
Kids, animals, bills, workload monopolize my time. I have begun to offer lessons (playing, not setting up:) and do want to do more of my own setup! Thanks again to all responders...

Oct 15, 2021 - 3:59:21 AM

banjoy

USA

9849 posts since 7/1/2006

In addition to what's already been stated I just wanted to add that shipping a banjo is not cheap. Finding the right box can be a challenge (best to use a double wall box) and the ship costs both ways can set you back around $150 ... on top of the risks for damage. Add to that the cost of a setup...

I know plenty of musicians who have no idea how to set up their instruments. It's like everyone who owns a car should know how to change the oil themselves ... not really a thing. Some folks are do-it-yourselfers, some aren't. There's no shame in having someone else do your setups. But if you do learn how it can be fun and rewarding, IMO.

Oct 15, 2021 - 6:08:26 AM

74951 posts since 5/9/2007

All the set up info exists right here on the BHO.
Good luck.

I once knew a landscaper who didn't know how to sharpen his chainsaws.Work stopped until he took his chains to a shop for sharpening.

When we change strings or heads we need to know basic set up procedures.It takes longer to drive or send our banjo to a shop than to do it ourselves along with setting it up to our specific preferences.
Setting it to our preference makes us better players.

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