PDA

View Full Version : How to set up a banjo uke



Papa Tom
01-21-2011, 11:53 AM
OK, I said I wouldn't comment on my new Rally banjolele until I've had a few days to mess around with it. Well, I just got it about an hour ago and I'm having a hell of a time getting it to play at all.

I inserted the bridge in what seems like the right place, but certain notes along the fret board just won't play. C7 is a particular problem, as the most I get when hitting that fret is a "tick." I've tried adjusting the bridge, but nothing changes.

Before I start getting all negative on this thing, can somebody give me some pointers for setting up my first banjo uke?

Thanks!

AncientMatingCalls
01-21-2011, 12:06 PM
As far as I know, and you may very well know this already, but the bridge should be set the same length from the 12th fret as the 12th fret is from the nut. Hope that helps at all.

Congrats though, have fun with it.

ukestang
01-21-2011, 12:36 PM
Try tightening the head, it will bring the bridge up and therefore the strings. I have a banjolin, which has a lot more tension on the strings and the head must be really tight to stay in tune.

Tudorp
01-21-2011, 01:14 PM
Did you charge the batteries for 12 hours?

j/j... Could be allot of things, but as mentioned check your head tension. Also, the "action" is much different on a banjole than it is a regular uke. Much different feel and does take some getting used to keep fingers clear of other strings when playing a note or chord, and pressure to the fret.. Dont give up. it's a different feel just let yourself get used to it, and comfortable with the different action..

take good close up pics of the bridge area, nuts area, and the action if you can get a low shot of that.. And maybe we can help better..

Papa Tom
01-21-2011, 02:44 PM
>>>....the bridge should be set the same length from the 12th fret as the 12th fret is from the nut. Hope that helps at all.<<<<

That helped a ton! I thought I had the bridge in the right place before, but as soon as I measured out the distance as you described, my problem went away! (cont'd)

>>>Try tightening the head<<<<<

While this didn't help the problem I described above, I think it will be a factor in figuring out how to make this thing not sound so muddy. I'll get back to you on that one! *cont'd)

>>>>Don't give up. it's a different feel just let yourself get used to it, and comfortable with the different action.<<<<

You're tellin' ME! Already, I see where the tricks that made me appear to know what I was doing with a straight uke ain't working so great on this axe! I sure hope I can get used to it. Right now, it feels like I'm starting all over again with a totally different instrument -- and I'm getting too old for learning new tricks!

(Full report to follow, if anyone is interested.)

TCK
01-21-2011, 02:59 PM
Here's what I do- may differ from others, but mine plays well, so it is worth a shot.
I had trouble figuring out exactly what was meant by "adjusting the head so it barely indents", and really did not want to pop a 90 year old head if I did not have too, so i jumped on Banjo Hangout and found most will tune the head to "A". What that means is when you hit it, it will sound an A note. I did this the first time, and now I do it by feel. Your ought not change as the head is not made from animal skin. REMEMBER- tighten the head in a star pattern like you would a spare tire for a car, and count the turns you make while doing this in SMALL INCREMENTS (ie....1/2 turn on each and repeat. not four turns at once on each)
next- the tail piece- this is a mystery, so i simply tightened mine down so that it was flush with the rim that holds the head in place (which probably has a name). Apparently, tone can be changed by changing the angle of the strings from the bridged to the tail piece, but I do not hear it. It may be the short scale I am on compared to most banjos....not sure there.
Bridge- This should be, as noted, equidistant from the twelfth fret as the nut is. Find that and put a little hash with a pencil to set it. You will get really good at putting this in the right place if you play a lot, but the first couple times it will be hard and the mark helps.
Now for the strings. None of this is going to be worth anything without some strings that really sing- remember, banjos have less sustain to 'em. I use Aquila banjo uke strings, some folks use straight concerts- it is all over the board with the string thing, but I think most agree that the GHS units that come on most imports aren't worth the time it takes to brake them in.
Setup- I go LOW here...I aspire to be George Formby. Press the strings down at the third fret and see if you can fit a business card between your fingers and the nut. If you can, just barely, you are there. Then hit the bridge- I think my strings rise 3/64th off the fretboard at the end of the fretboard....'bout standard ukulele.
Now- for fingering. Same Strings, often a little longer scale- you are going to probably need to fret a little harder to get a good sound out of it. took me a month before I was done death gripping the neck to get mine to sing. That C7 is there, it is just in a little different place than the Ukulele version is. However, if it is plinking when you pluck it, I am certain your head tension is the culprit.
hope this helps
Dave

