1. Neck Adjustment
This time of year (Spring), banjo necks tend to change shape because of
the increase in humidity. The usual manifestation is a tendency to flatten out or
even back-bow. The usual remedy is loosening the tension on the truss rod in the neck.
The majority of modern banjos have an access cover in the peghead.
Once that cover is removed, the truss rod nut can be turned with the appropriate tools,
usually a nut driver or sometimes an Allen wrench.
Turn counter-clockwise to loosen and clockwise to tighten.
Hello again banjophiles! Is your banjo getting tarnished because of
fingerprints and smudges from being handled a lot in the hot, humid
weather? A nickel-plated banjo will smudge easily, but, if the smudges
are wiped off before the metal becomes permanently etched, it usually
can be restored to look like new. For tarnished nickel, we recommend
Simichrome polish, available from some motorcycle shops and us.
Do not use polishing compounds on gold-plated banjos or the gold
may come off. A soft damp cloth should be adequate. A window cleaning
spray like "Glass Plus" or "Windex" works well to remove anything on a
gold banjo that won't wipe off otherwise.
3. Bridge and Nut Problems
It's been about ten years since I discussed in detail in BNL the wear
and repair of banjo string nuts, so I'll mention a few possible problems
and remedies. The nut spaces the strings apart at the neck end of a banjo
and holds them off the fingerboard just high enough so that they don't
rest on the frets. The bridge does the same thing at the head or tail
end of the banjo. It goes without saying that a misplaced bridge or nut
will have grave consequences on the tuning and playability. The condition
of either will also greatly affect quality of tone and playability. Replacing
or repositioning the bridge is infinitely easier to do than replacing
or repositioning the nut inasmuch as the nut is glued into a slot and
the bridge merely stands on the head and is held only by string tension.
The common problems with a bridge are: 1) Being out of position, 2)
sagging, 3) breaking or chipping, and 4) being the wrong size or weight.
These are all easily corrected. Other than being out of position, all
other problems are solved by replacing the bridge. The common nut problems
are: 1) The slots being cut too deep, 2) the slots are worn down, 3)
the slots are too narrow, 4) the nut is too short, or 5) the nut is
out of position. For all but #3, the nut should be replaced by a competent
luthier or repairperson. In general, if a banjo needs a fret job, the
nut is probably going to need some attention, also. If the banjo buzzes
in the open position and the strings are not hitting the frets, they are
probably rattling around in a worn nut slot. Sometimes it is the bridge
slot. If the buzz or rattle stops if the string is capoed or fretted,
it's the nut. If it keeps buzzing, it is either the frets or the bridge.
My original premise assumes that the neck is adjusted correctly for bow
and that none of these buzzes are the result of a flat or back-bowed neck.
If it is indeed a worn nut, it may be possible to reslot it if it was
not cut too deeply in the first place. To test, hold down a string at
the second fret and see if there is any clearance between that string
and the first fret. If there is any left, the nut can be touched-up with
a jeweler's saw or file. If not, the nut needs replacing or repair work.
If the slots are too narrow and the strings are binding - squeaking during
tuning, try lubricating the slots with oil, graphite, or
(our polish), or file them a bit wider and then lubricate.
An excessively short nut allows only a portion of the string to go into
a short slot. If the string slips out because of this, a new nut is needed.
An improperly positioned nut will make it impossible to play the banjo
in tune no matter where the bridge is. This is rare and would be a warranty
Hope these comments help you resolve any annoying buzzes you may have.
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