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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Singing with a banjo

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Tim2723 - Posted - 03/24/2007:  14:07:29

Since the banjo easily overpowers the average human voice, what's the preferred method for reducing the overall volume of the instrument? Without resorting to microphones for the voice, and while using a pick to strum chords, how do you quiet the banjo for acoustic sessions?

twhite54 - Posted - 03/24/2007:  14:21:18

most will suggest wire cutters...

"she'd her apron wrapped about her and i took her for a swan..."
that's my story and i'm stickin' to it...

"ya got time to breathe, ya got time fer music"...Briscoe Darling

ethel the wonder basset

pweller - Posted - 03/24/2007:  14:30:25

When I play, I practically yell. That, or you can simply arpeggiate chords. The Pogues do this quite well in several of their songs. Arpeggiating the chords will keep the song going, but it is harder to do this and sing. In lieu of all this, you could try damping the strings with your right hand.

flatfoot - Posted - 03/24/2007:  15:51:05


If you are frailing, lose the pick. If you are singing in a bluegrass band, play "chucks" on the off-beats.


I thought my neighbors liked the sound
Until, one rosy dawn,
I saw a sign that said "For Sale"
On ev'ry neighbor's lawn.

Tim2723 - Posted - 03/24/2007:  17:32:00

Thanks guys, but is there no way to simply reduce the soud output of the instrument?

Yopparai - Posted - 03/24/2007:  18:38:22

clothespin on the bridge?

martind_gibsona - Posted - 03/24/2007:  21:59:49

1) If the banjo's got a resonator, remove it.
2) Use a really thin pick.

Don Smith

Wee AL - Posted - 03/24/2007:  22:16:15

Would a fiddle Mute work for that?


if its not fun ye aint doin it Right

Yopparai - Posted - 03/24/2007:  22:57:20

I think I have heard of people using fiddle mutes on banjos.

meldooby - Posted - 03/25/2007:  12:47:31

I have a Paisley mute, it mutes too much. I have a Goldtone slip on mute that is just right for accompanying myself


pweller - Posted - 03/25/2007:  14:37:12

When I have to practice in my dorm I take the resonator off the back and use .50 mm picks. The sound is awful, but it keeps my suitemates from breaking my banjo/strangling me!

Scarecrow - Posted - 03/25/2007:  16:50:22

From Eagle Music (England):
Banjo Hardware
Felt Plectrum
A much sought after plectrum for banjo and uke …Made from hard felt. The ideal 'strumming' pick for that vintage sound.

Shame the picture didn't copy.
Try a shaved bridge with "feet" of a deader material, such as card.

"A man's gotta know his limitations."

Edited by - Scarecrow on 03/25/2007 16:51:12

jon - Posted - 03/26/2007:  18:45:40

Just pick lighter and more toward the neck, with fingerpicks or a flat pick. I play and sing all the time.

banjovy - Posted - 03/26/2007:  22:37:34

Yea, just get 1 or 2 of those rubber fiddle mutes. Not only will it dampen the volume it will give the banjo a little more sustain. Interesting tone also.

mikeyes - Posted - 03/27/2007:  10:04:35


From your other threads it looks like you play a tenor banjo. If you want to decrease the volume, stuff a towel between the head and the dowel stick/co-ordinator rods and just play chords with your thumb. You could also learn to use better diagphram support and sing louder <G>

I don't think that the chords produced by a tenor banjo are as interesting sounding for accompaniment since there is such a wide spacing in between notes. Guitar tuning or five string tuning (plectrum C tuning) is much better in that respect. Another way to deal with this problem is to use two or three string chords or power chords.

Mike Keyes

Edited by - mikeyes on 03/27/2007 10:05:37

Tim2723 - Posted - 03/27/2007:  10:08:02

Thanks for the advice everyone! I've tried several of these ideas. I tried the felt pick from my uke but didn't like the 'feel' on steel strings. I put my fiddle mute on, but it's a little clunky to work with. Thiinner picks worked pretty well, as did strumming nearer the neck. I put three layers of card stock under the bridge feet and that seems to be just the ticket. If I could find a thin sheet of rubber it might even be better. I'm after the 'gaslight era' sound. Not really jazz, not Dixieland, but an unsustained chunky sound. Thanks again everyone!

Joebanjo5 - Posted - 04/24/2007:  20:05:15

Put a dish towel in the resonator.......


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