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The Open Back of the Open-Back Banjo

Posted by davidppp on Sunday, November 24, 2013

There's general consensus among players and builders regarding the qualitative effects of various choices in instrument design and set-up.  But one issue that puzzled me was the role of rim height as it effects tone of an open-back.  The technical people with strong music interests whom I contacted with this question would not speak with confidence, save advising me to try some careful, comparative measurements.  That set me on a great adventure, described in the write-up linked below.

It included a tour of the Deering factory by Greg, himself.  Whether your favorite banjo is a Deering, that tour is AWESOME --- especially if you have any interest in machine tools and industrial arts.  Anyone who builds 100,000 banjos is a hero in my book.

Deering built three Goodtimes for me, identical except for rim height.  One of them was so mellow and fine that a friend who always insists on stuffing (rag or sock) under all his heads loved it just as is --- no stuffing whatsoever!

I fabricated a "synthetic belly" --- something to replace my own belly and allow precise repetition of playing the banjos.  Long before I got to geeky numbers and equations, I realized that many players already understand what's going on and use it.  David Holt and Adam Hurt are just two that I quote.

I tried to make my write-up something any banjo player or music acoustics enthusiast could enjoy.  You can see the banjos and belly somewhere nearby and hear examples of a couple of the banjos.  The full chronicle and all four accompanying sound files are at

www.its.caltech.edu/~politzer .

 



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