5 Tips to Keep Your Banjo in Top Shape

5 Tips to Keep Your Banjo in Top Shape
Have you ever found your banjo to be a little off but didn’t know why? Try these five care and feeding tips to quickly make sure everything is in top shape. We’ve even dug up some antiquated videos of Tom demonstrating these points for your edification. 

1.  Check Your Bow

Banjo necks are susceptible to changes in humidity. There are two symptoms that your neck has been affected: string buzz and high action. You may be shocked at the sudden change in playability, but the solution is simple: adjust the truss rod.

Check the bow by holding down a string on each end. Then note the remaining distance from string to fret at around the 10th fret.

If the string is touching the fret, your neck is too flat and you need to loosen you truss rod (usually a counter-clockwise turn, start with a 1/8 turn).

If the string is too far (more than a business card or two), you’ll need to tighten it.

If you have a Nechville, the tool you’ll need is a 1/4″ nut driver with a narrow shoulder. Craftsman #41971. We also keep some on hand.

2. Check the Head Tension 

Heads can loosen over time and some new heads stretch out over the first couple weeks. If you have a drum dial, you can ensure proper head tension in seconds. We factory set our heads to 92-93. Otherwise try tightening the head if your banjo has become “dull” sounding.

Here’s how to adjust the head on a Nechville.

3. Check Bridge Intonation 

If your banjo seems to be going out of tune up the neck, be sure to check your intonation.

Play each string’s harmonic at the 19th fret followed by the fretted note. The goal is to get them to match. For the high G, it might be easier to use the 15th fret harmonic.

If the fretted note is sharp, you need to move your bridge back toward the tailpiece.

If the fretted note is flat, move your bridge closer to the neck.

4. Change Your Strings

Put on a fresh pair of strings. And while you’re at it take a minute to wipe down your banjo. For fun, experiment with different string guages or maybe a different wound 4th than you’re used to.

5. Oil Your Fingerboard (optional)

Pure orange and lemon oil can protect and defend your fingerboard from cracks and add a nice sheen. Just make sure it is non-varnishing. 
 And that’s it! Run through these steps every so often to ensure that you and your banjo are ready to take on the world.