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And the "Tennessee 20" Saga Continues........

Posted by Paul Bock on Monday, May 29, 2023

     Well, it's been almost a year and a half since I last posted, so for all of you septa- and octogenarians out there in banjo land, here are some more thoughts on the Tennessee 20 tone ring as I have started using it with my feeble, aging fingers.

     First, tone:  It's awesome.  Even on a very thick rim with a two-piece tube & plate flange (1920s-early 1930s Gibson style) it sounds wonderful.  *MAYBE* just a bit too much on the "treble" end of the scale, but read on.  I think I "fixed" it.

     If you know banjos, you know that many things can affect how the sound comes out.  Besides the type/configuration of the pot rim & hardware, things like the bridge, the tailpiece, the head & head tension, etc., will have an effect.  Also the strings!

     When I put the T20 in the banjo I just stuck with the strings I'd been using with the JLS #12 - and I wasn't disappointed in the "new" tone!  I won't mention the brand, but they were 10-11-13-20-10 with a SS-wound 4th - and they *ARE* very fine strings.  *BUT*, I began to wonder if maybe a tad heavier strings might sound better, so........I contacted "Banjo Ben" (who sells everything banjo and mails 'em out quick) for a couple of sets of GHS PF-150 (10-12-14-22-10, bronze-wound 4th), the type I used for almost 20 years before I switched a few years ago.  And I plopped a set on, but left everything else in the setup alone.

     Immediately, I noticed a sense of more "fullness" in the sound, especially in the bottom end.  Then I set aside the Shelor SS picks and went back to my old nickle-silver Dunlop 0.020s.  Wonderful combination for sound!

     Now, let me talk about the, ummmm, "issues".  I've been using Shelors for close to 20 years because, way back when, I broke my right index finger and didn't bother to go to a doctor.  Over the years, it healed back crooked, and I found that I had trouble striking notes accurately and even keep the picks on my fingers.  Shelors work.  *HOWEVER*, for the past year and a half - and especially the past six months - I've been working on "technique  improvement", with the result that I can now use the Dunlops *IF* I use some bow rosin to help hold 'em on my fingers.  I wish someone would make a Shelor-style pick out of nickle-silver, but no one does so I'll just continue to "re-acclimate" and see how far we can go with this.  

     This summer I will pass the "age 82" mark, and some of you are probably thinking, "Hang it up, Dude!"   Nope, not until I can't hold it any more.  ;-)   I started learning banjo in '56, and my time ain't up yet! 

     Keep pickin'!  Your banjo will thank you for it!




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