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 Playing Advice: All Other Styles

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Jeff H - Posted - 02/18/2007:  14:52:32

Looking for a "jazzier" tone out of a mastertone clone

any advice

I like the sould of Alison Brown's instrument.. I suspect is as much her playign as the banjo

but I thought I would ask

Bridge ? Strings head tightness

different banjo?


DanielT - Posted - 02/18/2007:  16:29:02

Jazz tenor players really seem to love Jim Farquhar's bridges - the ones with the Tagua nut inserts. I think they have them at in all sorts of configurations.

djangonut - Posted - 02/19/2007:  01:53:28

Many British jazz banjo players use a mute to get a jazzier tone.

They position the mute about a quarter of an inch behind the bridge, and screw it tightly. The idea is that fewer vibrations are lost to the tailpiece, but more are sent to the banjo head through the bridge.

Doing this makes a cleaner, less funky, sound.


Banjocoltrane - Posted - 02/19/2007:  02:06:20

Originally posted by Jeff H

Looking for a "jazzier" tone out of a mastertone clone

any advice

I like the sould of Alison Brown's instrument.. I suspect is as much her playign as the banjo

but I thought I would ask

Bridge ? Strings head tightness

different banjo?

I like the sound of alison browns instrument also...

My suggestion is to experiment with your own instrument and find what brings out the jazzy aspect of your playing...

I play Gibson banjos
Strings-GHS JD Crowes OR GHS ALmost mediums
Bridge-Mcpeack OR Sosobee bridge
Head tension-depends on the banjo...loose on my maple banjo and tight on my mahogany banjo...probably somewhere between a G# to an A

Emiel - Posted - 02/19/2007:  04:21:36

On this picture from we see that she uses a 5-Star head (I think top-frosted) and a dark-colored probably 5/8" bridge, maybe walnut, and a Presto tailpiece, not too low.

Maybe some starting points…


I've looked a little bit further. In this thread

we find: " I have a ludwig on my walnut Bellflower and it has a much fuller tone than a thinner remo. To tone down some of the brightness of my Stelling I use a walnut bridge (an idea I got from Alison Brown).


So she may really use a walnut bridge and a Five-Star (=Ludwig) head.


Edited by - Emiel on 02/19/2007 06:11:49

Jayme Stone - Posted - 02/19/2007:  11:14:40

Thought I'd chime in.

After much experimentation, I would say the kind of wood your banjo is made of makes a significant difference. I much prefer mahogany and walnut. Alison Brown uses a bridge made by Rick Sampson. I used one of his made of koa and ebony for years: they are fantstically dark. They are still available.

Loosening your head will help. I even used a fiberskin head for a while, but found it too muddy. Having your tailpiece pointed up and only finger tight tends to open up the sound. Then there is plugging in, reverb, chorus, delay. Let's not forget that many jazz guitarists consider their rig and amp to be half of their sound.

Of course your touch on the instrument will make the biggest difference. How close to bridge you play, the angle of your hand, your time feel.

Best of luck, it's really an ongoing discovery to find your own sound.


Paddy - Posted - 02/19/2007:  14:37:17

I was talking to Alison Brown after a gig, and she said she likes her tailpiece quite high off the head, and that she got the idea of setting it up that way off Béla.

Jeff H - Posted - 02/19/2007:  20:47:54

Thanks for the suggestions....

amp 1979 LAb Series L-5 same as BB King uses

I agree on the mahogany.. I'll mess with the bridge and tailpiece.. and slack the head a bit


dhergert - Posted - 02/20/2007:  01:48:49

One of the bands I play regularly with is a jazz band... Horns, drums, keys, bass, hollow-bodies and all, really a small-big-band in many ways...

I play 2 banjos there, both 5-string fingerstyle...

For the louder, more brassy songs I play a '25 Ballbearing Mastertone, its volume is good and its sweet tone goes well with the hollow-bodies.

For the softer pieces I play a 1889 SS Stewart American Princess #2 with nylon strings, again a good, sweet tone, but more muted and sensitive. Still good volume when needed.

For performances in more open venues I use a mic.

It works, we get good reviews and our director likes the sound of a banjo, especially with old jazz pieces.

Pics of both are in my BH Photo Album, as well as song samples using both banjos (not jazz, but you'll get the tone)...


-- Don

"Did you hear the one about the skunk and the banjo player in the middle of the road?"

Edited by - dhergert on 02/20/2007 01:51:24

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