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Replacing the tone ring. Should I replace the pot while I'm at it?

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Oct 14, 2019 - 11:38:24 PM

TechD

USA

87 posts since 5/9/2008

For years I've felt that the tone of my '70's Ibanez Artist was too "bright" and tinny, so today I ordered a Tennessee 20 tone ring from First Quality Music.  Now I'm wondering, so long as I've got it apart, if I should go ahead and replace the stock, multi-ply pot with a nicer, 3-ply maple pot?  I've heard that can make a big difference in the sound.  
 
I had a banjo with the Tn-20 before, so I know, more or less, what to expect, but that banjo had a higher quality pot, not the cheaper multi-ply that came stock on the Artist.  
 
I know there can be placement/fitting issues when replacing a tone ring, and that it's possible the new ring won't fit my stock pot.  Fortunately, FQ sells a pot that just requires staining before mounting it.  I'm going to call them tomorrow and confirm that it works with the Tn-20 they sell, without the need for further woodwork, just so I have options.  
 
So do you think I'll see a noticeable difference with just a new ring, or should I replace the pot at the same time?  
 
- T
 

 

Oct 15, 2019 - 4:47:22 AM

1512 posts since 10/12/2011

I’m a fan of the Tenn20 ring. But I’d try a new head and bridge first to tone down the tinny tones. I don’t know if I’d throw that much money at an Ibanez. I have a Alvarez banjo that I picked up with it’s multi ply rim. I put a new head on it (Remo) with an added layer of frosting (a layer of Killz white primer) kinda like the old Snuffy heads and a heavey 2.4 Oz bridge and it sounds amazing.

But it’s your banjo. If I had a Tenn 20 ring it would always be on a 3 ply rim.

Oct 15, 2019 - 4:50:51 AM

972 posts since 2/4/2013

I see you have a clear head. That's not going to help if your banjo is too bright. My question is will the neck lagbolts need moving to fit the pre drilled holes in the pot?

Oct 15, 2019 - 5:10:37 AM
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12247 posts since 6/29/2005

I'm in agreement with those who have said that the clear head may be where the excessive brightness is coming from.  The head is what makes the sound and the clear ones lack complexity of sound (IMO).

I think a large part of the solution is probably in the setup.

Weigh your rim—a standard 3-ply one ought to weigh around 16 oz.  If yours is around that weight, switching the rim won't make a big difference.  A new tone ring might help. 

A banjo is the sum of its parts and the way it's set up, and it's very difficult to pin the particular sound quality on one individual part, but changing the head and the tonering will no doubt change the sound.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 10/15/2019 05:11:47

Oct 15, 2019 - 5:53:25 AM

1575 posts since 11/16/2006

Keep in mind that the Ibanez is a tube and plate flange rim should you wish to use the existing hardware.

Oct 15, 2019 - 6:12 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

11931 posts since 8/30/2006

I would replace the rim, too. I do rim change outs. I've got a nice little stack of imported rims over here. I know what they sounded like or didn't. You would be wise while you're at it. Eric in Kentucky is great. I'm closer in Arizona.
Seems I heard that clear heads were slippery when anchoring your right hand.

However, it's a tube and plate which is my favorite of all the rims, you get a bluegrass rig with the most wood of any of the rim types. AND
you get a flat heel cut like an open back. So make that note when getting another rim if you go that route. Frankly, I would want something that would let that Tenn 20 "excite" that whole situation.  Note the flat heel cut on your neck, no extended foot.  Can you show a picture of the side view of your rim.?

Remember with the Tenn 20 , you lose 1" of rim, in other words measure how tall your rim is now. many of us build to a 3" deep rim measuring from the bottom of the head. By having a 3 pound bronze tone ring on there, it accounts for a rim that is only 2" tall.
Using a 3-ply or 7-ply latitudinal grain rim is done for manufacturing specs. Think about what "fit" you will get with the 3-ply rim, fitting the new tone ring so it is snug and proper. A Yeoman's job in other words. I've seen the white underbelly of the banjo world, sometimes they just plop parts on there.

The best import rim and hardware are Recording King, but competing openly with Gold Tone and others.

While you are at it, different woods can give a different voice, you should have choices, like a nice Cherry rim, something not as common .

Good luck, very interested in your particular solution.


 

Edited by - Helix on 10/15/2019 06:16:50

Oct 15, 2019 - 6:48:32 AM
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4766 posts since 9/21/2007

Well, I think you should replace the rim too.   Since it is all apart this would be a good time to get new rim hardware as well.

