Which would you CH banjo players prefer, a banjo with or without a tone ring.
And what difference does it make?
It really depends on the sound that you’re looking for your banjo. I have three open back Banjos and they each sound very different one has a spun over over 12” rim, one has a tone hoop brass 11” rim with a no-knot tail piece both of these have a Renaissance head and my third open back is a tuberaphone with a black ram and a presto tailpiece, a fiberskin Head with 11” block rim.
Each plays well and sound great just different. Sometimes I play 3 finger and CH at the same lam and the tubaphone lends itself better for this. My favorite today is the 12” spononer.
I owned a Goodtime 2 with no ring and enjoyed it. I have 3 bluegrass style resonator Banjos and sometimes play CH. my favorite for playing clawhammer is the Fender (Korean made) FB 58 with the renaissance head How old bad my bowtie Gibson RB 150, The one that I thought twould be the best crossover what is my woody with no tone ring yet it is strictly bluegrass three finger style banjo.
I like tone rings myself and love the one i have in my whyte lady 11" with fiber skin head . I have a Bob Carlin 12" open back with a thin brass rim type tone ring . I would like to make it a deeper heavy sound and have a fiber skin head and stuffing rolls in it but wondering about a tone ring option .I would like more of a gong sound instead of a ring sound .
There are advantages to metal vs wood. Generally, various metal rings provide more volume as well as different kinds of brighter bell like sounds. Wood gives a darker mellow sound. I like the different sounds but I play banjos with metal tone rings.
I'll go for the ring.
The banjos I use all have tone rings. The Jake Neufeld (currently my main banjo) uses a 20 hole flathead ring. Grant MacNeill of The Twelfth Fret referred to it as "the poor man's Tu-Ba-Phone" tone ring. The resonator banjo (formerly my main banjo) has a Liberty arch top tone ring, and the Silvertone has a steel rod (and a chipboard pot).
I have an old, cheap Gretsch tenor without a tone ring. I think it would sound better (to my ears, anyway) with a tone ring, maybe a brass rod.
Until the end of March I had an Orpheum, ca. 1915, with a suspended tone ring. It was the worst sounding of all my banjos. The tone ring was most likely not the sole issue, but it must have contributed. I traded the Orpheum for the Neufeld.
I have not played a banjo with a wooden tone ring, but I'm sure they give great tone. (From videos and sound clips it's hard to tell if the ring is metal or wood.) It's all in the ear of the beholder. Some want bright, some want warm.
Attack = Snap
Sustain = Crackle
Decay = Pop
I think bluegrass is wet with hi snap, hi crackle and lo pop
old time is dry with medium snap, low crackle and high pop
Rolled brass flatbar was used by Lange Challenger to make a balanced archtop
Whether the the next couple of generations have satellites or computers,they sure darn will have banjos We built
Tone ring (or lack of) is one significant influence on sound.
Our response to tone is entirely personal. All I can think of is to suggest that you listen to (or preferably play) banjos of different builds with different tone rings and discover which ones you are drawn to. Chances are that you will find that there is no consistent hardware link in relation to the banjo tone you prefer. Because playing style and so many other aspects of build and of set-up also significantly influence tone.
How do we tell by listening if, for example, its an 11" pot with a brass hoop and a plastic head played with a brass pick or a white lady ring with a 12" pot, skin head, stuffed pot and gaffer tape all over the bridge? There are just so many set-up variables.
Edited by - m06 on 09/08/2019 01:54:58
I enjoy frailing on my home built Whyte Laydie inspired banjo with a 1980's (brass) Stew Mac- Whyte Laydie ring.
I also enjoy frailing my 1925 Gibson With Ball Bearing ring.
These both have a bright sound I enjoy but the WL ring has a more penetrating sound and the BB ring a bit rounder or softer if you will.
The WL open back has less sustain than the Gibson w Resonator.
Michael, Josh Turknett designed 3 similar banjos with different tone rings (or none), strings, and heads (his Brainjo collection). Here is the page discussing the banjos, along with sound samples of each.
I have the "Hobart" model, and like it a lot: Brass ring for tone ring on a thin wall pot.
I also have a Stelling (shaped brass tone ring, tightly bound/wedged to thick walled pot via a patented design), and a Carver Whyte-Ladie with a Whyte-Ladie tone ring (also thick walled pot; I don't know how tight ring contacts pot).
The 3 banjos all have distinctive voices...and I like each of them. The Stelling was made for the bluegrass crowd, but sounds very fine as clawhammer (I removed the resonator to reduce the volume). The other 2 banjos are openback, and I use both for clawhammer.
Hope this helps.
Thank you for all the above posts. Most informative an helpful.
Terrific opinions and advice always freely given here.
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