Jnobianchi
01-22-2011, 07:21 PM
Can't add much of anything to this. Low action is also influenced by the angle of the neck, which can also be adjusted, though not sure how the Rally's dowel is set up.

Is it starting to sound better, Tom?

Papa Tom
01-23-2011, 03:02 AM
>>>>Is it starting to sound better, Tom? <<<<

Yes, but it's a little "dark" down around the first three frets, where I'll undoubtedly be spending most, if not ALL, of my time. Now that I've adjusted the bridge properly, the tuning at the 12th fret is dead on and no strings are buzzing or choking anywhere along the fretboard.

Regarding the neck, I noticed right from the beginning that the instrument seems to include a noticeable incline starting at the "pot" and continuing all the way to the nut. In other words, I believe the neck needs to be straightened. Being completely new to the instrument, I'm a little afraid to mess with it until I know what I'm doing.

The other problem I'm having is getting the head tuning up to "A." The closest I can get without really clamping down hard on the tuners is "G." I don't know if it's psychological or what, but the overtone really bothers me.

Overall, I'm having fun with it and am glad I finally pulled the trigger. I'm also glad I didn't keep the original Gold Tone I ordered, as this one looks and feels just as good - and for $100 less, it better suits my playing ability.

Jnobianchi
01-24-2011, 10:13 AM
That's encouraging. As for the neck angling back; it should have some cant away from being flat. If the neck were completely flat and on the same plane as the head, your action would be extremely high as you got towards the bridge and you'd need to squeeze harder as you played up the neck. Still, you may want to have someone at Sam Ash or similar take a look at it. Sam Ash is pretty good, and considerably cheaper than Umanov or West Village.

Lori
01-24-2011, 11:04 AM
The other problem I'm having is getting the head tuning up to "A." The closest I can get without really clamping down hard on the tuners is "G." I don't know if it's psychological or what, but the overtone really bothers me.

How do you check the tuning of the head? How can you tell what note it's tuned to?
–Lori

Tudorp
01-24-2011, 11:16 AM
If ya got a clip on tuner, you can simply clip it to the head, or hold it to the side of the head, and tap the skin with something. I do it using the eraser end of a long pencil. It will resonate it's "note"

Lori
01-24-2011, 11:32 AM
If ya got a clip on tuner, you can simply clip it to the head, or hold it to the side of the head, and tap the skin with something. I do it using the eraser end of a long pencil. It will resonate it's "note"
Thanks for the info. I just tried it, but my clip-on chromatic tuner doesn't register it. I tapped the head and I could hear the strings ring a bit. Then I muted the strings, so it was just the drum tap, and still nothing showing on my meter. Any ideas?
I don't have a skilled enough ear to recognize the drum note.

–Lori

Tudorp
01-24-2011, 11:40 AM
yeah, be sure ya mute the strings or it can pick up that chord. It is either out of your tuners frequency range or your clip on isn't sensitive enough to pick it up. I have a tuner that isn't a clip on (I have a few of those, but never used them for the drum head). I have a better tuner I use for my electric guitars. That all I have to do is hold the corner of the tuner firmly on the side of the bucket and it will pick it up... Try not using the clip, but holding the tuner up against the bucket firmly.

Tudorp
01-24-2011, 11:42 AM
When I say "head" I dont mean the Headstock. My bad. I am reffering to what I call the bucket (body).