You might need a new resonator to match the rim and new hardware.  And because you have it all apart, go ahead and get a new neck.

The best part is you can use all the old parts to make a new banjo.  So you will have your old banjo which was entirely worked over and optimized and also a new banjo made from your old left over parts.

Oct 15, 2019 - 7:09:42 AM
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6245 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Well, I think you should replace the rim too.   Since it is all apart this would be a good time to get new rim hardware as well.

You might need a new resonator to match the rim and new hardware.  And because you have it all apart, go ahead and get a new neck.

The best part is you can use all the old parts to make a new banjo.  So you will have your old banjo which was entirely worked over and optimized and also a new banjo made from your old left over parts.


And while you're at it, why not replace the case, all your finger picks, your music stand, all your TAB books, and have two extra arms grafted onto your body so you can play both banjos at the same time! 

Oct 15, 2019 - 7:13:42 AM

1809 posts since 10/17/2013

You will not get near the response from the Tenn. 20 ring with the multi-ply rim as with the 3-ply maple rim. Replace the rim with a First Quality rim cut for a TPF, and you’ll be set!

There’s a big reason why First Quality hardware is truly first quality! 

Oct 15, 2019 - 11:54:44 AM

12247 posts since 6/29/2005

What you ought to do is to make a few sound files of what the banjo sounds like now, then make other ones as you switch various parts.  That way you can learn what does what.

Getting a rim from FQMS, would certainly not be a mistake, and Eric's rims are very good—Everything he makes is good. you'll get no argument from me on that.  Where I start rolling my eyes is all the nonsense about the number of plies having the ability  to change the sound.

If I were you, I would go about this stepwise and methodically, starting with the head, then the setup, then the tone ring.  I think there must be some kind of rule that states that the more money you spend on some new component for a banjo, the better it will sound, otherwise, why would anybody spend the money?

Oct 15, 2019 - 11:15:41 PM

TechD

USA

87 posts since 5/9/2008

I thought about putting a frosted head back on, but two things stopped me.  1) I had a frosted head on it originally, but I didn't like the sound, and 2) I really want to keep the clear head.....  Which brings me to a reply to a comment....  As far as not spending too much money on an Ibanez: Too late!  

When I bought the banjo back in 1997, the first thing I did was completely disassemble it, remove all the hardware, and have the nickle plating replaced with brass.  Then I took all 5 of the crappy, stock tuners off and replaced them with planetary-geared tuners, a pair of "Kieth Bump Scruggs" D-tuners, and a sliding 5th string capo.  Yes, brass plated.  I didn't go with gold plating because I thought it would be silly on an inexpensive, Ibenez 590FB.  I just don't like chrome/nickle.  

Given I have so much time and effort into the asthetics, there's no way I'm going to cover up all that brass plating with a white, frosted head! cheeky  My other banjo, a dark blue, custom, top tension job, built by Larry Cohea, also had a clear head, and it sounded great with the Tn-20.  

But I digress...  Here's a shot of the pot/rim, as requested, along with what the Ibanez looks like when not taken apart.  

I like being able to see into the resonator.  Gives it some depth. 

- T




Edited by - TechD on 10/15/2019 23:17:09

Oct 16, 2019 - 3:44:01 AM

Emiel

Austria

9255 posts since 1/22/2003

The combination of a clear head with a Sampson walnut bridge can sound very nice and warm. I know from experience.

Oct 16, 2019 - 4:29:23 AM

4383 posts since 11/20/2004

Pretty banjo! I agree with the comment above that a new rim would likely help get the most from the new ring, based on my experience with imported rims. You would need to send Eric your old rim for proper fitting of hardware and neck. The natural finish makes things easier for sure.

Oct 16, 2019 - 5:42:52 AM

3733 posts since 5/1/2003

Did Eric mention the torrified rims? I stopped by his shop last summer and he was really exuberant about the possibilities of torrified wood. I got a couple bridges and they are the best sounding of any bridge that I own. I think I would try the rim and a coated head first.

Oct 16, 2019 - 5:55:03 AM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14557 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by TechD

I thought about putting a frosted head back on, but two things stopped me.  1) I had a frosted head on it originally, but I didn't like the sound, and 2) I really want to keep the clear head.....  Which brings me to a reply to a comment....  As far as not spending too much money on an Ibanez: Too late!  

