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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Love My Banjo, Just Not the Sound


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/380433

JimmyBobby - Posted - 01/10/2022:  06:10:09


Howdy All,
I play a banjo that my friend built so it has a lot of sentimental value. I had it set up last year by Warren Yates and it plays great. I'm not sold on the sound of my banjo and it struggles to cut through in a jam. It has a walnut neck and resonator and the tone ring and parts are Stew Mac. I'm not sure on the rim. I must confess that I know zilch when it comes to set up and the likes. Would switching the rim and tone ring be a good idea to tinker with the sound or am I best to leave it alone. I've replaced the bridge to a Timeless timber. Advice on what I can do to add some volume and punch would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Jim Bob

Silver_Falls - Posted - 01/10/2022:  06:40:20


First thing, are there some banjos out there you know you *do* like? What kind of sound/tone are you going for?

The more you can identify what it is you want to end up with, the more folks here will be able to help, and better the chance you'll have in getting there.

Owen - Posted - 01/10/2022:  06:44:22


If something like this youtube.com/watch?v=b9XAC-BvUyo isn't available for banjos, you could probably find a "sound guy" that could fix you up.  cheeky

mrphysics55 - Posted - 01/10/2022:  06:46:21


You may try tightening the head to see if things “improve”.

Mad Hornet - Posted - 01/10/2022:  06:57:06


Have you recorded yourself? I have found that my playing sounds differently to the people around me opposed to where my ears are in relation to the banjo. Just a thought.

BobbyE - Posted - 01/10/2022:  07:33:42


>>and it struggles to cut through in a jam.<<

One of the shortcomings of a forum like this is what the reader doesn't know can be more than what he or she does. Is the quote above your opinion or are the others in your jam also saying this? Most agree that what you hear from your banjo may not be what others are hearing. You are behind and somewhat above your banjo so being sure of what it is projecting might not be so evident. If it is not cutting through, could it be technique on your part and not so much the banjo? Is there another picker in your jam who could play your banjo and you listen to what that person gets out of it? The best way to solve issue like this is to eliminate one possibility after the other until you are pretty convinced what is going on. Very hard to know what will be the result of parts swapping on a banjo. Good luck in your quest.

Bobby

Bobby

roydsjr - Posted - 01/10/2022:  09:05:17


Bobby made a very good point. Some pickers play harder than others and that in itself means a lot. I pick quite hard and I've been around others players that pick softer than me. I've picked on their instruments and was surprised at how good their banjo sounded because they did not play as hard as I do. They have a good banjo, but they just are not bringing it out of the instrument. It also isn't all in picking hard but their technique too!

beegee - Posted - 01/10/2022:  09:14:05


It would behoove you to carry it to a knowledgeable banjo mechanic and have a complete set-up done. Once you are sure you have maximized the set-up and it still fails to perform to your satisfaction, park it and buy something you like.

banjoy - Posted - 01/10/2022:  09:56:07


Swapping out a tone ring and wood rim is a *very* expensive way to tinker. There's tons of tinkering to be done before you ever get there, that's taking a nuclear weapon to an anthill in my opinion.

Part of the fun for many folks is tinkering (I'm not one of them but I definitely get it). So have some fun tinkering, I believe there are plenty of video materials out there that may help guide you. If you do have access to a banjo technician (as mentioned above) then by all means include them in the loop, and if that person nails what you're wanting to hear, have them explain to you what was done and why. That stuff can be tons of fun and gives you plenty of learning moments, may as well roll that all into the banjo journey too.

hbick2 - Posted - 01/10/2022:  13:44:46


If you don't know much about setup, changing the rim and tone ring would still leave you not knowing much about setup. Why don't you take it back to Warren and describe to him how you would like it to sound. Maybe he can give you some tips. Play it for him and maybe he can tell you if you need to adjust your playing technique. Let him play it for you and see how it sounds. Play some of his banjos and see how they sound. There are so many variables here it's hard to decide where to start, but changing out the rim and tone ring would be the last step in the process, not the first.

jdeluke137 - Posted - 01/10/2022:  15:28:33


Bridges are fairly cheap. I have a TB3 conversion that sounded choked in comparison to my other banjos. They all had Huber bridges with basically the same setup. I swapped bridges and it came alive. Get two or three other bridges and try them. It might make all the difference. Sullivan has nice bridges that are only $10. Sometimes people sell “bridge bundles” in the classifieds that would give you several to try. And I’m sure you’ll get some other bridge suggestions.

sullivanbanjo.com/products/ame...jo-bridge

dbrooks - Posted - 01/10/2022:  16:07:14


hbick2 offers sound advice. I'm not a setup guy, so I didn't want to make a suggestion, but Harry nailed my thoughts exactly. If you have access to Warren Yates, who has a wealth of experience with setting up banjos, why wouldn't you ask him for help? He can help you more than you can help yourself.

