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Jul 7, 2020 - 6:23:51 PM
291 posts since 3/22/2005

hi all, I have a lovely banjo by a very good builder with a 12" deep pot. It sounds terrific and deep in G, but it looses tone when it's capoed or tuned up to, say, A or D. As far as I can tell, the bridge is in the right place and the head seems fine too.

any ideas?

Jul 7, 2020 - 6:36:25 PM

13122 posts since 10/30/2008

It's possible the tension of the head is "exactly right" for G, but not so hot for capoed keys.

That's just one possibility. Others will suggest more.

Tell us more about your banjo and what music you're playing, that might help.

Good luck.

Jul 8, 2020 - 4:40:11 AM
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13070 posts since 6/29/2005

It's long been my observation that 11" banjos sound better in A than in G and also sound better in double C tuning than G or standard C tuning — for years and years I always kept a capo on the second fret of my banjos unless I had to play in G for some reason, Now I tune them to double C unless I am playing bluegrass.

I don't know why this is, and just assumed that it has to do with some sympathetic frequencies from the note the head was tuned to.

I have not spent very much time analyzing 12" banjos, thinking of them as an instrument usually played open, clawhammer, and preferred by players who want a stronger low end, but perhaps they lose some of their bass "oomph" when playing up the neck—It's a known fact that larger pots gain bass at the expense of treble—"growl vs sparkle" to quote David Politzer.  Ditto deep pots. 12" pots can be a little shallower than 11" ones.

Taking that one step farther, maybe a shorter scale is better for a 12" banjo.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 07/08/2020 04:42:31

Jul 8, 2020 - 5:02:37 AM

13070 posts since 6/29/2005

My previous post was pretty long-winded.

I think that 12" banjos sound best in the low register and 11"ones, the standard size for a long time, are more suitable for playing higher—kind of like the difference between a violin and a viola.

Jul 8, 2020 - 5:22:46 AM

7414 posts since 8/28/2013
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Any banjo will lose a little up the neck, but it's likely that one with a larger pot will lose more due to the difficulty of moving more mass with the same shorter, high frequency string. (That high note might move an 11 inch head, but might not have the power to move the 12 incher.)

Tightening the head might help, but could also adversely affect the tone of the lower register.

Jul 8, 2020 - 7:49:51 AM
Players Union Member



291 posts since 3/22/2005

thanks for the replies. I have other banjos with 12" pots, and none of them has the tone loss of this one. When tuned up, though, the bass is still ok but the treble strings sound weak and toneless.

Jul 8, 2020 - 8:17:50 AM

Bart Veerman


4674 posts since 1/5/2005

Experimenting with hear tension, a bit tighter/looser, should get you to a happy medium. A Drum Dial will comes in real handy for exercises like this.

George: "Any banjo will lose a little up the neck" - usually caused by bridges that are too heavy and/or too thick.

Edited by - Bart Veerman on 07/08/2020 08:18:23

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