String buzz on tenor banjo - how to fix it?

String buzz on tenor banjo - how to fix it?

Does anyone know how to diagnose this issue? I am getting some string buzz on the G and D strings and don’t know how to fix it. I think the issue only began after I gave the banjo an accidental whack off a table but nothing feels loose so I’m not sure where the issue is. The string buzz is only apparent when I play the open G and D strings. Any ideas?

Re: String buzz on tenor banjo - how to fix it?

It could be a number of things - Where is the buzz coming from (bridge or neck) and does it go away when you fret those strings?

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Re: String buzz on tenor banjo - how to fix it?

Hi jamesa,

it is coming from the neck and goes away when I fret the strings.

Re: String buzz on tenor banjo - how to fix it?

First isolate where that buzz is coming from to be sure what the issue is. Nut? Fret condition? Is it caused by neck relief? Change in string gauge?

With the seasons changing you may have a truss rod to adjust, if your banjo has one. I do this every year because my hunidity changes so much. Humidity and warmer temps sometimes but a tiny back bow in the neck, if you ease off on the truss rod but it will put enough relief in the opposite direction to accommodate that without nut, heel, or bridge changes. It’s pretty hard to damage a banjo with the truss rod so give it a quarter turn and wait a day to see what happens. Adjust as needed. Banjo Hangout has a few million archived threads on the topic.

Re: String buzz on tenor banjo - how to fix it?

It’s a bit weird for it to buzz when played open, but not buzz when fretted at even the first fret. But it sounds like your neck angle might have changed slightly in the "whacking" incident. As gravelwalks mentioned, if it’s a newer banjo with a truss rod, then you can try adjusting it a bit. Coordinator rod adjustment could maybe help a bit too (if you have them). https://www.deeringbanjos.com/blogs/faqs/10271809-banjo-neck-adjustments

If it’s a vintage banjo with a dowel, then you can try loosening the strings, and then loosening the dowel tension system, then pull the neck forward as you re-tighten the dowel bracket. (Or even just try pulling the neck forward a bit with some force. It’s possible that the neck just moved slightly in the fall and you can pull it back into place without having to loosen it…)

If it’s only buzzing when played open, then your nut groove(s) may be too deep. You can check that by loosening the offending string(s) and putting a little piece of paper or thin cardboard (like a match book cover) underneath the string at the nut, and then tightening the tension back up. If that stops the buzz, then you can either get a luthier to cut you a new nut, or do the quick and dirty fix, which is to put a drop of superglue in the nut slot, wait a minute for it to dry, and then re-file the slot with a nut file, but don’t cut it quite as deep.

Re: String buzz on tenor banjo - how to fix it?

Yes, if it’s only buzzing when played open then it’s either a problem with nut (slots) or a problem with the first fret.
You don’t say how exactly you gave the banjo a whack off the table but it might be that the first fret has become partially unseated. It only needs to move by a tiny amount to result in string buzz.

Re: String buzz on tenor banjo - how to fix it?

What they said! Open string being the nut or a fret rather than action would be too dificult to figure out without experience imho, so I would go to a banjo luthiuer as playing around with it could be dangerous esp. if it’s vintage.

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Re: String buzz on tenor banjo - how to fix it?

You haven’t changed to a lighter string recently by any chance?

Re: String buzz on tenor banjo - how to fix it?

Thanks all for the replies, I haven’t had a chance to attempt any of the suggested fixes yet but I will do so. @Tony O’Rourke, it still has the same strings on as when I bought it.

Re: String buzz on tenor banjo - how to fix it?

Also check the washers on the tuning pegs. If you whacked the head on something it’s possible you knocked one of them lose and you’re hearing it rattling when the string is open. Pluck the strings while holding on to the tuning head washers on the front of the headstock.

Re: String buzz on tenor banjo - how to fix it?

I see nowhere mentioned here that a banjo’s neck may have a bit of play—a slight tendency to twist around its long axis. This can result in the fret board not being co-planar with the banjo’s head/bridge top which could result in buzzing. Along with those millions of other things that could result in new buzzes after a fall check to see if the neck may have twisted a bit and then gently coax it back. A properly fitted neck should not move much—if at all—but even on the best instruments where pot and neck are two entirely separate parts age/heavy use or jarring mishaps can move them relative to each other.

Re: String buzz on tenor banjo - how to fix it?

If it got a knock there is a chance that neck could have twisted or moved in some way.
Most banjo’s are held to the body with a truss rod or dowel stick- These can sometimes be not very stable and it wouldn’t take much of a knock to move a neck out of place.
Have a look down it from the bridge and see if you can notice if it’s slightly leaning to one side or the other.