Lori
01-24-2011, 01:34 PM
When I say "head" I dont mean the Headstock. My bad. I am reffering to what I call the bucket (body).
Thanks, yes I was on the sounding "skin" on the body of the uke. I tried clipping to the bracket, and then to the hoop area, then just letting it rest on the "skin". It's funny since this tuner has picked up vibrations from a uke that was near it on a bed. I have a couple of other tuners, one clip-on similar to the one I tried, and one that is really old and uses a mic.

–Lori

Tudorp
01-24-2011, 01:39 PM
on the skin itself would mute it and probably wouldn't work. I have never tried my clip ons, so I just assumed those would work. I'll need to try one and see if I can get them to read. My good one does, but it may have a broader frequency band. The drum head may be lower freq than what the clip ons can pick up. Of course that is only a theory. I'll try one of my clip ons and see if I can read something..

Papa Tom
01-24-2011, 02:20 PM
Once you've muted the strings, you might find that the drum head doesn't resonate enough to register on a tuner. What I do is listen closely to the pitch of the head, then try to find a note on the uke that matches it. It's not the most scientific or sure-shot way to do it, but it works for me.

In playing around with the head, I've found that my banjolele can go from sounding really awful to really bright, happy sounding, and in tune, so I'm sure there must be some benefit to finding the perfect head tuning. I chose "A" just because it's close to the chord produced by the four open strings (in GCEA tuning). Can anybody suggest a lower pitch that would work, as I don't think my head will go tight enough to reach a clean "A."

Jnobianchi
01-25-2011, 04:40 AM
Electronic tuners don't work on banjo ukes if set to vibrate; there are too many variables and tones that you can't hear that are throwing it off. If you have an electronic tuner than can be set to pitch only, it should work. Personally I gave up years ago and just use uke pitchpipe tuners for my banjo ukes. :)

Papa Tom
01-25-2011, 10:53 AM
>>>>Personally I gave up years ago and just use uke pitchpipe tuners for my banjo ukes. <<<<

Funny you said that, because I, too, have been finding that my pitch pipe is a lot more reliable than my Korg tuner when tuning my banjo uke. I'll probably go with the pipe from now on.

Lori
01-25-2011, 12:25 PM
It true, when trying to tune my banjo uke, the clip on tuner has trouble getting a good reading. I can get a better response from the 12th fret harmonic.

–Lori

Tudorp
01-25-2011, 12:29 PM
It true, when trying to tune my banjo uke, the clip on tuner has trouble getting a good reading. I can get a better response from the 12th fret harmonic.

–Lori

I wasn't getting anything from a couple of my clip ons today when I tried them. Sorry for the bogus info I gave ya. Like I said I have always used my good one. It's for my guitars and plugs directly into my guitars, but also has a built in mic and can switch to mic mode, and that is the mode that it works on for my Banjole. You said you have one that has a mic? maybe that one will give you a good reading?

Jnobianchi
01-26-2011, 04:38 AM
Yes, a tuner with a mike reading should do it.

Lori
01-26-2011, 05:29 AM
I need a new battery for the old tuner... a Micon HU-8400... probably from the 1980's. It has been dropped (not by me) and taped together, but I think it still will work. It is chromatic, has a mic and 1/4 jack input/output. I will get a new battery today, and report back.

–Lori

Lori
01-26-2011, 06:08 PM
Well, a new battery didn't work out on the tuner with the mic. It works on the strings, reads my voice, but can't pick up the banjo skin tone. I think it isn't loud enough.

–Lori

Papa Tom
01-27-2011, 01:31 AM
>>>>It works on the strings, reads my voice, but can't pick up the banjo skin tone.<<<<<

I think you're going to have to use your ears on this one. It's very tough because the resonance of the drum head is so minimal that you have to be able to identify the pitch instantly. Having been a drummer all my life, I have a feel for when all the heads are vibrating in "harmony," but drum heads (when used on drums) vibrate a bit longer than the head of a banjo. I'd assume there's a point where you can hear and feel that the strings and the head are in perfect sync, but I can't be sure, as I haven't reached that point yet!