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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!

7192 reviews in the archive.

Heads  Bill Miller calfskin head Banjo Part/Accessory Reviews

Submitted by Mark McC (see all reviews from this person) on 8/5/2015

Where Purchased:

Overall Comments

I am having a similar set of difficulties in trying to buy a head from banjoseen. After hearing nothing from this vendor for a couple of weeks, I thought I'd check my PayPal account. It showed the payment pending and unclaimed. I contacted Banjoseen and they said they received no such order. I cancelled the pending payment and re-submitted the order. Again, the payment showed pending in my PayPal acct, and nothing went to banjoseen. Enough with PayPal. Second order cancelled and I attempted A third order, this time using a credit card payment. After filling all this out, it demanded I submit  another new  PayPal account password, which I declined to do. Apparently they have PayPal involved in administration of there credit card payments too. The remedy recommended by banjoseen was for ME to contact PayPal. Not going there. Not my circus. Not my monkeys. Game over. Next.

Overall Rating: 2

Submitted by waynear (see all reviews from this person) on 3/16/2015

Where Purchased: banjoseen

Overall Comments

i ordered a pre-mounted calfskin head from Bill Miller's banjoseen site back in Feb and paid through paypal. It's now the middle of March and I haven't heard a word and I get no response when I email inquiring about my order.  Wish I'd read the reviews prior to ordering.  Looks like someone else recently had the same problem.

At this point I don't know if I will get my banjo head or not and since they won't respond i guess I'm out my money as well.  

Too, bad.  Live and learn.

Overall Rating: 1

Submitted by dwsmith123 (see all reviews from this person) on 1/19/2015

Where Purchased: banjoseen.us/Store/

Overall Comments

I ordered a Bill Miller head in October of 2014, and as of January 2015 have not received it. About a month after I ordered, I sent an email asking about it and was told by Mary that there was "a problem with the brass" and that it would be sent in a few days. Weeks pass and no head so I email again, and get the same response-- there was a problem with the brass and it will be sent in a few days.  Weeks pass again so I send another email, this time pointing out that I had been told it would be sent twice before, and that the head should either be sent ASAP or I would like a refund.  Mary apologized for the "mix up" and said that it would be sent in a few days.

More weeks pass and no head so I send an email asking for a refund. No response. I send another email. No response.  And another one... you get the idea.  Looks like I'm out 42 bucks.

I'm sure others have ordered Bill Miller heads and been satisfied. I know I won't be taking my chances again.

 

 

Overall Rating: 1

Submitted by dculgan (see all reviews from this person) on 1/16/2013

Where Purchased: banjosee.us

Overall Comments

I needed a unmounted hide head for my 10 ¾” rim Little Wonder conversion and thought about sources. A few years ago I had purchased a calfskin head from Bill Miller’s Banjoseen.us web store. From postings here I was aware that Bill had died last year but it wasn’t clear if Bill’s family would still be supplying banjo heads. About a week ago I sent an inquiry to the email address on the website and got a quick reply from Mary stating “yes we still sell heads and everything on the web site is still the same. “ I placed a web order using paypal for payment for a “16” white standard processed thin calfskin” and received a really nice head within days, just like the one from years ago. I didn’t know Bill, or his family, but just wanted to post a favorable review of a purchase. Dave Culgan

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by shannonhearne (see all reviews from this person) on 7/23/2011

Where Purchased: Bill Miller, Banjoseen.com

Overall Comments

My experience was not at all good. I bought a new pre-mounted 11 inch calf skin head from Bill Miller. In attempting to mount the head I followed the instuctions that came with the head to the letter. The flesh hoop came out of the head. Nothing of any substance was holding it in place. Once that happened the skin and the hoop were not mountable ( believe me, I spent another 3 hours attempting to make it work.).

I carefully packed them and returned them to Miller after I had exchanged several emails with him, including my request for a full $42.00 refund.

Once they had been shipped back to Miller, at my expense, I got an email from him saying I would only get a $14.00 refund. (altogether, I spent over $54.00.)

I know others have had a good experience with these heads. I can only tell you what mine was.

In closing, my past experience has been that banjo makers, and banjo parts makers, are just about the nicest group of people you would ever hope to meet. Brooks Masten, Will Fielding, Bill Rickard, Mike Ramsey, Wayne Rogers, Doug Campbell,the Deerings, Chuck Lee .... are great folks. Not so with Bill Miller.. Again, not a good experience.

