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
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'PONY BANJO' 6 hrs
'c. 1890s HC Dobson' 9 hrs
'Anatomy of songs' 11 hrs