Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

The Changing Bluegrass Sound

Posted by nechville on Tuesday, September 23, 2014

likes this

I was in a conversation with Sonny Smith the other day. He said the bluegrass banjo sound is changing and that the Nechville banjo fit that change perfectly. I thought that was interesting. I don't know if I would say it the same way however. There is a complicated web of factors that influence what sound you might consider to be best. Let me say this at the risk of raising an argument. My view is that with the development of more varied styles and genres, it benefited the music to make modifications to the traditional set up in order to smooth and refine the sound. I think people are finding that the influence of jazz and other music on the banjo has indeed resulted in the banjo becoming a little more musical. Evidence of this long term trend can be heard during any bluegrass radio show that spans the 30's to today.  Players of traditional Bluegrass today are mostly aware that the "old banjo" is not the only sound that works. In fact, our obligation to honor the essence of Bluegrass does not mean we should use 1940's technology to produce music that will thrive into the future.

I have succeeded for 30 years as a builder only because I have found customers with discerning ears. They have taken time to figure out why helical-mounting leads to enhanced tonal purity. I didn't invent the modern banjo sound, but I initiated several sound design enhancements when I wasn't getting what I needed from my old Mastertone. I realized in the early 80's that for Bluegrass and acoustic to grow as it has, the banjo needed some refinement and variety, so that is what I dedicated my life to. (I sometimes wonder about myself) 

Sonny is right. Banjo makers and set up specialists have learned to improve traditionally made banjos, with better tone and balance, which indeed has helped the Bluegrass sound evolve. Lucky for me, the even, pure tone inherent to all helical mounted designs fits in all musical situations and is adaptable as musical needs change. . . I'd simply say, Bluegrass continues to get better as musicians discover banjos that enhance but don't distract, and blend but can still stand out when you want them to. What is holding you back from learning more about Nechville? 

1 comment on “The Changing Bluegrass Sound”

5stringJim Says:
Sunday, September 28, 2014 @10:24:04 AM

I think you hit a few nails on the head there, Tom ! Your banjos have so many refinements that they have a certain sound, very even-sounding across the whole fretboard, and can be adjusted very easily. The playability is excellent, too. The sound and playability go very well with the style of player you have listed in your favorites.
But you have to admit that the sound of true Bluegrass music itself is barely changing, banjowise...folks still like the old "growl" and "snap" and "rattle" and variety of tones produced by the older styled instruments. I'm not limiting this only to banjos, either....there are mandolins, resonator guitars and acoustic guitars which have ironed out the bumps. Just saying, not everyone wants the sound smoothed out for traditional Bluegrass. It's all down to personal taste.
You have done an excellent job in refining banjo design, be it with helical mounting, flux capacitor neck-fit etc. Keep up the good work !

You must sign into your myHangout account before you can post comments.

More posts from nechville

Newest Posts

Click for Details 'BACK TO BASICS' 48 min

Click for Details '2018 Davis F-5' 59 min

More >  

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories