Mark the position of the bridge on the banjo head with very light pencil marks before removing the old strings. Since the bridge is not fixed, it will come off as soon as the string tension is released. Repositioning the bridge on a banjo is a task unto itself, so make it easier by just marking its location before removing it.
There are many different styles of banjos. Some have four, five, or more strings. Banjo construction varies with the make and model as well as the age of the instrument. A typical banjo has five strings, a tail piece and a moveable bridge. Although there can be considerable variation within those parameters, some stringing principles apply fairly broadly. Read on to learn more.
Remove the old strings by unscrewing the tuning keys or pegs, and unwinding the strings from them. Then detach the other ends of the strings from the tailpiece.
Place the 4 long strings first and the shorter fifth string last. Begin at the tailpiece. Tailpieces on different makes and models accommodate the string ends differently. On some the string simply ties on and others take a string with a loop end, where the unlooped string end passes through the loop to hold it to the tailpiece. If your banjo has a long tailpiece, chances are the strings should emerge from the underside of it, not over the top. This design is to hold the string ends close to the head for better resonance.
Attach the strings to the keys or pegs at the top of the banjo. Older banjos have wooden pegs that simply insert into holes. The strings are wound around the pegs to tighten and tune them. Most newer models have tuning keys with gears. There is usually a hole through which to insert the end of the string in order to wind it up for tightening and tuning.
Place the bridge on the banjo head while the strings are still loose enough to slide it into place. Tighten the strings enough to hold it there securely.
Connect your fifth string last. This usually has a geared tuning key, but on old banjos it may be a simple wooden peg.
Tune your banjo. There are many different banjo tunings depending on the style of music you are playing and other factors. You will need to tune and retune frequently until your new strings are broken in, which might take a couple of hours of playing time. New strings stretch a lot when they are first put into action, and every stretch draws them out of tune. So tune the banjo, play for a while and retune every time the tuning starts to slip. When the new strings stay in tune, you are ready for serious playing.
Tips & Warnings
- Wear safety glasses when restringing a banjo. A string that breaks or comes loose when it is under tension can snap back very quickly and with considerable force. The ends are sharp.
- Watch you don't pierce the head of the banjo with the sharp end of the string.
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