Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Banjo Tailpiece Setup Question

Hello everyone! Greetings from South Africa.

My Banjo (Ibanez B200) just arrived, and I’m super excited to play. Thrilled to finally have an actual, proper banjo. I’m over the moon.

Before I can play and complete the setup, I have a setup question. Nobody knows anything about banjo in the area where I live, (not even the store owner) so I’m looking for some advice please.

On the tailpiece, this screw is loose. The store owner says this is normal and it doesn’t need a nut, and doesn’t need to be tightened. (They know nothing about banjo. They got this banjo in for me, but have no experience at all.) Despite them saying that it’s meant to be this way (and they might correct on this), I simply don’t understand why this would be a random, loose bolt which does nothing. Doens’t make sense to me - and it’s quite possible that I’m missing something!

I made a 7 second video that should give you an idea of what I’m unsure about. Any advice would be so valuable. (As soon as I get home from work, I want to finish setup and start playing the new machine!)

Should this be like this? Apologies in advance for the extremely un-thrilling video. :slight_smile:

Thank you everyone, and thank you Ben for creating the space for us.


Hey @lei,
Congrats on your new banjo! Have you checked out the lesson with Steve Huber on tailpiece adjustment?


Hi Lei, When it comes to banjo setups, I tend to leave that sort of thing to the experts but as your out in SA I suggest you check out YouTube for some guidance. From my engineering background I’d say that screw should have a nut. Take off the resonator and see if it’s floating around inside or trapped up by the plate. That screw is fairly secure on my Goldtone “Twanger” you definitely don’t want it rattling whilst playing. You might be able to pick up a nut at a DIY store.

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You don’t want that screw loose like that. As far as setting the angle, it’s hard to direct when I don’t really see it in person, but I’d definitely pop the resonator off and make that nut at least snug. You don’t want the tailpiece low or near the head either. Maybe you can post a picture from a little farther back?



I hate to say this, but last summer when talking with a luthier, tail piece adjustment came up…and so did the phrase “personal preference.”
Apparently back the the '70’s, it was all the rage to screw that bad boy down real tight, driving the tail piece close to the head. I think the object was to make sure the bridge has tight contact with the head for more volume & “power.” As the years went by, that fell out of favour until now it’s no longer done.
Personally, I would tighten the screw until it doesn’t rattle then maybe just a itty-bitty bit more. Itty bit so it doesn’t work loose anytime soon.
Stay safe & healthy & have more fun!!


This video covers just about everything for completely rebuilding a banjo, including setup of all the components. 24:00 starts the part about tailpieces.


Thank you everyone for your replies. I’m sorry to ask such a newbie question, and if there was a proper, banjo-savvy-luthier close by, I’d love to take it there, but alas. Folks here no very, very little about banjo. That’s what makes it even more amazing to have a forum like this to get kind words and support.

Here’s what I’ve done after getting your input and research: (Yes, there seems to be so much personal preference out there!) It didn’t feel right to have that screw flapping and rattling around, as you pointed out. So, I removed the resonator, got to a hardware store and got a stainless steel nut and washer that work sweetly. I tightened it lightly - that is, juuuuust enough for it not to rattle, and now the world feels much more right. :slight_smile: Thank you for the input, everyone. It all feels infinitely more stable and secure now. No rattles! I’m sure that in time, I may learn more about setup, but the rattling certainly wasn’t a good direction. The youtube video helped too - thank you @JoeB . And now, the resonator is back on, I’ve set the bridge, intonation and tuned up. Thrilled that I’m about to play it, for the very first time! Before I did, I wanted to thank you all for your help.

Thanks again to all of you for helping me fix it, and to Ben for making this space available for us. Your help meant I could finish the setup with confidence that it was all done right. Being so far away from knowledgeable luthiers and resources isn’t easy, and I’m so glad to have this forum. Just like magic.

Have a great day, everyone.

With appreciation and respect,


Lei, while the miles may be many, you are not that far away.
Many years ago I lived outside Jo’burg. I fell in love with your country, it’s rich history and magnificent scenery. I miss boerwors, biltong and bunny chow. :yum:
SA has a very rich musical heritage. I’m sure your banjo playing with enrich it even further.
But first you gotta do the hard part: learn to play it now that you’ve learned how to set up one! :grin:

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Sounds great! Make sure you check that had tension too…

@BanJoe and @Luke_L Ah, yes! South Africa is an incredible place in so many ways. I’m on the South-east coast, just up the coast from Durban. It’s tropical and a good life here. As the home of indians in Durban, we’re famous for our curries and yes, bunny chow! Great to hear that you spent some time here!

Yes, I need to learn so much - but with the incredible resources at hand, I find that the fingerpicking and travis-picking skills are helping me move over really nicely. Still will be a long time before I’m any good! Haha, I had to laugh at myself: Having Five strings on the right hand, and only Four strings on the left hand really taxes my cranium… :smiley: Puzzlement!

Luke_L, you’re so right - I can hear that the head tension isn’t quite right. I also am acutely aware that I lack the skills entirely, to fix it! However, I have no doubt that I can research and find some good advice to get it better in time. There is so much to know, to get right, to adjust, and then still to play it properly!!! Anyway, loving it.

Again (and @BanjoBen) - Thank you to you fine folk on helping me on this journey. It’s such an important step, and I don’t think I can properly convey how helpful and appreciative I am of the input that’s come from this community. Thank you, good people.


It’s simple to adjust! Get a wrench that fits, probably a 1/4” size, and go around and tighten them evenly in very small increments. Tap the head lightly near the edges and listen for a note in the tone. The desired know is subject to personal preference, but I would probably start with a G or G#. I have one of mine at F# and one at around G, although a lot of builders are putting them up to A. It really depends on how bright you want the tone to be.


NO!:sunglasses: and Yes!

Well looks like you got it sorted, but I saw that you’re a Saffer, and wanted to say hey! I grew up in Mozambique, and south Africa was a frequent vacation destination, as well as where we got supplies not available in moz. It has been many years since I was in or near Durban, but I’ve spent very much time in Joburg, Cape Town, and Mbombela (Nelspruit).

@Luke_L Ah, Luke, thank you for the notes - Looking forward to getting it all setup. I’m currently learning so much and absolutely loving it. Will get a few more songs down and then get onto tone and tuning up the head tension. Thank you!

@Dragonslayer Hey to you too, friend! Great to hear that you spent some time nearby. Yeah, these are special places when you know where to go. Hope you enjoyed your times here. Certainly a very different continent to being in the US. That said, I think there’s magic in many corners, if we take the time to look. I was just talking to a friend this morning about going to Mozambique. He’s not been before, so I might be there soon. I’ll be sure to say Hi to Mozam for you! :slight_smile:

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