View Full Version : Fixing up my new (old) banjolele

12-13-2009, 09:04 AM
I did it. I gave in. I shelled out the dough for this awesome old resonator banjolele -- the thing was just so damned beautiful, and I'm a sucker for the twang:


But it could use some work. The person I bought it from replaced the original head (which he guessed looked to be from from the 20s or 30s) with a skin head from some old banjo, and he cleaned the instrument up a little, but otherwise didn't do much, and I'm wondering what I can do to make it sound as good as it can sound. I'd love some advice.

It clearly needs new strings -- he put on some random used ukulele strings, and I'm sure they're old. I figure I'll pop on some Aquilas, though does it matter what kind I use? I see some people using concert or tenor strings for their banjolele, but then I saw Aquila also make banjolele-specific strings. What's the difference, besides the wound C-string?

I'm also thinking of putting on new tuners, as these may be slipping a little -- or else it's the old strings. Any good reason not to change them out? And I prefer geared tuners, but does it matter what kind I use? Or the brand?

What else can I do after I take the strings off to make it play a bit better? The intonation isn't perfect, and as of now there's a buzz on one string, but I'm wondering how much will improve with new strings and/or tuning pegs. It has a very low action, which is incredibly comfortable, but I wonder if that might have to do with the buzz.

Lastly -- anyone recognize the headstock or anything enough to have a clue about who might've made this instrument?


Thanks! :D

Ahnko Honu
12-13-2009, 09:35 AM
Check the bridge height, may have to sand down base of bridge to lower action if too high. Also check distance of bridge from nut and adjust position or your intonation will be off.

I got these Aquila Banjo 'ukulele strings and I like them:
http://cgi.ebay.com/AQUILA-BANJO-UKULELE-STRINGS_W0QQitemZ390123168260QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH _DefaultDomain_0?hash=item5ad5272204

12-13-2009, 09:56 AM
I can't help you with what kind it is but based on experience with vintage guitars I always advise against making modifications which cannot be reversed. i.e tuners, this can greatly reduce value. As far as intonation, the 12th fret should be equidistant between the nut and bridge, then make minor adjustments on the bridge until intonation is correct. New strings will help as will tightening the head to prevent flex which can cause tuning, and intonation problems. Hope this helps. Very cool instrument by the way, I'd love to have it.

Pukulele Pete
12-13-2009, 11:25 AM
I have one just like it. It's a Stromberg Voisinet. Try not to change anything on it. I have Martin M600 soprano strings on mine. They are a little short but they work and sound great. Concert length strings may be better.

12-13-2009, 01:35 PM
All right, I'll leave in the tuners. I wasn't really thinking about value -- I just want to have an instrument that sounds and feels great (though now I'm curious, *is* there any actual value?) Thanks for the positive ID, Pete!

I tweaked the bridge placement somewhat, but it didn't make a huge difference -- chords are sounding a bit off. I'll see how it is after I replace the strings.

The action is already very low, much lower than my other uke. At what point can I still lower the bridge without it becoming too low?

Are there any major differences in playing a banjolele versus a regular ukulele? For instance, I assume you still strum near where the neck meets the body?

Thanks you guys! Sorry I have so many questions. I'd be stumbling along on my own if not for this forum.

Pukulele Pete
12-14-2009, 12:26 AM
One more thing, if you haven't done this already. You want to snug up all the hooks holding the tone ring on . You want to have even tension all the way around. If you have the bridge in the right spot ,intonation should be fine.At least it is on mine.

12-14-2009, 05:05 AM
Pete, I didn't, but I think the previous owner did. He's a banjo guy, so I assume he knew what he was doing, and he told me he replaced the head, and presumably tightened it up all over. I'm going to count on the problem being the strings -- just waiting for some new ones to arrive. Here's hoping! Thanks again.

12-14-2009, 05:05 AM
My favorite old banjo ukulele has nice geared tuners that I installed. It's a good arguement about keeping everything original because of value and sentiment, but if it's your instrument and you want to improve it because you're gonna play it everyday, that's a good arguemnet too.

Alot of older ukuleles and banjo-uke shave tuning pegs that are a smaller diameter than what is typically used today, so if you change the tuning pegs, you might have to ream out the holes to make them a little bigger.