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Dec 6, 2023 - 11:49:40 AM
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eccles

England

18 posts since 10/10/2023

Now my brand new Ozark 2109RG came fairly well set up but too bright for my liking - mainly because the tail piece was screwed right down so that it actually touched the head. I did some research and found that if you ease it off some of that bright twang goes away and you get a more mellow sound and better response from the base D string. Finally I "unscrewed" it all the way and left just enough tension there to hold the screw tight. We are talking of a Waverly style piece by the way and not the Presto which is on a lot of American instruments. I have to acknowledge that this may not be the fashion at present but I rather like it and am writing becuase someone else out there may want to try.

Dec 6, 2023 - 12:22:29 PM
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leehar

USA

303 posts since 2/18/2018

I put an Asian “Waverley Type” tailpiece on my Scruggs model many years ago. If you adjust it up or down you should loosen the tension on the strings before doing so. I believe I failed to do that and the tailpiece broke in two right across the 90 degree bend. I ended up putting the original Presto back on again.

Dec 6, 2023 - 12:28:31 PM

3278 posts since 5/2/2012

Yep, tailpiece tension/pressure/angle is one of those things you can tweak to modify the tone. Glad you found what you were looking for.

Dec 6, 2023 - 12:31:10 PM

2933 posts since 2/4/2013

You should also try a heavier bridge and medium strings.

Dec 6, 2023 - 1:10:52 PM
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14828 posts since 6/2/2008

Tailpiece backed off from almost touching the head is definitely the fashion these days. A consensus seems to be start with a tailpiece at about the mid-height of your bridge, then adjust up or down to taste. Also, elevate the height at rear so the tailpiece is applying downward pressure.

Finally, from Asian banjo product listings I've seen online, a high percentage of Waverly style tailpieces are incorrectly strung at the factory. They arrive with the strings passing entirely under the top part of the tailpiece, emerging from the outer end, and rendering the openings at the front totally pointless. Turns the openings into useless decoration.

The correct way to string a Waverly is over the top. Attach loop end strings to the posts on the backside. Bring each string up and over the top rear edge. Then thread each string down through its respective opening at the front end and have the string emerge from underneath. When pulled tight, each string lays down flat on the top side. 

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Dec 6, 2023 - 8:53:36 PM
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1623 posts since 1/9/2012

"How to set up the BEST SOUNDING BANJO" by Roger Siminoff (1999) has a good section on break angle and tailpieces... and a lot of other useful stuff. (I saw it just now for sale, used, for as low as $20.)

Dec 7, 2023 - 12:19:19 AM

HSmith

UK

552 posts since 12/30/2005

Hi Richard

One of the (many) wonderful things about banjos is that they are so 'adjustable'. All stringed instruments can be adjusted to a degree to more closely align with the player's taste, but banjos by the nature of their construction are much more 'machine-like' than other instruments. Most adjustments to a banjo's set-up can be safely and easily performed by the average owner without specialist tools or knowledge. However, I would suggest you avoid altering the truss rod or co-ordinator rod without at least some research into their working. Clumsy or over-enthusiastic changes to their settings can result in serious (and probably expensive) problems.
I'd recommend changing only one aspect of set-up at a time in order to clearly see and hear the effect (or not). Among the many things to try include :-

  • Strings of a different guage or material
  • Bridges of a different weight or material
  • Tailpieces of a different length and height
  • Head tension (existing head)
  • Different heads (material and tickness)
  • Even-ness of head tension (a drum dial may be necessary for this)
  • Picks of a different material
  • Tips of fingerpicks adjusted to different angles
  • Volume of air chamber within body,  Washers between resonator brackets and flange will change this.

There are probably other things that don't immediately come to mind,  but all the things listed can be achieved by the average player without specialist knowledge, skills or tools, and at minimal cost.  They are also reversible, so you can always 'undo' what you've done.

It can be hugely satisfying to achieve a good result, yet very frustrating to hear little change.  Regardless of the result, a little tinkering will help you to understand your banjo better.

Good lick with the journey!  

Edited by - HSmith on 12/07/2023 00:20:13

Dec 7, 2023 - 3:19:26 AM

15696 posts since 6/29/2005

The  splay of the strings from the tailpiece to the bridge also alters the tone. Some tailpieces, like Oettingers make the strings go straight across the bridge.

