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Playing Since: 1976
Experience Level: Expert/Professional
[Teaching] [Jamming] [Socializing] [Helping]
Occupation: Luthier, Teacher, Webmaster
1989 Dotson Wreath #3
1929 Gibson Style 4 Mahogany TB conversion with Hearts and Flowers inlay and a Steve Huber HR-30 Tone Ring
2007 Richie Dotson RB-3 copy (Dotson name in Headstock) with a Huber tone ring and a ?Special? but secret wood rim. You wouldn?t believe this thing. I laugh when I think of how simple it was to make the change I did and what a great range this banjo has. Rosewood fingerboard on a mahogany and the tone is dry, hollow and has loads of personality ... better volume than any of the other banjos in my arsenal.
2008 Style 3 (leaves and bows) with Huber Tone Ring, old wood rim and a Tim James neck. This banjo is a true Frankenstein, but holy cow, this is at the top of the food chain for the sound I want. Jason and Doug, thank you for this happy, happy banjo accident! This one won't be going anywhere.
8 Japanese imports
1924 Washburn with a retro 5-String neck. Not a powerhouse, but really nice tone. Different from a pre-war Gibson?s slightly complex overtones and typically dry timbre, but spookily close, and I associate that with the octogenarian wood rim.
5 or 6 P.O.J. banjos or parts enough to supply an impaired orchestra of hillbilly pigmies.
Flatt and Scruggs
The Osborne Brothers
New Grass Revival
The Bluegrass Album Band
Nashville Bluegrass Band
Ronnie Barnes (my local hero)
The Stanley Brothers
Doyal Lawson and Quicksilver with Terry Baucom or Scott Vestal or Jim Mills ...well, I guess Mr Lawson hasn't had a bad banjo player, now has he?
Anyone else who didn't stop at only 4 chords and one first generation band style.
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Last Visit 6/11/2013
Monday, February 01, 2010 @2:28:07 PM
A Magical Gizmo that “Enhances” tone!
Do you want to know a secret? I mean this one is a real doozey! If you want great tone, you know, like you hear the professionals getting? Yea, that tone … well the first thing you need is a good, high quality banjo, or at least one that sounds like it is a really high quality banjo. What’s the difference? Oh, well … in spite of everyone’s opinion (I know, I know … everyone’s right … just ask ‘em) it has a lot to do with your own ear.
Developing a good ear takes a long time, and it has to be trained. It’s kinda like an acquired taste for fine wine or 18 year old Scotch … you may have even thought it didn’t taste so nice when you first tried it, but that is because you weren’t ready for it. Some people associate the development of a finer taste in rare spirits or ultra high end musical instruments as bewildering or even down right foolish or snobbish. I mean, what could be wrong with Budweiser and an El-Cheapo banjo? The answer is nothing at all, but if you want better tone …
Not so much with the beer, but the banjos that range from the bottom-feeding El-Cheapos through the midrange usually have their owners busy seeking an “Enhancement” gizmo in order to “improve” their tone. Most of the time the contraption will only yield something that is tonally different than what you started out with. After all, if you stuff your tone ring full of peanut butter it will change the tone ... if you like the sound better than it was before the viscous, culinary mishap took place, then your banjo’s tone was indeed "enhanced" … if not, go get some celery, saltines, and some paper towels. You see, (or perhaps hear is a better choice of words) “enhanced”, it’s all about what makes you happy.
The truth is that obtaining a better banjo is usually the only way to get one that has more potential. That isn’t to say that a mid-range or below instrument can’t sound good, and that is where the real secret comes into play … are you ready … are you really ready? It’s in your right hand, or at least for the most part. Your clarity, timing, taste and tone are so highly dependent on your right hand (my apologies to my south-paw brothers and sisters) that even if you handed a sloppy player Earl’s, Sonny’s or J.D.’s banjo they may still think that it needs “Enhancing”… and the folks standing around may even think that the banjo doesn’t sound so hot.
Some of us call it “pulling tone” and it truly is the secret to getting good tone. If you want your banjo to sound like Sonny Osborne’s banjo, let Sonny Osborne play it! A good player who has the years and the experience and the countless hours of real-life playing, not just sitting in their room with a DVD player and spiral-bound book, can make even a mediocre banjo sound much better than it should.
So, get out there and start hanging around with other musicians and enjoy life, music, and your banjo and get your timing solid and your right hand may soon be pulling tone so well that you won’t need to spend your cash on one $30.00 gismo after another … you can start putting it aside for a better banjo that your better timing, taste and tone can make sound even more incredible!
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