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Dec 6, 2021 - 11:42:12 AM
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196 posts since 6/15/2021

Sorry... this is probably really basic...

The banjo is a 1970s Asian clone. The tailpiece is a brass Presto-style but without the hinged cover.

Is the tailpiece supposed to touch anything other than the point at which it's attached to the attachment hardware at the bottom of the pot?

Should it be touching the tension hoop and/or the rim of the head? On my banjo, the rim of the head sticks out a hair from the tension hoop. Should it touch the tension hoop on the top surface or the vertical surface (as with the banjo lying on its back)? Should it touch the head at all?

Thanks,
pj

Dec 6, 2021 - 11:49:07 AM
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Eric A

USA

1389 posts since 10/15/2019
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Should not touch the head for sure.

Dec 6, 2021 - 11:52:21 AM
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Emiel

Austria

10032 posts since 1/22/2003

This picture illustrates how the Presto sits on the banjo:

Dec 6, 2021 - 12:34:15 PM
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11918 posts since 10/27/2006
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The exact height affects tone. Many, like I, want the leading edge about 1/8” below the top of the bridge while others want it closer to the head. Whatever sounds best is best.

Do not adjust the height with the strings under tension! This can introduce metal fatigue which will cause them to break—just like the originals. If you’re careful about that… well, 1923 was the first year and many of those are still around.

Dec 6, 2021 - 2:36:08 PM

196 posts since 6/15/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Emiel

This picture illustrates how the Presto sits on the banjo:

[see pic above]


Thank you.

So, it looks like it is resting on the vertical face of the tension hoop, with the strings pulling up and the screw pulling down.  The length of the screw determines how high above the head the section parallel to the head is.  Correct?

 

Shortly after I got the banjo, I had to replace two strings that broke.  While I was doing that, I noticed that the tailpiece was not centered on the screw.  I loosened all the strings and centered it.  I tuned it up and played.  The banjo started making some horrible ringing noise and the first string would vibrate sympathetically with the fourth string (as long as they were both in tune!).  I noticed that the tailpiece was touching both the vertical and top edge of the hoop.  I slipped some felt under the points of contact.  That helped, but I still get a metallic ringing when I pluck the first string open (again, if I take it the slightest bit off D, the ring goes away).  I'm wondering if that's just the resonant frequency of the tone ring or if I still have an issue with the tailpiece.

 

Or can you suggest another tree I bark up?  I'm following the old aviation axiom:  if you do something and bad things happen, undo whatever it was you did.  I was messing with the tailpiece, so that's where I'm looking.

The fellow I bought it from described it as a 1970s "Masterclone" that's been converted to open back.  It has a lot of Home Depot-ish hardware on it in the way of screws and washers and stuff.  I don't mind that, as long as it plays and sounds nice.

 

Thanks again,

pj

Dec 6, 2021 - 2:37:42 PM

196 posts since 6/15/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Eric A

Should not touch the head for sure.


I think that won't be a problem here... at the bottom of the face, the head is about 1/6" below the edge of the hoop.

Thanks,

pj

Dec 6, 2021 - 2:49:13 PM

11918 posts since 10/27/2006
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The body will normally touch the side of the stretcher unless adjusted so the Afterlength Adjustment Screw pushes it away. Many players throw that screw away.

 

Afterlength is a critical adjustment on a fiddle while banjo players notice an annoying screw that often rattles. 

Dec 6, 2021 - 4:41:02 PM

196 posts since 6/15/2021

Huh. I see a threaded hole in the part of the tailpiece that is parallel to the rim - below the fingers for the string endloops and the tab. No screw in there. Is that where the "afterlength adjustment screw" goes? I saw that and guessed (apparently incorrectly) that it was an alternative way to mount the tailpiece depending on the banjo.

So, a stable structure must have three points of contact. One is the strings. One is the screw through the hole in the tab at the very bottom of tailpiece. So, the third point is where the body of the tailpiece contacts the hoop. Do I have that correct?

Dec 6, 2021 - 5:07:54 PM

14429 posts since 10/30/2008

piano I think you have it correct. The Presto is really a very "insecure" design. I don't know why. Bluegrass banjoists are advised to set that long screw length so the entire bottom of the tailpiece is about 1/8" above the tension hoop and/or surface of the head. If you let the underside of the tailpiece rest directly ON the tension hoop surface, it's VERY easy to overtighten the long screw and crack the edges of the corner of your tailpiece, or alternatively bend/crack the little "L" tab that the long screw head pulls against.

When positioned as advised, the tailpiece is somewhat free to vibrate! Whether this is part of "pre-war tone" or not, I've never determined. It does interfere with hearing the tap top of the head as you tighten it. You have to lay your forearm across the tailpiece to STOP it vibrations, to hear the head tap tone

Poorly designed or not, the Presto is VERY popular for the bluegrass flat head sound. I think one reason may be that it is very lightweight.

The old Kerschner tailpiece is better designed and much more secure.  It is also much heavier.  

Edited by - The Old Timer on 12/06/2021 17:08:59

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