Lots of things to play with in tailpiece design— length, width, weight, angle adjustment. Bear in mind that the Prestos of Earl Scruggs days "floated" i.e. no adjustable down-pressure.

David Politzer is being modest in not mentioning his own writings about break angle.

Dec 7, 2023 - 6:24:56 AM

hbick2

USA

735 posts since 6/26/2004

Ken. Maybe old age has clouded my thinking, but I distinctly remember adjusting a number of prewar Presto tailpieces using the little screw at the back. When you turned it clockwise, the tailpiece exerted downward pressure on the strings. We would turn it ever so slightly to barely put pressure on the strings. Anything more and the sound became muted.

Dec 7, 2023 - 11:09:33 AM
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eccles

England

18 posts since 10/10/2023

I am somewhat pleased that so many of you from banjo land have responded to my scribblings. Ken Norkin in particular because my new Chinese banjo has indeed been strung under the tail instead of over it. I am already fairly happy with the sound but am now tempted to "overstring" It to see what difference that makes if any???

Dec 7, 2023 - 2:32:09 PM

15696 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by hbick2

Ken. Maybe old age has clouded my thinking, but I distinctly remember adjusting a number of prewar Presto tailpieces using the little screw at the back. When you turned it clockwise, the tailpiece exerted downward pressure on the strings. We would turn it ever so slightly to barely put pressure on the strings. Anything more and the sound became muted.


The old Prestos I remember had no screw in the back to adjust the angle. Neither do the latter-day Prucha reproductions.  The old clamshell ones did.
Here are old Prestos on Vega openbacks

That prompted me to make one I called the “Prestissimo”, which was heavier, stiffer and had an adjustment screw.  I also eliminated the rattle-trap cover.  I still make those today, but don’t put the screw on ones for openbacks, just adjust the angle during setup.  Bluegrass players like the adjustment screw, but I’ll make them either way depending on what the customer likes.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 12/07/2023 14:33:35

Dec 7, 2023 - 5:27:34 PM

13008 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by hbick2

Ken. Maybe old age has clouded my thinking, but I distinctly remember adjusting a number of prewar Presto tailpieces using the little screw at the back. When you turned it clockwise, the tailpiece exerted downward pressure on the strings. We would turn it ever so slightly to barely put pressure on the strings. Anything more and the sound became muted.


The little screw on the back of '20s Prestos cannot exert downward pressure. The geometry is all wrong—there's no hinge. All it can do is increase the afterlength of the string and doesn't do a good job of that, either. The Golden Gate P-118 is the only accurate repro of that I can find anymore. It's just as flimsy as the originals (of which I also have a few). I've read Albert Grover's patent US1566745 Grover Presto Tailpiece 1923 and no claim regarding functionality of the screw other than it centers the tailpiece — which makes no sense after you've installed enough.

"In order that the tailpiece maybe adjusted and held in true central position, I provide the section 16 with a screw 16a which passes through the said turned down section 16 and bears against the outside wall of the instrument rim."

Yes, I've read a number of 'experts' around here but the only two I trust on this issue are a couple of Greeks named Euclid and Archimedes.

RK banjos used to ship with the PB-118 but the screw was often in the pocket where I left it. Their less expensive PB-605 is a bit sturdier and doesn't have the screw.

Saga still offers the P-118 and I keep a half dozen in stock. It's the only one I consider a repro of the original. All others, including the Waverly that Ken shows (I have a couple on '60s Vegas including my Pete Seeger) and the Prucha are improvements in one form or the other.

The screw on the Golden Gate P-112 Presto Style Banjo Tailpiece can adjust the angle  because it has a hinge like the Waverly "old style" and Kershner.

Dec 7, 2023 - 6:06:51 PM

14828 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by eccles

I am somewhat pleased that so many of you from banjo land have responded to my scribblings. Ken Norkin in particular because my new Chinese banjo has indeed been strung under the tail instead of over it. I am already fairly happy with the sound but am now tempted to "overstring" It to see what difference that makes if any???


Stringing it correctly should make a lot of difference. All of the mass of the tailpiece will be brought into play creating stability and applying pressure to the strings. The length of string from front to back of tailpiece will become acoustically dead. Strung underneath the tailpiece, that section of string is not touching anything and can create noise.

