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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Banjo tone Glossary


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/263735

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Banjophobic - Posted - 05/30/2013:  06:16:34


We hear words used all the time to try and describe these various banjo tones we hear and discuss. Just for the heck of it, how about we form a thread  glossary  in this thread for them. It would include the word and its meaning. Folks can compare the terms, add their own descriptive wording,etc. I'll get the ball rolling:



Growl.  One term used to describe a characteristic BG  banjo sound, usually associated with flathead banjos. This tone refers to the deep, full and well defined bass string , as well as punchy, dark mids and associated natural overtones.



 



 



Ok, lets hear some more terms and definitions please...enlightenedcool


Andyincov - Posted - 05/30/2013:  06:23:25


great idea.



Bright - the beautiful sound of a tight head and maple neck in perfect harmony. Think bells ringing, birds singing.  Think Doug Dillard tearing into his archtop. think....oh, I'll stop now.



(warning - this definition may be slightly biased and extremely subjective)


rudy - Posted - 05/30/2013:  06:25:56


John, these terms all seem pretty subjective to me.  Without a link to a demonstrative example the relative nature of such terms is most likely going to be lost.  You'd have to index them to something like Zepp's site where he demonstrates many different combinations of construction features.



I got a big  grin out of the recent descriptive term "rattle."  To my mind, rattle wouldn't be a term that I would use in a good way to describe banjo tone.  If you're talking about the sound produced from the beer bottle caps loosely attached to the body of the lamellophone family of instruments (such as mbira), then it's appropriate.  Otherwise it just makes me smile, which ain't such a bad thing either.



Edited by - rudy on 05/30/2013 06:28:56

Ken LeVan - Posted - 05/30/2013:  06:37:26


John,



I love the idea!  It's going to get mired down in the tarpit of subjectivity you so eloquently identified and named.



I think of growl as having to do with a brand new phosphor bronze 4th string on the low notes.



Someone was trying to describe "rattle" in another thread.



Then there are: sweet, brassy, ringy, clangy, tubby, bright, dark, snappy, harsh, underwater - all terms I've used at one point or another.


Nels - Posted - 05/30/2013:  06:41:10


I like Rudy's idea of linking a sound file to the term....or making the term a "search" option for tunes on the Media Archive...that may not be such a good idea...but it's an idea none the lesscheeky


Banjophobic - Posted - 05/30/2013:  06:43:54


quote:

Originally posted by rudy

 

John, these terms all seem pretty subjective to me.  Without a link to a demonstrative example the relative nature of such terms is most likely going to be lost.  You'd have to index them to something like Zepp's site where he demonstrates many different combinations of construction features.




I got a big  grin out of the recent descriptive term "rattle."  To my mind, rattle wouldn't be a term that I would use in a good way to describe banjo tone.  If you're talking about the sound produced from the beer bottle caps loosely attached to the body of the lamellophone family of instruments (such as mbira), then it's appropriate.  Otherwise it just makes me smile, which ain't such a bad thing either.







Of course they are subjective,haha. Im not trying to create a authoritative glossary meant as gospel. Its just something for kicks, but it could serve as a funny but relevant guide for new folks on this forum who hear these descriptive terms all the time in posts, but who have no clue what it they mean. 



That term 'rattle' was one work that kick-started me to make this thread...haha.



 


Banjophobic - Posted - 05/30/2013:  06:45:27


quote:

Originally posted by Ken LeVan

 

John,




I love the idea!  It's going to get mired down in the tarpit of subjectivity you so eloquently identified and named.




I think of growl as having to do with a brand new phosphor bronze 4th string on the low notes.




Someone was trying to describe "rattle" in another thread.




Then there are: sweet, brassy, ringy, clangy, tubby, bright, dark, snappy, harsh, underwater - all terms I've used at one point or another.







Tarpits can be fun to roll around in..until you get pulled under....cheeky.  Ok, good  terms you listed, but you need to define them now...


Ken LeVan - Posted - 05/30/2013:  06:46:00


plunky and plinky, which are almost opposites


Banjophobic - Posted - 05/30/2013:  06:46:55


As we accumulate these terms, Im going to compile them all on this thread, in a single post, for reference for all of human posterity. surprise


Ken LeVan - Posted - 05/30/2013:  06:48:47


quote:

Originally posted by Banjophobic

 
quote:


Originally posted by Ken LeVan

 


John,




I love the idea!  It's going to get mired down in the tarpit of subjectivity you so eloquently identified and named.




I think of growl as having to do with a brand new phosphor bronze 4th string on the low notes.




Someone was trying to describe "rattle" in another thread.




