Just started playing again after i quickly lost interest after trying to learn to play 10 years ago but now i almost havent put it down the last 6months. Still got the same banjo and and its a cheap Fender beginner banjo and that banjo probably had some years on it before that. I have set it up as best as i can but the 5th string tuner is a friction one and doesnt hold tuning well and i was wondering if it would be no proplem to change it to a geared one?
And would getting a new propper bridge and tailpiece, since i can see its really flimsy and cheap help with getting this banjo to sound better? Just trying make this banjo last a little longer while im still learning before i buy the next level instrument, plus i like taking things apart and try to learn how it all works and hopefully get it to sound and play a little better since it a cheap banjo
Youtube is your friend. New bridge $15-25, inexpensive tailpiece maybe $25 -30. Inexpensive tuner $25 -30. All of those things have the potential to improve playability, sound and/or enjoyment. Likely not to get a return on your investment if and when you sell. If you like to tinker and are planning on keeping this banjo for awhile, it may be worth it. Your call.
Edited by - thisoldman on 10/25/2021 17:36:53
Try tightening the screw holding the tuner button. That may help keep the 5th string in tune. Just don't tighten it so much the tuner no longer turns.
I've seen som very terrible tailpieces on budget banjos, and you would probably benefit by changing yours. I've found that some of the new ones aren't very good, though, so ask some questions here about what might be best. It would also help to know the make and model of your banjo, and posting a few photos would help even more.
Probably the biggest tone difference lies in a bridge change.
Do remember that the more money you put into a lousy banjo means you'll have less money to invest in a good one. What you are thinking about, though, probably won't cost a lot, the tailpiece likely being the biggest expense.
You can spend less than ThisOldMan suggests and still get parts that are improvements over what you probably currently have. (Saying this sight unseen)
Sullivan roasted maple bridge, $10. When these first came out, that price included shipping! Don't know if that's still the case.
Geared 5th string tuner, $7.26, shipped. From China. Very possibly the same as currently installed on new banjos similar to yours. Listing says "last one." Plenty of others on eBay for under $10.
Golden Gate geared 5th string tuner, $14.25 shipped. Want an inexpensive one from China that might not be the same as the lowest-price one from China? Then spend up on the Golden Gate brand, imported by Saga.
Low-cost version of Straight-Line tailpiece. $11.88 shipped. The made-in-USA original costs a lot more. This could be the same thing as the Asian-made version used by Gold Tone. Not clear whether it includes the anchor bolt and nut. If not, you could buy a thin stainless steel machine screw, matching hex nut and a small washer or two at any Ace or True Value hardware store.
The ever-popular Waverly style tailpiece or the clamshell style tailpiece or the "old" Waverly style tailpiece similar to what came on Gibson banjos in the 50s nd 60s, US-made Fender banjos in the 60s and 70s, and some Japanese banjos of the 70s.
Edited by - Old Hickory on 10/25/2021 18:57:18
Instead of a geared tuner you could use a violin fine tuner: not the same convenience as a geared tuner, but they cost next to nothing, and you just clamp one on the 5th string between tailpiece and bridge. They are made e.g. by Wittner.
I have the Waverly style on my larger Stewart, good thing is it puts some (adjustable) downward pressure on the strings behind the bridge, potentially improving the sound (or at least making it louder). Have a look at Stew Mac stewmac.com - I put the "Hawktail" tailpiece on my smaller Stewart, works OK and looks good. Also the 5 star tuners they have are inexpensive and work great. You'll have to find someone to install it who knows what they're doing; it's pretty easy to crack the neck.
Is this a resonator or open back banjo? Bluegrass or clawhammer?
Before switching hardware tell us about the head and the strings.
Installing a geared 5th string tuner involves making the hole larger with a "5th string peghole reamer" that, unfortunately, costs $34.63 plus $10 shipping from StewMac so DIY isn't always the best option.
I wouldn't expect to receive anything shipped from China before next Spring so be careful who you buy from. A Gotoh 5th string tuner from Smakula Fretted Instruments costs $12 plus $8 shipping. IMO a cheap geared tuner isn't much better than a properly setup friction tuner unless you change tunings often or have a skin head. It helps to make a fist and put the tuner button under your thumb. There may not be enough clearance for a violin fine tuner.
In any case, I would first alter the sound of a banjo by experimenting with back stuffing, strings and heads. For playability, I would check the straightness and back angle of the neck and make sure the frets and nut are properly dressed. If you want more volume and quicker tuning, spend money on new hardware but I would start saving for a new banjo.