David

From Greylock to Bean Blossom - Posted - 01/10/2022:  17:43:41


I had a banjo that was beautiful. The neck played great. BUT I never liked the tone. I would play and it got more irritating the more I played. It was harsh. Each time I put the banjo down I was dissatisfied. Putting a new rim in for $600 was suggested but what if I did that and still was ill at ease with the banjo. I sold the banjo and for about $600 more got a Hatfield. I made sure I played the Hatfield before I bought it. I always enjoy the tone of my banjo. I am not saying Hatfield is the only way to go. Jim Britton has some great sounding banjos for sale. One was $1,400 and the other was $1,600. It is all about tone and playability.

Listen to these:



banjohangout.org/classified/91034



banjohangout.org/topic/378847/#4843708



Don't settle. This is banjo not marriage.winklaugh



Good luck.



ken

hbick2 - Posted - 01/10/2022:  19:29:48


One last piece of advice before you take it somewhere. Push down on the head with your thumbs. If it doesn't depress at all, or just a little bit, loosen the head. One of the most common mistakes people make is to keep tightening the head to try to make it sound better.

In the past several years I've had at least three banjos brought to me because their owners hated how they sounded. When I played them I agreed. All of them had plastic heads that had been tightened so much they were ready to burst. All I did was loosen the heads a little and they sounded fine. All three of them walked away very happy.

Bart Veerman - Posted - 01/10/2022:  20:17:50


If the banjo was new when you got it and it was set up only once a year later then it's a safe bet the head tension is too loose. Heads are made of a flexible and stretchable medium, they usually take 5~6 times to re-tension them before they're done stretching. When they're too loose banjos sound muddy/muffled and cannot cut through at jams.

Consider borrowing/buying a Drum Dial, they remove all the mysteries of properly tightening heads. There's plenty advice here on the Hangout on how to use them and target tensions for you to shoot for to get your banjo to sound right.

jan dupree - Posted - 01/10/2022:  20:22:52


quote:

Originally posted by hbick2

One last piece of advice before you take it somewhere. Push down on the head with your thumbs. If it doesn't depress at all, or just a little bit, loosen the head. One of the most common mistakes people make is to keep tightening the head to try to make it sound better.



In the past several years I've had at least three banjos brought to me because their owners hated how they sounded. When I played them I agreed. All of them had plastic heads that had been tightened so much they were ready to burst. All I did was loosen the heads a little and they sounded fine. All three of them walked away very happy.






The tone created from extra loose heads today is becoming the preferred sound in banjos today. F-F# among progressive Players is common. No Professionals today are cranking down their heads to G# and even tighter, like in the past, any more than they are using thin bridges and tuning their light gauge strings to open G#. 

jan dupree - Posted - 01/10/2022:  20:26:22


quote:

Originally posted by JimmyBobby

Howdy All,

I play a banjo that my friend built so it has a lot of sentimental value. I had it set up last year by Warren Yates and it plays great. I'm not sold on the sound of my banjo and it struggles to cut through in a jam. It has a walnut neck and resonator and the tone ring and parts are Stew Mac. I'm not sure on the rim. I must confess that I know zilch when it comes to set up and the likes. Would switching the rim and tone ring be a good idea to tinker with the sound or am I best to leave it alone. I've replaced the bridge to a Timeless timber. Advice on what I can do to add some volume and punch would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Jim Bob






 

jan dupree - Posted - 01/10/2022:  20:36:00


Go to a higher bridge, if you have a 5/8ths bridge go to a .656 even 11/16ths. Loosen the head to a G or F#, and adjust the coordinator rod to bring down the action. Should'nt be a problem if you already have low action. The looser head combined with a slight coordinator rod adjustment should bring it down to where you want it. Also make sure the tailpiece is tightened down. Higher bridge and looser head will give you more volume. A Luthier could do this for you for about $30 if you are not comfortable doing it yourself. Bridges are $25-$30. If it can't take the 11/16ths bridge the heel can be cut to accomodate it, about $65-$75 to have a Luthier do that. Extra low action action and tight heads can lower volume, also use medium-heavy gauge strings for more volume.


Edited by - jan dupree on 01/10/2022 20:44:34

latigo1 - Posted - 01/10/2022:  21:49:50


quote:

Originally posted by jan dupree

quote:

Originally posted by hbick2

One last piece of advice before you take it somewhere. Push down on the head with your thumbs. If it doesn't depress at all, or just a little bit, loosen the head. One of the most common mistakes people make is to keep tightening the head to try to make it sound better.



In the past several years I've had at least three banjos brought to me because their owners hated how they sounded. When I played them I agreed. All of them had plastic heads that had been tightened so much they were ready to burst. All I did was loosen the heads a little and they sounded fine. All three of them walked away very happy.






The tone created from extra loose heads today is becoming the preferred sound in banjos today. F-F# among progressive Players is common. No Professionals today are cranking down their heads to G# and even tighter, like in the past, any more than they are using thin bridges and tuning their light gauge strings to open G#. 






Preferred by whom.  I know you prefer that sound, but it is not preferred by any of the banjo players I am familiar with.

Texasbanjo - Posted - 01/11/2022:  04:41:30


quote:

Originally posted by jan dupree

quote:

Originally posted by hbick2

One last piece of advice before you take it somewhere. Push down on the head with your thumbs. If it doesn't depress at all, or just a little bit, loosen the head. One of the most common mistakes people make is to keep tightening the head to try to make it sound better.



In the past several years I've had at least three banjos brought to me because their owners hated how they sounded. When I played them I agreed. All of them had plastic heads that had been tightened so much they were ready to burst. All I did was loosen the heads a little and they sounded fine. All three of them walked away very happy.






The tone created from extra loose heads today is becoming the preferred sound in banjos today. F-F# among progressive Players is common. No Professionals today are cranking down their heads to G# and even tighter, like in the past, any more than they are using thin bridges and tuning their light gauge strings to open G#. 






I don't think you can truthfully say that " NO professionals." .... I think you might want to say "some professionals" or "many professionals".    

jan dupree - Posted - 01/11/2022:  09:05:32


quote:

Originally posted by latigo1

quote:

Originally posted by jan dupree

quote:

Originally posted by hbick2

One last piece of advice before you take it somewhere. Push down on the head with your thumbs. If it doesn't depress at all, or just a little bit, loosen the head. One of the most common mistakes people make is to keep tightening the head to try to make it sound better.



In the past several years I've had at least three banjos brought to me because their owners hated how they sounded. When I played them I agreed. All of them had plastic heads that had been tightened so much they were ready to burst. All I did was loosen the heads a little and they sounded fine. All three of them walked away very happy.






The tone created from extra loose heads today is becoming the preferred sound in banjos today. F-F# among progressive Players is common. No Professionals today are cranking down their heads to G# and even tighter, like in the past, any more than they are using thin bridges and tuning their light gauge strings to open G#. 






Preferred by whom.  I know you prefer that sound, but it is not preferred by any of the banjo players I am familiar with.






Cavanaugh, Corbett, Fleck, Pikelny, Furtado are 5 that come to mind. They play at F#.

jan dupree - Posted - 01/11/2022:  09:18:14


quote:

Originally posted by Texasbanjo

quote:

Originally posted by jan dupree

quote:

Originally posted by hbick2

One last piece of advice before you take it somewhere. Push down on the head with your thumbs. If it doesn't depress at all, or just a little bit, loosen the head. One of the most common mistakes people make is to keep tightening the head to try to make it sound better.



In the past several years I've had at least three banjos brought to me because their owners hated how they sounded. When I played them I agreed. All of them had plastic heads that had been tightened so much they were ready to burst. All I did was loosen the heads a little and they sounded fine. All three of them walked away very happy.






The tone created from extra loose heads today is becoming the preferred sound in banjos today. F-F# among progressive Players is common. No Professionals today are cranking down their heads to G# and even tighter, like in the past, any more than they are using thin bridges and tuning their light gauge strings to open G#. 






I don't think you can truthfully say that " NO professionals." .... I think you might want to say "some professionals" or "many professionals".    






Yeah, many Traditional straight up Scruggs Players are still at G#, except one I personally have been told, who is well known on this sight, who told me he has backed off on head tension. I don't want to  name him without his permission. Players should'nt think their heads have to be cranked down to just under bursting tension because Stanley and Scruggs might have said it, and then wonder why they don't have the tone they want. Tastes in tone has changed in the last 30 years. Plus all banjos are not the same.

ChunoTheDog - Posted - 01/11/2022:  10:44:12


It's not complicated, let your ears guide you. Play around with the head tension...looser and tighter and in between.

