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Not sure this is the correct forum, but here goes: tailpiece question

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Apr 6, 2020 - 12:29:34 PM

dow

USA

59 posts since 6/24/2018

So, I'm playing a Goodtime open back, and have just installed my John Balch hide head, which I REALLY like. Now I've got a tailpiece question.

What difference, if any, is made with the change from a standard Deering tailpiece to a No Knot tailpiece, assuming everything else stays the same? I'm working on getting away from that whole "plastic head, steel strings, decay forever, really bright tone, loud enough that the family yells at you" sound, and the hide head is a big step in the right direction.

Oh, and I don't suppose there's someone who has some comparison recordings out there, is there?

Thanks for your thoughts,
dow

Edited by - dow on 04/06/2020 12:29:52

Apr 6, 2020 - 2:50:43 PM

715 posts since 2/19/2012

It's worth trying, no more than it costs. The Goodtime tailpiece adds down pressure which gives more snap and maybe loudness. You will need an angle bracket to connect to the coordinator rod. You can find them online or make one from a hardware store bracket.

Apr 6, 2020 - 3:17:56 PM

dow

USA

59 posts since 6/24/2018

Thanks Parker. I know that it's probably anecdotal, but I wonder what the perceived difference in tone would be. I know that the no-knot doesn't add any down pressure, I just wasn't sure what that change in the way the strings were handled would have. I'm hoping to eventually get a darker sound. Maybe going with nylon strings, as the banjos I've heard strung with nylon or maybe fluorocarbon sounded pretty good.

I've got a uke strung with fluorocarbon that sounds WAY better than it did with nylon.

Also, while we're looking at noknot-ish tailpieces, what do you think about a regular one vs. something like the Pisgah Hawktail?  I guess that might be going back towards the regular Deering tp, maybe?

Apr 6, 2020 - 3:44:38 PM
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935 posts since 1/9/2012

As far as I understand, the issue is break angle, i.e., the angle the strings make when they go over the bridge. I won't launch into why, lest I upset people who disagree. What people do agree on is that a small angle gives a mellower sound. The NoKnot gives you the smallest angle available in the realm of standard, easily obtained and mounted options.  There's an overwhelming consensus that the change in sound is apparent.  You can listen to a comparison of zero degrees to 13 on a modified Goodtime at the March 2019 entry of http://www.its.caltech.edu/~politzer/ .  The Goodtime tailpiece gives a break angle that is typical of the set-up of bluegrass players on resonator banjos.  In that community, people even fuss with fine adjustments, which are available with higher end hardware.  How I got into this in a serious way is described in the April 2014 entry on the same page.

Apr 6, 2020 - 4:02:31 PM
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139 posts since 11/27/2017

I found that the Hawktail was an excellent compromise between a No-Knot and something more like a Presto. On an old Tubaphone, it kept a nice balance of ring and plunk while being easier to string.

Apr 6, 2020 - 4:24:33 PM

715 posts since 2/19/2012

This is totally without proof, but I really think the no-knot will give a softer tone. I'm not sure I know what you mean by darker. Can you suggest someone's playing (and banjo) that appeals to you?  You may want to look at a 12" banjo sometime.  Nylgut strings can certainly sound good. I tried them for a while when I had a Goodtime.

I think the Pisgah Hawktail tailpiece is beautiful. I have one on an Enoch Tradesman and on a Vega tenor banjo, ignoring the center slot. They do provide a small amount of down pressure, but less than the Deering piece.

It's pretty clear to me that you need to get started on a small collection of hardware to try!  If you go to some kind of synthetic strings, you might also try a wooden tailpiece.  The link takes you to Joel Hooks' site.  They're also fun to make if you have some hardwood available like ebony, katalox, or something similar.

I had this page open for a while before finally posting my comments and didn't see the other two.  David's post looks like the definitive work on tailpieces and tone!

Edited by - Parker135 on 04/06/2020 16:28:04

Apr 6, 2020 - 5:17:17 PM

dow

USA

59 posts since 6/24/2018

Wow, thanks for all of the help and suggestions!

David, your research was eye-opening, and while I read through your report once, I'll probably go back and read over it again. Good stuff there.

Robert, thanks for your recommendation on the hawktail.

