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sterling silver tonering?

Posted by 5strings3picks1banjo on Friday, February 22, 2008

Anybody have an option on a sterling silver tonering, would it work?

I only ask because I was asked and had no answer. The person wanting to know has plenty of the stuff so cost is not a concern. Also could parts be made from it such as tension hoop, hooks, inlays, ect.

Look forward to your remarks.



4 comments on “sterling silver tonering?”

Hunter Robertson Says:
Friday, February 22, 2008 @3:22:59 PM

As a tone ring it might work, though it is fairly soft stuff. Coin silver, 90% silver and 10% copper, might work better especially for hooks etc. That's a lot of silver! Hunter

stanger Says:
Friday, February 22, 2008 @4:16:58 PM

Hi, Leon... I don't think a sterling silver tone ring would work well. The reason bronze is used is due to it's easy exciteability- it doesn't take much vibration strength to set it ringing because it's both hard, and likes the vibration range that is natural to the banjo. Silver is much softer, and requires much stronger vibrations to get it excited. Silver works well in wind instruments because the means of vibration is fundamentally different than for stringed instruments. It's softness would also make it a poor choice for the other parts you mentioned- they all need to be made from metals strong enough to take the strain and pressures of the setup. Even brass hooks are barely strong enough to do their job- I recently broke 4 vintage brass hooks when I replaced the head on a banjo, and had to replace them with plated steel hooks. One area silver might work as a tone contributor would be on the leading edge of a tailpiece, especially a tailpiece that's heavy and stiff, like a Kerschner or Price. A silver surface where the strings connect to the tailpiece may lessen sustain while providing stability, and might be a good alternative to the Presto, which is actually pretty flimsy in construction. Back in the day, ca. 1910, aluminum was tried as a bridge material. Gibson used aluminum for their mando bridges for a short time, and also used aluminum tops on wood bases. Experimenting with silver as a wood substitute, for bases, tops, or both, might prove interesting- it's one of the few areas of the banjo that I don't think has ever been considered before. With most banjo stuff, anything you can think of has already been tried a few dozen times in the past.

Sy Lehrman Says:
Friday, February 22, 2008 @8:46:40 PM

You'd just have to try it. There is some obscure trade off with instrument materials. If they are too soft the tone is dull and if they are too hard they tend to play the note they want to ring at, not the note you want to play. Silver, being relatively soft may be dull but sterling may be hard enough to make a good compromise. I've never heard it discussed, but we see that banjo rings are most generally softer metals like brass and aluminum, not hard metals like steel or very soft materials like wood. It's like the gold flute someone had made, not to mention the platinum one, which is kind of neat, but not known as a really great sounding instrument. On the other hand, if you want to hide your wealth the ring of a banjo is probably a good place.

5strings3picks1banjo Says:
Saturday, February 23, 2008 @12:18:51 AM

Thank you for your comments. I relay what you have all said to the person who asked me. I liked the idea of maybe a mix of metals. Lets see if anything becomes of it. Very interesting I think.

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