How often should I check my banjo head tension?
Natural skin heads should be checked often, particular as weather or playing environment changes. Synthetic heads need adjustment less often. In either case, it is a good idea to check your banjo’s head tension after travel, after changing the strings, after keeping or playing your banjo outside for an extended time, or after changing heads. If your banjo sounds too “muddy” or “punchy,” that is a good sign that the tension may need adjustment.
Does the Pocket-Dial measure tension in pounds?
No, the Pocket-Dial measures deflection of a precision spring-loaded probe that presses into the head. This deflection, measured in thousandths of an inch increments, is proportional to the tension of your banjo head within the range commonly preferred by banjo players.
Does it matter how hard I hold the Pocket-Dial down on the head?
Just hold it firmly on the head. If your banjo head is very loose, it is possible to press down hard enough with the Pocket-Dial to distort the reading.
Should I check and adjust the measurement at each tension hook?
You can, but it is not typically necessary. Checking at 5 or 6 locations around the perimeter of the head is usually sufficient.
Should I check and adjust the measurement with or without strings on?
It is okay to leave your strings on. The difference in measurements with strings on versus strings off is not significant.
Readings on my Pocket-Dial do not exactly match readings on another device I use. Why is that?
Mechanical dial indicators have varying levels of precision, typically +/- .0005” (half a mark). This means that readings may not be exactly the same between devices. If you prefer, you can calibrate your Pocket-Dial to match another measuring device exactly by calibrating the measurements at a particular location on the head.
What is the best surface to use for calibration?
A smooth granite countertop or glass table. A wood table is too soft. Do not use a smartphone, tablet or computer screen as a calibration surface. They are not stiff enough and can be damaged in the process.
How often should I calibrate my Pocket-Dial?
It is a good idea to check and make sure your Pocket-Dial is calibrated each time before you use it.
My Pocket-Dial needle does not point to the calibration point or stay on the calibration point when I pick it up to use it. Is something wrong?
The only time the needle needs to point to the calibration point is when you are holding the device firmly on a hard, flat surface. When the device is not in contact with any surface, it does not matter what number or scale the needle is pointing to.
When I adjust a natural skin banjo head, can I make it tighter or looser than the green zone?
Some players with natural skin banjo heads prefer tension groupings slightly tighter or looser than the “green zone” region on the dial. This is an individual preference and can still be measured with the device. Measurements on very loose heads (readings below 5 on the Simple scale) can be affected by how hard you hold the device down on the head.
Why should I not try to aim for a specific number reading on a natural skin banjo head?
Due to the varying surface texture and stiffness of natural heads, it is typically difficult to adjust the tension to a specific number reading across the entire surface of the head. Also, aiming for a specific number can result in over-adjusting one or more specific areas of the head, resulting in an uneven tension hoop or possibly damaging the skin.
How does the Pocket-Dial differ from other recommended devices and methods for properly tensioning banjo heads?
The Pocket-Dial is designed to offer an easy-to-understand scale system, accommodate both synthetic and natural hide heads, and be small and light enough to conveniently fit in your banjo case.