Spink Comhaltas

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Taking care of your banjo / mandolin

Maintenance – Taking Care of your Banjo & Mandolin

When looking after your banjo or mandolin, there are some very easily applied tips and tricks to look out for to guarantee the best for your instrument and ensure it has a long and happy life. 😊

  1. Do NOT leave your banjo or mandolin in a car unless travelling, especially on really cold or really hot days. This can cause the skin on the banjo to tighten/loosen a lot and this can ultimately lead to a burst skin or an uneven tension in your banjo. Also, the neck of either instrument could bow and warp which will affect playability overtime. The same can be said about playing in cold or hot areas – try to avoid leaving banjos and mandolins near open fires and radiators or in your home’s colder rooms as the same affects can occur.
  • DO clean down your strings after every practice on your banjo/mandolin (a simple cotton based facecloth works well) – forgetting to do so can lead to residues building up on your strings which will cause premature corrosion which will lead to a decreasing sound quality and more frequent string changes.
  • Always play your instruments with clean hands, ideally wash your hands with soap and water beforehand if possible, as playing with dirty/grease/sticky hands can again cause residue build up and the same story as mentioned in point 2. Also, clean hands will mean you don’t stick to the strings which will ultimately make your practicing go smoother.
  • When not practicing, try to leave your banjo/mandolin’s case lid open in a temperate environment so that the instrument can be aired and that the lid of the case is not causing unneeded strain on the instrument.
  • If you happen to break a string on your instrument here is a simple step by step guide to replacing the broken string at home.
  • Remove broken string from instrument
  • Identify which string it is your broke
  • Check and double check that you have the correct replacement in your hand
  • First place the loop/ball end into place on the instrument and give it a small tug to make sure it is secured (we don’t want it accidentally flying up off the instrument when we come to tune later)
  • Then, slot the string into the correct empty slot on the bridge
  • The bring the string into the nut on the top of the neck of the instrument.
  • Then, gently wrap the string around the tuning peg once or twice and then slide the string through the hole (this will ensure the string can accidentally slide out and curl up at any stage moving forward)
  • Give the string tail (the piece sticking out of the tuner now) a nice tug so that you have it nice and secure.
  • Gently start to tune the string up to tension
  • About once a month give the banjo and mandolin a thorough cleaning from top to bottom as salt residues from our skin can accumulate (especially on the skin area of a banjo) and dust can also build up (particularly under the strings and not as frequently used frets on the instrument)
  • It is advised that you do not tamper or try move the bridge of your instrument – it is set up in a way that ensures your instrument stays in tune with itself.  If you feel that the bridge looks crooked, it is meant to be that way don’t worry or try make it sit straight!!
  • Should you notice any warping or flexing in any part of your banjos/mandolins, seek consultation with any of Ireland’s banjo/mandolin makers.

Aaron Mackessy