Then there are: sweet, brassy, ringy, clangy, tubby, bright, dark, snappy, harsh, underwater - all terms I've used at one point or another.








Tarpits can be fun to roll around in..until you get pulled under....cheeky.  Ok, good  terms you listed, but you need to define them now...







That will take a little while, but I'll do it.


hartley - Posted - 05/30/2013:  07:13:48


POP !  whenyou play above the twelth fret


dickinnorwich - Posted - 05/30/2013:  07:36:46


"Sparkle" is one that Randall Wyatt and I are using.



That, and "hollow pop" (off the third string).



BTW, I'm going to have to change my clothes because I'm already getting tar all over them.



Edited by - dickinnorwich on 05/30/2013 07:40:15

Dan Pennington - Posted - 05/30/2013:  07:41:04


A good start on banjo tone is Craig Evans' web site - 'Banjo Voice Continuum' - about a quarter of the way down this page.



frailin.com/frailin/Banjo_Buyi...vice.html



 


Fathand - Posted - 05/30/2013:  07:45:07


Someone told me my banjo had a good CRACK to it? Does that mean the same as GROWL?



I think RATTLE is when your neck or other piece of hardware is loose.


RedStar - Posted - 05/30/2013:  07:50:49


quote:

Originally posted by rudy

 

I got a big  grin out of the recent descriptive term "rattle."  To my mind, rattle wouldn't be a term that I would use in a good way to describe banjo tone. 







I opened that thread to help figure out what the rattle was, since mine had a rattle when the truss rod was loose and sounded terrible....I sure dont want a rattle in my banjo...



 



Mark


dickinnorwich - Posted - 05/30/2013:  07:55:01


quote:

Originally posted by Fathand

 

Someone told me my banjo had a good CRACK to it? Does that mean the same as GROWL?




I think RATTLE is when your neck or other piece of hardware is loose.







We used to use the phrase "Snap, Crackle and Pop" in deference to the Rice Krispy ads. For me, crack is less growl and more sparkle. But it's a good question because crack also gets at decay, another "technical" term.



Darn. I just got some more tar on my pants. My wife is going to be really *&^%$ed at me.


Baltimonkey - Posted - 05/30/2013:  08:03:28


Dry - associated with the elusive "pre war" tone.  To me this indicates a good balance of high and low tones with good note separation.



Warm - this means a "woody" tone, but not dull.  The opposite tone of warm would be overly bight bright, harsh or metallic.



Round/Full -  Round or full tone can be achieved by playing close to the neck while picking.



 


shannonhearne - Posted - 05/30/2013:  08:03:44


John,

I believe your idea has a lot of "traction".

Good work!

-Shannon

Baltimonkey - Posted - 05/30/2013:  08:08:55


Sweet Spot -  The a spot close to the bridge where the banjo reaches if full potential.  There will be some variance from banjo to banjo on where to pick with the right hand to get the most tone from a banjo.



Touch - refers to how hard of soft the strings a plucked, with melody notes (or other notes of emphasis) are plucked with a harder attack than the background rolls. 


Baltimonkey - Posted - 05/30/2013:  08:13:17


Dark - generally means something with a lot to bass or low tones.



 


Laurence Diehl - Posted - 05/30/2013:  08:27:22


quote:

Originally posted by hartley

 

POP !  whenyou play above the twelth fret







I have never understood what 'pop' is. Anything similar to a cork coming our of a champagne bottle?


Jim Britton - Posted - 05/30/2013:  08:55:07


"Thuddy": Pretty much a negative term? Not sure how to describe. Opposite of "Crack"?


davidppp - Posted - 05/30/2013:  09:06:56


Clang: It's not a term I've heard anyone else use nor a phenomenon commented on, but it's something I hear from some of the pro's, and I love it.  It's a tone that can come with an off-beat note in a bluegrass roll on the first string.  So, as a note, it's a high D drone when playing in G.  And the "clang" comes, as best I can reproduce it, from a vigorous pick in a position intermediate between "A" and "B".  I think it sounds like a steel hammer coming down hard on a cold steel chisel.  You'll hear it a lot from J.D. Crowe.



Of course, any chicken worth its salt knows how to "Cluck."



Edited by - davidppp on 05/30/2013 09:08:20

rudy - Posted - 05/30/2013:  09:23:00


quote:

Originally posted by Laurence Diehl

 
quote:


Originally posted by hartley

 


POP !  whenyou play above the twelth fret






I have never understood what 'pop' is. Anything similar to a cork coming our of a champagne bottle?






POP:



The sound a banjo makes when you tighten the head too much.


rudy - Posted - 05/30/2013:  09:32:33


quote:

Originally posted by RedStar

 
quote:


Originally posted by rudy

 


I got a big  grin out of the recent descriptive term "rattle."  To my mind, rattle wouldn't be a term that I would use in a good way to describe banjo tone. 






