Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

363
Banjo Lovers Online


Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!

Page: 1  2   Last Page (2) 

Jan 6, 2020 - 8:04:01 AM
644 posts since 8/30/2012

A common compliment for good bluegrass banjos is that they have a strong low end, or powerful D string, or a growl. A common complaint for not so great bluegrass banjos is that they don't have a strong low end, or have a tinny D string. In the open back world, a lot of builders offer a 12" rim. The larger diameter is said to increase bass response.

Has a 12" rim ever been tried for a bluegrass banjo pot? I'm talking a flathead tone ring, one (or two) piece flange, resonator, all of that. Basically a 12" Mastertone. It seems to me that this would give us what we're looking for.

I've never seen a 12" bluegrass banjo. There's got to be a reason. Has anyone else seen or heard one? 

Edited by - KCJones on 01/06/2020 08:05:17

Jan 6, 2020 - 8:43:54 AM
likes this

5051 posts since 9/21/2007

Most "old time" banjos built now will place the bridge centrally on the head.  This produces the least lively tone which is what many builders and players are going for with that type of music.

Historically, in order to maintain a proper bridge position for the sharper tone that was desired on open back banjos before the modern old time sound, builders would drop frets.  These missing frets would compensate and allow proper bridge placement.

My 12" CE professional has only 19 frets with a 26.5" scale.  My Fred Van Eps (12") banjos have 21 frets with a small extension piece that provides the third octave C and 28.5" scales.

On banjos made with 22 fret necks proud of the rim, the bridge is moved closer to the center of the head which will alter the tone.  Sometimes this works, sometimes the results are a muddy tone. 

Something to consider as you look into this.

Jan 6, 2020 - 8:49:38 AM

5051 posts since 9/21/2007

An example of a Gibson that compensated for this was done on the banjo they built for Alex Magee. In that case they used a fingerboard extension with 24 frets total (21 to the rim).

Magee was a "classic" banjoist and this banjo was intended for gut or silk strings (he later used nylon).

This might be the banjo for you to copy with a 12" rim.

https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/309647

Jan 6, 2020 - 9:30:16 AM
likes this

1527 posts since 6/2/2010

I would guess a 12 inch bluegrass banjo would be pretty heavy for most folks.

Jan 6, 2020 - 9:31:26 AM

1527 posts since 6/2/2010

My back is hurting just thinking about it!!

Jan 6, 2020 - 9:39:15 AM
like this

1482 posts since 2/12/2009

I suspect the real reason nobody has tried is because Earl never played one .

Jan 6, 2020 - 9:44:59 AM

12707 posts since 6/29/2005

This is something I have been thinking about for a couple of years, ever since I started making 12" pots—I have a pretty good idea of the difference in the sound of an 11" and a 12" when everything else is equal.

While I don't see the charm in a bluegrass banjo with a stronger bass, and most bluegrass players don't even play in C or double C tuning, where the bass string is down to a "C", I understand that there is a strong attraction to the "growl", so a 12" would have more of that, but less of the "sparkle".

I keep waiting for someone to commission one of these, which would justify me making all the fixtures and templates, but it never happens.  If I ever wind up trying this, or have time to do it on my own time, I would keep the resonator the standard size so it fits in a case—I don't think that would be a problem.  In order to keep the bridge in the correct place, it might have to go down to 21 frets, which would be a blocking issue for some players—I don't think a 22 fret one would fit in a case, although I could go the Noam Pickelny route and have a fingerboard that goes over the top.

Anyway, it's a daydream—I'm pretty sure if I made one and posted sound files, it would be a cool thing, but nobody would actually want to buy one.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 01/06/2020 09:47:37

Jan 6, 2020 - 10:29:31 AM

2088 posts since 12/31/2005

The argument will be that it does not "cut" enough for a bluegrass jam or band. Not saying that argument is correct, but that's what you'll hear.

I question whether the larger rim will result in longer decay or will it be overtone overload?

Jan 6, 2020 - 11:48:07 AM
likes this

12707 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Murphy

The argument will be that it does not "cut" enough for a bluegrass jam or band. Not saying that argument is correct, but that's what you'll hear.

I question whether the larger rim will result in longer decay or will it be overtone overload?


There would be more sustain, and probably less cutting—there is even less cutting from a flathead than an archtop, so the difference would be of that magnitude.

It would be like playing fiddle music on a viola.

The depth of the pot would make a difference as would the bridge position, and if you went with a longer scale to move the bridge closer to the tailpiece, it would be harder to play and probably wouldn't fit in a normal case.

If I had a 12" banjo sitting here. I would put a resonator on it and make a sound file.  That would tell you the difference.

Jan 6, 2020 - 12:19:53 PM

2088 posts since 12/31/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan
quote:
Originally posted by Brian Murphy

The argument will be that it does not "cut" enough for a bluegrass jam or band. Not saying that argument is correct, but that's what you'll hear.

