Danny Barnes

I sold my Deering and got a Barnes model Bishline after playing one in the store and loving the woody tone. I've never been much of a banjo mechanic and was hoping you might indulge me in a couple of questions about set up. I read in your blog about how to amplify a banjo that "the slightly shorter scale allows you to run heavier strings which fatten up the tone." How heavy are we talking? I haven't seen any brands that sell anything more than medium for banjo. Would you be willing to share what gauge strings you run? If the banjo was set for light gauge strings and I throw something a lot heavier on there am I going to need to get the truss rod adjusted to account for the added tension? I realize a lot of this stuff comes down to personal taste and feel, just looking for a jumping off point. Also do you have any advice about tuning the head?

Thank you for time. You are a continuing source of joy and inspiration.

Danny Barnes responded on 10/03/2014

well, if you take the numbers off a medium gauge set, and gauge up about two numbers, or maybe try just one. like an 11, go up on to 12 and so on. maybe on the low string, the fourth go ahead and go up two numbers there. put them on, and see what you think. yes, if you change string tension, likely the neck will have to be adjusted. i just use the stock ghs medium gauge string with the phosphor bronze fourth. that's good for my work. learning to tune the head is kind of a trick. if that is off, a banjo won't sound good. it's a bit of a tarot thing or a weird kinda thing. i have a trick that i learned from tim o'brien where i take the four brackets that kinda frame the bridge and loosen them a quarter turn. you want the bridge almost completely flat under string tension. and you can play with it from there. this will also alter the action so keep that in mind. basically you want the bolts under even tension, then i make that little adjustment at the end. a torque wrench can help.

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