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How Do I Change a Banjo Head?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2014
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In order to change a banjo head, you must first loosen and remove the strings. You will need to remove the resonator from the banjo, and loosen the banjo's neck and remove the bridge. The tailpiece is also removed when changing a banjo head. You will need to remove the armrest prior to removing the tone ring in order to change a banjo head.

The banjo head is very similar to a drum head in that it dictates the sound of the instrument. A old head will produce dull and less bright sounds. Although not a complicated act, it is critical that you follow a precise order when changing your banjo head.

The process is started by loosening and removing all of the strings on the banjo. Once this is completed, you must remove the resonator, if your banjo is so equipped. The resonator is commonly removed by removing the four thumb screws around the edge of the resonator body.

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With the resonator removed, you can turn you attention to the neck. You must loosen the neck of the banjo to change the banjo head, and this is accomplished by loosening the nuts on the coordinator rods a few turns. The neck does not need to be removed, but just loosened enough to allow clearance between the tone ring and the neck. You can now begin to loosen the nuts of the J-bolts that secure the retaining ring over the banjo head. Begin by loosening each nut in approximately one-quarter-turn increments each until completely loose, beginning at the neck and working all the way around the ring.

Once all of the J-bolts have been removed, the old head can be removed and the new head set into place. The retaining ring is then replaced and the J-bolts are replaced until finger-tight all around the ring. Once finger-tight, you can tighten the bolts one-quarter-turn each, working your way around the ring until tight. The final adjustment is made once the banjo is restrung and tuned. Replace the components in the reverse order that you removed them, and then replace the strings.

Once restrung, you can tune the banjo and listen to the tone coming from it. If the sound is flat or dull, you can tighten the banjo head in one-quarter-turn increments until the desired sound is achieved. If the sound is too high or tinny, you can loosen the banjo head retaining bolts in one-quarter-turn increments until the desired sound has been achieved.

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