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Oct 24, 2021 - 8:58:26 AM
176 posts since 4/1/2016

I’ll be a few miles from Elderly Instruments in Lansing MI the next few days and, in addition to some general browsing, I was thinking about picking up a drum dial. I’ve never done anything more than just tighten the heads til it feels right but I think I might want to do it better. Are these really useful and easy to use? Also, would a 12” be adjusted the same as an 11” to the equivalent reading for G#?

Oct 24, 2021 - 9:05:55 AM
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101 posts since 12/19/2017

I am also a drummer and a dial helps keep the tension the same on every hook. This allows the head to have the most accurate note all the way around. This will give the brightest and most even tone. It keeps everything evenly balanced.

Oct 24, 2021 - 9:14:30 AM
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12429 posts since 6/2/2008
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DrumDial, in my opinion, is the best tool for assuring even tension all around the head. It's the best way to get a repeatable reference point for the head tightness that produces the sound you like, so that you can measure your head from time-to-time to be sure it's as tight as you like, for returning the head to the right tightness should you ever disassemble your banjo, or for tensioning a new head.

Other methods work, too -- tap tuning, coin and stick. But I find DrumDial most reliable, accurate and repeatable.

As long as you keep the DrumDial calibrated and occastionally zero it out on a non-deflective surface (I use the glass of my home copier/printer) it will give you good results every time.

Oct 24, 2021 - 9:19:17 AM

12429 posts since 6/2/2008
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Follow-up to my own message.

Note that I said "reference."  The numbers on a DrumDial don't mean anything in and of themselves. They're not units of measure. They're just an indication of relative head tightness, or possibly deflection, on a scale of zero to 99. An index.

Oct 24, 2021 - 9:33:46 AM
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32 posts since 9/11/2021

I just picked one up on Ebay. I’ve never used one but for $33 shipping and tax included I think it will be a good investment for keeping consistent head tension.

Oct 24, 2021 - 10:15:57 AM
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Players Union Member

Eric A


1343 posts since 10/15/2019

Once you have a drum dial you never want to go without.

Oct 24, 2021 - 11:57:11 AM

53 posts since 3/7/2011

I recently purchased one, I think it was a good investment. I am a beginner and it helped me get the tension even on my 12" Ode with 26 brackets. Unless one has years of experience I think using this is the way to go.

Oct 24, 2021 - 12:15:10 PM
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143 posts since 6/10/2017

Very useful reference tool. But for what they are I thought they cost too much. So I made one out of an $8.00 dial indicator and about a $2.00 chunk of 2" Delrin round stock. It works fine.

Oct 24, 2021 - 12:15:12 PM
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4784 posts since 5/9/2007

One of the first things I bought and the first thing I sold.

Pressing with a fingertip near each hook is a reasonable indication of even tension.

Listening is the best indication of good tone.


Oct 24, 2021 - 2:51:46 PM

4784 posts since 5/9/2007


Eagle banjo photo was posted by a fat finger.

: >D

Edited by - mrphysics55 on 10/24/2021 14:52:43

Oct 24, 2021 - 3:00:07 PM
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366 posts since 11/17/2015

Yes. You will not use it often, when you need it you need it. Will assure you get the head set exactly where you like it every time. A banjo has a lot of adjustments, when something doesn't sound right you can check the head tension in less than a minute, one thing you can correct or go to the next thing, takes away any guessing.

Oct 24, 2021 - 8:35:34 PM

4150 posts since 12/3/2008

Using a drum-dial is analogous to fine-tuning strings, fine-tuning bridge placement and compensation, and numerous other adjustable components of a banjo - all of which combine to bring out the innermost essence of a banjo's soul, and ours. The banjo may be the ultimate *fine-tuning* acoustic instrument.

Oct 25, 2021 - 8:11:16 AM
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190 posts since 9/7/2014

Originally posted by mrphysics55


Eagle banjo photo was posted by a fat finger.

: >D

Shows how reliable your fingers are :)

Edited by - Ed Banjer on 10/25/2021 08:12:04

Oct 25, 2021 - 8:14:59 AM

4784 posts since 5/9/2007

I thouht I could sneak that one by.

: >D

Edited by - mrphysics55 on 10/25/2021 08:16:44

Oct 25, 2021 - 8:22:50 AM
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4784 posts since 5/9/2007

Back on the subject ...

In addition to "poking" the head for tension I actually get better feedback from my wrench as I tighten.

I did sime experimentation when I first had a drum dial and found that I could reasonably achieve uniform tightening by feel through my wrench.

Edited by - mrphysics55 on 10/25/2021 08:23:43

Oct 25, 2021 - 11:20:34 AM

176 posts since 4/1/2016

Thanks for all the info folks. Picked it up this morning; I’ll try it out when I get home next weekend.

Oct 29, 2021 - 7:55:37 PM
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916 posts since 11/17/2005
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I recently bought one on ebay for a reasonable price.

I used it tonight on 2 banjos and I was very impressed.  

I instantky noticed a nice improvement on both banjos! I'm very pleased with it. I wish I had bought one years ago.

It's works better than I expected. 

Oct 30, 2021 - 5:23:51 AM

7250 posts since 6/30/2020

Im drum dial convert coming from the old school head scratch crowd, which has served me well I must say. I will admit that it’s more accurate and much easier to keep head tension uniform and up to specs.
I consider a necessary tool and part of the cost of doing business

Edited by - Pick-A-Lick on 10/30/2021 05:25:32

Oct 30, 2021 - 9:17:42 AM
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1142 posts since 4/12/2004

I too am a drum dial convert.

When I get my banjo set up the way I like it, I don't like to fool around with it. However, it's necessary to clean the metal parts occasionally and although that can be done without disassembly, you can do a much better job with a disassembled instrument. The problem is getting it setup again the way you like it.

Recently, I decided to disassemble my banjo, clean the metal parts and install a new head. Before I did so, I bought a Drum Dial. Before I disassembled it, I removed the strings, tailpiece and arm rest and took drum dial readings adjacent to each of my 24 tension hooks. At all of the 24 hooks, I got a dial reading of exactly 89, except for two hooks that were next to each other. For those two hooks, the dial reading was slightly less than 87. When I disassembled the instrument, I discovered that the Mylar head had become separated from the aluminum head band in the area where I had gotten the two lower dial readings.

After the cleaning process, I installed the new head and meticulously tightened it in very small increments until I achieved a precise dial reading of 89 adjacent to each of the tension hooks. When I strung it up and got it in tune, it sounded the same as it had with the old head. It was the easiest setup I've ever done.

Edited by - RB3 on 10/30/2021 09:20:50

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