While I am looking at the neck, I check for a silky finish which allows a smooth sliding finger action. I also check that the frets are smooth and round. Rough frets are hard on both strings and fingers, and a fret of the wrong height can cause a wrong note even when you play the right one. I file and shape the frets until they're perfect.
I make sure that the pegs turn smoothly and that there is no slippage. Alvarez banjos use either sturdy geared-offset pegs, or, for extremely high accuracy, planetary pegs with a four-to-one gear ratio.
I check that the brackets work smoothly, so that I can quickly and easily adjust the tightness of the head. Alvarez banjos have 24 heavy-duty chrome plated brackets. I also check the tailpiece. I prefer a Kirschner-style tailpiece because it doesn't have a tendency to rattle the way a clarnshell tailpiece does. The 4289, 4293, 4300 and 4310 have adjustable chrome plated Kirschner-style tailpieces.
The most important part of any banjo is the sound-amplifying tone ring and flange assembly. Ordinary iron simply doesn't provide enough ring or volume, so Alvarez tone rings, flanges and tubes are made of either solid bell brass or resophonic alloy.
Alvarez laminated shells are machined to fit precisely to the tone ring.
The ancient ancestor of the banjo was the Rebec: a skin head stretched over a gourd or hollow body with a neck holding three gut strings. It originated in Arabia a thousand years ago and was carried east and west with the spread of Islam.
The true American banjo wasn't invented until 1831, when Joel Sweeney added a fifth string, higher in pitch than any of the others, right next to the lowest pitched string, and secured by a peg halfway up the neck. The fifth string is then blended into the sound of the banjo and creates the familiar ring.
This odd instrument, with four pegs at the top of the neck and one peg sticking out on the side, captured the heart of America and is known as America's most original and distinctive musical invention.