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Thread: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

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    Default Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    I have this tenor guitar tuned GDAE that I really like, except for the tuners. They feel really rough, and there are spots where they just want to jump over a pitch. The worst example is the G string tuner, where it gets really hard to tune just before coming to pitch, and then jumps up to a g-sharpish pitch. The others do that to a lesser extent, but the troublesome spot is not right where I want to be to be in tune. It does not *seem* to be a nut slot problem to me, as it doesn't have that characteristic "ping" when it jumps up over a pitch, and it just feels different. Rough.

    I will try to add pictures, but these are tuners with a small screw on the outside to adjust the tension, but that doesn't solve the problem. There is no obvious way to lubricate the innards, but I haven't taken them off the guitar.

    Any suggestions on adjusting these or whether I should order replacements? Thanks for any advice.

    Here are some pictures; this is a no-name guitar and the tuners are not original.
    Front of the headstock:
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    Back of the headstock:
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    Last edited by A 4; Feb-06-2018 at 11:41pm. Reason: Adding Pictures

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    These are 4 to 1 banjo tuners, you could put 12 to 1 or 18 to 1 guitar tuners on, but I suspect the strings are binding in the nut. How smooth are the tuners with no tension? The screw on the end of the tuning button should adjust the tension, you may try loosing that also.
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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    Those look like modern, cheap imports, you can replace them with better quality ones.

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    These are 4 to 1 banjo tuners, you could put 12 to 1 or 18 to 1 guitar tuners on, but I suspect the strings are binding in the nut. How smooth are the tuners with no tension?
    It *feels* like it is in the tuner body, like a rough gear, but I recognize that my feelings may not reflect reality. I took the string off and tried with no tension, and did not feel any roughness. I've had binding in the nut slots on other instruments, and it seems different to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    The screw on the end of the tuning button should adjust the tension, you may try loosing that also.
    Relaxing the tension doesn't really help. I can't loosen the screw enough to resolve the problem without being unable to keep tension on the string. What I had not done was try way more tightening of the screw, which helps a little. Still feels bad, but it will actually hold tension kind of near the correct pitch, which is where the problem seems to be the worst.

    This guitar had single guitar tuners on it at one point - you can see the screw marks in the headstock.

    Thanks.

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by fox View Post
    Those look like modern, cheap imports, you can replace them with better quality ones.
    Thanks, fox. Do you have a suggestion for better tuners? They all look the same to me.

    And I guess that I remove them via the locknut on the front side of the head stock?

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    Yes you remove them by the nut on the front. I would put guitar tuners back on myself.
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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    I think tenor guitars look fantastic with banjo tuning pegs, all the ones I build are fitted with Leader pegs. http://www.eaglemusicshop.com/prod/b...-ebony-peg.htm
    They are not expensive but seem to work very well although I only stated building tenor guitars around four years ago so they might not last as well as the more expensive models like http://www.eaglemusicshop.com/prod/b...tuning-peg.htm
    The ones you have look like these to me.https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/5-Pcs-Ban....c100506.m3226

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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    More pricey, but ... Stewmac have worked well for me.
    Phil

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    And for a few dollars more you can get Waverly banjo tuners from Stewmac.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    Thanks, all. The Waverly's are suprisingly affordable compared to the cost of the medium-level tuners from Stew-Mac. I think I am a medium-level guy, though.

    db

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    The Waverly's are really nice though. I needed some tuners for a less expensive Supertone tenor banjo I picked up. I went for the big guns. They really are nice.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    I haven't ordered yet to give myself time to talk me into the Waverly's.

    Here's my thinking:
    Sure, they are 50% of the total price of the guitar, but I love it. The Waverly's don't come with a fifth peg, and I don't need that 5th peg anyway, so the cost per usable peg is only $6 more...what would the MAS support group from Hell say?

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    Can you post a full shot of your guitar or tell us a little more about it..
    Ps we do have a tenor guitar section on the forum... https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/f...-Tenor-Guitars

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    I know what I would say but then again I'm weird.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by A 4 View Post
    I haven't ordered yet to give myself time to talk me into the Waverly's.

    Here's my thinking:
    Sure, they are 50% of the total price of the guitar, but I love it. The Waverly's don't come with a fifth peg, and I don't need that 5th peg anyway, so the cost per usable peg is only $6 more...what would the MAS support group from Hell say?
    Yep.
    But just wanted to point out that the 5-star pegs don't come with a fifth peg in the set either. (Just wanted to avoid any confusion.)

    I really like the look of those Waverlys too. I'd probably spring for them. That's just me.
    Phil

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I know what I would say but then again I'm weird.
    Frank Ford of frets.com seems a little suspicious of the off-center pegs, but maybe that is only cheap ones. Figured I would try them out. They might have a more coarse gear ratio than the 4:1 five stars, but I will find out maybe next week.

    I do think the banjo tuners look better to me than guitar tenors.
    Last edited by A 4; Feb-08-2018 at 6:03pm.

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by fox View Post
    Can you post a full shot of your guitar or tell us a little more about it..
    Ps we do have a tenor guitar section on the forum... https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/f...-Tenor-Guitars
    Why yes, I can. I posted here instead of the tenor guitar section because this seemed more like a equipment issue than a tenor-specific issue. I might be wrong about that, since banjo tuners are common on tenors.

    I got this tenor off of reverb.com a couple years back. Here is a picture of most of it - the headstock is cut off, but you can see that picture above. Looks to me like a laminated top at least, but stained brown. The story when I bought it was that it had no identifiers as to brand, but the seller thought it was 40's or 50's:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I bought it online from Claude Bernier of Guitar Lezar somewhere on the southern bank of the St. Lawrence river in Quebec, way north of Maine. He seems to focus mainly on resonator guitars.

    I have the impression that he found it in poor condition, and worked it up. There was not name on it, so in addition to the recycle symbol on the headstock he added his own label:
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    Sorry if that is sideways.

    There is an interesting floating bridge that looks handmade, with a bone top with bevels for intonation:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I thought the tailpiece was also a later fabrication, but a fellow I know pointed out that there doesn't seem to be any mounting screws for a prior tailpiece:
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    I'm happy to describe more, but perhaps that should happen in the tenor guitar forum.

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    Sounds like you ordered the tuners, Stu Mac also sells Stinberg tuners, or used to, that would resemble the banjo tuners by being straight thru and come out the back. 40-1 ratio tho and pulls the string straight into the tuner. I have an old set, but haven't used them yet. Wanted to put them on a banjo for more accurate tuning.
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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    Regarding the nut, see pops1 in post #2. Has this been resolved? In the photo the nut does not inspire confidence. Previous strings must have been rusty, corroded. Try spending some time on those slots, cleaning, polishing, etc.

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    I think the tailpiece might be original.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by Hudmister View Post
    Regarding the nut, see pops1 in post #2. Has this been resolved? In the photo the nut does not inspire confidence. Previous strings must have been rusty, corroded. Try spending some time on those slots, cleaning, polishing, etc.
    I am sensitive to Paul Hostetter's tuner page that suggests that replacing tuning machines is generally a mistake that doesn't solve the problem, but I hope/think that is not the case here.

    That nut doesn't look that bad in person. What looks like grime on the nut is graphite, which I was using to see if that helped resolve the problem. I did take one of the tuners all the way off my thinking was that I could rotate it if there was a worn spot (didn't work).
    But even off the guitar, it felt rough and uneven.

    But I will clean the nut up some tonight, just in case.

  29. #22

    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    I have no hesitation in suspecting modern cheap planetary tuners of being defective. It wouldn't take much of a defect in those tiny little steel planetary gears to make them run wonky.

    Thinking of the low-quality steel in the gears in all the modern can openers we've tried in the last few years, the gear literally gets bent out of shape (visible to the naked eye) and ceases to function after opening only 20 or so cans.

    We finally resurrected a battle-scarred well-used 30-year-old can opener which still works perfectly, even on modern cans. So the problem can't be blamed on something the canneries are doing different. It's clearly a problem with quality control in the cheap steel gears in the new can openers. (Yeah we tried the one allegedly-domestic brand, it broke on the very first can, didn't even last as long as the imported ones.)

