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 Playing Advice: 4-String (Jazz, Blues & Other Trad Styles)
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Resonator necessary for Dixieland band?

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:

dmcclure - Posted - 08/20/2018:  00:38:15

Hi. I've recently started to play my tenor banjo (CGDA) in a Dixieland band. Now I'm planning to buy a better-quality instrument, I was wondering:

Should I consider any banjo without a resonator? Or is the extra volume absolutely necessary when playing "against" four horns and a drum set?


Edited by - dmcclure on 08/20/2018 00:40:51

mike gregory - Posted - 08/20/2018:  02:27:24

My guess is:

Get one with a resonator.

But, I only played one gig with a Dixieland band.

With over 109,000 OutHangers, there are probably several Dixieland players who can tell you of their Real World expeience.

pasdimo - Posted - 08/20/2018:  06:05:26

With resonator, definitely

Omeboy - Posted - 08/20/2018:  07:48:27

If your banjo has no resonator, you'll need to lug around and amp and a microphone or you'll never be heard.

deestexas - Posted - 08/20/2018:  07:52:12


jlmyers - Posted - 08/20/2018:  08:00:07

Hi Doug! Welcome. You need a resonator in that setting for sure, otherwise your clothing will eat up some of your volume.  After all, you are playing with trumpet, trombone & tuba...powerful brass! I would further recommend shopping for a tone ring equipped instrument like a Vega Vegaphone, B&D Silver Bell, etc. My personal preference would be a prewar banjo. I feel the quality of workmanship is incomparable, and they are surprisingly affordable compared to new ones. Enjoy shopping!

Originally posted by dmcclure

Hi. I've recently started to play my tenor banjo (CGDA) in a Dixieland band. Now I'm planning to buy a better-quality instrument, I was wondering:

Should I consider any banjo without a resonator? Or is the extra volume absolutely necessary when playing "against" four horns and a drum set?



Omeboy - Posted - 08/20/2018:  08:04:41

Jim is so right. You've got to have the good tone ring in combination with the resonator. A banjo without either is not suited for Dixieland.

Edited by - Omeboy on 08/20/2018 08:05:12

raybob - Posted - 08/20/2018:  08:58:28

I played in a Dixieland band with a 19 fret Vega tubaphone (Vegaphone Professional #39400 from the early '20's, I think) that came without a resonator. I used a little Fishman acoustic amp to get the volume up to where the horns were. Later on I bought an after-market resonator here on BHO that attaches to the dowel stick. It fits pretty well, but I never got into using it. Probably was too used to the size of the instrument without it. Kept on playing it without it.

I still have this banjo and would consider selling it with the resonator. I'm in northern CA about 2.5 hrs from Roseburg, OR.

raybob - Posted - 08/20/2018:  09:21:59

Correction to above post: Serial number is 89400 which puts it in the late '20's.

dupreejan - Posted - 08/20/2018:  16:55:02

It's because of Dixieland that resonators were invented.

Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 08/21/2018:  00:16:59

Doug - this Lady beats them all - an ultra-professional jazz tenor - a 1977 Rosewood OME Juggernaut in near mint condition - optimized by yours truly - €2,750 inclusive of shipment to Spain:



haildixon - Posted - 08/22/2018:  01:30:36

mic'd? doesn't matter. totally acoustic, depends on tone ring. You can have a crap banjo with a resonator and a good banjo with a nice tone ring and no resonator can be louder. also depends on your setup... using a tailpiece with plenty of downforce behind the bridge? using a modern 5/8ths(ish) bridge or an unmodified vintage/lower bridge? higher bridge with a tailpiece with plenty of downforce, plus a head that's suited for volume (renaissance or weatherking?). all things being equal the resonator will be louder, but if a good deal came up on a nice banjo without one, it shouldn't be a dealbreaker. I regularly play unamplified in some of New Orleans' loudest clubs and my setup is about as loud as you can get my banjo (vega style x no 9 w/resonator), but I have also heard freaky loud open-back banjos which have included a few OME's, and Paramounts, that were louder than mine.

there's just more variables at play than resonator or no resonator. I'd worry less about volume and more about finding an instrument that you feel like suits you. once you step up to professional instruments, whether a well-setup vintage one or a new one, how much you enjoy playing it makes way more of a difference than how loud it is. You can also look at instruments like mine, which have resonators with flange or flangeplates that can be removed and played easily with or without.

