|Two different types of bridges.|
There are several things that affect the tuning of strings:
- The length of the string (from nut to bridge).
- The tension on the string.
- The diameter of the string.
- The tension on the banjolele's head.
- The material the string is made with.
- The weather (temperature, humidity, maybe barometric pressure).
Faster vibration = higher pitch. Slower vibration = lower pitch.
You decide the diameter of your strings when you purchase them.
You control the tension of your strings by adjusting the tuning pegs and the banjolele's head tension.
You control the length of your strings by adjusting the bridge. But what is proper adjustment?
The rule I follow is that the strings should be in tune when played open and when played at an octave higher (the 12th fret).Doing whatever is required to get both in tune is called "adjusting the intonation."
- Using your ear or a tuning device, tune one of the strings to proper pitch by adjusting the tuning peg for that string.
- Play the same string while pressing the 12th fret.
- If the 12th fret tuning is flat (lower than the proper pitch), you need to shorten the distance from the 12th fret to the bridge. If the 12th fret tuning is sharp (higher than the proper pitch), you need to lengthen the distance from the 12th fret to the bridge.
- The only way to do this is by moving the bridge. Yes, this will affect the open tuning of the string, but we'll take care of that as we go along.
- To state the obvious, moving the bridge toward the 12th fret will shorten that distance (raise the pitch). Moving the bridge away from the 12th fret will lengthen that distance (lower the pitch).
- How much should you adjust the bridge? If you're just learning this technique, start by getting the exact pitch at the 12th fret.
- Now check the pitch of the open string. It will probably need some adjustment using the tuning pegs.
- Recheck the tuning at the 12th fret and make any adjustments necessary.
- Recheck the open tuning and adjust.
- Get used to doing steps 5 and 6. You may end up doing that a lot on all four strings.
- Complete steps 1-7 for all four strings.
- Recheck the open and 12th fret tunings of all the strings. Tweak any that require it.
- You may find that the bridge ends up at an angle -- that's OK and happens a lot in my experience. If you look at the Dixie in the photo at the top of the blog, you'll see that bridge is at an angle.
- Notice that the tuning of an individual string can affect the tuning of all the other strings. You may have to meet a happy medium with your final setting so that the strings are as close to correct as possible.
- Over time, you'll learn how to make quicker adjustments by "almost" correcting the 12th fret tuning so that a proper open tuning will bring the 12th fret to perfect tuning.
Many stringed instruments have individual string adjustments for intonation, so there's no need to move the bridge. These are usually devices that move each individual string slot of the bridge.
While I'm at it, let me share with you one way to avoid string slippage when re-stringing with either nylon or steel strings.
First, make sure that you have enough string to fit the instrument :-) This will let you know how much extra you have to work with.
Replace one string at a time. Keep the old strings in place and leave them as tuned. This keeps the bridge in place and proper tension on everything while you're replacing each string.
On one end of the string, do a surgeon's knot by forming a loop and passing the end of the string through the loop 2-3 times. Larger diameter strings will easily get by with two passes through. This knotted end of the string becomes the tail end.
|Three times is probably overkill for this gauge string.|
|The tightened surgeon's knot.|
|The knot goes below the tail piece -- string up through the hole/slot.|
This knot will tighten more when you tune the string. This will require that you keep tuning the string until the knot is as tight as it is going to get.
|Feed the string through the hole in the tuning peg.|
String numbering -- what's with that? String 1 is the string toward your feet when you're playing. To really confuse things, that same string is also called the top string. This sounds like a perfect "who's on first" scenario :-) The way to remember it is that usually the highest pitched string is string number 1, and # 1 is always on top. Also, string 1 is usually the highest pitched string, making it the top pitch.
So, string 1 is also called the top string, but it's on the bottom when you're playing the instrument.
String 4 is also called the bottom string, but it's on the top when you're playing the instrument.
What if you wind the string the wrong way? It might make the inner strings (2 and 3) rub against the tuning pegs of the outer strings (1 and 4). That may cause unwanted vibration/noise. Otherwise, the instrument would still work.
If you do wind a string the wrong way, just loosen it and restring it the proper way.
|Put the string through the peg hole twice to form the loop you see.|
How much string does one need to leave loose between the tuning peg and the tail piece so we have some string to wind around the tuning peg?
|I use two to three fingers at the 12th fret.|
|Pull the loop tight.|
|This is a view of another 4th string I'm replacing.|
Tune the string. It will quickly go out of tune because of knot tightening and stretching. No problem. That's normal. It may take several hours (or even days) before it stays in tune.
Most important! Be extremely careful trimming the string's extra "tail" at either end of the string. It's easy to accidentally cut the string itself. If you do cut the string and it is too short to use as cut, it may still be usable if you read up on knots to re-attach the two pieces back together.
I hope this information is helpful in some way.