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May 17, 2024 - 7:57:44 PM
83 posts since 8/7/2011

I’m not loving the tone on my Alabama tenor banjo lately, so I’m thinking of upgrading the head and bridge. I know it’s not a high quality beast, but I loved the sound when I first got it about ten years ago; it’s only in the past year that I’ve grown discontented. I tune it Irish and it used to have a fantastic growl on the two bass strings. I'm still using the same kind of strings

Some questions:

  1. What material of head would you recommend?
  2. What bridge would you recommend?
  3. I had assumed I would just have to google the model number and I would be able to find the diameter and height for the head it originally shipped with. I have googled aggressively and had no joy. Isn't there a site somewhere with that kind of info, so that I can be absolutely sure I'm ordering the right size?
May 17, 2024 - 8:07:40 PM
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Bart Veerman

Canada

5721 posts since 1/5/2005

Chances are the head tension has gone down and all you need to do is tighten it a bit. A drum dial would come in real handy when doing that.
Just in case, how's your hearing?

May 17, 2024 - 8:16:08 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

17527 posts since 8/30/2006

Bob Smakula at Smakula fretted instruments will assist thee

Measure the diameter and how deep the crown is

Goat is good to give a full audio range

May 18, 2024 - 5:03:34 AM

3381 posts since 5/2/2012

Here is a link to an article on how to measure your banjo/drum head.   I see on the websites that this brand has resonator banjos in the lineup as well.  I'd guess 11" head, perhaps medium crown on all the banjos.  Probably a "standard" frosted head.  Here is a link to the Deering site, about the sound of different types of heads.  I'd try Bart's suggestion first, though.

Check out Davis bridges in the Marketplace here on the HO.  Don New (Stringbean45) usually has  bridges for sale here.  I'm not sure if 4 string players are as obsessed with bridges as the 5 string folks.   Amazon is pretty ubiquitous, and they have a lot of bridges on the CA site, most if not all the same bridge with a different brand name.   

Edited by - thisoldman on 05/18/2024 05:07:14

May 18, 2024 - 10:55:01 AM
likes this

2457 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Bart Veerman

Chances are the head tension has gone down and all you need to do is tighten it a bit. A drum dial would come in real handy when doing that.
Just in case, how's your hearing?


Agree!

Also check that the neck is tightly attached to the pot.  It likely has worked loose a bit in 10 years, and that will definitely dull the tone some.  When you tighten that, you'll also want to set the co-rod to neutral (neither pushing nor pulling on the tailpiece end). 

Speaking of  periodic maintenance, have you measured the neck relief, and checked for worn or loose frets? 

May 18, 2024 - 11:08:45 AM

804 posts since 5/29/2015

Third in on head tension. To this day, I am amazed on how a turn or two on each tension nut makes a banjo come alive AGAIN!!!!!

May 18, 2024 - 12:59:11 PM
Players Union Member

paulspafford

Canada

83 posts since 8/7/2011

Thanks, y’all. Yep, I tighten the head regularly. I didn’t even know that necks could become loose. Will check those.

I was hoping to find a site that just listed the sizes for everything; I’m having a hard time imagining myself doing measurements that I know are accurate within 1/16 of an inch, but everything I read says that can make a big difference in crown and bridge height.

I guess measuring is the way forward though.

May 20, 2024 - 7:47:41 AM

3381 posts since 5/2/2012

Been thinking on this the last couple days. If you are having to "tighten the head regularly", that suggests to me that the nuts are loosening/backing off "on their own". If that is the case, then maybe consider some lock washers to keep things in place. Actually, my first thought was to back all the nuts on the hooks off and "restart".

May 20, 2024 - 1:28:15 PM
Players Union Member

paulspafford

Canada

83 posts since 8/7/2011

My definition of "regularly" in this case is pretty loose. I didn't tighten the head for the first seven or so years I owned this banjo. That was about three years ago. I just tightened it again (only about a quarter turn on each hook) in recent months.

Is that still a cause for concern?

May 24, 2024 - 8:40:45 AM

3381 posts since 5/2/2012

From this point on, it is just guessing on my point. I'm wondering if the glue that holds the head to the metal ring (collar?) has failed and separated somewhere. I've read that this does happen, but very rarely.

I've only replaced one head, but after tightening it the initial time, then checking and adjusting over the next few weeks, I haven't noticed any changes. That's been maybe five years. My personal check has been to play up the neck, as to me when it sounds good up there the tension is OK. I have backed on the nuts on at least one banjo I bought used, and brought it back up to tension, just for my own benefit. I start turning quarter turns, but when I'm getting close turns get down to maybe an 1/8 (or /1/16 when I'm getting real close). The only other thing I can think of is to put some graphite (pencil lead) in the slots in the nut and bridge.

May 25, 2024 - 1:56:04 PM
Players Union Member

paulspafford

Canada

83 posts since 8/7/2011

Thank you!

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