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Jun 25, 2024 - 3:35:41 PM

easy

USA

253 posts since 1/23/2009

Howdy friends. So, with my understanding being that the established wisdom is that a newly set-up banjo will take some time to settle before the tone/sound reaches its full potential - my question is, what kind of time-frame are we looking at? Weeks, months, years? My newly-built banjo is sounding better than my old already, but I'd like to try a bunch of adjustments to squeeze out every ounce of plunk I can get. That said, I don't wanna be counterproductive with premature/excessive tweaking. Thanks,
Easy

Jun 25, 2024 - 3:46:56 PM
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3391 posts since 3/30/2008

I think that the "settling " time as a certain extended length of time is a myth. I've set up many instruments, & it seems to happen fairly quickly.

Edited by - tdennis on 06/25/2024 16:01:27

Jun 25, 2024 - 5:28:34 PM
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roydsjr

USA

864 posts since 5/17/2007

Usually when it's just set up is the best to me and after days, weeks, months later I may tweet it a tad more to get it back to up to what I like. I haven't touched my banjo setup in a long time now and it sounds like I want it to.

Jun 25, 2024 - 8:13:56 PM

RB3

USA

2050 posts since 4/12/2004

In my experience, the component most likely to "settle in" is a new head. I've come to believe in the efficacy of the Drum Dial, so, if you don't have one already, my advice is to get one.

If your initial setup achieves the tone that you like, the Drum Dial will allow you to quantify the tension in the head for that setup. Then, if the tone begins to change over time, you can use the drum dial to measure the head tension and make the adjustments needed to restore the head tension to the setting that gave you the tone you prefer. I've had heads that continued to stretch for a period greater than a year.

Jun 25, 2024 - 9:36:13 PM
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5847 posts since 5/29/2011

How much time it takes for a banjo to settle depends on the individual banjo. Some settle in right away and some may need to be tweaked periodically. I have one banjo that seems like it needs to be touched up every month or so and I built it in 2013. I have one that I built in 2018 and I've never even tightened the head on it since I set it up.

Jun 25, 2024 - 10:05:25 PM

easy

USA

253 posts since 1/23/2009

Thanks all, opinions are much appreciated. I do have a DIY Drum Dial around here somewheres ... maybe I'll dig it out.

Jun 26, 2024 - 6:53:31 AM
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mrbook

USA

2125 posts since 2/22/2006

I often let the banjo settle overnight to see how it sounds and plays the next day. I never have to do more, but it usually sounds better the next day. I wonder if the time is needed for my brain to adjust to the change.

Jun 26, 2024 - 7:08:25 AM
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79839 posts since 5/9/2007

A good banjo sounds fine when it's brand new.
It improves over time (year after year) and especially if it is not disassembled past the changing of a head.

Jun 26, 2024 - 8:13:01 AM
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420 posts since 6/15/2006

I am a one of the selsom alu pot fans, since the best banjo I have come across in my long banjolife is an alupot 11" inches across 3" deep, and 1cm thick.. 3 years ago I made myself an alu pot - 10 and a half" across (I could not get a bigger tube) 3" inches deep (I like deep banjos) and 8 mm. thick. It has a rennesaince head on it. But I was never satisfied with it. I had this thin melallic sound that many associate with alu pots. Now after 3 years it is opening up in a wondeful way, the sound is fuller and rounder and more woody than ever before, and I think, it can now compete with any 10 and a half banjo (not any 11" pot), and I like the sound so much.
I am absolutely convinced, that I had tightened the head way too much, since the tension hoop had no lovering where the strings meet the fretboard, and now after 3 years the head is stretching a little, with marvellous result. I will not change anything, just enjoy. Conclusion: Heads CAN be TOO tight, and if so, it CAN take some time for them to stretch just a little, but the difference can be big, when it happens.. (So I also believe that the settling in is mostly about the head, but other things may also play a role). Steen