When I bought the banjo back in 1997, the first thing I did was completely disassemble it, remove all the hardware, and have the nickle plating replaced with brass.  Then I took all 5 of the crappy, stock tuners off and replaced them with planetary-geared tuners, a pair of "Kieth Bump Scruggs" D-tuners, and a sliding 5th string capo.  Yes, brass plated.  I didn't go with gold plating because I thought it would be silly on an inexpensive, Ibenez 590FB.  I just don't like chrome/nickle.  

Given I have so much time and effort into the asthetics, there's no way I'm going to cover up all that brass plating with a white, frosted head! cheeky  My other banjo, a dark blue, custom, top tension job, built by Larry Cohea, also had a clear head, and it sounded great with the Tn-20.  

But I digress...  Here's a shot of the pot/rim, as requested, along with what the Ibanez looks like when not taken apart.  

I like being able to see into the resonator.  Gives it some depth. 

- T


Since you require the clear head your options for de-edging the tone are going to be limited.

The head is analogous to the engine of an automobile and you can consider the tone ring analogous to the car's suspension.  All the horsepower in the world won't equal low 0 to 60 times if you don't have proper suspension to couple the horsepower to the ground.  Conversely, a lot fewer ponies under the hood will have a greater effect on your performance.

If you keep that same engine (head) then you have to look elsewhere to change your tone, other than setup / head tensioning of course.

I suppose if I were looking at the exact same problem I'd have a good banjo mechanic turn a nice hardwood tone ring, similar to the Hartford model banjo.  It still looks beautiful under the head, you get a tiny bit of edge taken off the tone, and it's all reversible should you decide to try something different.

You could bypass the whole issue with a new bridge, but I digress...  wink

Edited by - rudy on 10/16/2019 05:55:45

Oct 16, 2019 - 6:04:20 AM

12247 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by rudy
 

Since you require the clear head your options for de-edging the tone are going to be limited.

The head is analogous to the engine of an automobile and you can consider the tone ring analogous to the car's suspension. 


...and the rim would be analogous to the frame or chassis, holding the engine in place.

The highest and best use of a clear head is to see inside the banjo despite what it does to the sound, which seems to be what it's being used for here.

Oct 16, 2019 - 6:22:01 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

11931 posts since 8/30/2006

Thank you for the side view. Since FQ is sending the Tenn 20, I wonder what the dimensions are of each tone ring. Probably similar.
That means you could mount the new tone ring on the old rim and see what you think. I note the old rim looks substantial and is still round and it has vintaged while you've had it.

The analogies to car parts is really, really amusing.

Another clear head enthusiast here on the hangout uses a diorama inside his rez. It's mrbook, Bill Healy, take a look.

 

As far as the tinny sound, It's possible that maple is a little too bright here.  That's why I suggested a Cherry rim, a little more meat with those potatoes. 

I jam regularly and I get so see other people either fly or struggle.  Some of us find rim caps, or wooden tone rings to be tinny.  Grenadillo is icy.  Personally, I would prefer a rim cap of Black Walnut. I don't use them at all. 

If you don't mind:  in my shop the new note knocker or tone tapper is a super ball on a bamboo skewer, this works to perfection, showing what tone is produced by what material.   Note the knock note on your old rim, and tone ring.  then compare and you'll see the difference.  

Yes, and of course it's subjective, most of this is. 

Edited by - Helix on 10/16/2019 06:35:26

Oct 16, 2019 - 7:53:03 AM

chief3

Canada

1091 posts since 10/26/2003

IMO and experience, the quality of the rim generally has more to do with good tone than the tonering considering that some banjos can sound great without a tonering. The rim will filter whatever tone the ring can create. That said, it is easier to swap out a ring than replacing the rim. The match between ring and rim in any particular banjo is the most defining factor.

Oct 16, 2019 - 8:49:15 AM
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12247 posts since 6/29/2005

One aspect that's been missing from this discussion is the neck.  The neck is directly energized by the strings via the peghead, and has more effect on the tone color of a banjo than the rim by a long shot.

I make rims and necks from maple, beech, cherry, walnut, oak, and mahogany in various combinations and have done a lot of sound sample comparisons and posted them on this forum for all to hear, so you don't have to listen to what I say, but to the actual sounds.   I listen to these very intently and carefully, because I am interested in what component will make a banjo sound one way or another, obviously, so I can have some control over the sound of the instruments I make.

