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New Banjo, New Sound

Posted by stigandr5 on Sunday, June 17, 2012

Over Christmas I bought a bluegrass banjo from a guy in New York. The instrument hails from the golden days of Japanese manufacturing (1970s) and was produced under the brandname, "Conrad."

I think I listened to too much Béla Fleck and Noam Pikelny over in Haiti, so I decided to give Scruggs-style another shot. However, immediately upon holding the banjo in my hands, I knew it was destined for experimentation. For my first trick, I doubled the number of holes in the pot metal, flathead tone ring.

Next, I switched the Remo head for a hairy goatskin.

And since I've been back from Haiti, I've removed the resonator mounts, sawn off part of the flange, added a new bridge, and strung it up with nylon guitar strings and brake cable (for the 5th string).

I also tweaked the tailpiece to allow for a less dramatic string break angle and fitted a brass screw to serve as my 5th string pip. I'm not wild about passing the 5th string over the 5th fret because its action becomes so much lower than I like for my other strings.

It's different from anything I've played before. It's the heaviest openback banjo I've ever owned (or played, for that matter). I think it sounds nice--especially with a T-shirt stuffed under the coordinator rod.




8 comments on “New Banjo, New Sound”

erikforgod Says:
Monday, June 18, 2012 @6:38:55 AM

you cut the flange off of it?

stigandr5 Says:
Monday, June 18, 2012 @6:49:12 AM

I did. I thought I wanted to learn bluegrass, and maybe I do someday, but I just couldn't help myself with this banjo. I tortured and mutilated it until it became an oldtime workhorse.

bd Says:
Monday, June 18, 2012 @4:40:30 PM

Your getting a great sound out of your Conrad! It reminds me of a little deeper version of the sound Stringbean had on his Pretty Polly.

erikforgod Says:
Tuesday, June 19, 2012 @5:12:03 AM

I dont think you tortured it....its kinda like the equivalent of when obese people go and have that operation to lose tons of weight...lyposuction...yea thats did a manual banjo style flangosuction on that baby!! Looks and sounds great...and could still play BG on it in the future if you want to.

hoverflytheo Says:
Sunday, June 24, 2012 @4:50:58 PM

If you ever wanted to reinstall the resonator you could always use those mini-flange pieces that bolt onto the bracket bolts (not sure if they have a name.) I've got one banjo with a resonator, and I've though of putting those brackets on one of my other banjos so I can swap the resonator between them when I want more volume - it's always a useful thing to have around.

Andy Fielding Says:
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 @6:29:11 PM

Wow?when I started reading this I thought it had to be a put-on. It's amazing the lengths people can go to customize their instruments. But if you're getting the sound you want, that's the point!

block_or_lam Says:
Thursday, August 30, 2012 @5:45:24 AM

I like the way that thing sounds. I bet it is loud enough to scare me at a jam!


tommyjo Says:
Sunday, October 28, 2012 @1:04:48 PM

OMG, I am envious! Skillz bro... you got mad skillz

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