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Thread: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

  1. #1

    Unhappy Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    Hi

    I need to put new head on. I plan to play mostly slow, quiet, and melodic.

    Remo has a FiberSkin and an Ebony; from Remo's description these might be good for quiet play. Ebony claims more sustain (which might be nice, but hard to find in size I need).

    Anyone have experience with these heads (or others) and make suggestion for a rich, quiet, tone to support slow, quiet, melodic play?

    My Instruments Details:

    FairBanks ~1916, Little Wonder, Electric Tone Ring, 8 string Mandolin Banjo.

    Tone ring diameter ~10 2/16" (hard to measure as top is slightly rounded).

    Neck floats over Tension Hoop,
    Tension hoop height (at the neck cut-out) ~ 1/2".

    Old head seems flat (Now Cracked, probably from wood oil).#
    Old Head Diameter measures ~10 1-16 to 10 3-16.
    Old Head Height measured ~7/16.
    Last edited by Cos; Dec-25-2017 at 12:18pm.

  2. #2
    plectrist
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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    Cos,

    You'll get much more help by trying this at the Banjohangout: https://www.banjohangout.org. I'm surprised this post hasn't been inundated with banjo jokes and nasty comments already.

    Merry Christmas,

    Ryk
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  3. #3
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    Get an old towel. Fold it up. Squeeze it between dowel rod and the head, just below the bridge. Works great.

    edit: on rereading your post I see it is a Little Wonder with a busted head. Just get whatever you can that fits. It is an oddball size. Fibreskin is good if you can find it, but the old towel trick is what you need if you want 'quiet', regardless.
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  4. #4
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    you can use a calf skin replacement , or synthetics Remo seems to dominate that niche..
    Fiberskyn aims at a calf skin without the issues of drying & splitting or humidity lowering the bridge,

    the 'Renaissance ' , a nice color, a bit brighter, and the frosted white and completely clear, brighter still,,
    My ^^ Vega Lil' Wonder got one of those..

    synthetics you have to get the right diameter, *

    natural skin you don't, but you need the flesh hoop to wrap it around while wet.

    * Sometimes , as you say, getting the size limits the choice of head material type..


    yea, stuffing something between the rim stick & the head quiets the ring to a plunk.










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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    Mandroid has detailed recommendations which I agree with. Bear in mind that no matter what you do a mandolin banjo will sound percussive. For more mellow get a real Mandolin.

    Also, I could be wrong but I thought a little Wonder had a simple tone ring and an Electric was a much higher end tone ring.
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    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    I'm with HonketyHank--get a head that you'll like for playing more loudly then mute it with some cloth between the stick and head.
    I use an orphan gym sock on my tenor banjo which has a Renaissance head. It's quiet enough not to disturb my wife but I can take the sock out and still be heard at an Irish session.
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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    I carry a piece of leather rolled up that is just the right length to fit from the dowel stick under the bridge and be snug, quiets the banjo down very nice and is small and easy to carry in the case.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  8. #8

    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    A natural calfskin gives the mellowest sound.

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    I don't know if there are any 'synthetic' banjo heads of a diameter that will suit your Banjolin. Maybe as suggested,''The Banjo Hangout'' could offer more positive suggestions,but of course you could contact REMO by e-mail ?. As for being 'quiet',thicker skins would be a better choice,but the head should be brought up to a tension where the sound isn't 'tubby' to begin with. 'Quiet' is one thing, 'quiet & tubby' sounding is another. I'd opt for the suggestion that i used to use myself back when i began using finger picks on banjo,a rolled up duster (old pair of socks) placed under the bridge area of the skin. You can adjust the tone / volume by packing it in hard,or leaving it a tad loose. If you use an old pair of socks,i suggest washing them first !,
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    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    BTW--with the rolled sock method you can get different sounds and level of muting depending on where you put the sock. I've settled on putting it right below the bridge.
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
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  13. #11

    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    I have calf skin on mine, which I use for Irish traditional music and acoustic rock and roll.. The tone is much more complex and interesting than synthetic.

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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    Skin heads are the best sound, but can be problematic if you live where there is humidity in all or part of the year. Here in the summertime sometimes it's hard to get thru a song without being out of tune. I choose fiberskyn as it is the warmest of the synthetics and stable for tuning. Well as a banjo can be.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    Bob Smakula supplies a wide variety of Fiberskyn and other synthetic heads was well as real skin ones. Elderly and Bernunzio also may be good sources.

    I also have calfskin on most of my banjos. My only mandolin Banjo is a Weymann with a 7 head so it has to have a real skin head. Sounds good with it tho. OTOH MBs are never truly mellow. That is what wood is for.
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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    Thank you all.....

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    What's the best banjo head for quiet play? And -- what's the best chainsaw for trimming one's toenails? What species of elephant makes the best house pet? What brand of hot sauce should I mix into my baby's formula?

    Sorry; I just am having a bit of trouble reconciling "banjo" and "quiet." Really, it's a legitimate question, though it tramples all my carefully-nourished stereotypes.

    1. Natural skin would probably work better than Mylar; set the head tension looser than "standard."

    2. A fabric "damper" against the head is a common device -- hand towel, rolled socks, whatever.

    3. Consider nylon strings, which will cut out the metallic content of the sound.

    4. Lighten up the technique; bare fingers only, no picks.

    5. Last resort, consider a Gold Tone "Banjola" or a Pollman Mandoline-Banjo: wooden mandola body, five-string banjo neck. It's a nice, though not "banjo-y," sound.
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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    ...

    3. Consider nylon strings, which will cut out the metallic content of the sound.

    ...
    This ~~~~^



    Edit to note: IF they care to learn how to, even banjo players can play quietly (and really, tastefully and politely). It is a very valuable skill. It's just not a skill that is commonly taught or even encouraged in many banjo related communities. Those of us who do encourage learning this skill like to call it dynamic volume control.
    Last edited by dhergert; Dec-27-2017 at 2:46pm.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Banjo Head Type for quiet melodic play

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    What's the best banjo head for quiet play? And -- what's the best chainsaw for trimming one's toenails? What species of elephant makes the best house pet? What brand of hot sauce should I mix into my baby's formula?

    Sorry; I just am having a bit of trouble reconciling "banjo" and "quiet." Really, it's a legitimate question, though it tramples all my carefully-nourished stereotypes.
    As I maintain above, the best mandolin-banjo for playing quietly requires a banjo-ectomy, hence it would be called a mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    3. Consider nylon strings, which will cut out the metallic content of the sound.
    See above tho nylon/Nylgut would be a possibility.
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