Edited by - restreet on 10/26/2021 05:02:41
Resonator & Bluegrass
Ah yes i was afraid that i might have to ream out a bigger hole and thats not something i planned on doing, i guess experimenting with a cheap new bridge and tailpiece will do for now, this was mainly supposed to be a small project until a banjo i want to get is available here in Iceland, cant say we have to biggest selection of new banjos at the moment
Edited by - habanori on 10/26/2021 06:01:45
Originally posted by habanori
Thanks alot for your help guys!
The tailpiece on this banjo is this one
The Waverly tailpiece would be good. The one described as the tension tailpiece is a real pain to string.
Remove the friction tuner, step over to the door and throw it very far.
I suspect the RK GT and SAGA tuners to be similar since they are jobbers who buy in bulk.
You can ream correctly with a pocket knife.
We really like people who are not afraid to turn a wrench. I tinkered my way into a trademark which I just renewed in 2017.
Enjoy the journey. Many times people like yourself think up something new for the whole community.
Regarding mail and supply issues, I suggest you order the tailpiece, bridge and tuner(s) very soon, and then hunker down.
I'm with Mark...the Waverly would be a good choice. The other one is a PITA when it comes to changing strings.
Had a thought last night after posting. If you buy a quality bridge and/or tailpiece, you could always use them on your next (better) banjo if desired.
Iceland...I didn't catch that the first time. Shipping costs will be a factor in your choices. Better to buy from one source if you buy from outside.
The main problem with the tailpiece you have is the difficulty of changing strings; otherwise, they are probably sturdy enough and somewhat adjustable. That "Tension" tailpiece looks like it's even more difficult to string than the one you already have. I'd avoid it.
Although making a banjo easier to tune and maintain is a worthy goal, I'd first try a better bridge. It will make the biggest difference as far as tone is concerned. Different strings and head tension will also help. Adjusting a head costs nothing, and strings are a standard maintenence item, like changing the oil on your car.
If after bridge replacement, head tension checks, and different strings, the banjo still sounds like doo-doo, you may not wish to splurge on all those other things.
Originally posted by habanori
Thanks alot for your help guys!
The tailpiece on this banjo is this one
In one way I didn't help too much in directing you to Ace Hardware to get a screw to serve as a tailpiece anchor bolt! I totally failed to notice you're in Iceland.
The angle adjustment screw on your tailpiece keeps it from being the worst tailpiece installed on the lowest beginner banjos!
Both the Waverly and "tension" tailpieces will be upgrades. Please note that I provided eBay links to both of these shipped direct from China worldwide. The "tension tailpiece" is the one I referred to as "old Waverly style" which is a name I've seen applied to them.
If you get the Waverly, please note the correct way to string them is the strings go over and across the top surface, down into the openings and then emerge from the outermost end. This is how the tailpiece exerts downward pressure. These tailpieces come on many new banjos from China and are almost always strung up incorrectly with the strings going under the full length of the tailpiece.
Except for the Sullivan bridge, the parts I pointed to include shipping from China. I assume that applies to Iceland.
You might save on shipping costs for a bridge if you buy a Scorpion banjo bridge, made by Silvio Ferretti in Italy.
The so-called "tension" tailpiece on a 1960s Gibson. This was standard equipment for many years, though maybe not in the very first post-war Gibsons.
Final thought on tailpieces:
If this "cheap Fender beginner banjo" has a thin tension hoop and flat hooks, a tailpiece such as the Straight Line knock off I pointed to above or a Presto style might be better. These are "floating" tailpieces that don't sit on the tension hoop. String tension pulls them into contact with the back side of the tension hoop.
The Waverly and "tension" tailpieces have bracket-type bases, or hooks, specifically designed to enable the tailpiece to sit on the wider top edge of a notched tension hoop.
I suppose the Waverly and "tension" tailpieces can work with a thin tension hoop, but their lower part will be angled a bit backwards rather that sitting straight up and down.
Good luck whatever you choose.
Just thought id post an update. went ahead and bought a tailpiece, bridge and a geared tuner from Elderly, went pretty inexpensive and put it all on the banjo. Went pretty well with this being my first time doing anything like this. Poooossibly, maaaybe put a small crack in the neck when putting the tuner in but i think it might only be the finish?
Anyway its playable and i feel the bridge and tailpiece make it sound alot better, at least for a banjo in that price group
First and foremost this was alot of fun even if it would have ended in a ruined banjo since the stores here in Iceland are finally getting the Deering Goodtime 2 that i'll be buying. Thanks again for your help guys
Welcome to the hangout, you did great.
'Dogwood Custom Slothead' 17 min
'CAROL OF THE BELLS' 1 hr
'engraving MOP?' 8 hrs
'Old Buildings' 9 hrs