Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

I don't know what I did, but I did something

This topic is a funny story, celebrate a win, and reply if you like post all in one.

I have been struggling to play the banjo well for a long time now. About 8 months. Call it sophomore year slump or what but it got to a point I hated playing. There are lots of why this might happen: He’s trying too hard, hes jumping ahead of his skill set, or he sucks and someone should take that banjo away. I tried different hand positions, change the set up on my banjo a million times, and did every practice tactic. One point that did keep standing out is that I kept feeling like I was really having to put in a lot of effort to strike the strings. That was causing me to fumble and slow down.

Well I tried the other day to once again set my banjo up and get it in a place that it might play differently. (Have I mentioned I like tweaking my banjo more than playing it?)

I did a few things:

  1. Change the tailpiece back to the Kershner. I had put a Preston on and I do love the tone. It gives it that Gibson sound to me, but maybe the tailpiece was the issue.

  2. Adjusted strap down a few notches to the banjo sat lower. Not heavy metal at my knees low, but a good 8 inches lower. Could be was too high.

  3. Lastly and probably the biggest reason for my improvement is I lowered the action. I know the Huber video said to adjust this with the coordinator rod, but I was cranking so much I was losing major tone. I instead shimmed the neck with a very thin piece of Target gift card made of a soft plastic. This lowered the action about 1/16th or a little over that.

Once I did all this I set it up and restrung the instrument. At this point it’s never played better. The strings are soft and easy to fret. Never been that easy. Usually fretting was a struggle. My picking is also less labored. I don’t have to strike as hard to get sound. I will admit I have less pure tone but I bet that has to do with the Kershner change than anything else.

The banjo is like night and day as far as play ability. I really didn’t do much. What is my lesson here? Maybe that the smallest thing off on a banjo can make a big difference? I know it did with what I can only assume was shimming the banjo to lower the action. Now pressing strings is so much easier. I am now having to learn to press with less force. That is odd.

Thanks for reading along. Just mindlessly sharing the journey I am on with guys who have been super supportive.


You’re a banjo mad scientist and I love it.

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