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 Stelling-Like Sound?

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bonnetteanthony

United States
44 posts
since 1/13/12

02/17/2017 05:51:52 View bonnetteanthony's MP3 Archive View bonnetteanthony's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

I have been mulling putting together a pot for a bluegrass banjo. I know Mr. Stelling uses his "wedge-fit" rim and ring, with powerful results.

It seems to me that a block rim with an Archtop to Flathead Conversion Ring would have the POTENTIAL to rival the Stelling sound, based purely on the way the rim and the ring interact. Am I way off base?

asmcsgac

United States
1501 posts since 11/16/06

02/17/2017 06:06:57 View asmcsgac's Classified Ads View asmcsgac's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

I suppose some will ask what do you mean by "rival the Stelling sound" ?  Stand by.

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Fathand

Canada
9950 posts since 2/7/08

02/17/2017 06:14:49View Fathand's MP3 Archive View Fathand's Photo Albums View Fathand's Blog Reply with Quote

If the block rim you are using is similar dimensions and weight to Stelling and the tone ring you are using is also similar weight and alloy then maybe. My understanding is that conversion rings sit on top of the rim whereas the Stelling rim is wedge fit something like a taper fit and makes contact with the sides of the rim more than the top. A lot of Stellings were made with 3 play rims and many including myself like them so you might want to try that too.

There was a great looking Whitestar in the classifieds recently for a price that would be difficult to reproduce for much less.

http://www.banjohangout.org/classified/62487

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Ken LeVanPlayers Union Member

United States
9815 posts since 6/29/05

02/17/2017 06:15:42View Ken LeVan's MP3 Archive View Ken LeVan's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

Everything about the Stelling construction is unique, not a copy of a Gibson. I doubt you could recreate that using other parts. The tone ring is solid, I imagine it's pretty heavy and the rim is short.  Stellings are a thing unto themselves which provide the particular sound they have.

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bonnetteanthony

United States
44 posts since 1/13/12

02/17/2017 07:05:12View bonnetteanthony's MP3 Archive View bonnetteanthony's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

Mr. LeVan, I too have doubts about my ability to do so, but I have no such doubts about YOUR ability. What, in your mind, are the other main contributing factors to the Stelling Sound?

Sound is admittedly subjective (tarpit), especially with so many different Stelling models. Changes in wood species, rim design, and setup change the voice, but it's the potential for POWER that is the hallmark of the brand IMHO, and at least in my mind, that can be mostly attributed to the ring to rim fit.

Can anybody point me to diagrams about the ring and rim for either a Conversion Ring of a Stelling Setup?

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Old Hickory

United States
7933 posts since 6/2/08

02/17/2017 07:10:46View Old Hickory's MP3 Archive View Old Hickory's Classified Ads View Old Hickory's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

The Sullivan archtop to flathead conversion ring is a solid hunk of metal -- like the Stelling ring in that regard -- with no air space between the rim and the underside of the ring.  Lots of contact area between ring and rim. So I think it could have the potential to sound more like a Stelling than a Gibson.

In fact, that's what I thought when I heard  sound clips of Tim Purcell demonstrating some of his bridges on his RB-00 with Kalamazoo rim and Sullivan conversion ring.  The 'Old Countertop Hard Maple' and 'Select Maple' samples were recorded with that banjo.  Decide for yourself whether you hear hints of Stelling.  I thought I did.

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Old Hickory

United States
7933 posts since 6/2/08

02/17/2017 07:20:02View Old Hickory's MP3 Archive View Old Hickory's Classified Ads View Old Hickory's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by bonnetteanthony

Can anybody point me to diagrams about the ring and rim for either a Conversion Ring of a Stelling Setup?

 

Here's a Stelling rim and ring (right) compared to a conventional Gibson-style flathead:

A Sullivan archtop-to-flathead conversion ring sits on a taller rim. As described by First Quality, it has the bottom of an archtop ring and the top of a flathead. I've never seen a cross-section of the conversion ring.  Here are cross sections of arch top rings on rims with two-piece flange and one-piece flange.  You'll have to imagine what the conversion ring eliminates and adds.


 

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Alex Z

United States
2845 posts since 12/7/06

02/17/2017 07:24:53 View Alex Z's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

See:  http://www.stellingbanjo.com/category/aboutus/

About half-way down.  "What makes Stelling the ultimate banjo?"

