I bought a Deering Goodtime Special II in a trade about a year ago. At the time it was all i could afford or had access to through a trade-in at a music shop where i let one of my old openbacks go.
I have played clawhammer since 2013 so i am very familiar with the fingerboard, and as i have secretly listened to bluegrass on the side of my main style (old time) i progressed fairly quickly.
However i will not be able to afford a proper banjo for a good while, so i am trying to upgrade my Deering Goodtime II with some new parts to liven up the sound. You may know it does not sport a heavy bluegrass tone ring, but a fairly simple one which provides okay volume but not a very intricate tone.
I am taking it for a setup and am considering a new Deering bridge as well as a new head. I was advised by Deering to go for either the black or clear head for a noticeable change in tone. Wondering if anyone else has experience working on the lower-end Deerings, and how much you can actually improve sound and response with things like head and bridges etc.
Have also ordered some new Pro pik fast- and sharp varieties for more SPEED.
Okay, well consider this... either the black or clear heads WILL produce a different sound than the frosted one that came with it. There's no guarantee you're actually going to LIKE the different sound.
One quickly runs into the law of diminishing returns when trying to tweak a starter instrument. But within bounds of reason, don't limit yourself to a Deering bridge. If you're taking it to a reasonably knowledgeable setup person, he or she should have a variety of different bridges in stock. Don't go for the brand - go for the one that sounds best. They can be changed out quite quickly.
As a teacher who has watched some well-heeled students spend tons of money (against my counsel, by the way) on accessories, I can assure you of this: don't expect new picks to have any impact whatsoever on your speed. Speed comes a result of developing good technique through a lot practice. People who force the speed before they develop good technique end up fast and sloppy. And the hardware doesn't have a thing to do with it.
What DOES matter with the hardware is that it's comfortable, snug but not tight, and properly adjusted. For new players, I like the Pro-Pik split bands because they're the easiest picks to adjust to those parameters. But any pick sales pitch that promises the picks will help with speed is blowing smoke.
I've tried a few bridges on my good time and a couple of different heads. You can alter the sound quite a bit but you won't get miracles. Having said that, I just tweaked up mine a little, tightened up the head, new bridge, new strings, and don't regret it. Sounds good.
'Good Monday Morning' 4 hrs
'Help With Banjo please' 5 hrs
'Help!!' 6 hrs
'Sister Golden Hair' 10 hrs