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Jul 12, 2019 - 1:25:51 PM
9 posts since 6/5/2015

Tim of Cedar Mt banjos is making an L model for me. I live near San Francisco so the humidity varies quite a bit. Some days it’s foggy and damp other times sunny and dry. Is a skin head a poor choice me? Will that mean a lot of adjustments especially since it’s a new instrument? What type of skin head that might work best for me?

Jul 12, 2019 - 1:38:19 PM

8093 posts since 3/17/2005

I have two of John Balch's hide heads and couldn't be happier. They are as impervious to humidity changes as any skin head I've ever had. But ... all skin heads will need tweeking at times. Since you're getting an open back banjo, that should be no trouble at all. I live in the very humid south. The tone produced by his heads is wonderful, and he's a great guy to work with. He's a member of the Hangout, so you can message him from here, or Google him.

Edited by - chip arnold on 07/12/2019 13:40:23

Jul 12, 2019 - 3:24:04 PM
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2178 posts since 3/30/2008

There have been many discussions over the years, on the BHO, about the temperament of skin heads, & how problematic they are to maintain "sameness" of tension. I prefer skin heads, & have them on most of my favorite instruments. I basically never futz w/ the head tension, & find that the changes are acceptable & interesting. I always tune my strings before playing but have little concern w/ tensioning heads. In the end the differences in sound & playability seem minor,

Edited by - tdennis on 07/12/2019 15:34:09

Jul 12, 2019 - 4:51:33 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22003 posts since 6/25/2005

I never had a problem with a skin head when I lived in Palo Alto and Mountain View. Moving to Missouri changed the ballgame. That’s when I put a plastic head on my banjo.

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 07/13/2019 10:15:48

Jul 12, 2019 - 8:26:17 PM

18 posts since 1/7/2013

I lived in the east bay before moving up to coastal Washington. Never had a problem with my two hide heads on different banjos from John Balch.

Jul 13, 2019 - 1:31:58 AM

77 posts since 1/30/2019

Here's an answer from the wettest part of the already quite wet UK. I have a treated goat skin on my WGF Howson, this never "needs" tension changing by me, but tone does vary slightly. I don't mind. I don't know what he uses to treat but he might tell us or check out his website. wgfhowsoninstruments.co.uk/
I have a 1909 Weymann open back with what may be the original vellum head, and this is less reliable, and antique English banjos that I've had in the past have been similar. I guess it's thicker hide heads that have more of a problem in humidity.
I know fibreskyn is supposed to be the plastic answer if you like hide heads and live in a damp climate, but I prefer the ring of renaissance.
Skin heads are biodegradable......

Jul 13, 2019 - 6:14:52 AM

carlb

USA

1973 posts since 12/16/2007

quote:
Originally posted by dorje

Some days it’s foggy and damp other times sunny and dry. Is a skin head a poor choice me? Will that mean a lot of adjustments especially since it’s a new instrument? What type of skin head that might work best for me?


Me, I prefer thin skins, 0.2-0.25mm thick. For humidity adjustments, I use a Tally Tone Enhancer; a cut piece of wine cork to fit between the dowel stick and the skin. It can be moved closer to the bridge when the humidity goes up, Lately, I also used a slightly longer cork for a very humid 4th of July jam.
https://www.banjohangout.org/topic/352917


Edited by - carlb on 07/13/2019 06:15:48

Jul 13, 2019 - 6:22:02 AM

2002 posts since 4/29/2012

Another vote for skin heads from somebody living in a very variable maritime climate. My main banjo has a new-ish good quality calfskin head. The original lasted about 15 years - I eventually wore it through where my thumb hits. I could have extended its life by rotating it or trimming my thumbnail more often. I give it a tweak if I need to when I (rarely) change strings. I have other banjos with possibly original hide heads, some over 100 years old, and never do any adjustment.

Edited by - AndrewD on 07/13/2019 06:22:40

Jul 13, 2019 - 7:23:55 AM

771 posts since 3/22/2012

tdennis summed up my experience too - "the changes are acceptable and interesting". I know my banjos pretty well and just have a quick check with a drum dial if I notice, (by sound, feel or tuning,) the heads are getting a bit tight. I've not had the spanner to them yet though. I used to notice the same changes when I played the cello.

I'm aware that where I live we don't get such wide humidity swings as other parts of the world (and Wales!)

Jul 13, 2019 - 10:20:37 AM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22003 posts since 6/25/2005

The biggest risk in a humid climate is taking a skin-head banjo that has been outdoors and taking it into a low-humidity, air-conditioned house.

Jul 13, 2019 - 2:25:51 PM

carlb

USA

1973 posts since 12/16/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

The biggest risk in a humid climate is taking a skin-head banjo that has been outdoors and taking it into a low-humidity, air-conditioned house.


I always set the head tension so that fretted strings just don't buzz under the most humid condition. Then you're much safer when going to a drier space.

Jul 14, 2019 - 6:45:17 AM

778 posts since 3/23/2006

During the humid New York State summers, I play my skin head banjo at home, but take the 20-year old Cedar Mountain L-2 with a Fiberskyn head when playing out. My skin heads need a bit too much adjustment to worry about when I just want to play a lot of tunes and be able to (fairly) quickly change tunings. I am going to try Carl's cork method. That might work well if it doesn't add too much damping. (Thanks, Carl!)

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