Hi there Banjo Hangout,
I recently asked for some advice here about buying a second hand RK-25 on the Dutch equivalent of craigslist, and got some enthusiastic responses so i went ahead and purchased it.
The OG owner bought new about 2 years ago and barely played it so it's in great condition except for 1 small problem - the fifth string buzzes like crazy when played at any kind of normal volume. I read a few other forums that said this can happen if there's not enough downward pressure on the back of the string, so I tried unseating it from the 5th string nut and lo and behold that seems to solve the problem completely (the last 3 images in the album below).
However, I would expect the nut is there for a reason so I'm hesitant to make modifications if the banjo just needs a proper setup or something. What are your thoughts? Can I keep playing with the string out of the nut? Should I get a new higher nut? Do I just need a proper setup?
Thanks in advance!
Edited by - Deds947 on 12/02/2021 21:30:58
There are a couple of different solutions to your problem.
1. The slot in the nut needs a little bit of work. Either the slot is not deep enough and the string is rattling against the 5th fret without making firm contact with it, or the slot does not have enough back-angle to it. This can be remedied with a very thin bladed jeweler's file or a thin razor saw blade. It's a little tricky for a do-it-yourselfer.
2. Replace the nut with one that is a bit higher.
Both of these methods are best performed by someone experienced in banjo repair.
There are two common ways of installing and setting up a nut. One is to leave the nut high enough for the string to pass over the fifth fret with plenty of clearance. The other is to leave it lower and slot it so that the string sits firmly on the fifth fret. This requires a bit of a downward angle towards the fifth string tuner. Without this angle, the string can produce a rattling sound.
Both ways of setting up a nut have their advantages and disadvantages.
The nut keeps the string from moving from side to side or chewing into the edge of the fingerboard. You can play it with the string out of the nut for a while, but sooner or later the string may start to dig into the edge of the fingerboard.
+1 what Bob says.
If you fret the 5th with your thumb as many melodic players do, you want the 5th resting on the fret so that intonation will be better up the neck. Lower the slot with a razor saw or .010" nut file—takes a few seconds. If the 5th tuner shaft keeps the back of the string from going lower, remove and rotate the tuner counterclockwise a bit (shouldn't be an issue if the tuner has never been removed, however).
Many frailers like it the same height as the rest of the strings at their sweet spot over the end of the fretboard and will raise the 5th string. Raising it is a little tricky. You can remove the nut with a pair of pliers if you're careful. It's not glued in. Cut a small spacer (I like guitar picks for this) and file it till small enough to drop into the hole. Reinsert the nut and string it up. If you can't get it tall enough, make a new nut out of a piece of plastic rod you can find at a craft or hobby shop (or have someone do it for you).
I use what are called End Cutting pliers to remove these, gripping gently at the base of the nut. In the States, this pair is $3.69 at Harbor Freight and is more than adequate for the job.
Edited by - mikehalloran on 12/03/2021 09:32:46
If you're going to replace the nut, I would recommend using a bone nut. This one you have looks like plastic to me- though I can't tell for sure.
The spec calls for a bone nut but it's been a long time since I've looked at one up close.
I would start by CAREFULLY putting a drop of cyano-acrylate glue (Crazy Glue) in the notch to level it up to the top of the pip (some people put which powder like baking soda in the slot so it will look opaque after you put in the Crazy Glue, but it's not critical). Then cut a new slot as shallow as possible that will hold the string firmly in place without it popping out. If you like the sound and feel, leave it that way. The string should be well above the fret.
The alternative is to file the existing notch down even lower so it is well below the fret, and let the string rest firmly on the fret (which will sound the same as the string in your photo, it will just be centered correctly on the fingerboard.
Basically, I feel your existing pip is WAY too short, which lets the string "barely" touch the fret and causes the buzz. Get the string either well above the fret, or firmly down on the fret. Barely touching is the worst.
Originally posted by Deds947
Can I keep playing with the string out of the nut?
The suggestions above are great for perfectionists.
If you don't mind the cosmetics then yes, absolutely you can simply keep playing. Should the string jump off the edge of the fretboard, then rest the 5th string on the fret on the other side of the pip (towards the 4th string).
It's not too clear on the pictures but if the 5th string touches the fretboard, then slide the blue "sock" up to where the string touches the neck to prevent it from digging into the fretboard. If the 5th string clears the fretboard then there's simply zero need for the blue "sock"
Groetjes uit Canada,
I was going to suggest what Bart suggests above.
"I tried unseating it from the 5th string nut and lo and behold that seems to solve the problem completely (the last 3 images in the album below)."
What works.... works.
At least for now.
wait a minute before doing anything drastic. The nut is there only as a guide, it keeps the string in place. This is a banjo that is designed to have a fret as the first contact, similar to a Zero fret on a guitar. This makes for more accurate tuning. You only need to LOWER the nut slot a little bit for the string to lay on the fret wire, the same as you would normally fretting a banjo. Also, check the bow in your neck and adjust it accordingly. To much bow will cause a buzz like you are experiencing. No matter what, don't remove that nut, it's a string guide.
Earl Scruggs in his instruction book recommended removing the pip and replacing it with a nail that holds the string from sliding off the edge of the fingerboard. Let the string rest FIRMLY on the fret. He recommended this to reduce/eliminate the amount to tunint touch up needed when you capo the 5th string with other spikes.
'1926 MB-1 Conversion' 49 min
'1960 Gibson RB-100' 1 hr