Veerstryngh Thynner - Posted - 08/23/2018:  11:18:36

I played with many Trad bands, since about 1977. If you play acoustically, I, too, am certainly advising a resonator. But I also agree totally with haildixon, above, that your first priority should be searching for the instrument that "fits" you like a glove.

When on the quest for mine, I played a gold-plated instrument that was  to cost 10,000 - but utterly crap. I also tested banjos under 100 that pleasantly surprised me. And like me, you may hit the jackpot in the most unexpected of ways. But only you can tell that moment has arrived.

Good luck.

Veerstryngh Thynner 

Edited by - Veerstryngh Thynner on 08/23/2018 11:24:32

CGDA - Posted - 08/24/2018:  01:36:09

That band is the mother of all dixieland jazz bands w/a banjo. Bill Johnson was  playing a Vega #9 deluxe with no reso. It seems to me a perfect example of the correct banjo volume in a jazz band.


G Edward Porgie - Posted - 08/24/2018:  12:07:36

I have to agree with Halidixon and Marco Levi. Find a banjo you like; a resonator may be helpful, but an open-back can certainly work. Photos of some of the early jazz bands should prove this.

I've found that a resonator doesn't always increase the volume, but is more a device that focuses the sound forward a little more. I've even owned a couple of banjos where the resonator actually seemed to decrease the volume slightly.

Edited by - G Edward Porgie on 08/24/2018 12:12:30

banjovictor - Posted - 09/18/2018:  23:19:50

No, not necessary, if you prefer that sound.

The resonator will significantly color the sound, the timbre. The same banjo will sound different without a resonator, with a Gibson style resonator, a B&D resonator and a Vox style resonator. There are no rules, only preferences.

Edited by - banjovictor on 09/18/2018 23:23:14

malarz - Posted - 09/19/2018:  09:14:58

This discussion has me thinking about tone rings. i like the sound of an openback banjo and am wondering how and how much a tone ting will modify and/or amplify the sound. Also, of the currently available tone rings (those still being manufactured) are there any that you folks recommend and any that should be avoided?





Emiel - Posted - 09/20/2018:  04:23:01

I see Eddy Davis always playing an openback with Woody Allen and the band:

GVDB - Posted - 09/20/2018:  12:12:16

Halidixon is always a voice of experience and reason!

I use resonators on my banjos in my band. Plectrums almost always come with resonators, so that has never been much of a thought for me.

I set my banjos up for playability first, then volume.

Helix - Posted - 09/22/2018:  05:43:47

At the turn of the century,all the banjo makers were looking for something, thus the lack of standard tone rings.

You don't need a resonator, you need to push sound forward away from the banjo.

These spoons are a great alternative, I'm sure they have some where you live. I ain't hawking anything. Just make a turbine inside your banjo. They only weigh 11 oz. a nice boon 3 hrs. later. Let's say a guy from England grabbed my banjo in the middle of a solo. Urban myth, we all just fell down, it was the funniest thing to happen at this bluegrass jam forever, what a hoot. It's better to have fun.

Please note the bent handles on the 8 spoons, delightful, it gives now 16 reflective surfaces.  Some refraction also occurs, tone. 

Edited by - Helix on 09/22/2018 05:46:44

haildixon - Posted - 09/25/2018:  19:13:56

Helix and all, several banjo players have done similar using small cymbals. Lawrence Marrero was known for a small cymbal inside his banjo... though he also had a resonator. I used a similar setup for a while and while it does add a bit of ring to the tone, I didn't find it did a lot for volume. Looked cool though! I like the spoon idea a lot.

Helix - Posted - 11/14/2018:  15:11:52

No problem, I'm not offended. It took them 5 weeks at the bluegrass jam to see I wasn't using a resonator. I have one helix league member who uses spoons and a magnetic resonator mount. There are sound bytes of it on the helix users' group page, AND it's a bamboo Jackrabbit.

A cymbal is a nice idea. One guy on the hangout opened up his resonator to find a piece of muffler pipe around the rim rods.

Mine use two slapshots, one off the cup of one spoon to the back of the next spoon. Both sides of the spoon are working at the same time. You are free to move about, spoons are available to anyone who wants to do it. Both the Sterling Silver and gold plate give a great "DING" when you toss them and hit with a stick.

Edited by - Helix on 11/14/2018 15:12:23


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