How To Set Up And Tune A Banjo
If you had your banjo shipped to you, you will probably will need to set it up. First, put the bridge in place if it isn't already (see video for help in placement). Then you will need to tune it. Hopefully, you have bought or have a tuner to help you. The tuning sequence on a 5 string is as follows:
5th string (the "top" string lower on the fret board)
1st string (the bottom string)
When you are tuning your banjo, if you strum all the strings without fingering the frets, you will produce that chord; so if you tune it to G, your "open" strum will sound a G chord.
The most commonly used tuning is to G (recommended):
G (5th), D (4th), G (3rd), B (2nd), D (1st)
There are other tunings of course, such as D, which is sometimes used in Bluegrass:
A or F# (5th), D, (4th), F# (3rd), A (2nd), D (1st)
And of course, C (the only difference from G is that the 4th string is down to C from D:
G (5th), C (4th), G (3rd), B (2nd), D (1st)
I won't list all the others, as they are rarely needed and can be easily found on the internet or in your instruction book (assuming you have one).
Almost all new banjos will need the bridge set up, and the strings tuned, when you get them. It's really not that difficult, as the bridge is completely adjustable to the needs of the player. See the first video here and the lesson on how to tune your banjo to get started. I also have some good instructions for you on basic playing in the Free Lessons page, such as how to perform the 3 finger bluegrass roll. Then visit Free Guitar Videos (they have lessons on banjo, mandolin, ukulele, guitar and others) and go to the Banjo lesson section to start learning!
How To Adjust a Truss Rod on a Banjo
Most banjos have a truss rod that can be adjusted to change the "action" of the strings. That means, you can lower or heighten the distance between the neck and the strings. If you have softer finger pads, and you find it hurts to press down effectively on the strings, you can adjust the rod to lower the spacing. Caution: Never over tighten the rod or you might end up warping the neck. Most banjo truss rods run through the pot (head) and up through the neck. If you have a resonator (backing on the head) on your banjo, it's easily removed by a few bolts around the rim. Here is a very good short tutorial showing you how to do it.