I question whether the larger rim will result in longer decay or will it be overtone overload?


There would be more sustain, and probably less cutting—there is even less cutting from a flathead than an archtop, so the difference would be of that magnitude.

It would be like playing fiddle music on a viola.

The depth of the pot would make a difference as would the bridge position, and if you went with a longer scale to move the bridge closer to the tailpiece, it would be harder to play and probably wouldn't fit in a normal case.

If I had a 12" banjo sitting here. I would put a resonator on it and make a sound file.  That would tell you the difference.


I'm glad to hear you say that about the sustain/delay.  I thought so, but it's nice to hear from an expert.  I like the violin/viola analogy.  

Jan 6, 2020 - 12:27:12 PM

jwold

USA

1176 posts since 7/21/2004

I recall seeing a 12" pot Gibson that was for sale on the Mandolin Brothers website many years ago (maybe Gruhn's site?). IIRC it was mentioned that it was a custom made, perhaps this was the Magee one Joel referenced.

Jan 6, 2020 - 12:49:06 PM

2893 posts since 5/29/2011

I recall seeing that, too. Didn't it have a slight cut out made into the resonator?

Jan 6, 2020 - 2:25:10 PM
like this

12707 posts since 6/29/2005

I think we live in an interesting period in "banjo history" where people are willing to try different things, and on this forum, we see people with a lot of good ideas—the old ideas of conventional wisdom and tradition for the sake of tradition are giving way to exploration and experimentation.

Much as it would be more economical and profitable for me to make batches of 11" banjos that were all the same, and put them up for sale, It seems that nearly every order I get is for something a little bit different.  Because of this, and the fact that I am neither profit motivated nor closed-minded, I have been directed and inspired by my customers to explore a lot of different ideas, designs, ideas, weights, metals, sizes and scale lengths I would never have done, left to my own devices.

Sierra Hull is playing fabulous bluegrass on an octave mandolin, Bela Fleck is exploring various sizes of banjos, my wife is playing Celtic fiddle with a viola—I am building banjo lutes and 14" 6-string banjos—I even have an order for a longneck bluegrass banjo—why not a 12" bluegrass banjo?

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 01/06/2020 14:26:00

Jan 6, 2020 - 3:12:41 PM

7565 posts since 1/7/2005

I think Ken nailed it when comparing a 12" pot vs 11" as equivalent to a viola and violin. It all depends on the sound you are after. Unfortunately, there are many opinions as to the" best" sound, and the opinions must be taken with a grain of salt. Especially if the opinions are based on other commonly repeated opinions.
While 12" rims may be excellent for some styles and preferences, the vast majority of professionals still seem to play on 11" rims. Or close to it.
And as Joel stated, one player's "deep" is another player's "muddy".
And as Ken noted, there is a much larger repertoire for banjo today than there was in the last century. There is jazz banjo, classical banjo, classic banjo, etc. There is no 'one size fits all' banjo.

DD

Jan 7, 2020 - 6:50:20 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

12344 posts since 8/30/2006

KCJones

People worry about the difference of sound between 11’s and 12’s

How much fingerboard do you desire behind the 22nd fret?

By manipulating that distance on the neck, the bridge will be located in a different place on a 12”

Edited by - Helix on 01/07/2020 06:51:53

Jan 7, 2020 - 8:28:25 AM

KCJones

USA

644 posts since 8/30/2012

Great discussion everyone, I'm learning a lot.

This question might be ignorant, but I'm wondering how does scale length affect bridge placement?

If you make the rim bigger and keep scale length the same, does the bridge move towards the tailpiece or neck? Could a banjo be made in such a way that the scale length is adjusted to keep all the frets and keep the bridge in the same place on a 12" head that it is on a 11" head? Basically an exact scale replica at 110% size of a normal 11" Mastertone? I suppose I could figure it out on paper but I'm mostly looking for a conceptual answer.

Edited by - KCJones on 01/07/2020 08:30:20

Jan 7, 2020 - 8:54:54 AM

2088 posts since 12/31/2005

Think of it this way. The bridge doesn't move. It is the same distance from the 12th fret as the distance from frets 1-12 (in theory). The relationship of the bridge to parts on the the pot (including where it sits on the head)   is a function of the pot size changing. So if you want the bridge farther back on a 12" pot you need a longer scale.

Edited by - Brian Murphy on 01/07/2020 08:56:08

Jan 7, 2020 - 9:42:29 AM

jwold

USA

1176 posts since 7/21/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Culloden

I recall seeing that, too. Didn't it have a slight cut out made into the resonator?


Your memory for that detail surpasses my own.

