I bought mine tuned.
June 6, 2008 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Would it be way too expensive to get some minor work (installing railroad spikes) done on my banjo... in Washington, DC? (vs. 'the suburbs' ?) If not, any recommendations of general instrument guru shop guys?

(also, if you want to convince me to go for a sliding capo or just the Key of G all the time, go ahead)
posted by tmcw to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The House of Musical Traditions, in Takoma Park, has probably the best non-guitar repair people around. It's in the 'burbs, but at least it's near Metro.

It's easy to get lost in there among wall after wall of stringed things to pluck.
posted by toxic at 12:42 PM on June 6, 2008

I can point you to 2 individuals- one in Baltimore (builds banjos) and one in Beltsville- you can email me if interested.
posted by mistsandrain at 12:53 PM on June 6, 2008

In the burbs but near metro - http://www.chucklevins.com/
posted by TheRaven at 4:18 PM on June 6, 2008

Best answer: With my sliding capo, I need to do a little retuning if I go from an open drone string to a capoed position. But then once it's under the capo, it stays in tune wherever I put the capo. If you're going to stick to playing in 2 or three keys (well, positions, ie open, capo-2 & capo 4) then you'd probably want to stick with spikes. If you want to play in all possible capo positions, then you might want a slider.

If you're only playing open and capo-2 (for keys of A & E), then fifth strings are not that expensive and fragile--you could simply tune the fifth up and down as needed. The banjo I have for clawhammer has medium guage strings and I haven't broken a fifth string in years. You'll probably be making a little adjustment each time you go between open and capoed anyhow, even with a fifth-string-capo or spike.
posted by Martin E. at 7:24 PM on June 6, 2008

House of Musical Traditions is a good idea, but why not put them in yourself? You can get those nails at any hobby store, and then just need to tap them in. Of course if you have a really fine and expensive instrument, I could understand your reluctance to do it yourself, but otherwise, this is an easy amateur project.
posted by poppo at 3:22 AM on June 7, 2008

Response by poster: @poppo: Whoah, a lot of the guides / people I've been looking at are all about pilot holes, etc., so I'm a bit too nervous for that route.

I had no idea that the House of Musical Traditions was so close, I'm sure I'll go there at some point regardless of this work.

@Martin E.: I have, actually, just retuned the fifth string in the past, but stopped doing so because I assumed it was bad for the banjo as well as the fact that, with a semi-floating bridge, it was changing the tuning of the rest of the strings. (and I'm probably going to end up playing with the capo everywhere... I'm learning the 'classics' (some classical, some bluegrass, some old-time), but also going to write some music on the banjo and probably play some bizarre covers.

I'm still kind of tempted by removable doodads, but I think I'll end up with spikes, and probably with the HMT.

Thanks everyone!
posted by tmcw at 1:12 PM on June 7, 2008

It's true, the absolute safest route is to put in pilot holes. Reason of course is so you don't want to do any splitting when putting the spikes in. But those spikes are tiny. There's little chance you'd do any splitting, however the risk is there. I did my own banjo many years ago without pilot holes no problem, but mine was a $200 junker, so I had no fears there.

I guess maybe find out the cost of doing the work and weigh it against what you paid for your banjo. Cost vs. risk and all that.
posted by poppo at 5:17 AM on June 8, 2008

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