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Dec 5, 2021 - 5:07:42 PM
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325 posts since 4/26/2007

This is an old, cheap Masada banjo my Dad has had for years, obtained through a temporary trade for a fiddle back in the late 70's. He and the other guy just never swapped back as they forgot to do so.

Anyway, it's actually the banjo I learned on and I thought it would be fun to tweak it and make it sound (and play) its best.

Aside from the usual changes of the bridge, tuners, and head, what else would be recommended? Logic dictates that this banjo only has so much potential, but I think it will be a lot of fun to tweak.








Dec 5, 2021 - 6:56:50 PM

731 posts since 2/15/2015

I don't know much about Masada banjos but I do know a lot of those Japanese banjos from the 70s actually hold value very well.

I sold one recently for $550 and it was made in 72. But I've seen a lot of the 70s Japanese work, it's quality.

I'm far from an authority but alterations might devalue it some.

One can always research Ebay and other websites and see what those brands are going for.

Edited by - geoB on 12/05/2021 18:58:13

Dec 5, 2021 - 8:26:30 PM

478 posts since 12/10/2006

Hi Andy,
I have done some work on Asian Banjos like you have. I see your banjo has a Tone Ring, which is good. It may not be the best Tone Ring in the world, but some of them sound pretty good. The main thing I do is put a good Rim in the banjo, especially if it has the thin Rim. Yours might be ok, as I see that the Rim is wide enough that the Tone Ring does touch the Rim on the inside of the Rim. Saying that, a good quality Rim might help the sound of the banjo, as most of the cheaper banjos didn't have very good rims in them. Just have fun trying to get the best out of it.

Dec 6, 2021 - 4:14:30 AM

325 posts since 4/26/2007

Thanks for the advice so far, a rim upgrade may be in the future for sure.

As far as value goes, I'm not particularly concerned with that, just because this one is sentimental and I don't see ever getting rid of it.

Dec 6, 2021 - 5:44:58 AM
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2795 posts since 12/31/2005

That is a Kasuga made banjo. They actually may have more value to some in original condition than "hot rodded." But with any "what do I do to change this" inquiry, we have to start with the question: "What problem are you trying to solve?" When you say you want to make it sound it's best, what you consider good sound and what I consider good sound may be completely different. What specifically are you trying to accomplish? If you don't know, you probably won't get there and I wouldn't mess up what is probably a decent banjo.

Dec 6, 2021 - 7:18:16 AM

325 posts since 4/26/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Murphy

That is a Kasuga made banjo. They actually may have more value to some in original condition than "hot rodded." But with any "what do I do to change this" inquiry, we have to start with the question: "What problem are you trying to solve?" When you say you want to make it sound it's best, what you consider good sound and what I consider good sound may be completely different. What specifically are you trying to accomplish? If you don't know, you probably won't get there and I wouldn't mess up what is probably a decent banjo.


Originality doesn't matter to me for the sake of value, this banjo is more sentimental to me than anything so I'll never sell it. That said, I'm hoping to keep the neck, resonator, and original hardware, minus the tuners, at the very least.

First and foremost, I'm definitely looking to make the banjo more playable. The action height is quite extreme and the fretboard needs to be cleaned. As far as sound, I'm wanting a bit more volume, and a degree of balance as it's played up and down the neck.

Edited by - HuberTone on 12/06/2021 07:20:55

Dec 6, 2021 - 8:17:05 AM

2795 posts since 12/31/2005

quote:
Originally posted by HuberTone

Originality doesn't matter to me for the sake of value, this banjo is more sentimental to me than anything so I'll never sell it. That said, I'm hoping to keep the neck, resonator, and original hardware, minus the tuners, at the very least.

First and foremost, I'm definitely looking to make the banjo more playable. The action height is quite extreme and the fretboard needs to be cleaned. As far as sound, I'm wanting a bit more volume, and a degree of balance as it's played up and down the neck.


High action can be the symptom of a couple of things.  First, check the neck relief.  You can do this part yourself and there are a number of videos and posts on it.   If the issue is a bow in the neck, you will want to do a little research into what kind of truss rod those Kasugas had.   Go carefully into that part, but if the neck is bowed out of whack and won't adjust, no big loss anyway.  

In terms of volume and balance up the neck, that can be a tough one.  That is simply the difference between an excellent made banjo and the others.  It could be a component of the pot (ring, rim) or a combination of them.  Sometimes it is the heel to pot connection.  Some will tell you that it is the neck itself.  In my experience, it really just depends, but you might be expecting too much from that level of banjo if keeping the stock components.  And I don't advocate for changing out a ring (which requires someone with lathe skills if it can be swapped out) or rim/ring on a banjo at that level.  You'll be changing out so many things at such a high cost, it is not the same banjo anymore so sentimental value is no longer an issue.

