I'm sorry to beat a dead... 1st - will someone comment on head types: clear = brighter, frosted = ?, renaissance = ?... 2nd - how about tailpiece adjustment? Lower = brighter? But can also contribute to buzz? Hows mine look? Masterclone, heavy tone ring so can loose a little tightness I guess. Thanks in advance. If you wanna know why the questions I'm rekindling at the ripe young age of 59... was almost able to vamp at jams before then 5 yr break... back to square 1... getting back into it...
I'm not sure about the 1st one, but for the second question i'd say that your tailpeice should just be tight enough to hold down the bridge. tighening your tailpiece lowers the action, and if you tighten it too much it could make your banjo buzz. Also, it says in the Earl Scruggs and the five string banjo book Earl says "if the tailpiece is too high and if you pick hard the bridge will slip, and if the tailpiece is too low it will mute the tone of the banjo." then he goes on to say his theory is to only have enough tension to hold the bridge firmly in place.
Tail looks good to me. But it is kinda hard to say from a photo. This is highly subjective stuff ............... As for the head,,,,, I like them all. It's just a matter of what sound you personally want. I like the look of the frosted ones, but then they get a wear hole in them...been thinking of painting mine Zebra stripe !!
I have an old Alvarez B1 . I notice that it is louder than a lot of other banjo's that I hear. and everyone tells me it sounds great. Plus, I didn't have to pay a fortune for it.
There is a sweet spot when all the factors of a set-up come together. You have to gain enough experience to know when that spot is achieved to your liking.
I have used clear Remo and 5-Star heads. They sound harsh to me.
I have used top-frosted, bottom-frosted, white mylar, cloudy mylar, Fiberskyn, double-coated(a la Snuffy). I think the Fiberskyn and Ren heads take some overtones out.
I tend to use Remo heads or AMB pre-epa heads. They are consistent, predictable and available.
Tailpiece angle is a personal preference. Closer to the head means more down-pressure and a "tighter" sound. I think the tailpiece needs to have a little pressure but each banjo is different. It depends on the bridge, head tension, string gauge, scale length and tailpiece type. I am using 2-hump Pruchas and ABM Tensionators. I don't especially like Prestos and I can't remember if I have one on a banjo right now or not.
I sure don't claim to know everything, but I have worked on banjos for a little while.
I saw this comment above "tightening your tailpiece lowers the action, and if you tighten it too much it could make your banjo buzz."
If tightening the tailpiece lowers your action enough to cause buzz I think the head must be way too loose.
I build banjos designed specifically for clawhammer players, and I realize the rules may be different for bluegrass pickers.
I like a Kersher style tailpiece setup with about 1/4" or so, sometime a little less, never more, above the tension hoop, and cranked down pretty tight. I prefer the Remo Renaissance heads, or the Stewmac branded equivalent "Amber Elite" on most of my banjos, and when I can get them I like the older style Remo heads that were white but not frosted which sound really good on my old Langstyle 11 1/2" rimmed banjo.
I like the head to be tightened to the point Grandpa Jones would have been happy with it. In his book he said "Tighten the head until it breaks, then back off a 1/4 turn".
The sound I want out of my banjos is a good range of response, deep bass without sacrifice on the other end. I want fairly crisp decay.
I want my banjos to have a sweet tone when played lightly, and still have enough punch to drive the rhythm when needed.
I think the worst sounding heads ever made are those too thick Fyberskin heads.