Something else to look for in a Waverly tailpiece: 

In the upside-down Waverly here, notice the semi-circle notch on the bottom edge of the backside leg. (The notch is up in the photo since the tailpiece is upside down).  The notch is there to allow the backside to clear the head of the anchor bolt and allow full and precise adjustment of the tailpiece angle.  On some cheap ones, the notch is missing. This results in the lower leg of the backside either being trapped to the inside of the anchor bolt with the head of the tailpiece then too high or positioned outside the head of the bolt and maybe too low.  I had such a tailpiece on a beater banjo I bought last year for a boat ride. A few minutes with a file and I had an acceptable notch.

Edited by - Old Hickory on 12/07/2023 18:09:36

Dec 8, 2023 - 10:00:59 AM
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1330 posts since 10/11/2012

For me the solution to your problem is simple, though I could be accused of being a little biased.

The Oettinger tailpiece has individually adjustable 'fingers'.

This allows the downward force of each string  on the bridge to be adjusted.

This means, for example, that overly loud treble strings can be quietened down and slightly muffled bass strings can be livened up. The overall effect that can be achieved is a more balanced sound for your banjo.

Of course there are many things that you can do to 'tune' your banjo just as several people have stated previously in this post but in my experience the Oettinger is the easiest and quickest to achieve desired results once one is fitted.

Plus, the look very cool.

It's worth noting, that Oettingers were first made back in 1924, almost 100 years ago and not many things stand the test of time like that.

Anyway, I have an Oettinger resource website that has a very good explanation on how to set up an Oettinger tailpiece: http://oettinger.co/tailpiece-set-up.php

I hand make these tailpieces in England and I have them on all my banjos.

I sell them on the Numonday website here: https://www.numonday.com/product/oettinger-tailpiece-5-string-brass/

If you have any questions, please just ask...

Edited by - Lyndon Smith on 12/08/2023 10:08:36

Dec 8, 2023 - 11:34:26 AM
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latigo1

USA

752 posts since 1/28/2011

quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran
quote:
Originally posted by hbick2

Ken. Maybe old age has clouded my thinking, but I distinctly remember adjusting a number of prewar Presto tailpieces using the little screw at the back. When you turned it clockwise, the tailpiece exerted downward pressure on the strings. We would turn it ever so slightly to barely put pressure on the strings. Anything more and the sound became muted.


The little screw on the back of '20s Prestos cannot exert downward pressure. The geometry is all wrong—there's no hinge. All it can do is increase the afterlength of the string and doesn't do a good job of that, either. The Golden Gate P-118 is the only accurate repro of that I can find anymore. It's just as flimsy as the originals (of which I also have a few). I've read Albert Grover's patent US1566745 Grover Presto Tailpiece 1923 and no claim regarding functionality of the screw other than it centers the tailpiece — which makes no sense after you've installed enough.

"In order that the tailpiece maybe adjusted and held in true central position, I provide the section 16 with a screw 16a which passes through the said turned down section 16 and bears against the outside wall of the instrument rim."

Yes, I've read a number of 'experts' around here but the only two I trust on this issue are a couple of Greeks named Euclid and Archimedes.

RK banjos used to ship with the PB-118 but the screw was often in the pocket where I left it. Their less expensive PB-605 is a bit sturdier and doesn't have the screw.

Saga still offers the P-118 and I keep a half dozen in stock. It's the only one I consider a repro of the original. All others, including the Waverly that Ken shows (I have a couple on '60s Vegas including my Pete Seeger) and the Prucha are improvements in one form or the other.

The screw on the Golden Gate P-112 Presto Style Banjo Tailpiece can adjust the angle  because it has a hinge like the Waverly "old style" and Kershner.

 


Actually, the geometry is just right. There is no need for a hinge.  String tension pulls the tailpiece tight up against the tension hoop.  If you screw the screw in, it does not pull the tailpiece back.  It can't (because of the geometry of where the screw is located).  What the screw does is push the bottom edge of the tailpiece away from the tension hoop causing the tailpiece to pivot over the top edge of the tension hoop (a fulcrum).  As it pivots, the front edge of the tailpiece tilts down closer to the head, increasing pressure on the bridge.

Dec 8, 2023 - 12:32:47 PM
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13008 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by latigo1
quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran
quote:
Originally posted by hbick2

Ken. Maybe old age has clouded my thinking, but I distinctly remember adjusting a number of prewar Presto tailpieces using the little screw at the back. When you turned it clockwise, the tailpiece exerted downward pressure on the strings. We would turn it ever so slightly to barely put pressure on the strings. Anything more and the sound became muted.