Jun 26, 2024 - 8:19:12 AM

beegee

USA

23269 posts since 7/6/2005

quote:
Originally posted by easy

Howdy friends. So, with my understanding being that the established wisdom is that a newly set-up banjo will take some time to settle before the tone/sound reaches its full potential - my question is, what kind of time-frame are we looking at? Weeks, months, years? My newly-built banjo is sounding better than my old already, but I'd like to try a bunch of adjustments to squeeze out every ounce of plunk I can get. That said, I don't wanna be counterproductive with premature/excessive tweaking. Thanks,
Easy


Jun 26, 2024 - 8:34:26 AM

beegee

USA

23269 posts since 7/6/2005

A banjo either "has it" or it doesn't. Once the head is properly tensioned, a banjo should not need further tinkering. Once the furniture is is place, the curtains are hung and the cupboard and refrigerator are full, you are '"settled-in"

On a banjo, there is no magical time period for components to "mesh." There is much myth and misconception.,especially among neophytes searching for magic. Unlike guitars, mandolins, or violins, banjos are inert and immune to variations in temperature and humidity that can register noticeable changes in tone and timbre.

Jun 26, 2024 - 8:49:05 AM
Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

10451 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

Unlike guitars, mandolins, or violins, banjos are inert and immune to variations in temperature and humidity that can register noticeable changes in tone and timbre.


Hmm, not so sure. The banjo rim and neck can age over time…

Jun 26, 2024 - 8:54:48 AM

79839 posts since 5/9/2007

Mr. Cox spoke of the parts "marrying" over time.I came to the party with a 1929 rim and resonator which helped.
Jimmy said my old rim was "very round" which made the fitting of his flathead ring simpler than if it had been warped or separated.

Jun 26, 2024 - 8:59:09 AM

beegee

USA

23269 posts since 7/6/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Emiel
quote:
Originally posted by beegee

Unlike guitars, mandolins, or violins, banjos are inert and immune to variations in temperature and humidity that can register noticeable changes in tone and timbre.


Hmm, not so sure. The banjo rim and neck can age over time…


Jun 26, 2024 - 9:01:04 AM

beegee

USA

23269 posts since 7/6/2005

And you measure this "how" exactly?  

I built the5-string neck for my 1928 TB-Granada back in  1974.The ONLY things I have done to it is ONE re-fret about 30 years ago.  I install a new Remo head every  few years, when they get really dirty and slick, new strings when needed and I use the same Scorpion Bridge(Silvio Ferretti) I have used for the past 10-12 years . I have 2 Fender Artists from the 70's, my 2014 Lane top-tension, several higher-end  newer (less than 10 years old ) Recording Kings, and a newly acquired TB-1 hoop banjo for which I am fabricating a neck. 

 I set 'em up, and leave 'em alone. The necks are curly maple,  Black walnut, mahogany...I have noticed NO difference in any, once properly set-up, no matter the age. I stopped "tinkering" with my banjos years ago. It's better to pick than tinker. 

Edited by - beegee on 06/26/2024 09:23:22

Jun 26, 2024 - 9:25:41 AM

beegee

USA

23269 posts since 7/6/2005

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

Emiel: And you measure this "how" exactly?  

I built the5-string neck for my 1928 TB-Granada back in  1974.The ONLY things I have done to it is ONE re-fret about 30 years ago.  I install a new Remo head every  few years, when they get really dirty and slick, new strings when needed and I use the same Scorpion Bridge(Silvio Ferretti) I have used for the past 10-12 years . I have 2 Fender Artists from the 70's, my 2014 Lane top-tension, several higher-end  newer (less than 10 years old ) Recording Kings, and a newly acquired TB-1 hoop banjo for which I am fabricating a neck. 

 I set 'em up, and leave 'em alone. The necks are curly maple,  Black walnut, mahogany...I have noticed NO difference in any, once properly set-up, no matter the age. I stopped "tinkering" with my banjos years ago. It's better to pick than tinker. 

