1. Woods and metals expand and contract at different rates. During the winter when the heat is on and the air is drier, the woods lose moisture and contract. The tuners generally need to be snugged up at the tuner nut on top. Snug is good. Also check your other fasteners.
2. The string slots in the nut wear with use and need to be touched up. Graphite, perhaps from a pencil point, in the string slots will lubricate the slots, reducing wear and making tuning easier.
3. Plastic abrasive pads will remove string corrosion. Wiping the strings down after playing will help prevent corrosion and buildup of “crud” on the strings.
4. When grooves are worn into the frets, the depressed strings can buzz on the next fret, and clean play becomes impossible. If the wear is moderate, the frets can be dressed (filed down); if its extreme, new frets are needed.
5. Two or three times a year it is a good idea to clean the fretboard with a plastic abrasive pad or fine steel wool and wipe the clean board with lemon oil or fingerboard oil to keep it from drying out.
6. The attitude of the fingerboard is important to keep the strings, especially on banjos with lower actions, from buzzing on the frets. A slight concave is good.
7. The truss rod is designed to counter string tension and set the relief in the fingerboard/neck. The frequency of adjustment depends on your climate, the neck, and your own requirements. The two-way truss rod on a Cedar Mountain banjo is accessed from the heel with the neck removed from the rim. It is engaged with a 1/8″ allen wrench. Turn counter clockwise to drop or lower the middle of the neck/fingerboard. Clockwise will raise the middle. A slight concave or drop is good. Adjust the truss rod in small increments, perhaps 1/8 of a turn at a time. Monitor your progress with a good straight edge that is long enough to span all the frets. Measure “relief” at the seventh fret with feeler gauges. If you play on a high action you might like a straight neck. If you like a low action, you might need as much as .01″ relief or drop at the seventh fret.
8. The action height is set at our shop. The easiest way to change this is by replacing the bridge with a taller one to raise the action, or a shorter one to lower the strings. This may entail some alteration of the bridge.
9. The tension of the head will effect the action/string height and the sound of you Cedar Mountain Banjo. A looser head will effectively lower the string height and make a softer, plunkier sound. Conversely, a tighter head will raise the bridge and action height and produce a brighter sound. Most types of heads, especially skin and mylar, tend to stretch from season to season and may require periodic adjustment.
10. The mass of the bridge will also influence the sound. A thinner bridge will color the sound brighter while a thicker, more massive bridge will sound darker.
11. Wipe your instrument down with a clean, soft cloth after playing and return it to its case, where it is protected from physical damage and climate extremes. Extremes in temperature and humidity are the major cause of instrument damage. It is a good idea to use a humidifier with a hygrometer in your case during the dry winters and dessicants in your case during the humid summer months. Most wooden instruments are comfortable in the 50 to 90 degree range and at 40 to 60 percent humidity. The effects of extreme temperature and humidity are not covered in your warranty.
12. If you are traveling by car, avoid leaving your instrument in a hot or cold vehicle, especially the trunk.
13. If you are flying, perhaps it would be a good idea to confirm current regulations when you purchase your ticket and note the name of the individual you spoke with. If it’s in a hard case and you must check it with baggage, ask to “gate check” it, and that it be put in the pressurized luggage compartment. I routinely loosen the strings and lay the bridge down. It’s a good idea to secure it in its case with padding if the fit is sloppy.
14. Every once in a while it is prudent to have your banjo tuned up. This would include checking the tuners, nut, bridge, cleaning and oiling the fretboard, adjusting the truss rod and any other general maintenance that might be needed. You should develop a relationship with your local luthier to keep your instrument playing at its best, adjusted to your local conditions, and to help with accidents and problems that might occur. Of course, this is something we can do for your Cedar Mountain or any other banjo for that matter.