Two additional things that affect the sound are the tailpiece and the size of the aperture holes in the flange.  Both are Mr. Stelling's design.

 

I've owned Stelling banjos (and might be looking for another).  They are world class instruments, in design, materials, workmanship, and ultimate music making ability.  They are very sensitive to set up (if your ears are sensitive), and capable of being set up to produce various kinds of tone, in addition to the clarity and projection they seem to always have.

I'd agree with Ken LeVan that the Stelling banjo is an integrated design.  You don't see hardly any "hot rodding" going on, except for changing out bridges and strings.  Compare this to the Mastertone philosophy of changing out rim, ring, flange, head, tailpiece, maybe even neck, in search for sound and playability. smiley  Already built in to the Stelling.

Since you've asked, "based purely on the way the rim and the ring interact" doesn't capture the totality of the instrument's sound, in my experience.

There are used Stellings available at reasonable prices, although none as low priced as a home-made banjo might be.

Good luck with your search.


Edited by - Alex Z on 02/17/2017 07:25:34

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Banjophobic

United States
12784 posts since 3/6/06

02/17/2017 08:48:02View Banjophobic's MP3 Archive View Banjophobic's Photo Albums View Banjophobic's Blog Reply with Quote

This is akin to making an archtop sound like a flathead, or vice versa or making a ballbearing sound like either one of those. You can't really make a Gibson style pot assembly banjo sound like a Stelling. How "close" one can get is really subjective. The best way to get that spud is...you know...🤓

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Old Hickory

United States
7933 posts since 6/2/08

02/17/2017 09:39:25View Old Hickory's MP3 Archive View Old Hickory's Classified Ads View Old Hickory's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

So true.

Especially in the case of the Sullivan archtop-to-flathead conversion ring, I'd expect that to have its own sound.  Not the same as an archtop, not the same as a conventional flathead (because there's more wood in the rim and the tone ring is completely different).  Do listen to Tim's sound samples, though.  On an old rim, the conversion ring with his bridges sounds pretty good.

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bonnetteanthony

United States
44 posts since 1/13/12

02/17/2017 09:53:54View bonnetteanthony's MP3 Archive View bonnetteanthony's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

I totally agree, i think it would probably have its own unique sound. My thoughts were more about the power of the banjo. Due to the solid ring sitting flat on the rim, with no airspace, which is more similar to a Stelling than a flathead, I thought maybe there would be similarities.

I understand that everything plays into tone and projection, flange, tailpiece, resonator, but i assumed that the ring/rim combination would be the single biggest contributor to the banjo's potential for sound.

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Banjophobic

United States
12784 posts since 3/6/06

02/17/2017 10:04:10View Banjophobic's MP3 Archive View Banjophobic's Photo Albums View Banjophobic's Blog Reply with Quote

My first choice for the tonering would be a no hole version. You can use a block rim with that, with a Ludwig head and thin bridge and you might get closer to the Stelling sound. Make sure the ring is very tightly fit to the rim too.

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budbennettPlayers Union Member

United States
1677 posts since 8/10/05

02/17/2017 10:45:22View budbennett's MP3 Archive View budbennett's Photo Albums View budbennett's Blog Reply with Quote

Photos of my Stelling taken apart should that be helpful. Personally, I would just buy a Stelling because there is nothing like one.


http://monk.radford.edu/cdm/search/collection/banjoconstr/searchterm/stelling/order/nosort

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bonnetteanthony

United States
44 posts since 1/13/12

02/17/2017 14:39:38View bonnetteanthony's MP3 Archive View bonnetteanthony's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

I have read in the past that there are builders who use the conversion rings exclusively in new builds, anybody know who does this?

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Ken LeVanPlayers Union Member

United States
9815 posts since 6/29/05

02/17/2017 15:14:04View Ken LeVan's MP3 Archive View Ken LeVan's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by budbennett
 

Photos of my Stelling taken apart should that be helpful. Personally, I would just buy a Stelling because there is nothing like one.


http://monk.radford.edu/cdm/search/collection/banjoconstr/searchterm/stelling/order/nosort


I would love to know what the weight of each part is.