Texasbanjo - Posted - 01/11/2022:  11:05:51


quote:

Originally posted by jan dupree

quote:

Originally posted by Texasbanjo

quote:

Originally posted by jan dupree

quote:

Originally posted by hbick2

One last piece of advice before you take it somewhere. Push down on the head with your thumbs. If it doesn't depress at all, or just a little bit, loosen the head. One of the most common mistakes people make is to keep tightening the head to try to make it sound better.



In the past several years I've had at least three banjos brought to me because their owners hated how they sounded. When I played them I agreed. All of them had plastic heads that had been tightened so much they were ready to burst. All I did was loosen the heads a little and they sounded fine. All three of them walked away very happy.






The tone created from extra loose heads today is becoming the preferred sound in banjos today. F-F# among progressive Players is common. No Professionals today are cranking down their heads to G# and even tighter, like in the past, any more than they are using thin bridges and tuning their light gauge strings to open G#. 






I don't think you can truthfully say that " NO professionals." .... I think you might want to say "some professionals" or "many professionals".    






Yeah, many Traditional straight up Scruggs Players are still at G#, except one I personally have been told, who is well known on this sight, who told me he has backed off on head tension. I don't want to  name him without his permission. Players should'nt think their heads have to be cranked down to just under bursting tension because Stanley and Scruggs might have said it, and then wonder why they don't have the tone they want. Tastes in tone has changed in the last 30 years. Plus all banjos are not the same.






It's one of those:  live and let live, to each his own type things.  It's a personal choice and not everyone thinks the same.  if people want to loosen their head tension and it sounds better, go for it.  If they like the sound of a tight head tension, that's okay, too.     But, not everyone is going for just one sound. 

mikehalloran - Posted - 01/11/2022:  13:22:44


I'm in the Take it back to Warren and tell him what you want; see if he can dial it in for you… camp. He'll have other banjos to play and can play yours back at you. If there's something hindering your technique, perhaps he can spot it.



I am not suggesting that this can't be fixed by throwing money at the problem. Far from it — but you want to know that the money will get you there first.

jan dupree - Posted - 01/11/2022:  16:13:13


Right. If you know up front you want a John Hartford sound, and you have an Earl Scruggs or Sonny Osborne set up, something will have to change.

jason999 - Posted - 01/11/2022:  18:55:58


quote:

Originally posted by JimmyBobby

Howdy All,

I play a banjo that my friend built so it has a lot of sentimental value. I had it set up last year by Warren Yates and it plays great. I'm not sold on the sound of my banjo and it struggles to cut through in a jam. It has a walnut neck and resonator and the tone ring and parts are Stew Mac. I'm not sure on the rim. I must confess that I know zilch when it comes to set up and the likes. Would switching the rim and tone ring be a good idea to tinker with the sound or am I best to leave it alone. I've replaced the bridge to a Timeless timber. Advice on what I can do to add some volume and punch would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Jim Bob






What kind of rim and tone ring are you considering?



My walnut banjo cuts great. 



A new ring might fit on your rim. I've traded out rings in the past with no rim modification.  



It's not like you have to throw away your old parts. It's really not a big deal to trade out parts and you can sell what you don't use. 

Dale Diehl - Posted - 01/14/2022:  11:30:19


Mad Hornet has a good point, although that can be painful if you have never heard yourself that way. Be prepared to be disappointed.
You may also try getting next to a wall or in a hallway to play. That's what others are hearing. A banjo is very directional. My wife, who is not a lover of banjo has said, "Aim that thing somewhere else"!, when it's pointing towards her.
Banjo players often forget that others don't love your banjo as much as you do.

Mad Hornet - Posted - 01/14/2022:  11:45:03


quote:

Originally posted by Dale Diehl

Mad Hornet has a good point, although that can be painful if you have never heard yourself that way. Be prepared to be disappointed.

You may also try getting next to a wall or in a hallway to play. That's what others are hearing. A banjo is very directional. My wife, who is not a lover of banjo has said, "Aim that thing somewhere else"!, when it's pointing towards her.

Banjo players often forget that others don't love your banjo as much as you do.






Dang!  I, like most musicians tend to be my own worst critic.  But when I record myself and play it back I usually think to myself "not as bad as I thought" LOL

Supertigre - Posted - 01/14/2022:  16:30:14


The four easiest and least expensive ways to change the sound of your banjo are;
fingers vs picks
head tension - discussed extensively above
strings - thicker / thinner / material - steel or phosphor bronze or nylgut or fluorocarbon?
bridge - some discussion


Guy YMMV

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