Parker, By "darker," I guess I'm looking for something not quite as bright as what I've been hearing here at the house. The hide head definitely made a noticeable difference, and I'm closer to what I'm looking for. As for someone who's playing I could point to and say, "I want my banjo to sound like that," I don't have any names. I do really like the way that the minstrel banjos sound though, so maybe something like that. I'd certainly agree with you that a bigger pot would likely make be more like I'm looking for, but for now the budget demands that I work with what I have at hand. That and my playing abilities. Before I go buying a new banjo, I need to get a much better handle on playing the one I have.

I had forgotten about Joel Hooks' wooden tailpieces. I read about them several months back, and even emailed with Joel about bridges and nylon strings. Thanks for the reminder! I'm still thinking about nylon strings, but am going to work toward that a step at a time. For now, I'm looking at tailpieces, and how they'll change things while sticking with steel strings.

You're probably right, I probably need to gather up some parts and start trying different solutions to see what works, what doesn't, and what sounds the best.

Apr 6, 2020 - 6:35:50 PM

7075 posts since 8/28/2013

I suggest looking into different bridges.

Apr 6, 2020 - 9:54:27 PM

dow

USA

59 posts since 6/24/2018

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

I suggest looking into different bridges.


What bridges would you recommend?  I'm using the standard bridge that came with the Goodtime.

Apr 7, 2020 - 4:53:19 AM

7075 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by dow
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

I suggest looking into different bridges.


What bridges would you recommend?  I'm using the standard bridge that came with the Goodtime.


Bridges are a matter of personal preference, and what might work for me might not be the one for you. There are about a zillion different choices and an equal number of makers, and because bridges are less costly than tailpieces, one can afford to experiment with several.

There are also numerous threads in the archives about the effects of different of bridges. 

Apr 7, 2020 - 5:47:17 AM

5203 posts since 9/21/2007

The good time tailpiece is fine for a good time banjo. Just don't use "nylgut" strings and you won't have a breakage problem. You might have some trouble with their nail instead of a 5th string nut.

With proper bridge and technique, nylon strings are often equal too or louder than steel wire... so you would be better off just using a mute or shoving a towel in the back. If that is your goal.

Apr 7, 2020 - 5:54:08 AM

715 posts since 2/19/2012

Regarding bridges, generally weight is proportional to sustain. A heavier bridge adds mass to the vibrating surface, so it vibrates longer. The extreme case is adding a heavy mute to the bridge. Lighter bridges provide a snappier sound....probably not what you're looking for. Various woods provide more subtle changes in tone, which I suggest is fine tuning compared to the magnitude of the changes you're after. But as George suggests, you can try a variety of bridges for a reasonable cost and have options for future experimentation.

Apr 7, 2020 - 10:19:38 AM

2048 posts since 1/16/2010

Heck, look at some of the old wooden designed tailpieces that came on minstrel banjos way back when and try making one. We’re some of them leather...anybody know for sure?

Put one of those homemade tailpieces on, and some of the thicker LaBella no.17’s, don’t keep your head as tight as it can be, maybe that’ll help achieve the dark sound you’re after? Tinker with it...and remember to have fun Dow!

Dow

Apr 7, 2020 - 1:08:27 PM

3819 posts since 10/13/2005

For nylon strings, I recommend the Fielding tailpiece at elderly.com and also a heavy Sampson bridge which lately have been less available at elderly. If you listen to Joel's banjo, he is aiming for a loud, bright, snappy sound for classic banjo, just the opposite of what you are talking about. With nylon strings (Aquila – also at Elderly) make sure you sand down any rough edges on the bridge, nut, and tuning post because small burrs will cut/break the soft string. Otherwise they can last years (at least for me and my ears). banjered

Apr 9, 2020 - 10:29:34 AM

dow

USA

59 posts since 6/24/2018

Hey Dow! How're things in Washington? It's very much spring here in Central Texas, and the live oaks have shed their leaves, bloomed, coated everything with yellow pollen and caused a shortage of kleenex and allergy pills throughout the Hill Country. On the other hand, bluebonnets are blooming like mad (or so I've heard... the wife won't let me leave the house).

I might look at the wooden tailpieces and nylon strings a bit farther down the road. For now, I've got a Traditional tailpiece on the way from Balsam, and a hanger coming in from Deering. Tinkering is fun, isn't it?

Edited by - dow on 04/09/2020 10:30:24

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