The little screw on the back of '20s Prestos cannot exert downward pressure. The geometry is all wrong—there's no hinge. All it can do is increase the afterlength of the string and doesn't do a good job of that, either. The Golden Gate P-118 is the only accurate repro of that I can find anymore. It's just as flimsy as the originals (of which I also have a few). I've read Albert Grover's patent US1566745 Grover Presto Tailpiece 1923 and no claim regarding functionality of the screw other than it centers the tailpiece — which makes no sense after you've installed enough.

"In order that the tailpiece maybe adjusted and held in true central position, I provide the section 16 with a screw 16a which passes through the said turned down section 16 and bears against the outside wall of the instrument rim."

Yes, I've read a number of 'experts' around here but the only two I trust on this issue are a couple of Greeks named Euclid and Archimedes.

RK banjos used to ship with the PB-118 but the screw was often in the pocket where I left it. Their less expensive PB-605 is a bit sturdier and doesn't have the screw.

Saga still offers the P-118 and I keep a half dozen in stock. It's the only one I consider a repro of the original. All others, including the Waverly that Ken shows (I have a couple on '60s Vegas including my Pete Seeger) and the Prucha are improvements in one form or the other.

The screw on the Golden Gate P-112 Presto Style Banjo Tailpiece can adjust the angle  because it has a hinge like the Waverly "old style" and Kershner.

 


Actually, the geometry is just right. There is no need for a hinge.  String tension pulls the tailpiece tight up against the tension hoop.  If you screw the screw in, it does not pull the tailpiece back.  It can't (because of the geometry of where the screw is located).  What the screw does is push the bottom edge of the tailpiece away from the tension hoop causing the tailpiece to pivot over the top edge of the tension hoop (a fulcrum).  As it pivots, the front edge of the tailpiece tilts down closer to the head, increasing pressure on the bridge.


Nope! The strings pull up as well as in. The best that can happen is that the tailpiece body becomes more level. I've always assumed that this is what Grover meant by "center".

Nearly every time someone has stated that or something similar, I've asked for pictures. None have been posted yet. Try it — let's see.

I can put the screw in on my mid-'20s Vegaphone any time. Here's the drawing. I'm also adding a couple of pics of a new P-118 from my stock (the thread is covered by a piece of tubing which is why it looks odd). Cool thing about the 118 is that you can replace the broken body of an original and the vintage cover snaps in —quite nice if the cover is an engraved Vegaphone.

For downward pressure, the hinge needs to be above the screw and there is none.




 

Dec 8, 2023 - 7:21:46 PM

latigo1

USA

752 posts since 1/28/2011

Mike, you are right in one respect. If the tailpiece is cranked down so the top (horizontal) side is pulled down against the tension hoop, the screw can not push the back ( verticle ) side of the tailpiece away from the tension hoop. I have never seen anyone, except Deering for some reason, recommend pulling the tailpiece down until it contacts the hoop. Most people pull it down until they have about 1/16" or more of clearance between the tailpiece and the top of the tension hoop. This allows the tailpiece to rock over the top outer edge of the tension hoop. That top outer edge is the fulcrum, the same as the pin in a hinged type is a fulcrum. Just like a teeter totter works the same if it has an axle in the middle or if it is just slung over a sawhorse. The ends can still go up and down. The only difference in the tailpieces is that on the hinged type the screw presses against the hinge whereas on the original type the pin presses against the tone ring or against the banjo head hoop. Not ideal but the result is the same. I am not going to go to the trouble to try to learn how to post a picture. It would be far easier for anyone who wants to see for themselves to just measure the distance from the top front edge of the tailpiece to the head with the screw loose, and then measure the same place with the screw tightened down.. One tip though. That screw has very little leverage so when you tighten it, it will be much easier if you put a little downward pressure on the front of the tailpiece. I just checked one of my banjos and the screw allows about 3/32" of up and down movement at the front edge of the tailpiece, a little more if I force it.