Jan 7, 2020 - 9:45:44 AM

12707 posts since 6/29/2005

Theoretically, for bluegrass, you want the bridge to be around 7 / 11 the way across an 11" pot.  If you have a pre-war 26 3/8" scale with 22 frets, the bridge will be in the correct place.

Now, if you increase the pot diameter by 1", to 12", and keep the 26 3/8" scale and 22 frets, the bridge is going to move closer to the center of the pot by 1/2"—wrong position.

The 22nd fret is roughly 1/2", so if you eliminate that and have 21 frets with your 12" pot, you are back to roughly the correct position.

If you want 22 frets on a 12" pot and want the bridge to be in the correct position, you need a 28.4" scale.

Jan 7, 2020 - 10:35:15 AM

963 posts since 1/26/2012

I have a 12" openback. It's a 25" scale and the bridge is closer to the tailpiece than most, but it sounds great- percussive and clean. It would have 17 frets, but the neck is scooped so it only has 15. I have never found that to be limiting for the music I play, though.

Jan 7, 2020 - 11:49:16 AM

12707 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by ClayTech

I have a 12" openback. It's a 25" scale and the bridge is closer to the tailpiece than most, but it sounds great- percussive and clean. It would have 17 frets, but the neck is scooped so it only has 15. I have never found that to be limiting for the music I play, though.


I have made a lot of 12 " banjos ranging from 24.5" to 26.25" scales, all of them with scoops, and all but one of them with the bridge in the 7/11 position—they all have "theoretically" 21 frets, but the scoop cuts the fretted part off so they only have 16-19 playable actual frets.

Bluegrass players, though (and that's the subject of this thread), normally require 22 frets and would find less than that limiting because they play a lot of licks and things up the neck as a matter of course. Plus, I don't think bluegrass banjos ever have scoops.

Of course, it's easily possible to play bluegrass on a 12" openback banjo with a scoop, and it sounds great, but you are limited on the high end, especially if you want to accompany fiddle players in A.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 01/07/2020 11:49:55

Jan 7, 2020 - 12:29:30 PM

6845 posts since 8/28/2013
Online Now

I think that before people jump to a conclusion that a 12 inch pot would give more bass "growl" they should first explore more thoroughly what it is exactly that creates that "growl." Obviiously, some banjos have it, others don't (at least accordiing to the OP's definition of good and bad bluegrass sound) so it may be that something else gives that growl when we're basically talking about comparisons between standard 11inch bluegrass rims.

"Growl," to my way of thinking, is more a function of strings and set-up, and while a large pot may indeed trespond more to lower frequencies, I seriously doubt that lower frequencies are creating the growl, but that it's actually the D string's overtones that add the proper edge to the tone. Too much low end response will favor the fundamental frequency of that D string, and the overtones won't be quite as prominent, giving more of a "rounded" tone, rather than one that has bite.

It's certainly possible to build a 22 fret banjo with a 12 inch pot, 26 3/8 inch scale, and a full 22 frets,with the bridge in the optimum place, but it would require a fretboard extenion over the neck. That means a different neck to pot fit (the neck must be higher with a more shallow back angle) and makes head changes more difficult. It would also require a custom tone ring and perhaps other specially made parts, and may not fit in a standard banjo case. That's why I say that more study should be done as to what, exactly, makes a given bluegrass banjo growl. I'm not against trying something new, but I'm just pointing out some of the issues involved and that the larger pot might not yield the desired results.

Jan 7, 2020 - 1:43:11 PM
like this

12707 posts since 6/29/2005

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a sound file is worth ten thousand when it comes to comparing one sound to another.

Here are two banjos, identical except for the diameter and depth of the pots—one is 11", the other 12".  The 12" one is a little shallower than the 11" one to bring out a little more treble. Both have a 26  1/4" scale with a 7/11 bridge position—the 11" one has 22 frets and the 12" one has 21.  Here are the pots.

The tune (Soldier's Joy) is played in double C tuning to have the bass note as low as possible (C), played with fingerpicks, so more like bluegrass than frailing in execution.

 

Jan 7, 2020 - 2:38:30 PM
likes this

DRH

USA

302 posts since 5/29/2018

I prefer the sound of the 12 inch pot. It has better note definition and depth (which are admittedly completely subjective terms).

Jan 7, 2020 - 4:01:40 PM
likes this

12707 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by DRH

I prefer the sound of the 12 inch pot. It has better note definition and depth (which are admittedly completely subjective terms).


So there's a good reason why a 12" bluegrass banjo would be a worthwhile idea!

Jan 7, 2020 - 4:59:12 PM
likes this

21 posts since 12/23/2014

I too prefer the 12" pot and think it would make an excellent bluegrass banjo. This thinking may be influenced by the viola that sits next to my bed :-).

Page: 1  2   Last Page (2) 

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.3417969