 


Jun 26, 2024 - 10:22:24 AM

Bart Veerman

Canada

5743 posts since 1/5/2005

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

Unlike guitars, mandolins, or violins, banjos are inert and immune to variations in temperature and humidity that can register noticeable changes in tone and timbre.


 

Banjos themselves, perhaps. The heads on them though, very susceptible to temp changes that can drastically alter their tone & volume.

Jun 26, 2024 - 10:50:35 AM
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KCJones

USA

3115 posts since 8/30/2012

I've never personally understood the "settling in" concept. Aside from a head stretching and even then it's marginal, most banjos I've never had to retighten the head once set properly the first time.

It seems to me that if all the components have proper dimensions, they should fit well together as soon as all the fasteners are tightened to spec. In order for it to "settle in", the implication is that there's some 'play' in the components after it's all been tightened up, which in turn implies the components themselves don't fit well together. It seems logical to address the actual problem of poor fit, rather than using maintenance workarounds. Banjos are pieces of wood and metal held together with nuts and bolts, there really shouldn't be anything to settle in at all, you just make the cuts so they fit well and tighten the fasteners to spec. 

It kind of reminds me of the old advice to re-tighten your lugnuts after driving 50 miles. That's not necessary if the lugnuts and rim fit properly and you torque them to spec the first time. Sure it's good practice to check them occasionally, but if you install the proper parts the proper way the first time it really shouldn't be necessary to re-torque. 

Edited by - KCJones on 06/26/2024 10:55:20

Jun 26, 2024 - 1:07:36 PM

79839 posts since 5/9/2007

The person I paid the most attention to was Jimmy Cox.He built his own line of banjos from around 1960 to 2010 and his rims and parts have been built into others' banjos for a long time.He and Frank Neat knew each other for years.
I spent some time in his Topsham shop and try to remember everything I heard him say.
He said banjos improve over time and I hear that in my 25 year old conversion...just like he said would happen the day he called and said "C'mon over.Your banjer's done."

I believe this to be more true of a banjo that's played every day rather than one that's simply put together.

Edited by - steve davis on 06/26/2024 13:10:05

Jun 26, 2024 - 3:44:24 PM

majesty

Canada

347 posts since 3/20/2011

Did I miss something? Are you talking about a skin head, or a newer plastic type? Skin heads take more time to settle. Plastic heads settle in hours. I installed a new plastic head today( I call them Plastic) on my powerful Ome Siver Monarch tenor, and three hours later it was exactly as I set it at 90, with a Drum Dial. Now the fun begins! Try different bridges, adjust the tailpiece tension, try different string gauges, make sure the bridge is exactly in the right position so the tuning at the 12 th fret is producing notes that are not flat or sharp, as on a any type of banjo, plectrum, 5 string, tenor, etc. A hand made banjo may be more of a problem. I hope you find a good result. I wish you all the best. Jim

Jun 26, 2024 - 7:30:10 PM
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5470 posts since 11/20/2004

Take a good banjo apart and check where parts go together for signs of imprint where the wood has conformed to fit. Neck to pot and a shiny circle around the top of the rim where the inner lip of the ring has compressed the wood. In my opinion, these things happen over time and are the reason a banjo improves with time and being played. The amount of time varies with each instrument and I am not sure they ever totally stop improving, if properly cared for.

Jun 27, 2024 - 6:18:56 AM

242 posts since 6/11/2007

Jim Mills once told me he thought he ruined the Mack Crowe by changing the head. He said it took months before it settled in and sounded like it did before he messed with it. I had taken my 32 tb1 conversion to him to check out and I asked him about putting a new head on it and he said don’t touch it.

Jun 27, 2024 - 7:40:43 AM

79839 posts since 5/9/2007

I leave heads on my banjos for 5years or so.And I've saved all my old heads since the 70s.

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