Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Tuning to open D with Keith tuners on Stelling

I have been playing Reuben’s Train in open D tuning ( f#, D, F#, A, D)

When adjusting the 2nd and 3rd strings from Standard open G tuning, it causes my Stelling Golden Cross to go sharp on the 1st and 4th strings. Is that pretty normal or does it mean the neck isn’t stable or not setup right?

FYI it is a new banjo (March) set up and sold at a Stelling Dealer who is supposed to know their stuff. Thanks



Welcome to the forum, @rick.rosetto!

Yep, that’s a completely normal thing with, as far as I know, any banjo.


Hey Rick! Welcome to the forum!

Probably normal, depending on how sharp they’re going. I’d be curious to know how tight the head is. If it’s too loose, I could see how string pressure would have a more pronounced effect on other strings. The tighter the head, the less that will happen.

Do you have, or know anyone with a drum dial? I like to dial mine in to around a 92, which usually puts the head at around a G#.


Might be worth checking out Bens video with Steve Huber regarding setting head tension



Hey @rick.rosetto welcome brother

Check the head pressure as suggested by @Mark_Rocka
Make sure you check your bridge too, it could be out of place, shoud, ring true on both octaves,


@rick.rosetto, thanks for posting your question, and welcome to the forum! I was wondering the exact same thing (although not on a Stelling), so I’m glad to see you thought to post it.


Yes, that is perfectly normal. Anytime you tune your banjo to an alternate tuning, it’s best to either check it with a tuner or against another instrument if you’re playing with a group of people. Tuning a note down eases a bit of tension on lots of parts of the banjo (head, tailpiece, neck, etc.). So as the pressure is released, those parts relax which stretches the other strings and puts more pressure on them. This causes them to go sharp. When I tune my banjo down to an open E tuning like John Hartford used sometimes, I can tune one string all the way down, and by the time I tune the other strings down, the first string is almost an entire half step sharp.


Thanks for all the quick responses. I did check the head when I got it in March in it was around 90+ as I remember which his where I usually keep my deering tension.

I had always wondered why the 2 Keith tuners were so popular if you have to retune the other 3 strings too. I do have 4 keith tuners - maybe I should put them all on then hopefully I just tune the 5th!

At home it’s no problem to just re-tune. But on stage I would like to do it quick so everybody isn’t waiting on the banjo player to re-tune!

Thanks again all!

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Yeah, I know what you mean. Unfortunately, though, I find that I always have to tweak the other strings a bit no matter what I do. Since our band does a couple of songs that I use E tuning for, I have started just taking a second banjo with me to our shows to tune in the alternate tuning and leave there so that I can just swap banjos for a small portion of the show.

The Keith tuners are primarily useful for playing tuning songs like Flint Hill Special, Bending the Strings, Earl’s Breakdown, etc.


Good idea the second banjo. I have had my deering setup with heavy strings tuning to open D (d A D F# A) so that I can use standard chord fingering and in keys of D, or E with capo. But Just for Reuben I need the ( f#, D, F#, A, D).

Thanks again…