I opened that thread to help figure out what the rattle was, since mine had a rattle when the truss rod was loose and sounded terrible....I sure dont want a rattle in my banjo...



Mark






Hi Mark.



No, not your topic.  This just serves to demonstrate the subjectivity of terms.  One person's loose hardware question is another person's "great sounding tubaphone".



banjohangout.org/topic/263637/#3333286



 


banjerman - Posted - 05/30/2013:  09:37:54


1. Muddy: the sound of a 4th string submerged in mud while being plucked.



2. Bright: Is to the ears as intense light is to the retina.



3. Hoss: BIG sound and every note is perfection and balance.



4. POS: Makes sounds not associated with banjos or any other instrument.



5. Rude: As in when Earnest T bass said "I got a rude".


Dan Drabek - Posted - 05/30/2013:  10:13:42


Ring and snap.



DD


RockyLane - Posted - 05/30/2013:  10:38:26


I would describe Mine as Dry Crack , Clear , Decay !

bublnsqueak - Posted - 05/30/2013:  11:50:41


quote:

Originally posted by Ken LeVan

 

plunky and plinky, which are almost opposites







I once proposed a continuum that started at 'plink' moved through 'plunk' and ended somewhere around 'plonk'



Got called a 'plonker' for my trouble.



(Plonker = non complimentary English term)



Paul


nakigreengrass - Posted - 05/30/2013:  13:03:53


quote:


Originally posted by Baltimonkey

 

Dark - generally means something with a lot to bass or low tones.



 






Great idea John, it could save a lot of arguments,   ( thats after all the arguing about meanings, of course)



 Dark......additional meanings.......antonym of bright.......deep and rich, mournful atmosphere. subdued.



 



Edited by - nakigreengrass on 05/30/2013 13:09:04

country frank - Posted - 05/30/2013:  14:20:52


John, great thread



I submit ; Rattle.



A bluegrass term for rattling the pants off your band members [and audience] with a killer bluegrass tone derived from a really well set up, good quality,hard driven instrument.



Edited by - country frank on 05/30/2013 14:21:51

SoundsGoodToMe - Posted - 05/30/2013:  16:20:59


Tubby:  round, woody, and warm, definitely not sparkly or plinky, more like plunky.  Usually positive in an old-time setting, sometimes negative in a bluegrass setting.



Edited by - SoundsGoodToMe on 05/30/2013 16:21:30

Banjophobic - Posted - 05/30/2013:  17:35:53


Good terms-keep them coming.smiley


Bart Veerman - Posted - 05/31/2013:  08:36:02


Here's a few that come to mind:



twang - a nasty sitar kind of sound when the string slot in the bridge, or nut, is damaged, worn out, or incorrectly done (typical of V shaped slots)



plunk - typical sound of a neutered clawhammer banjo: sponges, tee shirts etc stuffed under the head, low head tension, fyberskin heads



mellow - clear & sweet tone, easy on the treble



nasal - BG banjos that seem somewhat stifled on clarity although distinct sounding. Typical of Don Reno's earlier recordings



harsh - kinda like when the recording level is too high producing an unpleasant, almost distorted sound



muddy - volume might be ok but no clarity in the sound, typical of came-with-the-banjo bridges



presence - a well defined & clear tone usually due to the player's technique(s)



added: choked - way too much head tension that removes bass



Edited by - Bart Veerman on 05/31/2013 08:37:45

banjoy - Posted - 05/31/2013:  08:42:40


Here's something I came up with a while back, in theory, it should be worth a goldmine smiley




My new invention

   

ZEPP - Posted - 05/31/2013:  08:54:37


All of which brings to mind this paraphrasing of a variously attributed quote:  



"Talking about tone is like dancing about architecture." 



smiley



* Thanks to Marc Miller for this.



Cheers,

ZEPP



Edited by - ZEPP on 05/31/2013 08:55:42

flatthead - Posted - 05/31/2013:  09:16:26


Knock, Splat, Spank, Dry, Wet, Loose, Sizzle, Tubby, Tight, Airy, Clank, Mercury Earl, Columbia Earl....June, 1953 radio show  Earl, Carnegie Hall Earl....smiley



Edited by - flatthead on 05/31/2013 09:17:24

jswkingsfield - Posted - 05/31/2013:  09:21:51


Cannon



"Peels paint"/"Peels wallpaper"  (not sure there's a difference here, just depends on what you have in your house?)


Hotrodtruck - Posted - 05/31/2013:  10:14:39


Pop:  Quick decay of the note.



