Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Setting up an Iida 5 string

Got my old Washburn set up best I could and sounding better. Next project.

Followed all of Ben`s vids on setup with Steve Huber on my 76 Iida I just bought. Sound is good, got new strings on, head set for tension. Action is set to what Steve said strings should be away from fret board. Find the playability to be good.

Here is the problem that I find weird. I have a buzz off the 1st string, but only on the upstroke, not down. It’s also not the metal pick as I’ve tried it with the plastic thumb pick and it does it as well. Buzz on the upstroke is there weather the string is open or fretted. ??? Don’t want to adjust rod anymore (for now) as it seems like it probably is something else.

Leaving the back off for now as I’m looking to put a new head and bridge on. Has a clear head on now and Grover bridge.

Also wondering if nut needs replacing as on my 3rd string, while in tune…open or 12th fret, when I fret the second fret, I get an A #. Sounds weird. Had same on washburn until I set it up. ???

check for a high fret with a straight edge.

I understand what you are saying, however, with a banjo’s neck having to be curved…unless one is really high, say in the middle…not sure how I find it. Not seeing anything though

I’m also not sure, but today I think it’s coming from the back end…like, if I hold bridge, seems to be less. Possible tail piece is not set right?

When you say ‘rod’ do you mean the truss rod or the co-ordinator rod?

Could be that the action is just too low. 1/8 inch at the 12th fret is pretty normal for a banjo.

Also, does it sound like fret buzz or something else? Have you checked all the hooks and nuts and the tuners?

For your tuning problem, do you know how to set intonation?

Co-ordinator rod. Action was way too high, got it done to the 1/8" at the last two frets as Steve Huber suggested.

Sorry, I wouldn’t know the difference from a fret buzz or something else. I just hear the buzz. Maybe I should take the action up just a bit. I have read and watched vids where it says a set up takes awhile to take hold…ie banjo rim needs to adjust to the adjustment…that’s why I’m just leaving back off and playing it. One post I read said it can take up to a week for adjustments to settle.

Yes I know about how to set intonation with the bridge placing. All is fine except that one string…that’s why I’m wondering if it’s the nut…after all banjo is almost 40 years old. Might be something else…I am an amateur. I am going to T.O. next week, I’m going to pick up new head and bridge…we’ll see.

Well your tuning problem is strange. I am pretty sure it’s not the nut as that would affect all the notes, not just a single one at the second fret. Did you try changing the string? (though even that doesn’t seem like it could be the problem).

If you tune so that 3rd string, second fret is tuned to A, are all the other notes on the string then out of tune?

When you adjusted the co-ord rods, did you check that you didn’t put the rim out of round? I know that in the Steve Huber video, he suggests adjusting the action like this but most of what I have heard is that this is not really the recommended method for if you crank the rods too much, you can start to egg the rim.

You can also adjust the action by getting a taller or shorter bridge, shimming the neck where it meets the pot and with the truss rod.

Of these, the truss rod adjust, like co-ord rod adjusts, are not recommended but I do the the truss rod adjust whenever I want to fine tune my action. Though like the co-ord adjust, we’re talking very small moves here, about a one-eighth turn max either way.

Check that all the nuts are tight, including the one holding the tailpiece. Also, if your tailpiece has moving parts (like a cover) I would check to see that everything is tight there too. And like I said, check the tuners. Make sure the posts are tight and the knobs are tight as well.

I put a whole set of new strings on. Yes the tuning is out on all fretted notes on that string. That’s why I was guessing maybe the groove in the nut is worn more?

Don’t know if I put it out of round. Going to back it off a bit as you suggest a little at a time. Truss rod I’m scared of and have not touched.

Thanks for the help. It’s a learning curve for me.

Well it sounds like your tuning problem is in the nut.

If you’re going to get a new nut cut and installed, then I would imagine you’ll get a tech to do that. At the same time, ask him to check the truss rod and watch as he does it so you’ll be able to do it in the future.

If you back off the tension on the co-ord rods and raise the action, does the buzzing go away?

I’ve backed off a wee little bit and no…but…tail piece was on an angle. That seemed to help a bit. going to play for a couple of days and re evaluate.

I would get a tech to do a nut change. Although, have not had any luck with getting a good set up at two shops so far.

I’m at my wits end…bought a new head and bridge for the Iida. No problem getting it back together, but still got problems.

Wish I had a shop close by that knew what they are doing. Sent email to shop down in Toronto to see if I can get it setup

Watched Hubers vids again. Trust rod makes no sense. He says if you have a single coordinator rod, the trussrod, the nut will just come off. A double, the trust rod will tighten either way, with a loose (neutral) part in the middle. Hope I described right.

My Iida is a double, but the trust rod, only tightens (clockwise), if you go counter clockwise, the nut just comes off…


I will get p’d off enough to just burn this banjo

Okay, again I think you’re talking about the co-ordinator rods and not the truss rod.

If you have the type of co-ordinator rods that have a big, long nut in the middle, then I would really just try to make sure that the rods are snug. Not too tight and not too loose. I wouldn’t try to ‘adjust’ anything with those type of rods.

If you need to change the neck angle, then I would use shims but I don’t really know what you are trying to do or adjust now on that banjo. The action? The tuning problem? or what?

No I’m talking truss rod. The adjustment is a nut at the top of the neck between the tuners. Not the rods in the pot. Trying minor adjustments to get tuning and buzz out. Have tried shims etc to no avail. Sending banjo to Toronto is going to cost a small fortune. Found a vid , have to watch . Ben’s vid confused me.

Ok…I tune all my strings…perfect green on the tuner…open and at 12th fret…

Every fretted note, all strings, all frets (up to the 12th) is sharp…shows up red on my tuner. Would that not be the bow of the neck?

So it sounds like you have a single direction truss rod.

As you tighten the nut, it pulls the rod up, towards the headstock. I have a Rickenbacker that has truss rods like this. To loosen the rods, I lsened the bolt and then tapped the end of the rod with the head of a heavy screwdriver to push it back into the neck (not too far!).

Your intonation problem is a real mystery. If your nut was cut too high, that would affect the intonation except that you have said your intonation was fine before except for one string. I don’t have any experience with a neck that was severely bowed or arched so I can’t say if that is where your problem lies.

I would first loosen the truss rod (by tapping it down) and see how badly bowed the neck is. Put a straight edge ruler sideways on the boards and see how much light you can see between the ruler’s edge and the frets.

It’s normal for a banjo neck to have some bow and I found that even an eighth of turn of my truss rod changes the height of the action a lot so go easy.

Is your action set low? Standard at the 22nd fret is usually around 1/8 inch which is pretty high if you compare that to a guitar.

no, action is not low. One of the things I checked after watching Ben’s vid with Steve. And you are right, it’s a single action. I did more research and found them. One person on BHO said I might be playing to hard. I did put the tuner on and notice if you push the string down too hard it goes sharp. Might be part of the problem.

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I did put the tuner on and notice if you push the string down too hard it goes sharp. Might be part of the problem.

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That is a common problem. A good exercise for finger pressure is to barely fret a note right behind the fret. With just a hair of pressure it won’t make a clean note. Slowly increase the pressure until you get a clean note. Most people are amazed at how little pressure it takes to cleanly fret a note (and most people press too hard). Has a good DVD on setup!