What is ‘head tension’?
The term ‘head tension’ refers to how tight the head (the round drum skin) on the top of your banjo is. It is one of the most important aspects of a banjo set up as it plays an important role in its tone and playability.
Unlike other acoustic instruments such as guitars that feature wooden tops, banjos have a top that can be adjusted to make it tighter or slacker to produce a particular note when struck. Just as drummers tune their drums, the same principle applies to banjos and it’s generally desirable to tune your head to a note featured in the tuning your banjo is in – ie. G if your using open G tuning.
The tension of your banjo head should be on the firm side, but not overly so. It can be adjusted using the tension hook and nuts that sit around the perimeter of your banjo and are attached to the ‘tension ring’. Not sure where these are? Check out our Anatomy of a Banjo guide HERE
A tighter head will produce a bright and lively tone with a looser head giving you a warmer, somewhat darker tone. You can of course adjust your head tension to suit your playing style and desired tone.