    Another, more serious, example of dangerously low-grade imported steel in the past 10 or so years: a truck wreck that killed two people was found to be caused by a defective steel structural component that broke. Upon examining where the break occurred in the heavy steel plate, one could plainly see a half-melted bolt protruding from deep within the steel plate. There had been no fire or heat or excess pressure in the wreck, and it was determined that the bolt could only have gotten there during the steel manufacturing process overseas - when the steel mill was melting down scrap metal to make new steel parts, they didn't get everything melted and blended thoroughly. That improperly melted steel resulted in a weak area in the finished product. Of all the places that steel could have broke, unsurprisingly it broke right where the defect in the metal was. Lousy quality control in that steel-making process.

    So yeah, I don't have much faith in the quality-control of some of the steel that's available nowadays.

    Whether steel gears in 'banjo' pegs on tenor guitars, or steel in these modern can openers that infest store shelves, or steel in heavy duty industrial parts, I don't have much reason to trust any of it these days.

    I'd be really surprised if the OP's problem was the nut. While I agree that usually the nut is the culprit in 'tuning' problems, in this particular case I'd almost be willing to bet money it's defective planetary gears inside the tuners.

  30. #23

    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    I built a tenor guitar a year ago and put cheap Chinese planetary tuners on it (around US$20 a set). They felt awful to begin with, really notchy and jumpy, but over the last year they've settled down and are - well, adequate. They still feel a bit unreliable, but actually tune the instrument OK.

    I suspect the gears had plenty of rough spots, and use has worn them smoother.

    Those tuners look very like the ones I fitted. It might be worth making yourself a string winder to fit and simply giving each one a hundred or so turns in both directions.

    My tenor was an experiment, and I didn't want to invest money in it if it turned out not to be a good player. I'm happy with it and play it a lot, so I suppose I should treat it to new tuners, but of course my cheap ones work well enough now that I may never bother.

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    I've got the new ones coming in the mail, so I'll post a follow-up in a week or two. These tuners have actually gotten worse over time - they were not so bad at first.

    That truck steel story is pretty startling.

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    Default Re: Rough banjo tuners on a tenor guitar

    I got the Waverly tuners, so I'll give my impressions. I'm not really qualified to give a real review, but here goes.

    The Waverly's came in a fancy box, and they seem pretty nice. Easy to install, less than half an hour for all four, and most of that time was finagling the old strings back on, because I wanted to change only one thing at a time.

    The appearance of the buttons is much nicer - more subdued. Maybe what is called ivoroid, rather than shiny plastic. No mold lines on the buttons that I can feel, unlike the ones that came off. Slotted adjustment screw rather than Phillips. The metal is a more subdued color, more nickel than chrome, which I like better, and it is finished better, but that took magnification to care about.

    Smoother turning than the ones that came off, and less backlash, too. Same 4:1 ratio as the old ones, which is the same as the specs for the Five Star brand also at StewMac. When I was checking the ratio on one of the old ones, there was a very clear rough spot in while turning, like a broken gear tooth or some meshing problem in one spot, which was probably causing my problem before. The Waverly's also seem to hold with much less tension on the adjustment screw, but I may be imagining that.

    Couple of possible downsides: Once installed, the post sits higher above the headstock than the old ones (the specs are the same for the five-star, by the way, so no difference there). That means there is less of a break angle over the nut, but I don't know if that is a problem. The shafts are cylindrical, rather than capstan shaped, so it might be a little harder for the wraps to snug up a around the pokey bit that comes through the hole in the shaft. I think a bigger break angle would help with this, but note I am using the old strings already bent into curls, so new strings may make it easier. The shaft actually has two diameters, thin up near the hole, and straight transition to thicker diameter three G-string wraps below that. Maybe this performs the same function as the curved capstan shape.

    All-in-all, I like the new ones. I don't know what I am going to do with that box, though, with its velvety foam on the inside and serial number on the outside.

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