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Thread: How to set up a banjo uke

  1. #1
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    Default How to set up a banjo uke

    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!

  2. #2

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    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.
    Last edited by AncientMatingCalls; 01-21-2011 at 01:09 PM.

  3. #3
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    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.

  4. #4
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    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..
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  5. #5
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    >>>....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.)

  6. #6
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    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

  7. #7
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    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?

  8. #8
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    >>>>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.

  9. #9
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    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.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post

    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

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