View Full Version : Banjo Mandolin - setup help ?

Feb-07-2004, 5:52am
I just bought an old (no name) banjo mandolin and am working to try to understand this instrument. Anyone have any tips on setting-up and playing a banjo-mando ?

Originally I was getting a sustained "ringing" sound after a stream of notes. I appear to have helped this situation by stuffing a sock in the back between the post and the head. Any tips will be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your help.

Feb-07-2004, 7:42am
I also use an OAS mute (Old Army Sock). Keep it directly under the bridge.

Many of these instruments have their original skin head. it needs constant readjusment for changes in humidity. I changed mine over to a mylar head.

The neck angle can normally be adjusted at the neck end of the dowel stick. There is usually a screw. A shim is placed between the end of the neck and the rim of the pot. A thicker shim will lower the action. The screw is then tightened to be just snug, string tension will bring it up tight. The same thing applies for regulating rods.

I had to put a bridge on my mandolin-banjo. I used a 5 string bridge, sanding out the 5 string grooves, re- shaping its top to the original thickness and cutting new grooves. If you want less of the sound a wider mandolin type bridge will do for you.

The rest of setup is pretty much like mandolin, -nut action, neck staightness, fret condition etc.

I like my mandolin-banjo, wish I had a real good one. i think the prejudice against them is mainly from Bluegrass players, it is not for that kind of music. I do folk, usually use it to accompany my singing and I have a strong tenor voice. With the improvised mute it works out nicely for me. I also of course have a couple of mandolins, as well as a tenor banjo.

Hope this helps. Enjoy the instrument.

Feb-07-2004, 7:46am
Hi - congratulations and hang on for the odd looks. Banjo mandolins should be thought of first as banjos and set up accordingly. On Frank Ford's marvelous web site Frets, # (http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/pagelist.html#Musician) he has a terrific introduction to the basic set up of Banjo's. There have been a few threads previously about options for bridges, generally speaking, the wider the bridge foot, the "plonkier" the sound. (That's not a technical term but it seems appropriate.) Scroll down on the above page until you get to the Banjo section.

You have to answer a few questions yourself - what are the height of the strings at the 12th fret? Is the neck absolutely straight? And finally is the head on tight enough to give a level, same tone sound, when the head is tapped just inside from the brackets. You just don't crank down on those little nuts and hope for the best. The head is essentially a drum and the tuning process is about the same. Head tuning, bridge width and verifying the neck angle / offset are the three primary things you need to look at in set up. Frank Ford will get you started in understanding what you need to look for - in an ideal set up.

Bob DeVellis
Feb-07-2004, 9:36am
To the other suggestions I would add the following. You might want to thread a rawhide lace through the strings between the bridge and tailpiece to cut down on resonances that can make it sound muddy. Doing it this way rather than using the sock method, you lose the resonance but keep more of the volume. Also, for some reason mandolin banjos are especially intolerant of being out of tune. A bit off, and they can sound really lousy. Their range of acceptability seems considerably narower than a regular mandolin.

Feb-08-2004, 6:26am
Wow !! Thanks for all the great input. I'll check out the links and will try your recommendations. I really appreciate the help.