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Thread: One more banjo question

  1. #1

    Default One more banjo question

    I got my cheap open back banjo's neck crack glued and have been playing it. It has a ton of ringing overtones that muddy up the sound. I had a micro fiber cloth handy so balled it up and stuck it in up by the neck. Worked wonders. Tone is correct to my ears now. Is there some adjustment( tensioning head?) that might do the same thing? Or should I get a piece of foam to stick in there.

    I can see a better banjo in my future.LOL
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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Many openback clawhammerers (or frailers) insert a (dry) sponge inside the rim between the head and the dowel stick or coordinator rod(s) right under where the bridge feet sit. For many this produces just the tone they want. Skin heads are also preferred by many, although their maintenance requirements can be much more difficult than plastic heads. Some people also prefer nylon strings.

    (Edit: It's worth mentioning that some clawhammerers place other items besides sponges inside their banjos to adjust the tone. Dirty socks, T-shirts and other well-seasoned clothing items come to mind. Adjusting head tension will also have an effect on the tone, especially tightening the head far beyond its intended capacity, which will eventually tend to dull the sound of the banjo pretty dramatically.)

    If you're actually getting sounds from the neck itself while playing, and if the banjo neck has a truss rod, the truss rod may either be loose or damaged from the peghead break.

    I would think that with your music ear and experience, it won't take long for you to be looking at better banjos. And there are some wonderful banjos out there, with lots of clawhammering enjoyment to be had...

    As someone with somewhat of a collection of banjos, I'd encourage you to indulge your curiosity with a generous pocket book as often and as soon as possible, as everyone who does that will improve the market value of my instruments.

    Last edited by dhergert; Sep-19-2019 at 1:32pm.
    -- Don

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    2002 Gibson F-9
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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    I like a piece of foam under the neck end, very lightly touching the top. I like some ring, but not as much a most banjo's have.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    It can actually take some time getting used to all the resonating sounds that come from an open-back banjo. That resonance can be a good thing, and one of the reasons for the popularity of alternate tunings for old timey music - it isn't just to simplify playing, but to add to the rich overall sound.
    Doug Brock
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  6. #5

    Default Re: One more banjo question

    As someone with somewhat of a collection of banjos, I'd encourage you to indulge your curiosity with a generous pocket book as often and as soon as possible, as everyone who does that will improve the market value of my instruments
    It sounds rather fishy to me but is that know as BASS(Banjo Acquisition Super Syndrome)?

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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    I play 4 string tenor (DGBE) and I put a couple of foam squares between the strings between the bridge and tailpiece. That really killed the weird ringies. I also use a block of foam in the back (open back banjo) up at the neck.

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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    It sounds rather fishy to me but is that know as BASS(Banjo Acquisition Super Syndrome)?
    Well, BAS (Banjo Acquisition Syndrome) is an official condition listed by the ASA (American Shrink Association). I've never heard of BASS, well, except for like the upright bass that I play (which has its own syndrome), or as mentioned, the aquatic variety.

    Biting my tongue in an effort to avoid more dry banjo humor, in my opinion the banjo market is pretty low and saturated these days. But for a person just starting out, there is lots of low hanging fruit.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Banjos are ‘low hanging fruit’? No.

    Well, maybe durian😊

  10. #9

    Default Re: One more banjo question

    I already have shimmed the neck with a business card. Plays cleanly up the neck now. Glad to hear the ringing is a common issue. This claw hammer business is fun.
    Silverangel A
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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Overtones abound with an open back banjo. You can use a cheap plastic shopping bag to attenuate them. Shimming the neck with a business card seems odd and antithetical to getting a good sound. The head should be tight but not too tight. I have used spongy, small, stress balls between the dowel stick or coordinator rod and the head to attenuate the overtones. A good skin head can do a lot to focus the sound, hence all of the attention to mass under the plastic head. Bridges make a lot of difference too. Softer wood mellows, harder wood sharpens the sound. More mass, differing, woods all have unique characteristics. All-in-all it is a hot bed of options to feed the anxiety for attaining the perfect sound.

