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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

7071 reviews in the archive.

Bridges  McPeake "Lightning Bolt" five string banjo bridge Banjo Part/Accessory Reviews

Submitted by Pickin furry paws (see all reviews from this person) on 2/15/2011

Where Purchased: Friend

Overall Comments

As a picker, I have tried dozens and dozens of banjo bridges. I find it amazing sometimes that I have collected the group that I have, and that I continue to add to it. Who knew that such a little item could end up sounding so "important," right?

The simple fact is that bridges will sound good/bad on any banjo. One thing that stands out to me, though, from the general fact, is that bridges do NOT make HUGE differences on banjos; if someone says they do, then the size of the difference is really the apparent difference to the person, not the actual, quantifiable difference of the part.

That said, I really believed I had "tried it all." That was until I received one of Curtis' bridges.

I am very pleased with this bridge. I know a great many people say this, but I guess you can add me to that list. One thing that pleases me a great deal about this bridge is that it does not take away anything from my banjo: some bridges give you something really good, but take away from something else equally as fine to give you that "boost." This bridge does not do that.

It does not:

1. Sacrifice bass for treble, or vice versa.
2. Sacrifice tone for volume or vice versa.
3. Sacrifice richness for clarity or vice versa.
4. Sacrifice balance for crack or vice versa.

This, more than anything else, is really good to my ear. This lack of extremes may have boosted the volume on my banjo. But there is no way to tell since I am not in possession of a device that measures decibels. I do feel as though my banjo has gotten a little louder, though, because of the sheer lack of negative tones from the bridge.

The construction is impeccable. Joints, feet, cut outs are all done with enough precision to suit my tastes. Plus, all the edges are rounded slightly, eliminating the potential for gouging your fingers or palm.

The string slots are cut very cleanly. Unlike other bridges I have tried, these do not contain chaff or burrs in them from poor slotting. They are also not V-tapered, but a gentle curve perfect for cupping the string. This has really increased the up-the-neck power in my banjo, since the strings touch the whole depth of the slot. Neither are the slots too deep or shallow. The 4th string slot does not swallow the string - something I particularly like since a swallowed D-string tends to impart a rather muddy quality to the note. This one notes very clear and loud.

The maple is open grained and old, a combination you don't normally see in old maple bridges. Typically, you'll find tightly grained maple so dense you have to get a microscope to find the medullary rays. Not this one. These bridges are from 2 - 5 grains (depending on height) and are constructed from old AND CAREFULLY AGED maple. Curtis dries the stuff perfectly, and this results in a bridge that neither wanders, bends, or sags. This lack of sagging is particularly nice as it keeps my 3rd string in more stable pitch. It used to be the offending string all the time, but now that all 5 strings are on the same "level" of vibration, the tone and tuning has improved somewhat.

Bottom line is, this bridge is one of the best values for money I have found. Curtis does not tell a great deal about the bridges on his site because he does not have to...they speak for themselves. They do not offer problems in their new state, and deliever consistant durability later in life. I have seen a great many older prewar banjos and conversions that use his bridges, and I now can see why.

I want to make it clear that this bridge is not a miracle cure for larger tonal/structural issues. Don't expect this little piece of wood to fix a huge problem, be it personal or integral, on the banjo. In other words, it is not going to remidy that lack of power in your open strings, or give you that 40DBs of volume you have been missing. It will enhance any well-constructed banjo by doing what it is supposed to while not interfering with your set-up, taste, or style.

Overall Rating: 7

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