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

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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Playing Since: 1956
Experience Level: Purty Good

Paul Bock has made 2 recent additions to Banjo Hangout 

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

Gender: Male
Age: 81

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.

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Profile Info:
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Created 2/23/2005
Last Visit 5/29/2023

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).

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