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    Registered User Roger Adams's Avatar
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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    I got my cheap open back banjo's neck crack glued and have been playing it. It has a ton of ringing overtones that muddy up the sound. I had a micro fiber cloth handy so balled it up and stuck it in up by the neck. Worked wonders. Tone is correct to my ears now. Is there some adjustment( tensioning head?) that might do the same thing? Or should I get a piece of foam to stick in there.

    I can see a better banjo in my future.LOL
    I think your overtones problem is the "cheap" banjo. My Wiildwood is an open back, and I have no ringing overtones. The only reason I can think of to stuff the banjo pot is for practicing while the baby is asleep!
    If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a vet.

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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Br1ck, just give you a taste of some things to be watching for in a nicer banjo, you might consider some of the old 1920s Vega banjos for your clawhammering excursion...

    I have a nice old 1924 Vega Style X (tenor) that I've often considered re-necking with a 5-string neck for this purpose... I've always been a fingerstyle player, but as my fingers get stiffer with age clawhammer has seemed like a good possible option. I have some great clawhammerers in the area and could learn a lot from them.

    I had really wanted to re-neck this Style X with an actual new Deering/Vega 5-string neck so the banjo could theoretically be all Vega, but while I could commission the neck to be made by Greg and his team, they seem to only available with coordinator rods so I'd have to come up with a faux-dowel of some sort in order to fit the pot properly. I'd prefer to have a real dowel there, but only Deering can make a real Vega neck now, and they do a fine job with their new necks.

    Many clawhammerers prefer the old Vega Whyte Laydie pots and tone rings, but there are a fair amount of TubaPhone clawhammerers out there too.

    In the mean time, since mandolins have unexpectedly come into my life and I've learned to flat-pick, I have pretty much decided to play the old Style X as it sits, tuned in open Bb like a short-scale plectrum banjo. It sounds really good this way. When they aren't muted down for clawhammer, the old flat-picked TubaPhones produce a piercing snappy tone that penetrates a small big band very nicely for old-jazz.

    I've sort of decided that mastering the old Style X this way is one of the projects I'll work on when my wife retires in a couple of years, if nothing else to irritate her enough to get out of the house a couple of times a week. It should work pretty nicely.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Big vote for Tu-ba-phones. In center of photo, from left to right- 6 string, five string and plectrum Tu-ba-phones. No ringing overtones here- just beautiful, crisp, bright sound.

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  17. #14

    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Any opinions on the newer Pisgah or Bert Reiter banjos? My total lack of knowledge scares me off the ols stuff, plus my budget would be minimal.
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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    I have played a couple Pisgah banjo's. I like the persimmon tone ring, and 12" pot.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    Any opinions on the newer Pisgah or Bert Reiter banjos? My total lack of knowledge scares me off the ols stuff, plus my budget would be minimal.
    Bart Reiter's banjos also have a very high reputation, but my understanding is that there is a significant waiting list. Just like with mandolins, lots of boutique builders can make very nice banjos for you.

    Not at all to discourage further discussion about this here, especially because it's so much fun to poke fun at banjos from a mandolin POV, but in case you haven't seen it yet there is a huge banjo-related online forum hanging-out in the deepest, most outer limits of the Web. I know from personal experience that there is a very large crowd of extremely knowledgeable clawhammerers attending that forum who are just waiting for an opportunity to share their wisdom.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

  20. #17

    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    Bart Reiter's banjos also have a very high reputation, but my understanding is that there is a significant waiting list. Just like with mandolins, lots of boutique builders can make very nice banjos for you.