Dec 6, 2021 - 9:09:39 AM

1713 posts since 2/9/2007

Sounds to me like it mostly needs general setup--
First, get it playing easily: recut and/or shim the neck for solid fit to the pot and correct angle (maybe for a bit-taller-than-standard bridge?); adjust the tension rod; level and crown the frets, get the nut slots right, etc.
(I have no experience with those tuners, but if they work OK, why change them? )

IMO, the best place to start tweaking tone is getting the head tension even. Make sure the neck isn't clamping down on the tension hoop, clean and oil the threads on all the tension hooks. Even if you don't change the head, you might want to remove it and see that the bearing surface of the tone ring is polished smooth, maybe applying a bit of wax. Use a Drum Dial. See what you can do to the sound just by adjusting the tension. That should give you a clearer idea of how to proceed-- Should the bridge be heavier or lighter, softer or harder... the head thinner or thicker?

I'm a big fan of wide tailpieces. The Price knockoff you can get for peanuts on Amazon is worth a try.

Dec 6, 2021 - 10:17:17 AM

179 posts since 1/7/2019
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Try a 2 footed bridge as well. It can help to increase volume. Joel hooks makes some nice reproductions that can really li en a banjo up.

Jeff

Dec 6, 2021 - 1:55:09 PM

111 posts since 3/24/2020

I’m a huge fan of Steinberger gearless tuners they have a small profile, they are very light & have a super smooth 40:1 ratio.

Dec 6, 2021 - 2:17:47 PM

2801 posts since 3/30/2008

i don't believe this is a Kasuga product. It is also not mentioned on Paul Hawthornes sight in general, (which may not be complete).
Changing heads, strings, & bridges is normal, but do you really need to do anything else? If the tuners are working, why reflexively change them?   (rim change ??)  This instrument may be at it's best , left original & given a thoughtful set up.

Edited by - tdennis on 12/06/2021 14:18:52

Dec 6, 2021 - 7:54:59 PM
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kat eyz

USA

1131 posts since 10/1/2003

Andy your banjo looks extremely similar to my old Alverez i bought back in 1980 or so ...iam guessing mine was about 5 years old when i got it. The things that are the same on the 2 banjos are ..the tuners ...bow tie inlays (plastic) ...crome plated ...resonator ( yours has an eagle in the back center ..mine had some thing different but same size ) ....same yellow interior case.....single co rod ...and that black colored rim . I played mine stock for probably 4-5 years and it was limited in tonal value ....always sounded like it had a bad head cold tonal wise . Later in time i took off that black rim which in my case if i remember correctly was like a pressed wood and pretty light in weight . I ordered a 3 ply maple rim from stu mac (45.00) and got lucky with the rim/ring marriage ..it slipped right on . My banjo put back together was a huge game changer. That maple rim brought that banjo to life ! Went from nasal sounding to a very good sounding banjo Your mileage may vary but iam thinking your in the same boat i was in . Have fun with it !

Dec 7, 2021 - 5:26:37 AM

2795 posts since 12/31/2005

Yes. Kasuga also made the Alvarez banjos in the 70's and part of the '80s. You will see these banjos with different names on the headstock. If you want a definitive expert opinion on these, one must summon the great desert rose

Dec 7, 2021 - 9:16:02 AM

Buddur

USA

3122 posts since 10/23/2004

It looks in very good shape. Now if it NEEDED upgrades I'd understand.

You sure you want to mess with it?

Dec 7, 2021 - 10:35:15 AM

325 posts since 4/26/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Buddur

It looks in very good shape. Now if it NEEDED upgrades I'd understand.

You sure you want to mess with it?


After reviewing this thread, I'm probably going to hold off on something major like the rim after all. 

But take my word for it, this banjo needs a new head and bridge at the very least, and the tuners are a bit slippery as well. Not to mention the high action, so the neck might need tweaking. I mainly didn't know if someone had tried something similar before with a cheaper import and what the end results were.

Dec 7, 2021 - 8:05:49 PM
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Bart Veerman

Canada

5096 posts since 1/5/2005

I've had several banjos like that over the years: Anjo, Pan and Mann. The Manns had RB250 copy necks, the same inlays except a tad larger than the original RB250 inlays.

The Manns were the nicest sounding ones, hugely responsive to the slightest touch at the strings.

Drum Dial 91~92 head tension and a lightweight bridge got them into an awesome sweet zone. Keep in mind, these banjos came from the factory in Japan to be used with 1/2 inch bridges so IF you happen to be using a 5/8" one now then that's the reason for your high action. I cranked the lower coord rod a smidge so the jo was happy with a 9/16" bridge which happens to be what my fingers like best anyways. No, that didn't seem to bother the pot at all. Even if it did, that just wouldn't bother me as it sure did not at all bother its performance.

For whatever it's worth: I ended up with a Leo a while back that had been upped with a famous maker's rim & tone ring. The durn thing sounded totally constipated until I put the original Leo rim & TR back in and that brought it back to sounding amazing.

Dec 8, 2021 - 4:41:42 AM

15046 posts since 2/7/2003

Thank you Brian ( g )

Without question this is Kasuga sourced as noted by many here.
I agree with others spend a little money and have it set up by a pro then you will know what you have

A general statement As many know here Ive been working in the Japanese banjo world in japan since 1986 worked at the factorys that made Ibanez Bluebell Morris and Leo, worked with people who made many of the other brands.

A large part of Paul Hawthornes website is from me, Paul and I were close friends and we were working on upgrading the information when he got sick

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