The banjo may have originated from Africa, but the truth remains it has become one of the finest musical instruments we have today. Its sound is distinct and great to hear when played among other traditional instruments.
As high as the banjo sound may be, improper care or maintenance can make a professional player looks like a charlatan and not only that, it might even shorten the instrument’s longevity and good appearance.
This article highlights easy to practice tips on how you can take proper care and maintain your banjo. Making your banjo stand out among other instruments and banjos should be more accessible than ever when you finish reading. Wondering if the tips would fit your banjo type? Sure, all of the tips can be applied to banjo of any string number.
Let’s watch a video before entering the detail:
Cleaning Your Banjo:
One mistake most banjo players make is to think it does not need cleaning since no sign of dust or rust could be noticed. As we are playing the instrument especially if you do often, there is a high tendency of sweat forming on your palms which easily transfers to its surface. Aside from this, the area we store or play them may be dusty too. Use a white paper towel or any lint-free cloth to remove oily stains which are usually from your fingerprints after each playing. Use cleaning lubricants such as grease removers for kitchen use to clean the strings.
Place your banjo where you can easily access it so that you can pick it up to play and practice anytime. But make sure where you will be placing it should be free from dust and dirt. Your garage or cellar might be your favorite spot of playing your banjo, but if they harbor much dirt, you may need to consider other locations in the house to keep it. There are decent stands you can buy to hang your banjo and place at a corner in your home where it will be free from dust and sun rays coming in through the window.
Avoiding Grooves On Fingerboard:
Playing the banjo may look easier with longer fingernails but such could the nails could be creating grooves on the fingerboard. If you seldom play the instrument, this may not present many problems, but for people that play often, it is advised to keep the fingernails short.
Protecting The Finish
Proper care and maintenance of your banjo finish make it shine for a long time. The following tips will help achieve just that:
- The hard-dense banjo wood should be cleaned with almond oil at least once in a month for the instrument to maintain its shiny appearance.
- When choosing wood polishes for the neck and resonator, make sure they do not contain silicone to avoid abrasive marks.
- When you mistakenly spill liquid on the instrument, make sure you wipe it off immediately to prevent droplet spots on your banjo.
- Always wash your hands before handling the banjo. Rubbed products may interact with the finish.
- Be wary of some stands as their rubber may interact with your banjo finish.
Tightening and Changing Your Banjo Head.
When you notice your banjo’s tone is not as expected or you hear some buzzing when some frets are played, check your banjo head if it is not loosed. To confirm this, you will notice the bridge sags to be indented with the head. Tightening the head will resolve this.
Another cause of the deviation from accustomed sound is the wear out of the head. The head tends to wear out over time and even faster if you play with flatpick. The repeated strike on the head may bore a hole into the head or makes it lose its elasticity. A replacement of the head can restore this, and you will have your great tune back.
Banjo’s Protection While Travelling:
The care for your banjo while traveling is dependent on the means of transportation.
If you are traveling via plane:
- Check if your airline allows passengers to come on board with their musical instruments.
- Get a case for your banjo. You can get one at your local stores.
- Ensure your flight your flight is booked early to get a suitable seat with enough overhead space.
- You may need to take out your truss rods as they are considered to be dangerous. Confirm if you can easily get a replacement at your travel destination.
If impossible, use the next methods highlighted below.
Shipping your Banjo:
- Put the banjo in a hard-shell case to avoid damage during transport.
- Use any shipping method to get it to your destination. USPS or FedEx has been reported to be great for such a task.
If you will be traveling by car:
- Don’t just place the banjo in the back seat, consider putting it in a case or cover with a blanket to shield it from sunlight. Heat can soften the glue and head.
- If you are traveling in cold weather, place it in a case to keep warm as the finish may crack if left too much in the cold. In instances the head is too tight, it may break.
Caring For The Strings
The string plays no small part in the quality of the banjo tune. Always clean the strings with a dry cloth after playing. Whenever you notice any of these, you should consider changing the strings:
- If you notice corrosion or dirt build up on your strings.
- After playing for 30 hours.
- If you play frequently but not much at a stretch, change every 4 to 6 weeks.
- Once in a month if you seldom play it.
If you are changing the strings yourself, make sure you:
- Mark the bridge position with a pencil to ensure the strings are returned to the same spot.
- Take off each string one at a time to equalize tension.
- Position the lead in the capo slot with a pencil to make the task easier.
- Confirm the 1st and 2nd string are pointing down, and the 3rd and 4th are directed upward when the banjo is held in the playing position.
Tighten the Tuning Buttons:
Your tuning pegs are likely to slip and affect your banjo’s tune. This is caused by the loosening of the tuner buttons screw. Tightening the screws with a screwdriver should help solve the situation. However, you will need to balance the pegs tightness against tuning due to string tensions. You also need to consider the screw length because as they are driven, you may get to a point where the screw is already tight, but the tuner still slips. File the screw or consider replacing to achieve the desired result.