    Not at all to discourage further discussion about this here, especially because it's so much fun to poke fun at banjos from a mandolin POV, but in case you haven't seen it yet there is a huge banjo-related online forum hanging-out in the deepest, most outer limits of the Web. I know from personal experience that there is a very large crowd of extremely knowledgeable clawhammerers attending that forum who are just waiting for an opportunity to share their wisdom.
    NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I told you, another rabbit hole. There are at least four Bart Reider banjos at Gryphon right now. But this is a mandolin forum, so I suppose a lurking is in order. But I just inserted a sponge and other than looking weird, it's yellow, all is well. The shim worked pretty well on the neck angle. And the glued crack seem solid. Does the banjo forum have a classifieds?
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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Un-related question but what kind of strings go on one of these things?
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    ... Does the banjo forum have a classifieds?
    Yes.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    Un-related question but what kind of strings go on one of these things?
    Banjo strings.

    To be fair, typically the only string on a 5 string banjo that is wound is usually the 4th string.

    Just like with mandolins, there are all kinds of banjo strings available from just about every known string maker.

    Typically for clawhammer you'd get steel strings in this approximate gauge range: d (plain, ~.010), B (plain, ~.013), G (plain, ~.015), D (wound, ~.022), g (plain, ~.010)

    Worth mentioning, there is a fair size population of banjo players who like nylon strings on some or all of their banjos. There were thousands of banjos built shortly after the Civil War until the beginning of the Jazz era that were made exclusively for gut banjo strings (which are also still available from a few sources); nylon strings are very often used instead of gut strings today. Players with these strings (and often these older banjos) primarily include those who play "classic banjo" as well as some clawhammerers. Nylon banjo strings can be purchased from a number of string makers also, or they can be forumlated from other sources (like for example, fishing line).

    This is me some 11 years ago playing an 1889 S.S. Stewart "American Princess" banjo strung with nylon (fishing line) strings.

    Classic Banjo Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring
    Last edited by dhergert; Sep-20-2019 at 4:21pm.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

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    Front Porch & Sweet Tea NursingDaBlues's Avatar
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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    I like Ome banjos. But they’re made in pretty limited quantities and can be difficult to come by. I have four Ome banjos; two that I use for clawhammer. The one I use the most is a 2005 Ome Custom Juniper Deluxe. 12” rim. Fiberskyn head. Mahogany neck. I use GHS nickel strings. It’s a pretty heavy banjo for an open back. But it produces the sound that I personally enjoy for old time music.

    You can do well with many other brands and models. This is just my personal preference.

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    EDIT to ADD: The weight of the banjo plus the mahogany neck aids in absorbing some of the sound waves which in turn dampens/inhibits overtones.
    Last edited by NursingDaBlues; Sep-20-2019 at 4:59pm. Reason: clarification

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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    There is a boatload of builders that make fantastic open back instruments for not too much money. Pisgah, Reiter, Rickard ... the list is long. Go to the Banjo Hangout and ...well, hang out for a while. Follow the ads. I’ve been playing a Gold Tone WL-250 which I got dirt cheap and it is ok, but next month I am sending a Slingerland pot from my first tenor up to Hamburg to get renecked as a five string - the tenor neck never played in tune, and Slingerland pots make good open backs.

    Banjo (of all sorts) are fun to play, if you can stand becoming a social pariah. I’ve only been playing tenor for eight months and I gig much more often as sub in Dixie bands than I ever have before. I’m looking for the right banjoline, too, as that was used on a lot of the old blues recordings.

    Steven
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    More electrics than you can shake a stick at. I have to sell this stuff.

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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Br1ck,I have a Gibson trapdoor from the 20's with a Goldtone 5 string neck that I am considering selling should you want to upgrade. I won't discuss it here, but you can PM me if you are interested.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  29. #24

    Default Re: One more banjo question

    I'm already a social pariah, got that down good. It was quite hot here yesterday. I have a detached studio and had the doors closed. My wife asked me why and I said for your protection. She said, against the sound? It ain't working.
    Silverangel A
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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: One more banjo question

    Mmmm, there's nothing like an honest woman, eh?

    Just do yourself a favor and don't ask her how it sounds, ok? Don't ask me how I know.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

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