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Ken LeVanPlayers Union Member

United States
9815 posts since 6/29/05

02/17/2017 17:12:39View Ken LeVan's MP3 Archive View Ken LeVan's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

That sound is really loud. it's not for everyone, but if you like it, you love it.  I think it's what market researchers would call a "high smiley". A lot of bluegrass players like really loud banjos,and a Stelling is loud in a different way than an archtop Mastertone- hard to describe.  The first time I ever heard a Stelling, I was at an outdoor art festival in Lewisburg, PA, and there was a guy strolling around playing the banjo. I could hear it from a block away through a noisy crowd. It was the loudest banjo I ever heard.  I caught up with the guy, checked out his banjo, and learned a few things.

I met the same guy about 3 years later at another outdoor festival in Canton PA, and I heard a banjo sound that took me back to Brooklyn in the '60s. It was the same guy, and now he was playing a converted Paramount, which has another kind of distinctive sound- not nearly as loud as the Stelling, and not common in bluegrass. 

Then about 3 years ago, Dick Guggenheim gave me a CD of Vincent Sadovsky playing a lot of tunes with Keith tuners on all four strings.  I really liked the sound, and was trying to figure out what kind of a banjo it was. I read that Vincent played an OME or Baldwin ODE like Eric Weissberg and Bobby Thompson.  I fooled and fooled with some experimental banjos I was making and actually invented a whole new tone ring, which sounded something like the CD, at least it had a good bell-like ring and was loud, because of a floating tone ring, which I actually liked,  but it didn't have the same sound.  Turns out Vincent played those tunes on a Stelling, which is the antithesis of a floating tone ring, it's a really heavy wedged-on tone ring, so I was headed in the wrong direction. It's really hard to duplicate that sound.  I think you need a very heavy tone ring tight against a shallow rim -at least that would be a guess. I'd like to find out how much one of those Stelling tone rings weigh vs the rim.  I think they also have a heavy flange. I'd like to hear one next to a top tension Mastertone or Great Lakes, also super heavy.

Someone makes solid flathead Gibson style tonerings - no hollowed out space underneath.  One of those might get towards the Stelling sound.  Most likely, to get the real sound, you'd have to buy a Stelling.

 


Edited by - Ken LeVan on 02/17/2017 17:14:51

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Alex Z

United States
2845 posts since 12/7/06

02/18/2017 10:01:17 View Alex Z's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

"A lot of bluegrass players like really loud banjos,and a Stelling is loud in a different way than an archtop Mastertone- hard to describe."

I'd agree with that.  The common Mastertone perspective is that the louder the better.  I've had two Stellings and have spent some time optimizing them for my preference in sound.  The Stelling "loudness" is more of a penetrating power and carrying power -- the concert grand piano versus the tinny spinet in your living room that can also sound deceptively loud but whose "loudness" might be just an irritation of the ears.

I think that some folks try to set up the Stelling using the same methods as setting up a Mastertone.  For the Mastertone, they tighten the head until the banjo tone starts getting constricted and the bass starts to fall off, and that's the optimum point.  For the Stelling, when you do the same, the tone doesn't constrict or fall off, but keeps getting louder and louder -- so the Mastertone folks think it's getting better and better -- and the banjo ends up being set way too tight.

With the Stelling, the clarity and power is always going to be there, so the focus of set-up should be preferred tone quality only.  The tailpiece is important, because it is adjustable in and out, and that will make a difference too.  We can be aware that Mr. Geoff has used 5-Star heads, medium strings, adjustable tailpiece, and his own bridge design that has a little more mass than typical design.  All those things are there for a reason -- tone.

On my latest Stelling, Staghorn, with my preferred light gauge strings, I ended up with the head at about a third of the way between G and G#, and the tailpiece set back away from the bridge as much as possible.  All the power and clarity you can use, with a solid and rich banjo tone.

 

Also, I have a Great Lakes top tension.  Also powerful and clear, but quite different in tone from a Stelling.  It has more sustain, more of an old time bluegrass sound, less of a range of outcomes in set up, versus the Stelling.  Just a great banjo, which was my main banjo for over 20 years.


Edited by - Alex Z on 02/18/2017 10:09:34

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Ken LeVanPlayers Union Member

United States
9815 posts since 6/29/05

02/18/2017 11:33:51View Ken LeVan's MP3 Archive View Ken LeVan's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z
 

"A lot of bluegrass players like really loud banjos,and a Stelling is loud in a different way than an archtop Mastertone- hard to describe."

