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Feb 29, 2024 - 8:18:20 AM
6 posts since 2/27/2024

Just bought my first banjo, secondhand from a reputable seller. It's tackhead and fretless - do I like a challenge? You could say that.

It looks like it might've been made by Eric Prust but it was listed as 'unnamed' so can't confirm. I had asked the seller to set it up before delivery. I play other instruments (baritone ukulele and piano) but have never touched a banjo before.

Now that it's in my hands, I'm finding that I can't get it to stay in tune! I've spent about 20 minutes with it in front of my chromatic tuner and the needle just flops all over the place. When I think I've tuned all five strings as close as I possibly can (and I know with fretless they should be spot on), they've already gone out of tune. I can tell that the problem is beyond my knowledge. I'm mostly trying to tune it to d-A-D-F#-A, and I'm nervous to go any higher in case I snap a string.

I do plan on asking the seller about it, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask here too. I have 3 days to try it out. I have the option to return it for a refund, but I'd quite like to figure out what the problem is so I don't have to do that.

I'd be very grateful for any insight and advice!

Feb 29, 2024 - 8:20:18 AM

6 posts since 2/27/2024

Hopefully I can get the photos to attach this time...




 

Feb 29, 2024 - 8:23:42 AM

43 posts since 10/16/2015

It's likely that the nylgut strings simply haven't "settled down" yet from set-up and delivery. Usually takes about a week for them to stretch and hold tuning.

Feb 29, 2024 - 8:30:41 AM

8193 posts since 9/21/2007

From the tarnish on the 4th, those strings loop pretty old.

Feb 29, 2024 - 8:50:13 AM

6 posts since 2/27/2024

The strings look old to me up close. I've emailed the seller to ask when it was last restrung, if at all. Could that be it, or could loose tuning pegs contribute? The drone string peg just about fell out when I tuned it down too low. There's no screws so I can't tighten anything.

Feb 29, 2024 - 9:22:29 AM

317 posts since 6/20/2020

If they're old strings that have been played the issue isn't going to be stretch; age can make strings sound dull but it wouldn't send your tuner needle into a nosedive. That tends to turn the attention to peg slippage. Assuming that you are applying some light down-pressure on the pegs when you turn them they may need some help. You could try some fiddle peg compound on them. That might make the pegs easier to turn and more inclined to hold under tension.

Other than that I have no idea if gourd and tackhead banjos take peg taper on board or if they're just drilled holes?

Edited by - Pomeroy on 02/29/2024 09:26:55

Feb 29, 2024 - 10:17:38 AM

123 posts since 3/16/2014

Welcome to the exciting world of banjo fiddling!
First thing i would do is order some new strings. I personally really like nylgut tho others enjoy nylon. Then, while waiting for the new strings, i'd take the old strings off (careful to remember how the old ones are set on because they are currently on there right) and check each peg's fit into it's hole. It should be a smooth resistance when fully seated and turned in the hole. There should definitely be a taper to the peg holes. (it looks like a fine banjo so whoever built it would know to do that).
When the peg is out of the hole, you should be able to see if its seated properly in the hole by markings where its rubbing against the wood on the 'stem' of the peg. The 'tracks' should be the width of the peghead wood itself and travel consistently around the peg.. If it's not, you would need a reamer and possibly some new pegs to refit. It's not hard but should be done with utmost care and patience because you don't want to chase that problem to the point of destroying the peghead.. You can find great instructions by searching peg fitting in the search box of this site..
Peg compound is often suggested for slipping pegs. My personal experience is that if slippage is the problem, peg dope only makes it worse. But maybe it was just the brand i have. More slip than grit. I've done well with wood on wood only.
You might also look and see if any finish has gotten into the holes. You want wood only for the best friction.
Otherwise, there is a learning period for tuning banjo's of this type. Even a perfect setup can frustrate the newly initiated. But soon it becomes natural!

Feb 29, 2024 - 10:39:53 AM

8193 posts since 9/21/2007

How to tune with violin style pegs.




Feb 29, 2024 - 11:35:45 AM
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6 posts since 2/27/2024

quote:
Originally posted by plunkyjunkie

Welcome to the exciting world of banjo fiddling!
First thing i would do is order some new strings. I personally really like nylgut tho others enjoy nylon. Then, while waiting for the new strings, i'd take the old strings off (careful to remember how the old ones are set on because they are currently on there right) and check each peg's fit into it's hole. It should be a smooth resistance when fully seated and turned in the hole. There should definitely be a taper to the peg holes. (it looks like a fine banjo so whoever built it would know to do that).
When the peg is out of the hole, you should be able to see if its seated properly in the hole by markings where its rubbing against the wood on the 'stem' of the peg. The 'tracks' should be the width of the peghead wood itself and travel consistently around the peg.. If it's not, you would need a reamer and possibly some new pegs to refit. It's not hard but should be done with utmost care and patience because you don't want to chase that problem to the point of destroying the peghead.. You can find great instructions by searching peg fitting in the search box of this site..
Peg compound is often suggested for slipping pegs. My personal experience is that if slippage is the problem, peg dope only makes it worse. But maybe it was just the brand i have. More slip than grit. I've done well with wood on wood only.
You might also look and see if any finish has gotten into the holes. You want wood only for the best friction.
Otherwise, there is a learning period for tuning banjo's of this type. Even a perfect setup can frustrate the newly initiated. But soon it becomes natural!


Thank you for the warm welcome! I've now ordered some Aquila super nyglut strings, and I think I've found a video that shows what you're describing in terms of checking how well the pegs fit. https://youtu.be/7W_N7cJUDd8?si=ho6kvvZtYOlv1H_h The name Mark Ralston rang a bell from the few days I've spent on this forum! I'll rifle around for instructions on peg fitting. A bit nervous to f things up, but I'm generally a careful person so hopefully that'll work in my favour here. 

I so appreciate your encouraging words. I certainly didn't pick the easy route into learning banjo, but I'll keep at it. Even trying out the fingerboard just now was exciting! 

Feb 29, 2024 - 11:38:47 AM

6 posts since 2/27/2024

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

How to tune with violin style pegs.


Wow, thanks for this! I'll give it a go :)

Feb 29, 2024 - 12:19:35 PM
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6 posts since 2/27/2024

Pomeroy Looking at them I'd say they look tapered (and according to Plunkyjunkie they are). I think I could apply more pressure, so far I've only been tuning them as I would geared tuners. I did order some Hiderpaste after your reading your advice and someone here recommending it after encountering a similar problem to mine. I'm now armed with a bunch of possibilties to address my conundrum, I'm so glad I asked!

Feb 29, 2024 - 8:10:18 PM
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3293 posts since 3/30/2008

Violin pegs take some time & practice to learn how to finesse them just right.

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