Dec 9, 2023 - 6:54:22 AM
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eccles

England

18 posts since 10/10/2023

Thanks for all contributions, the Waverly on my Ozark is very similar to that shown on Mr Grover's 1925 drawing and I have finally bitten the bullet and restrung it over the top so to speak per Mr Grover's drawing. This has resulted in a further improvement to the sound such that it now sounds very similar to the Recording King which often appears in Jim Pankey's videos but not quite so twangy so I could not be happier. By for now, Richard

Dec 11, 2023 - 1:34:10 PM

13008 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by latigo1

Mike, you are right in one respect. If the tailpiece is cranked down so the top (horizontal) side is pulled down against the tension hoop, the screw can not push the back ( verticle ) side of the tailpiece away from the tension hoop. I have never seen anyone, except Deering for some reason, recommend pulling the tailpiece down until it contacts the hoop. Most people pull it down until they have about 1/16" or more of clearance between the tailpiece and the top of the tension hoop. This allows the tailpiece to rock over the top outer edge of the tension hoop. That top outer edge is the fulcrum, the same as the pin in a hinged type is a fulcrum. Just like a teeter totter works the same if it has an axle in the middle or if it is just slung over a sawhorse. The ends can still go up and down. The only difference in the tailpieces is that on the hinged type the screw presses against the hinge whereas on the original type the pin presses against the tone ring or against the banjo head hoop. Not ideal but the result is the same. I am not going to go to the trouble to try to learn how to post a picture. It would be far easier for anyone who wants to see for themselves to just measure the distance from the top front edge of the tailpiece to the head with the screw loose, and then measure the same place with the screw tightened down.. One tip though. That screw has very little leverage so when you tighten it, it will be much easier if you put a little downward pressure on the front of the tailpiece. I just checked one of my banjos and the screw allows about 3/32" of up and down movement at the front edge of the tailpiece, a little more if I force it.


Recording King ships the Prestos cranked down. If they didn't, the nuts can back off and customers don't like that as I found firsthand.

Where are your pictures showing actual downward pressure?

The fulcrum is the tip of the screw. The hinge (hanger) is below and behind the fulcrum. What you keep going on and on about cannot happen.

The vintage tailpiece is one of my un-punched 4-string Prestos from the mid 1920s.




Dec 11, 2023 - 7:10:44 PM

latigo1

USA

752 posts since 1/28/2011

Mike, I already told you I was not going to take the time to post pictures to prove my point. I told you in my last post how to test it yourself on your own banjo. A real simple test that takes less time than posting pictures. You say the fulcrum is the tip of the screw, but it isn't. In a leverage scenario the screw is the effort. not the fulcrum I could probably spend a half hour or more trying to explain it in words that someone without an engineering background could understand but you seem to be more interested in arguing than learning so why bother.

Edited by - latigo1 on 12/11/2023 19:21:03

Dec 11, 2023 - 7:22:22 PM

latigo1

USA

752 posts since 1/28/2011

quote:
Originally posted by latigo1

Mike, I already told you I was not going to take the time to post pictures to prove my point. I told you in my last post how to test it yourself on your own banjo. A real simple test that takes less time than posting pictures. You say the fulcrum is the tip of the screw, but it isn't. In a leverage scenario the screw is the "effort", not the fulcrum. I could probably spend a half hour or more trying to explain it in words that someone without an engineering background could understand but you seem to be more interested in arguing than learning so why bother.


Dec 11, 2023 - 11:06:22 PM

13008 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by latigo1

Mike, I already told you I was not going to take the time to post pictures to prove my point.  …


Then it's time for you to change the subject. My physics minor may have been nearly 50 years ago but simple geometry has not changed. You are the one bent on proving the impossible, not I. 

Dec 12, 2023 - 1:07:48 PM

latigo1

USA

752 posts since 1/28/2011

Well Mike, The body of a Presto tailpiece is one piece of flat metal bent into an L shape. A short vertical section with an adjusting screw, and a longer horizontal section with slots to guide the strings. Since you have the knowledge gained from your physics class 50 years ago, please explain to me how you can move the vertical piece with the screw, without causing the horizontal piece to move at the same time. It is all one solid piece of metal. It is impossible to move just part of it. Also,don't get the idea that I have no knowledge of physics, geometry, and mechanics. I spent over 20 years designing complex racing parts for grand national championship motorcycles. The big three, Honda, Yamaha, and Harley Davidson,have all used my expertise in their race programs. The complex geometry of the steering, suspension, and braking systems I designed were much more complicated than a Presto tailpiece.

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