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Jan 15, 2024 - 7:51:04 AM
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2285 posts since 4/18/2006

I thought you all might be interested in hearing a banjo before an after a set up. I changed the head from a smooth 5 star to a top frosted remo, made sure the heel was snug to the rim (not too loose and not too tight), set the coordinator rods to neutral, put on a new tailpiece and bridge, and adjusted the truss rod. The banjo is a 70's Stew Mac banjo and it sounded very thin and it was very hard to play. I was trying to fatten it up and make it more playable. I think it came out great!

Jan 15, 2024 - 8:29:57 AM

15066 posts since 6/2/2008
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Originally posted by banjo1930

... changed the head ... set the coordinator rods to neutral, put on a new tailpiece and bridge, and adjusted the truss rod. 

Sounds good, despite the not great audio quality.

All the things I bolded have measures or names. Replicable specifics. So I'm asking if you could please tell us a bit more:

> head tension as measured by DrumDial, tap note, coin and stick, or other metric (if not just subjective ear and feel)

> resulting action at 22nd fret from neutral coordinator rods (I prefer measuring action at 22 since that's the actual highest)

> tailpiece: type/design or brand; height at front where strings exit; height at back relative to top of tension hoop

> bridge: brand/maker; height, weight, string spacing; wood (especially if other than ordinary maple)

> truss rod: relief at 7th or 8th fret (or wherever you measure)

I realize what works for you on this banjo won't necessarily work for any of us on our banjos. But you know banjo nerds. We love to know these things just in case.


Jan 15, 2024 - 9:23:58 AM

109 posts since 6/6/2015

You're playing is great, as always. With all the changes you made, did you not replace the strings?

Jan 15, 2024 - 9:50:35 AM



2784 posts since 7/18/2007

Definitely made a difference. I hear more depth and growl.  In a nutshell it sounds "bigger" after the new setup. Setup is everything and there's so much that can be tweaked on a banjo. Sometimes you can simply dismantle and reassemble and it will make a positive improvement. Nice comparison. 

Edited by - banjoez on 01/15/2024 09:55:40

Jan 15, 2024 - 10:25:28 AM
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2285 posts since 4/18/2006

I always change strings when I do a set up. Unless requested by the customer I use the GHS Crowe studio set.

Ken, answering those questions can be kind of difficult because every banjo is different and responds to each set up change in different ways.

With head tension, I tune it by ear and don't use a drum dial. when I set up a banjo the heads usually tend to run between F# and G# (I usually settle between G and G#.) I always use a top frosted Remo weatherking unless something else is requested. Though, to be honest, the top frosted Remo heads are the best sounding heads.

The tailpiece that was on it was a cheap waverly tailpiece so I replaced it with a Prucha presto tailpiece. With the bridge, I think I ended up with a 5/8ths Wadsworth on this (maple and ebony.) I don't remember the weight, but I tend to like anything between 2.0 and 2.3 grams, though depending on the banjo sometimes lighter or heavier can work. I have yet to try a bridge made of anything aside from maple and ebony that I thought sounded good.

With the coordinator rods, I always set them to neutral, and work with where the action is there. If it's too high or too low I adjust that with bridge height. Sometimes it can be about finding that happy medium between left hand playability and response of the instrument. Most banjos will respond better with higher action, but again, it really all depends on the banjo. I find that most banjos will work well with the action at the 12th fret just under 1/8 of an inch, though on my own I usually keep it a little lower just because I got used to that early on.

With the relief in the neck, I make it as straight as I can without buzzes or "fretting out." An important thing here is how well the frets are done and how smooth the relief is. You will find banjos with slight "peaks and valleys" in the fingerboard, and some luthiers aren't as good at installing or leveling the frets, so that is a huge determining factor in the amount of relief that will need to be there. I usually don't measure this and just set it to where it feels like the banjo "comes alive." I've found that truss rod adjustment has a huge impact in response and clarity and this varies banjo to banjo. Some banjos sound and play best with more relief whereas others, like my old Gibson, tend to like the neck straighter. Again, it can all depending on how well the neck is made and how the frets are done.

Jan 15, 2024 - 10:37:55 AM



14834 posts since 6/5/2011

I'm pretty sure I can hear a diff when I look at the video .... not quite as much with my eyes closed. crying

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