My experience  is that a walnut , cherry, oak, or maple rim, geometry and all other things being equal, will not make much of a difference—keep in mind that all Gibson rims were made from maple.  A neck made of walnut, mahogany, or cherry, on the other hand, will make the banjo sound different than one with a maple neck, and a maple neck will be brighter and "dryer".

Next to the head and the bridge, the neck would be third in importance.  If I was trying to mellow out a banjo, I would use a neck made from cherry, walnut, mahogany, in that order.

Oct 17, 2019 - 7:20:38 PM

TechD

USA

87 posts since 5/9/2008

Thanks for all the tips and advise. It gives me places to look if the ring alone doesn't result in what I'm looking for.

I kind of wish I hadn't taken the pot off the neck, as I'm not 100% sure I can get things back together properly.
(neck angle, action height, etc...)
I should have left it together and tested the ring first, then removed the pot if I didn't like the sound.

I'll also look into a new bridge. Thanks for that idea!

This was the gold plated, top tension that Larry Cohea made for me. I liked it, and it sounded nice, but I thought it was a bit too flashy and would make me look stupid if I showed up for a jam and couldn't live up to the expectations. ;-)

I also just have a thing, and more history, with my old Ibanez.  

I actually stopped playing about 10 years ago, and I'm only now trying to get more serious about it. Back then, I felt like hit a learning wall I just couldn't get past, so I put it away and took up other hobbies.

Hopefully, with the help of some of the great instructional YouTube videos that are available, I'll have better luck.

-T


 

Edited by - TechD on 10/17/2019 19:22:32

Oct 18, 2019 - 5:43:27 AM

12247 posts since 6/29/2005

I notice the Stelling in the picture, There is a member of this forum who once worked in the Stelling operation, and he says when someone was setting one up, he could tell from the next room whether it was maple or walnut.  I'm sure that's right.

Oct 19, 2019 - 1:34:39 PM

TechD

USA

87 posts since 5/9/2008

I got lucky with my new Tn-20 tone ring. Turns out in its unfinished/un-plated condition, bell-bronze looks just like brass, so I don't have to get it plated before installing it. Thinking I would be brass plating it anyway, I asked FQ not to finish it in nickel before shipping it.

It fit a little looser than the original brass ring, but once tightened by the neck and coordinating rods, it snugged down nicely.

I'm going to start out with just the new ring, and if I don't like the way it sounds, I'll first try a new bridge before moving on to the pot/rim. I won't be changing the neck, though. I don't want to go too far with this. (again, too late!) ;-P

It's been so long since I've had it apart, it took me three tries just to get it to this point of assembly. I forgot that the tension ring and tone ring go on before the neck. =/

- T


 

Edited by - TechD on 10/19/2019 13:38:10

Oct 19, 2019 - 2:00:39 PM

6245 posts since 8/28/2013

I completely agree with Ken that the rim has less effect than other parts of the banjo such as the neck.

Perhaps people may not think this is relevant to banjos, but pianos also have a rim which supports the soundboard (the banjo head is actually a form of soundboard). In the case of a piano, there are two parts to the rim. For decades, the Steinway company used maple for the inner rim, and poplar for the outer rim, which had to be made seperately and joined later in an extra step when the two seperate rims had dried sufficiently (they dried at differnt rates). Sometime in the thirties, they decided to save time and money by forming both rims together in one step, and had to use maple throughout so that the uneven drying didn't occur and cause seperations between the laminations.

The change from two wood species to one did not change the tone of the piano one speck.

Oct 20, 2019 - 4:18:24 PM

TechD

USA

87 posts since 5/9/2008

I think I'm done. Got it put back together last night and it sounds great with just the new ring!

The tone is still bright enough, but I've lost that "tinny" sound that's had me resting my pinkie on the side of the bridge to dull it.

I guess bell bronze weighs a bit more than brass.  It's noticeably heavier now.

-T


 

Edited by - TechD on 10/20/2019 16:21:00

Oct 20, 2019 - 5:35:40 PM

7418 posts since 1/7/2005

quote:Originally posted by TechD

I think I'm done. Got it put back together last night and it sounds great with just the new ring!

The tone is still bright enough, but I've lost that "tinny" sound that's had me resting my pinkie on the side of the bridge to dull it.

I guess bell bronze weighs a bit more than brass. It's noticeably heavier now.

 

And that might tell you something.

DD

Oct 21, 2019 - 6:38:34 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

11931 posts since 8/30/2006

I like it. Great solution

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