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Banjo versus TV week 113: Tom Nechville, street luthier

Posted by jrjenks on Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s ongoing plan to spend more time on his banjo than on TV. This post covers 4/25/2010 through 5/1/2010.
Banjo 667 hrs, TV 656 hours

It's been a sick week, mostly, as I've been down with some kind of cold-like viral infection. Blah.

But I wasn't going to let a little thing like that keep me away from seeing Tom Nechville, the creator of my beloved Nechville banjo, doing a workshop at the Different Strummer in Chicago.

Here's how they promoted the event:

Tom Nechville & Friends present Banjo Revolution Showcase

Tuesday, April 27th at 5:30pm

Free! Go beyond ordinary banjo setup conventions and learn what really makes the banjo sound its best. Tom Nechville will shed light on little known problems in traditional banjos and divulge his solutions to common banjo problems. Plus hear the different tonal possibilities of a Nechville during a live mini-concert with local players. For more info on the workshop click here. Thanks, hope to see you there.

Which is all well and good, but what I really wanted was to see Tom work his setup magic on people's banjos the way he'd done it for my Oscar Schmidt banjo last year. And he didn't disappoint. I love seeing Tom take a banjo, tweak it a little and make it sound great. Which he did, a couple of times.

He also showed off a modified version of his low-tuned Atlas.

Can you hear it?  It's really low.

And after the inside show ended, he moved out the the street and tweaked my banjo a bit.

Tom Nechville, street luthier

Talking with Tom, I learned a little more about how Kyle James Hauser had set up this banjo before he sold it to me.

  • Kyle tightens the head up really really tight. But Tom thinks I might like it tighter still, so he suggests that I might use a hair dryer to heat up the plastic head before I crank up the head tightness.
  • I knew that Kyle used a black drum head. What I didn't know is that Tom's not really fond of the sound from those heads. Tom suggests that I try a Remo Renaissance head. So I bought one from him and will try it out.
  • I thought the bridge that Kyle sold me with the banjo was a Nechville bridge, but apparently it's a Snuffy Smith. Maybe I'll try out some other bridges some day.

Also in the last week:

  • At the Nechville workshop, Keith Baumann demonstrated a DrumDial as a way to get the tension just right, all around the head of a banjo.


    Pretty cool. I might need one.
  • Keith also showed us a BlueChip thumb pick.

    BlueChip BCT-JDM thumb pick

    I did a little Googling and found that people are pretty wild about these $40 thumb picks: here, here, here and here.
  • I've been listening to a Janet Beazley session that I recorded at Midwest Banjo Camp: Backups for Vocals. Good stuff, but hard to summarize. So I'll just settle for telling you that you should attend Midwest Banjo Camp this June. And have a good time for me while you're there; I can't make it this year because of a plethora of family graduations.

Cross-posted at J.R. Jenks' blog

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