Step #2 - FIND A GOOD BANJO HEAD TENSION« Previous page (STEP #1) Next page (STEPs #3,4) »

Before our instruments leave the shop, each banjo head has been top-tuned to G#. Each banjo is tuned, allowed time to relax and stretch, and retuned again. Our banjos don’t pass inspection unless we know they have stabilized and the setup will keep its position. We feel G# is the best pitch, but your personal taste may run a little differently. However, because the open strings on the banjo are tuned to the G chord, it is not good to tune the head to G ,which can give you some bad overtones.If the head is tighter, you will get a brighter sound. If it is a little loose, you will get a low (deeper, mellow) sound.

Here is the process I use to tune my banjo heads: First, I hold all strings to kill any vibration. I begin to tap the head about 2“ from the tension hoop and also at the edge of the banjo head. The two notes should sound G# an octave apart.

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To get the G# I first compare the head tap tones with the low D string – open 4th – and the high D string – the open 1st string. The G# tone will be noted at the 6th fret of the 1st and 4th strings. However, if you first begin on the 6th fret, your ear will not be able to hear if the head is truly at G# as well as if you had begun on the 1st fret. So after you tap the head while muting the strings, listen to notes of the 1st and 4th strings and work your way up the fingerboard to find the tone of the head.

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If it is sharper than the 6th fret (G#), you can loosen the hooks. If the head is flatter than G#, tighten the hooks. They must be tightened equally so that the tension and the note are the same everywhere on the head.

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When you complete this step, be sure to tune the strings again because they have most likely slipped from their original tuning.