Banjo maintenance tips

Banjo maintenance tips

What do you do to look after your banjo? I bought my first decent banjo recently and want to keep it in good shape and would like to know what to do and how often to do it. Thanks.

Re: Banjo maintenance tips

Wash warm with similar colored banjos, then dry 45 minutes on high heat in a tumbler dryer to keep the skin nice and taut.

Re: Banjo maintenance tips

Hangs on the wall in a suitably temperature and humidity controlled room. Gets dusted infrequently and played even less. I really need to remedy that.

Re: Banjo maintenance tips

I don’t do much to be honest, just change the strings when they sound dead, and occasionally tighten the head if there’s play in it. Swapped the bridge out because the one it came with had a wee split starting in it, so took the opportunity to experiment with a few different bridges before settling on one that seemed to suit me banjo best.

Re: Banjo maintenance tips

it’s a good idea to take it all apart once in a while because sweat can get in there and corrode some of the parts. You might oil the threaded parts and clean the metal with an oily cloth.

Re: Banjo maintenance tips

@triplet upstairs and banjouke, thanks both. What about a lint-free cloth to wipe down the fretboard when changing strings? Is there a need for that?

Re: Banjo maintenance tips

When I change strings on my Vega banjos, I mix a little water and Murphy’s Oil Soap (especially good for wood), lightly dampen a clean cloth with the solution, and wipe down all of the wooden parts, including the neck and the fretboard. Check to make sure none of the hooks are loose and the head is tight enough. Always nice to play a banjo that’s clean and has new strings - it always sounds better to me, or maybe it’s a placebo effect?

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Re: Banjo maintenance tips

Oh aye, I give the fretboard a wipe when changing strings, and like dfost said, check for loose hooks every so often.

Re: Banjo maintenance tips

Play it…if not, burn it… simple 🙂

Re: Banjo maintenance tips

I wipe mine down when I change strings. About once a year, I will double check my head tension, give it a little polish with Parker & Baily Furniture Cream (the folks at Ome banjos turned me on to that), put some lemon oil on the fret board, and double check that none of the brackets or hardware are loose. If the banjo gets too dirty (occasional drops of Guinness will build up, for instance), I will occasionally take it all apart to clean the hardware, and get all the gunk out from underneath the brackets.

Re: Banjo maintenance tips

The best thing you can do for a banjo - or any wood instrument - is make sure you keep it properly humidified, between 45 and 55 percent. This can be done either in the banjo’s case or by making sure the room is humidified properly. Where you live matters; Ireland is pretty moist, but folks living in, say, Arizona have to work hard to maintain humidity.

Beyond that, just clean and oil the fingerboard maybe two or three times a year with one of the commercial neck oil products, and make sure the nuts holding the head tight are still snug and are keeping your head at the tension you want. And depending on climate where you live, you might need to make minuscule truss rod adjustments to keep the neck properly bowed as the climate changes. It’s amazing how little the truss rod need to be tweaked to make a real different in the action.

And if you play a lot you’ll probably need to replace some frets every few years. Unless you’re really good at that stuff this is probably something to turf over to a professional.

Some my my musical friends spend a lot of time polishing the metal on their banjos, and that’s a matter of personal taste. I never do that, and in fact a banjo that displays a good bit of wear is more attractive to me than some glowing showpiece. My main banjo, which has been in daily use for thirty years, looks like it just emerged from a war zone, but that has nothing to do with how wonderfully it plays and sounds.

Banjos are actually pretty hardy compared to guitars, mandolins and fiddles. You’ll probably find that maintenance is actually pretty simple once you develop a routine.

And of course, change your strings frequently.

Re: Banjo maintenance tips

I wipe the fingerboard with a microfiber cloth when I change strings and, depending on what the fingerboard material is, I rub in a tiny bit of mineral oil.

I check on the nuts on a regular basis - if I can move a nut with my fingers it indicates a real problem. I use a drum dial (google it - good videos online from Drum Dial and Elderly Instruments) to check the head tension several times a year, usually when the seasons change because the banjo responds to seasonal environmental changes. I’m not obsessive-compulsive enough to try tuning the head to a particular pitch, but I try to get the head tension even - it does make a difference in the sound.

I check the tension on the tuners regularly - if the screw that holds the knob is too tight it’s hard to get the string tuned right and if it’s too loose the tuner will slip. No guidelines here - just know your banjo.

And remember that it’s all mechanical - if you goof something up you can readjust it.

And as a totally unnecessary aside, I don’t like the manufacturers head markings. If I can’t position the head so that the mark is covered by the tailpiece I remove it with a cotton swab and nail polish remover. I’ve done this with 3 banjos and not noticed any bad effects. You can still see the mark but you have to look for it.

Re: Banjo maintenance tips

My banjos get the same treatment as my guitars, mandolins and bazouki (my wife’s violins and viola’s too). I live in an arid climate (SW Colorado), so everything has a case humidifier. All instruments get a wipe down after playing, but deep cleaning happens only with string changes. I use microfiber towels as they’re lint free. Occasionally, I’ll use McGowen’s Instrument polish on the wood. Most of the fretboards are ebony, so a touch up with dye if it’s getting streaky. Most of the tuning machines are sealed, but those that aren’t get a drop of graphite on the gears. I’d check all the hardware on the banjos at the same time.
Now that I’ve retired from active performing, I only check the seldom usedinstruments once or twice a year. As they’re stored, they’re also tuned down a third.
I’m also in the process of bequeathing instruments as the end is approaching.

Re: Banjo maintenance tips

Quick clean of the fret board when changing strings does me!
Other than that, I might give it the odd rub down with a damp cloth to get any oils or grime that may have built up on the back of neck where my palm rests.
Very very rarely, I’ll oil up the fret board with some linseed oil when doing a string change- but only if it is starting to look dry.