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Thread: Lloyd Loar in 1921 on Air Chambers

  1. #1
    Registered User Joe Spann's Avatar
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    Apr 2011
    Nashville. TN

    Default Lloyd Loar in 1921 on Air Chambers

    In 1921 Lloyd Loar gave a speech at the Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinists and Guitarists Convention in Los Angeles, California. His topic was "Gibson Selling Points From Science." The entire speech was recorded in the January 1922 issue of Sounding Board Salesman magazine, but I have extracted just his thoughts about stringed instrument air chambers here.

    I believe this speech is particularly important as it was made at a point in time just a few months prior to the release of the first Master Model instruments (summer 1922). Therefore, it allows us a look at what Loar had been thinking about during the developmental phase.

    In this section, Loar speaks about future developments of Gibson's banjo line; specifically the "trap-door" models which did, in fact come to pass and were manufactured from about 1922-1924. It is interesting to note that after Loar's departure from Gibson in December 1924 they quickly abandoned most of his banjo theory and began constructing instruments with a flange and resonator in the Paramount style.

    "The chief contribution of the air chamber is to refine the tone, and assist in determining the voicing of the instrument, whether soprano, tenor or bass, etc. Refining the tone is done by not allowing that part of it which would be harsh or noisy to escape from the air chamber and by adding to the vibration of the top, the vibration of the air in the air chamber. The pitch of the air chamber should be near the middle of the most used register, below it if a deep voicing is wanted, or if the tone from the sound board is naturally shrill or harsh, so as to need much refining, - or above it if a shrill, penetrating voicing is wanted. It is the lack of an air chamber that makes the banjo tone characteristically rather nasal and harsh. We expect soon to have banjos, however, so constructed as to have a scientifically tuned air chamber, enclosed by an adjustable back; this back can be so adjusted while playing that the effect of the air chamber is lost, but the back will reflect that part of the tone started by the under part of the head away from the clothing of the player which usually absorbs it. This allows a greater variety to choose from in the way of possible banjo tone and if desirable makes a volume of tone available, not possible to the old construction, or old style resonator."

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  3. #2
    Ross Thompson mandoross's Avatar
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    Jul 2010
    Rockford, IL

    Default Re: Lloyd Loar in 1921 on Air Chambers

    So does that mean my Gibson trap-door banjo-mandolin is from the Lloyd Loar era? Wow.

  4. #3
    Registered User pfox14's Avatar
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    Sep 2009
    Holiday, FL

    Default Re: Lloyd Loar in 1921 on Air Chambers

    Loar sounds like he is dismissing the resonator style banjo, which makes me believe that he didn't know what he was talking about. The resonator banjo was and still is the best design ever produced and why everyone including Gibson abandoned the open back and trap door designs. Don't know what "science" Loar was using to determine the best sounding instruments, but it sounds like it he wasn't using his own ears.

    On a side note: Joe - where did you get this issue of Sounding Board Salesman?
    Visit - cool Gibson & Epiphone history and more. Vintage replacement mandolin pickguards

  5. #4
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    May 2006
    Statesville, NC

    Default Re: Lloyd Loar in 1921 on Air Chambers

    [QUOTE=pfox14;1239076...The resonator banjo was and still is the best design ever produced and why everyone including Gibson abandoned the open back and trap door designs.....[/QUOTE]

    So no open back banjos are being made now by anyone??? Hmmm...

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  6. #5
    ISO TEKNO delsbrother's Avatar
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    Sep 2002

    Default Re: Lloyd Loar in 1921 on Air Chambers

    Somewhere in my Knutsen research I found a playbill for this conference (I posted about it here). Perhaps you've seen this as well? Do you know if they took any photographs at this event? Are there any reproduced in the magazine article?

  7. #6
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    Nov 2009
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    Default Re: Lloyd Loar in 1921 on Air Chambers

    Lloyd Loar was just being kind when he should have dismissed the Banjo all together. His science was best put to work on the F-5 mandolins. Ever heard of a banjo going for the money the signed LLoyd Loar mandolins go for? Answer is NO because the banjo is crude at best and "science" is never going to change that!

  8. #7
    Registered User David Houchens's Avatar
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    Apr 2005
    North Garden,Va

    Default Re: Lloyd Loar in 1921 on Air Chambers

    Since the thread went in this direction; In my opinion, open backed banjos still have a large place in many styles of music. There were many designs that took a back seat to the resonator banjo basically because of the popularity of the bluegrass sound. Probably because that's where the money seemed to be at that time.
    New doesn't always mean better. Banjos don't have to be loud and shrill. There was an open back banjo that had a sound chamber that wasn't a trap door. It is a wonderful sounding banjo and I am happy to be in the tooling process of helping a good friend of mine reproduce these banjos.

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