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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: heads


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/380857

DWFII - Posted - 01/28/2022:  06:25:54


Reading and watching videos here and on YT, I have to ask--



When people talk about a goatskin head, for instance, is it leather or is it rawhide? When I see replacement heads advertised, sometimes it is unclear whether it is rawhide or some form of leather (I am skeptical about that). 



I ran across a video that talked about how the banjo is essentially a drum with string combined. Drum heads were originally made from rawhide--untannded skins. Depending on thickness of the skin the rawhide could be very stiff, like the synthetic heads that are used to day. But if it's like any other application rawhide must be shaped and 'stretched' while it is wet. When it dries it will be taut. But rawhide will continue to shrink for its entire life.



What other kinds of skins are used beside goat? i suspect some are too thick (short of shaving the flesh) and some maybe too thin.

buckholler - Posted - 01/28/2022:  06:44:54


Its a hide head. Here is the JDBalch hide head website. It maybe able to explain it better than I can.

hidebanjoheads.com/

Scott

Zachary Hoyt - Posted - 01/28/2022:  07:15:17


All heads are rawhide, as I understand it, though some are treated with something to help slow down moisture change. Tanned leather is too stretchy, I have been told. Goat and calf are commonly used on standard size banjos. I have read that some mountain banjos with small heads at low tension may have used things like housecat, opossum or anything else, but that is a matter of folklore and may not be verifiable, I am not sure.

Half Barbaric Twanger - Posted - 01/28/2022:  08:04:01


Back in the day, knowledgeable (and frugal:) banjo players got their heads at Jack's Drum Shop in Park Square, Boston, back before Mylar heads were developed. Jack's had the contract for all the high school bands North of Boston. The schools trained the bass drummer to hit the head in the same place every time, so they all wore out in that spot, and the rest of the head was untouched. I heard that Jack's charged by the number of nuts loosened/tightened, because the material was free. They were bright white and smooth, (kind of like Remo top-frosted), not my image of rawhide. I am not certain about 21st century rawhide, but all the head's I've seen look like top-frosted, and I suspect some of them were cow- or goat-hide.

My two recycled heads are still sound (and sounding good:), but Jack's is no longer in Boston. So, I can vouch for the durability of the material.

DWFII - Posted - 01/28/2022:  08:28:11


quote:

Originally posted by Zachary Hoyt

All heads are rawhide, as I understand it, though some are treated with something to help slow down moisture change. Tanned leather is too stretchy, I have been told. Goat and calf are commonly used on standard size banjos. I have read that some mountain banjos with small heads at low tension may have used things like housecat, opossum or anything else, but that is a matter of folklore and may not be verifiable, I am not sure.






Thanks. Confirmed what I suspected. Also the post by Buckholler with the link clarified that hide heads are pre-stretched which make sense.



I don't know why hide heads seem to have fallen out of favour. I suspect it is just more work to stretch  the heads and that means they would cost more.

Zachary Hoyt - Posted - 01/28/2022:  08:39:20


They are more work to install, and they are more work to maintain, for the player, since the heads need to be tightened when the humidity goes up and loosened when it goes down. Some people feel the sound they get is worth some extra work, and others feel otherwise.

DWFII - Posted - 01/28/2022:  10:22:50


quote:

Originally posted by Zachary Hoyt

They are more work to install, and they are more work to maintain, for the player, since the heads need to be tightened when the humidity goes up and loosened when it goes down. Some people feel the sound they get is worth some extra work, and others feel otherwise.






Makes sense. I love rawhide in some circumstances. When my wife's spinning wheel cracked, I took a rawhide dog bone apart and wet it thoroughly and then wrapped the offending part and laced it up tight (with some deliberate gap between the edges). When it dried it was a better fix than using glue. And it keeps tightening.



Anyway...how similar  is the sound on a Fyberskin head to a goat or calfskin head?

Zachary Hoyt - Posted - 01/28/2022:  10:30:54


quote:

Originally posted by DWFII

quote:

Originally posted by Zachary Hoyt

They are more work to install, and they are more work to maintain, for the player, since the heads need to be tightened when the humidity goes up and loosened when it goes down. Some people feel the sound they get is worth some extra work, and others feel otherwise.






Makes sense. I love rawhide in some circumstances. When my wife's spinning wheel cracked, I took a rawhide dog bone apart and wet it thoroughly and then wrapped the offending part and laced it up tight (with some deliberate gap between the edges). When it dried it was a better fix than using glue. And it keeps tightening.



Anyway...how similar  is the sound on a Fyberskin head to a goat or calfskin head?






It's a good question, but the answer is unknowable.  It's like the question "how much is a fish like another fish?".  Different people hear and like or dislike different things in the same instrument and setup, and then there are so many other variables  that it's rather overwhelming to contemplate.  In my personal opinion the Fiberskyn is a bit dull sounding, especially up the neck, but many people like them.  Skin heads are highly variable because the thickness is not uniform from one skin to another, or even within one skin sometimes.  Then there is tension and moisture level and bridge and tailpiece types and string types and so on.  If you want to try for yourself a skin is not expensive, they can be had from places like Smakula Fretted Instruments, Elderly, etc.  They are a bit tedious to mount, but it's not impossibly hard to do.  You may find you like a skin head, or don't like it, but it will be a fun process if you like that kind of thing.  

mikehalloran - Posted - 01/28/2022:  12:08:11


>Anyway...how similar  is the sound on a Fyberskin head to a goat or calfskin head?<



Some of my Vegas have Fibreskyn while others have original Rogers heads from the '20s. They don't sound the same but it's entirely subjective if one is better than the other. 

Fathand - Posted - 01/28/2022:  13:18:53


I have a Fiberskyn head. I use it to catch sawdust to use as wood filler at a later date or to keep small parts when working on something.
I would certainly never use one on a banjo again. I have a mute when I want my banjo to sound dull.

DWFII - Posted - 01/28/2022:  15:51:17


Well, all other things being equal, which synthetuic head soundsmost like a well-tensioned skin head?

Dan Gellert - Posted - 01/28/2022:  16:10:32


quote:

Originally posted by DWFII

Well, all other things being equal, which synthetuic head soundsmost like a well-tensioned skin head?






Renaissance or maybe frosted.  Fiberskyn is just kind of dull IMO. 

Helix - Posted - 01/29/2022:  03:23:36


Rennaisance sounds the most like skin in my opinion.  (I volunteer at an acoustic music venue, one time a guy showed up with white latex house paint on the inside of his banjo head, quite the dampener, then run through a pa for a mixeable sound.) 



The Elites and Elite Ambers are what I chose about 12 years ago, just getting seated in.  Available through StewMac, but I think they do substitution when they don't have the Elite Ambers. 



I find Fiberskyns tighten up too fast, then there's too much fall off or decay. Think Attack/Sustain/Decay or Snap/Crackle and Pop.

Fiberskyns give high snap, low crackle and high pop, ok?



The Elite Amber is on the left, Elite and then Fiber. Both the Elites are Renaissance heads, the Amber is very elusive, the first one I saw was from Gold Tone. I like the way my resonator looks through the head.  See the frosted head, then the see-through heads. 


Edited by - Helix on 01/29/2022 03:29:11




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