Overall Rating: 1

Submitted by kenw3579 (see all reviews from this person) on 5/25/2011

Where Purchased: www.banjoseen.com

Overall Comments

I am well-pleased with the 11” pre-mounted Natural Calfskin banjo head I purchased from Bill Miller (www.banjoseen.com). With the Remo WeatherKing, my bluegrass banjo seemed to lack in bottom-end warmth, and this head improved the tone and the “missing frequencies,” without undue loss of high-end frequency. It perhaps has just a bit less attack than the Remo WeatherKing, but overall I like it better. I have no regrets!
My banjo has a Tony Pass Thinskirt rim, JLS tone ring, Fults Pro5 tailpiece, and Kateyz narrow pegged-top bridge. The Fults Pro5 tailpiece is a presto design, and is adjusted to have very little downward pressure on the strings, allowing the head to vibrate.
I was impressed with the thinness of this head. This is one of Bill Miller’s secrets to good tone coming from a skin head.
How this head compares with the Vellum-processed head: The latter seems a bit rougher, but is also fairly thin. My openback Tony Pass Woodie sounds pretty good with the vellum-processed head. If I were to “vote” after using both, I would vote for the Natural Calfskin. You can contact Bill Miller to see if he has any comments as to the differences. The natural calfskin is more translucent, but became more white when I had it wetted and stretched into place during installation.
Comparison with the Goldtone goatskin head: I tried their head on both of my banjos, and then went to the Remo WeatherKing on both… and now consider the Bill Miller heads to be superior to both of them.
Hints on adjusting the head tension: You can use a Dial Indicator, but skin heads are so inconsistent in texture, that this is only an approximate indication of head tension. You can tap along the perimeter to check for brightness of tone; feel for overall head tightness; and look on the bottom of the head, to see if the bridge is pressing too far (or not far enough) into the head. A loose head gives a more muffled tone; an excessively tight head give a bright, choked tone.
In summary, you should seriously consider a skin head from Bill Miller, if you are looking for richness of tone, for either an openback or bluegrass instrument. My current preference is for the natural calfskin.
The downside: So far, I have had to re-tighten the head once a week since I installed the head a month or so ago. I am told this is normal, and the head will stabilize in time... So far this hasn't been an issue, as I can now tighten a head in just a few minutes. The tone quality to me is the most important thing. If the head never settles down, then I will later edit this review to reflect that...
I have never in my life heard a banjo that sounds better than what I now possess. I'm impressed.
-Ken W in Portland, OR

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by kenw3579 (see all reviews from this person) on 5/10/2011

Where Purchased: www.banjoseen.us

Overall Comments

Wow!
I finally got a decent skin head on my Tony Pass Woodie open-back banjo! I had tried the Goldtone skin head, but was disappointed with it. I had to file down the sides of the Goldtone just to make it fit, and then it sounded like it was too thick. With that head, the banjo didn't seem to have life. It is true that this was back when I was using a Goldtone Whyte Layde tone ring, and also didn't have a Drumdial indicator to help me know what is the proper head tension.
Bill Miller has about five different head materials to choose from, both unmounted or mounted. I chose the pre-mounted vellum processed calfskin, as it was listed as being a tough head. I later installed the natural processed calfskin on my bluegrass banjo, and have a slight preference for it, but both of these heads are awesome for sound.
As to installation, it was a dream. No filing was needed, and it fit excellently. I moistened the head after installation, to allow it to fit just a bit lower, and perhaps stretch out the head to perfection. When dry, I tightened it a bit more, and installed the strings and bridge.
As to tone: To me, this instrument now has the old-timey sound I was looking for. It is not muffled, has good volume, and now has more bass frequency coming out the back. I wish you guys could hear it... it really is incredible! My previous head was a Remo WeatherKing. I thought that was OK, but this totally "smokes" the synthetic head for that rich old-time sound. Even my wife commented that she could clearly hear more richness and dimension of sound (as compared to the Remo WeatherKing). This sound quality is further enhanced by my excellent Tony Pass "woodie" open-back banjo rim. With no metal tone ring, there is the maximum amount of wood to resonate and give tone. (The "tone ring" is the wooden lip at the top of the rim, roughly similar to a Deering Goodtone rim.)
Tuning the head was a little more challenging than with a plastic head; the drum dial indicator indicated some variance around the head. (I think there is some natural variation in thickness and texture of the head around the perimeter, as one would expect.) I used it to help determine what the maximum tension should be, and then used the sound of a metal pick around the perimeter of the head and the torque of the individual tension rod nuts as a guide concerning tightness. It sounds fantastic now. (Note: I am using the Fults Pro-5 tailpiece; without a presto tailpiece, adjusted really high off the head, you may not get as impressive results.) If you can afford this specific tailpiece, go for it.
Delivery: Bill shipped this out the next day by U.S. Priority mail. It arrived six days after ordering.
The outcome: If you are looking for a skin head, I strongly recommend you go to Bill Miller (www.banjoseen.us). I recommend his pre-mounted head over the Goldtone skin head. If you want the old-time sound, do not use a synthetic head.
Note: This review is now being edited, a month or two after the initial review. I still agree on the wonderful sound quality, but I have found that I have had to retune the banjo head about every week. I have heard that this is normal for a genuine skin head. Hopefully it will settle down after a few more weeks.
For quality and innovation, Bill Miller is on par with Bob Fults (top of the line tailpieces) and Tony Pass (top of the line rims).
I'm impressed.
From a satisfied customer,
Ken W. in Portland, OR

Overall Rating: 10

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