Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Banjo Heads, quality & replacement?

Continuing the discussion from Right Hand… Ring Finger Anchor:

Continuing the discussion from Your guitar; show & tell:

Motivated by @Archie with his recent post to open new topics rather than allowing another topic to roll on in other subjects.

See @Archie, we do read and learn!

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Ah! But do you have a question Will ?

Why have you posted a conversation about banjo heads in the Guitar Forum?

The topic moved on from the finger anchoring to the marking on the head… and then I raised a number of questions about is it better to replace after a time… or… maybe it doesn’t much matter?

My head had started to wear through at the place where I anchor my finger. Occasionally, I tighten brackets to improve sound… striving to hit the pitch Mr. Huber advised in his video on Banjo Setup.

The original topic was anchoring ring finger debate but the discussion began to mention the head itself… so I started a new topic per your other email because I considered some questions about wear and replacement- affecting sound.

The Guitar subject was oversight… and has been moved to Banjo where it is much more appropriately catalogued.

  1. The wear on the head is largely cosmetic I don’t think it effects the tone others may disagree. I have seen many big name Pro’s with a large area worn down and dirty head from constant use.

  2. When should you replace a banjo head. I guess that’s down to personal choice or the head splits and a change is obvious.

  3. I have just changed the head on my Fender for the third time in ten years. The first head was a Remo with the frosting on the outside it got rather ugly to look at and I replaced it for a Remo with the frosting on the inside and smooth plastic outside. Right from the outset I didn’t like the tone, it was a lot brighter quite a tinny sound. Last year with the gifts of money I received for my 70th birthday I bought a second hand high quality hand built Irish Tenor Banjo that was in need of some refurbishment and purchased a new Remo head with a mottled finish to add a little character. As it turned out the rim of the head was a millimetre too small to fit the wooden rim. The banjo had originally been built to suit a calfskin vellum but the tension hoop was missing so I contacted the builder and he made me a new one. With a new calfskin vellum and strings the banjo was fully restored and it looks and sounds pretty cool. When it came time to replace the strings on the Fender last week I took the opportunity to replace the smooth plastic head. I used the head I bought for the Irish Tenor changing the head back to a frosted on the outside and the Fender looks and sounds a much fuller and warmer tone.

  4. I too regularly check the tension on my banjo’s and banjolele’s I am always a little cautious that I may strip the threads, snap a hook or split a head.

  5. You can clean off surface dirt from the head using a rubber eraser

I hope this goes some way to answering your queries

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