I'd agree with that.  The common Mastertone perspective is that the louder the better.  I've had two Stellings and have spent some time optimizing them for my preference in sound.  The Stelling "loudness" is more of a penetrating power and carrying power -- the concert grand piano versus the tinny spinet in your living room that can also sound deceptively loud but whose "loudness" might be just an irritation of the ears.

I think that some folks try to set up the Stelling using the same methods as setting up a Mastertone.  For the Mastertone, they tighten the head until the banjo tone starts getting constricted and the bass starts to fall off, and that's the optimum point.  For the Stelling, when you do the same, the tone doesn't constrict or fall off, but keeps getting louder and louder -- so the Mastertone folks think it's getting better and better -- and the banjo ends up being set way too tight.

With the Stelling, the clarity and power is always going to be there, so the focus of set-up should be preferred tone quality only.  The tailpiece is important, because it is adjustable in and out, and that will make a difference too.  We can be aware that Mr. Geoff has used 5-Star heads, medium strings, adjustable tailpiece, and his own bridge design that has a little more mass than typical design.  All those things are there for a reason -- tone.

On my latest Stelling, Staghorn, with my preferred light gauge strings, I ended up with the head at about a third of the way between G and G#, and the tailpiece set back away from the bridge as much as possible.  All the power and clarity you can use, with a solid and rich banjo tone.

 

Also, I have a Great Lakes top tension.  Also powerful and clear, but quite different in tone from a Stelling.  It has more sustain, more of an old time bluegrass sound, less of a range of outcomes in set up, versus the Stelling.  Just a great banjo, which was my main banjo for over 20 years.


Thanks, Alex.

I wondered about the Great Lakes vs the Stelling.  Also, it's worth mentioning that Bobby Thompson put a towel in the resonator of his Baldwin ODE so he balanced better with Roy Clark's Mastertone on Hee Haw.

Volume is not tone, as you say - quantity is not quality.  The same thing can be said for really loud woodies, the virtues of which are extolled by many (not me). Once again, much depends on the quality of sound you are looking for, and there are many different ways to get to where you want to be.

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Ira Gitlin

United States
2794 posts since 3/28/08

02/20/2017 13:33:31View Ira Gitlin's MP3 Archive View Ira Gitlin's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

IIRC, Stelling also uses a brass flange. That may also contribute a little to the volume and brightness.

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mike gregory

United States
44656 posts since 12/14/05

02/22/2017 08:19:13View mike gregory's MP3 Archive View mike gregory's Photo Albums View mike gregory's Blog Reply with Quote

 

Opel GT

Chevy Corvette

 

If ANY of my opinions were humble, it would be my humble opinion that an Opel GT is not a Chevy Corvette.

You want a Stelling sound, get a Stelling.

You want a Corvette ride, get a Corvette.

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bonnetteanthony

United States
44 posts since 1/13/12

02/22/2017 08:24:28View bonnetteanthony's MP3 Archive View bonnetteanthony's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

"If ANY of my opinions were humble, it would be my humble opinion..."

I will re-use this.

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mike gregory

United States
44656 posts since 12/14/05

02/22/2017 11:46:39View mike gregory's MP3 Archive View mike gregory's Photo Albums View mike gregory's Blog Reply with Quote

Feel free!

And, here's a picture of a hum-bull, playing "I'm Right, You're Wrong!" on a custom-made kazoo.


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monstertone

United States
436 posts since 4/5/06

02/22/2017 12:10:52View monstertone's MP3 Archive View monstertone's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

The one thing I have found missing from every cross section analysis I have ever seen of the Stelling pot assembly is mention of the lateral forces created by that wedge design. I suspect that may be a contributing factor of the Stelling sound.


Edited by - monstertone on 02/22/2017 12:23:37

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budbennettPlayers Union Member

United States
1677 posts since 8/10/05

02/22/2017 12:18:14View budbennett's MP3 Archive View budbennett's Photo Albums View budbennett's Blog Reply with Quote

I had always seen that drawing of the rim/ring but never understood it until I took mine apart for these photos. Doing this project gave me a whole different understanding of the Stelling. 


Ring slightly lifted off rim:   http://monk.radford.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/banjoconstr/id/98/rec/33

Rim profile:  http://monk.radford.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/banjoconstr/id/47/rec/46


Rim Profile:  http://monk.radford.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/banjoconstr/id/48/rec/17

Solid ring:  http://monk.radford.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/banjoconstr/id/60/rec/22

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