Growl: (example) Sliding on 4th string from 2nd fret to 5th fret without losing much volume or clarity.



Dry: Same as pop, with less overtones.



Dark: Loose head, heavy strings.



Bright: Tight head, light strings.



Rattle: ???



Sparkle: Same as bright, with less decay.



Sweet: Harmonious blend of fundamental note with complementary overtones when playing up the neck. (good combination of head tightness and string gauge), playing farther away from the bridge.



Muddy: No clear fundamental note, combined with clash of overtones.



Tubby: Combination of Dark and Muddy, but louder.



Tinny: Same as Bright but with no complementary overtones.



Harsh: Same as tinny, but louder.



Woody: Almost Tubby but with a more prominent fundamental note.



Mike


Banjophobic - Posted - 05/31/2013:  12:04:31


Great stuff folks. Now, to condense this into a master listing...working on it...


desmac - Posted - 05/31/2013:  12:09:29


When I was talking to Mark Bramell trying to describe the tone I wanted, I said Dark Bark - he knew exactly what I meant (rich tone with not too much sustain).



Desmond


banjoy - Posted - 05/31/2013:  12:16:47


Here's some inspiration for ya John, a list of descriptions for fine wine. I think there is some overlap there.



Fine Wine Glossary



Remember, those fancy folk sippin' fancy wines sip a little, slosh it around in their mouths, then spit it into a spittoon. Then they have all these fancy words to describe the experience. Now that's high class stuff right there.



Yep, lots and lots of overlap clown


eMike - Posted - 05/31/2013:  12:59:29


Monster tone - A combination of some/many of the positive attributes of tone described above, with none of the negatives.  Also depends on who is bragging on the particular banjo being described.  Difficult to put into words but you know it when you hear it.  May be associated with responsiveness and volume.


ZEPP - Posted - 05/31/2013:  13:09:13


quote:

Originally posted by banjoy

 

Here's some inspiration for ya John, a list of descriptions for fine wine. I think there is some overlap there.




Fine Wine Glossary







Of course, this blog has some interesting things to say about those wine terms. wink



Cheers,

ZEPP


Helix - Posted - 05/31/2013:  13:21:57


PICKLERS: people that are grumpy

SPANK: Like ten greyhounds coming around the corner.

FOUR FLAT TIRES ON A MUDDY ROAD: SPANKIN' PICKLERS



   

ejimb0 - Posted - 05/31/2013:  18:38:00


I have thought about this subject for several years.



How could you create ...using common words ...a description of a sound made by any banjo.



Here is where I am with this project:



Three qualities  Ding, Whap, and Ploink.  Every banjo has some of each. If we can use Earl Scruggs' banjo at the 1963 Live at Carnegie Hall album as perfect center... Then every other banjo can be described ....using these words, as too much of one, or not enough of another.



'Ding' in the extreme, ...is a too tight head on a bottle cap banjo. DING DING,,



'Whap'  is the loose skin head on a frailing banjo sound.



'Ploink' Is the note rushing in a little late.. then quickly decays thing, ...like the sound of a rock falling into still water, or a drip landing into a puddle. (It seems to me this ploink sound is the one that is hardest to manufacture, coming from tone rings, resonators, and perfect set-up, ..and of course mojo)



Thanks for listening.


banjoman56 - Posted - 05/31/2013:  18:40:08


quote:Of course it has traction....we're in a tar pit! big

Originally posted by shannonhearne

 

John,



I believe your idea has a lot of "traction".



Good work!



-Shannon







 


gospelman97 - Posted - 05/31/2013:  19:00:49


I am always amazed at the words used to describe a banjos sound. I can throw some out but it's hard to define the word using more words. Here's one that I like. 



 



 Pong- the sound the banjo makes when you do a 2-5 slide on the 4th string when it's setup properly. You don't want it to plink or plunk!


Kurt Kemp - Posted - 06/01/2013:  06:56:13


Choked  = a tight, restricted sound and feel. Stifled. Little volume, closed in, not open. No response.



Cut = banjo has ability t be heard in all jam circumstances. Slices through the mud and stands out.



"it" = as in, that banjo has got it. Term is used a lot. "It" refers to a banjo that has solid Scruggs tone, great volume, response, cut, crack, rattle...all those terms we use for desirable banjo mojo. I have heard Jim mills use it to describe Eric weissberg's "deliverance" banjo.



 


Kurt Kemp - Posted - 06/01/2013:  07:05:29


I think we need to stick to the definitions too, not how we think they got there. Like why a banjo might be hollow or choked. Describe the sound, not that we think the head is too tight.



however, John, after the description of the actual sound there could be a short list of things to check for.



 


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