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Mike Munford and my new Sullivan

Posted by Banjov1 on Thursday, November 19, 2009

I got my new Sullivan in the mail last Friday (thanks Goldstarman). It’s a Terry Baucom signature model... mahogany with an old growth FF rim and a prototype Thunderbolt ring (similar to their new vintage 35 model). So just like I’ve done with a number of other banjos, my buddy Jack and I took it up to Shrewsbury PA to have our favorite luthier, Mike Munford, set it up for me.

After putting a new set of strings on it, he straightened out the tail piece and raised it just slightly. Then we played a little with the FF bridge that came with the banjo. He filed the slots a little bit and even ground down the top of the bridge a bit. I thought it sounded decent after he had tweaked the FF bridge, but that’s when we looked at some other bridges and ended up choosing a Snuffy Smith. As soon as he started playing it with the Snuffy, you could REALLY hear it open up... especially the 3rd string.
Wow, I thought… Great Stuff! I can’t wait to start playing… BUT WAIT... Mike's not done. He filed the slots in the nut and all of a sudden, it’s sounding even better. Then he pointed out that the bone nut pip was installed a little too far to the right of where it should have been and possibly compensating for that, the slot wasn’t cut down the center. So it looked like the string was really pulling on the left side of the pip and about to snap it off. This was also deadening the 5th string. So he replaced the pip (we didn’t move it, maybe we’ll do that later), and cut the slot right down the center  and at a little bit of an angle to the surface of the neck and BINGO, the 5th string is ringing like a champ.
I get so impressed by what Mike does with banjos. I knew that my head was tightened to the right level and that I needed some new strings, but when I got the banjo, I really thought there was gonna be some other huge find to get it really humming. I’m amazed that he can produce such a drastic difference in tone with just a file and a new bridge. I hope that someday I’ll start getting a feel for some of these adjustments myself, but in the mean time, I’m amazed by folks like Mike that can really get the maximum out of stringed instruments with simple yet extremely effective adjustments.
I’ve been playing my new Sullivan for two days now and I’m really blown away by the sound I’m getting. It’s starting to open up even more. I can’t wait to hear what it will sound like a couple months down the road after I’ve had a chance to really break it in.  I’ll post some pix as soon as I get a chance.

10 comments on “Mike Munford and my new Sullivan”

banjotef Says:
Thursday, November 19, 2009 @5:26:19 PM

Keep playing that thing, Tony. It will sound even more fantastic after more time. I got the chance to play on the Baucom Sullivan banjo a couple of years ago in the FQMS showroom, and really liked it.

Banjov1 Says:
Thursday, November 19, 2009 @7:37:26 PM

Thanks Tom, yeah it really is a nice banjo.

Shimdog Says:
Wednesday, December 9, 2009 @8:56:55 PM

It is a great banjo, Tony. Thanks for letting me play it. Congrats again!

Banjov1 Says:
Wednesday, December 9, 2009 @8:59:49 PM

No problem Paul. It sure sounded great when you played it!

Pablo9364 Says:
Friday, January 1, 2010 @4:34:46 AM

Now thats one cool banjo

I was recently advised to go for a sullivan over any gibson !
happy new year paul

Banjov1 Says:
Saturday, January 2, 2010 @10:40:54 PM

Thanks Paul,

It's a nice banjo. It's got a really nice sound and I love the slim neck. I can think of a couple Gibsons that I wouldn't mind having. But I've played a couple Sullivans and I've been really impressed by all of them.

drottman300 Says:
Friday, January 22, 2010 @11:32:58 PM

Im gonna have to check out sullivan! I havent really looked at anything but a Gibson or Deering!

Banjov1 Says:
Saturday, January 23, 2010 @2:58:45 AM

Hey Bob - Sullivan makes a nice banjo. But there's nothing wrong with that Sierra that you have.

Pablo9364 Says:
Saturday, January 23, 2010 @3:12:20 AM

If I lived in the states I would have got either a Gibson, Sullivan or Hatfield banjo. But if I already had the Deering Sierra I would stick with it as its a very good banjo. But hey if I had the money well then thats another story....... ha ha

JohnB. Says:
Monday, January 25, 2010 @8:30:08 AM

Congrats Tony.

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