Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

View Paul Bock's Homepage

Paul Bock

You must sign into your myHangout account in order to contact Paul Bock.

Some "tweaking" of the Tennessee 20 Tone Ring

Saturday, August 12, 2023

     Lat time I posted, I allowed as to how I may have "fixed" the Tennessee 20 tone ring installed in "Snowflake".  Well, I didn't, although I got close.  But I may have fixed it now, so perhaps some of the following will be useful. 

     First off, the banjo sounded OK - still a bit "trebly" to my ear - but OK.  Then about a week ago I was scrolling through some "tone ring setups" in the various blogs and found the one with comments from "Mr. Desert Rose".  He noted that , despite it being counter-intuitive. a Tennessee 20 likes a *TIGHTER* head for better bass response (well, up to a point).  So, I decided to try it.

     I used the drum dial to measure the head tension at six points around the head.  Tension varied from 85.5 to 89.  I carefully "tweaked" the brackets, took more measurements, tweaked some more, etc., etc., until all six test points for the drum dial showed about 89.5 to 90.

     The change was impressive!  The sound is much fuller, good balance of treble to bass, and really "pops" the way old banjos did in the '50s with tight calfskin heads (yes, I am that old!).  I also noted that the harmonics on the 5th, 7th, & 12th frets are much clearer and cleaner, as is the one just beyond the fingerboard end (Earl used that one with his left-hand little finger sometimes). The overall volume and punch is really excellent! 

     Picks made a modest but not startling change in the sound.  Shelor SS picks are a bit more "trebly", but only very modestly so when compared to Dunlop nickle-silver 0.020s.  This indicates (to me, at least), that the tone ring is really controlling the sound, and since I prefer the "feel" of the Shelors on my bent & aging fingers I'll keep using them.  The bridge is a Purcell - I forget which exact "flavor" - but sounds fine.

     I can't say enough good things about the drum dial.  If you're "searching" for the "sweet spot" on a banjo setup this tool may help you find it - especially if you have trouble discerning subtle differences with the "head tapping" approach.

Happy pickin'!




Add Comment

Newest Music

Genre: Popular
Playing Style: Other

Genre: Bluegrass
Playing Style: Bluegrass (Scruggs)

Genre: Bluegrass
Playing Style: Bluegrass (Scruggs)

Genre: Unknown/None Chosen
Playing Style: Other

see all >

Newest Photos


see all >

Playing Since: 1956
Experience Level: Purty Good

[Jamming] [Socializing]

Occupation: Retired Navy (E-9) and retired electrical engineer.

Gender: Male
Age: 82

My Instruments:
Circa 1982, hand-built (by me) "Snowflake Special" 5-string flathead Bluegrass resonator banjo w/2-piece flange; in 2008 I swapped out the tone ring for a JLS No. 12, and in 2021 I changed over to a Tennessee 20 tone ring. Victor 5-string Banjola serial # 9.

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Most everybody is a favorite now, especially Tom Adams & Craig Smith, but Don Reno, Allen Shelton & Earl Scruggs were my first favorites back in the early 1950s. Also have played a little bare-finger classic style on a nylon-string banjo.

Classified Rating: (+2)
Rate this Member

Profile Info:
Visible to: Public
Created 2/23/2005
Last Visit 9/2/2023

Born in Richmond, VA, and raised on a farm. Started teaching myself banjo in 1956. Competed in the North Carolina State Fair Folk Festival banjo contest and took 2nd place in 1962 and 1st place in 1963. Played with local groups between 1960 and the late 1980s but had to quit due to injuries to the fingers of my right hand and then breaking my left wrist in 2014. I've been working diligently to get back "playing form" since 2016 and I'm encouraged my progress so far, but it's a long road and slow going. I also dabble occasionally with classic finger-style using nylon strings. My instruments include a 5-string banjola by Victor (formerly EVD) Instruments which is a lot of fun for folk music, jazz, classical & Irish pieces. **************************************************************************** In the real world, I'm a retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9) and a retired electrical engineer with over 20 years experience in radio broadcasting, defense electronics and telecommunications. I have B.S. and M.S. degrees, am a Life Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and co-holder of a patent in electronic design. I also hold several commercial radio operator licenses (Radioelegraph, General Radiotelephone, and GMDSS Maintainer, all with the Ship Radar Endorsement. ***************************************************************************** My other hobbies include Amateur Radio (licensed as K4MSG since 1957 and have always been an avid radiotelegraph operator). I've also spent time dabbling in various digital modes including meteor scatter and Earth-Moon-Earth (aka "moonbounce") communications. I'm also a sporadic amateur astronomer. I love to read, especially history, and have dabbled in historical research on topics of interest including evolution of the 5-string banjo, development of certain types of telegraph keys, wireless telegraphy, the Revolutionary War involvement of my ancestors, etc. My wife & I enjoy travel, especially cruising on Princess Cruise Lines (20 cruises so far, including 7 transatlantic crossings).

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories