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Jul 11, 2020 - 5:38:59 PM
Players Union Member

Ryk

USA

239 posts since 11/20/2011

There have been some very informative threads on B&D Silver Belle tenor set up for both CGDA and Irish tuning (Thanks for those.), but i can't recall, nor can i find, a discussion of optimizing a plectrum for both tunings. Any insights would be greatly appreciated.  I'd be interested in the same questions around Weymanns as well.
Thanks,
Ryk

Edited by - Ryk on 07/11/2020 17:41:35

Jul 11, 2020 - 11:53:36 PM

Polle Flaunoe

Denmark

5421 posts since 3/7/2006

 

Ryk - I can help you regarding the B&D - whereas I´ve never worked on a Weymann.

But - for a start - you can´t set up a plectrum for CGDA tuning - 23-1/8" is the longest possible scale for an A-string - a scale longer than this will cause the string to break during the tuning of it. The same does to a certain degree go for the D-string.

Jul 12, 2020 - 3:26:23 AM
Players Union Member

Ryk

USA

239 posts since 11/20/2011

Thanks Polle ... it's your work on the tenors that i've found most useful.
I should have made myself clearer in the post .... i'm certainly using plectrum tuning ...CGBD ... just wondering what tweaks to head and bridge maximize for a plectrum B&D what has been suggested for my tenor B&D ...(They sure woke that instrument up.)
I've experimented putting a plectrum in Irish tuning thinking that the longer string length would enrich the sound for both playing along with and backing up fiddle players and wonder if there are other tweaks towards that end.
Thank you,
Ryk

Jul 13, 2020 - 5:10:55 AM

Polle Flaunoe

Denmark

5421 posts since 3/7/2006

 

Ryk - I´ve lately set up these comprehesive guide lines/specifications for the set-up of ultra-pro jazz tenors my way - maybe an over-kill for many players - but crucial for most pro-players. Please do study them for a start.

 

SET-UP SPECIFICATIONS FOR AN ”ULTRA-PRO” JAZZ TENOR BANJO Á LA POLLE

For a start – do have in mind that only some brands/models can benefit from a set-up my way – my own favorites are the last versions of various B&D Silver Bell models, some VEGA TubaPhone standard pot size models and various early OME Silverspun models – with scales between 22-1/8” and 23” - and all with rather light tone rings. Other brands/models/scales are indeed suited for various/all sorts set-ups and playing styles – but the topic here is the “ultra-pro” jazz tenor banjo á la Polle - Sorry!

 

STRINGS

I use only plain and nickel wound D´Addario strings – for CGDA tuning with the basic gauges 010-015-024W-032W.

 

FRETS

I use only narrow/low fret wire (appr. 1.35 mm crown width and 0.95 mm crown height) – a must for advanced playing – inclusive of non-visible damping and vibrato techniques.

 

NECK RELIEF

From zero to maximum 0.4 mm – for a strung banjo.

 

ACTION

The action as measured over 12th fret depends on the actual neck relief – my basic “formula” is like this:  Action = 2.1 mm + 50% of the relief measured at 7th fret.

 

STRING/HEAD CLEARANCE

Minimum 5 mm close to the neck/rim joint – a must for modern picking positions/techniques. On all vintage and also some newer examples do I perform a neck elevation for getting this clearance.

 

HEAD

I use only REMO Renaissance heads – extremely tight – with a measure of 94 on most analog Drum Dials (a digital DD may show a different (smaller) measure) – and/or a resonance tone for a 11” flattop head right between a C and a C#.  And yes – you did read this correctly!

Also do have in mind – a sturdy tension at this extreme level calls for special in-between heat treatments during re-tightenings of the head – otherwise the head crown will most likely “explode”. So – don´t try this yourself at home – without consulting me in advance – LOL!

 

BRIDGE

A heavy/large one – with a basic height of 5/8” – and with a weight of 2.3-3.0 grams and a total foot imprint size of 450-550 mm2. For each banjo to be chosen on basis of comprehensive tests. Personally I prefer 2- and 3-legged Farquhar´s with Taqua inlays.

 

TAILPIECE

Nothing else but an extremely strong and stiff one – with 38-52 mm going over the head.  E.g. original Oettingers, original 70s/80s OME´s, new ABM Tensionators and new/original Kershners. My actual choice depends on the banjo in question.

 

DOWNFORCE

The string breaking angle over the bridge will have to be 13 +/- 1 degrees.

 

PICK

A heavy set-up as indicated does call for a rather heavy pick – with a gauge of 1.0-1.5 mm – and often with a semi-rounded or a fully rounded tip. The response of the banjo once stroken is a crucial parameter for the gauge choice.

 

These guide lines/specifications can be used for a B&D Silver Bell plectrum also - as asked for - only I´ll often go for a string breaking angle over the bridge 1-2 degrees smaller.

 

Some of them can be suited for other brands/models also - BUT - for examples with a more heavy tone ring and/or an archtop tone ring the size of the foot imprints and especially the weight of a bridge will have to go down. For now it´s not possible for me to come up with some detailed guide lines for banjos like this.

 

Regarding the use of a GDAE tuning for a plectrum - I´ve tried this only a few times - but my experiences with tenors do tell me, that the same set-up can be used.

 

So much for a start - feel free asking me for further advices etc.

Jul 13, 2020 - 7:51:55 AM
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Players Union Member

Ryk

USA

239 posts since 11/20/2011

Thanks Polle ... time for me to get to work!

Ryk

Jul 16, 2020 - 2:17:56 AM

27 posts since 3/24/2020

D Addario make a high carbon steel PL007 that could achieve a high A on a plectrum banjo. I use a PL007 to comfortably get high (mandolin) E on a 17” scale banjo. PL007 is available as a single string. I get mine from Strings Direct in England

Jul 16, 2020 - 5:23:55 AM

Polle Flaunoe

Denmark

5421 posts since 3/7/2006

 

martyjoe,

Sorry - but this is utterly nonsense.

All D´Addario plain strings are made of the same High Carbon Steel - and for a plain string of a certain length and tuned up to a certain tune the stress (the tension per area unit) will be exactly the same - no matter the gauge of the string.

So - when exceeding the tensile strength for the steel material the string will break - and this is independent of the gauge used !!!!!!

The 007 E-string on your 17" banjo doesn´t get near the theoretical stress for an A-string on a plectrum banjo - that´s why it doesn´t break during tuning.

Sorry - and if wanting to get some more power from this string - you can easily increase its gauge without risking a breakage during the set-up.

Jul 16, 2020 - 7:29:34 AM

27 posts since 3/24/2020

Gee wiz that’s amazing. When I look at my 25.5” guitar if I had a capo at the 17” mark which is the 7th fret & tune a PL007 up to high E (the same as a mandolin top string). Do you think I’ll break the string when I take the capo off? Counting down the frets from the E puts the pitch at Bb a semi-tone up

Jul 17, 2020 - 2:42:52 AM

Polle Flaunoe

Denmark

5421 posts since 3/7/2006

quote:
Originally posted by martyjoe

Gee wiz that’s amazing. When I look at my 25.5” guitar if I had a capo at the 17” mark which is the 7th fret & tune a PL007 up to high E (the same as a mandolin top string). Do you think I’ll break the string when I take the capo off? Counting down the frets from the E puts the pitch at Bb a semi-tone up


martyjoe,

Of course it won´t break - it will keep its tension no matter where you capo it.

And - if you´re only going for an "E" once capoed at 7th fret (or an "A" once non-capoed) - do feel free using a 008, 009, 010, 011, 012, 013, 014, 015, 016, 017 or 018 plain string instead - the stress (tension per area unit) will stay the same - and thus the string will not break during tuning. Only - the power performed by the string will due to its weight increase when going up in gauges.

You really have to study/learn about the physics of "swinging" strings - Sorry - LOL!

Edited by - Polle Flaunoe on 07/17/2020 02:43:51

Jul 17, 2020 - 4:20:35 AM

5384 posts since 12/20/2005

Heat treat the head ? I've never heard of that being done.

How tight are you going?
Do you use a drum dial ?

Jul 18, 2020 - 12:13:11 AM

Polle Flaunoe

Denmark

5421 posts since 3/7/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Leslie R

Heat treat the head ? I've never heard of that being done.

How tight are you going?
Do you use a drum dial ?


Leslie - the heat treatment my way is a must for getting the extreme tension as mentioned - it evens out the head tension both at the flat surface and the crown - thus preventing breakages of especially the crown - and securing a steady tension for years/decades to come.

I use my analog Drum Dial all the time - it´s however important having in mind that this gives you a relative measure - not an absolute. Nevertheless its my most important tool when tightening a head.

For a 11" flat Mylar head a measure of 94 at my DD equals a resonance tone right between a C and a C#.

Edited by - Polle Flaunoe on 07/18/2020 00:14:28

Jul 18, 2020 - 4:44:30 AM

5384 posts since 12/20/2005

Wow !

Pretty incredible. That's really cranking it down. Interesting that you have found a way to keep the head from bursting.
I don't play plectrum or tenor, but I do enjoy listening to both.
Do you know of anyone who has recorded with a banjo set up this way ?
I would like to hear this.

Jul 18, 2020 - 4:53:08 AM

5384 posts since 12/20/2005

Also, do you think that a 1925-26 Gibson ball bearing  Mastertone could withstand this ? It has the tube and plate flange.

Edited by - Leslie R on 07/18/2020 04:53:56

Jul 18, 2020 - 8:17:11 AM

Polle Flaunoe

Denmark

5421 posts since 3/7/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Leslie R

Also, do you think that a 1925-26 Gibson ball bearing  Mastertone could withstand this ? It has the tube and plate flange.


No problem - I´ve done so myself - but don´t try it on an example with a 1-piece flange!

The high tension will give a 4-string or 6-string banjo a fantastic boost in the bass and low mid range. As for 5-stringers - do forget about it - LOL!

Jul 18, 2020 - 10:23:39 AM
Players Union Member

Ryk

USA

239 posts since 11/20/2011

Polle,
I'm curious as to how to heat treat the head. Do you use a heat gun/hair dryer to warm the head? What's the magical process?
Many thanks,
Ryk

Jul 18, 2020 - 12:58:14 PM

5384 posts since 12/20/2005

I would like to hear someone who has set up their banjo this way.

Jul 19, 2020 - 12:18:20 AM

Polle Flaunoe

Denmark

5421 posts since 3/7/2006

 

Guys - there´s nothing new under the sun - I´ve been writing about the high head tension and various modification/set-up issues at the 4-String forum for 10 years or so. As summarized in my guide lines above.

And many 4-string members have followed my advices - e.g. the OP for this thread - Ryk - do notice his second posting here:

Thanks Polle ... it's your work on the tenors that i've found most useful.
I should have made myself clearer in the post .... i'm certainly using plectrum tuning ...CGBD ... just wondering what tweaks to head and bridge maximize for a plectrum B&D what has been suggested for my tenor B&D ...(They sure woke that instrument up.)

Regarding the heat treatments - don´t use a heat gun - it will melt the head - I´m using a small 1400 W hair dryer - and only for the tension hoop, tone ring and head to reach a temperature of 40-45 degrees C ~ 100-115 degrees F.

With the armrest off do warm up the tension hoop - by circulating the hair dryer around the pot and close to the hoop - this will release any surplus tension in the head crown - after that circulate the dryer over the head - starting over the tone ring and moving against the center. This will even out the tension for the flat part of the head.

The heat treatments start when the head has been tightened to a Drum Dial measure of let´s say 89-90 - do then tighten all hooks by 1/4 turn of the nuts clockwise - then perform a heat treatment (do notice how the DD measure drops a little due to this) - then 1/4 turn again - then another heat treatment - etc.  Once the nuts feel somewhat tight - start tighten them by 1/6 turn only - then a heat treatment - etc. - till you are reaching the desired tension. Normally 5-6 re-tightenings/heat treatments will do the trick.

Do try it yourself - any well built banjo (except maybe for ones with 1-piece flanges) can cope with the high tension - and if you regret just loosen the hooks/nuts for getting a lower tension.

Jul 19, 2020 - 5:30:50 AM
Players Union Member

Ryk

USA

239 posts since 11/20/2011

Polle,
Many thanks for the heat treatment information ... it'll get put to use later today while working on a new-to-me banjo.

Leslie,
Some years ago Polle put up a briefer version of his B&D work. I had just got my first tenor, a B&D Silver Belle, and figured to put it to work then. I got together all that was needed and proceeded. The difference in that tenor pre and post being "Polled" was striking. In checking out information on Renaissance heads the high tension factor kept coming up so when i decided to try a Renaissance head on my Prucha 5-string it got the Polle treatment as well. Same wonderful results. I do have to admit that the first few times i took a head to that drum dial setting there was quite a pucker factor. (Are my affairs in order? Can a banjo actually explode?)
The material Polle has shared in this thread is more extensive than what i had been working with and it was the first time i had heard about the heat treatment.  The banjo i'll be working on today is a  Weymann plectrum with an arch top.  I was particularly interested in the heat treatment because i haven't tried this technique on an arch top and figured anything i can do to relieve my "pucker factor" should help. 


We are all trying to maximize our abilities, at whatever level, to play ... and some of us want to maximize our instruments. Polle has definitely shown a way to do that with B&Ds and it translates to Renaissance heads on other banjos.
Try it ... You'll like it,
Ryk

Edited by - Ryk on 07/19/2020 05:37:20

Jul 20, 2020 - 3:41:25 AM

Polle Flaunoe

Denmark

5421 posts since 3/7/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Ryk


We are all trying to maximize our abilities, at whatever level, to play ... and some of us want to maximize our instruments. Polle has definitely shown a way to do that with B&Ds and it translates to Renaissance heads on other banjos.
 


Guys - my guide lines/specifications as shown above do in principle go for all sorts 4-string banjos - not only B&D´s - do however not expect all of your present jos to become "Ultra-Pro" ones - they will most likely all benefit very much from a modification/set-up my way - but only some will become "Ultra-Pro´s". Do notice my own favorite candidates as mentioned in the beginning.

Here´re my own "Ultra-Pro" jazz tenors (for now) - do pardon me the lousy picture - all re-built/re-fretted/modified/set up as described - I´ll claim that nowhere on this planet can you these days find a selection like this - all with an un-surpassed modern performance and playability - of course not two are the same - but so are none of us - LOL!

From the left - a 1926 VEGA Vegaphone Professional - a 1975 OME Rosewood Silver Mogul - a 1928 B&D Silver Bell #6 NPU - a 1931 B&D Montana Silver Bell #1 and a 1930 B&D Sultana Silver Bell #4 - a pity that very few of you will be able coming by and take some of them out for a test drive - LOL!

Edited by - Polle Flaunoe on 07/20/2020 03:45:44

Jul 20, 2020 - 6:05:19 AM
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5384 posts since 12/20/2005

I tried the heat treatment on a 14 inch banjo yesterday. I only went around the edge, and only once. Used a hair dryer. I got the tension up from 85 to 90, measured with a drum dial. I figure that is tight enough for 14 inches. Definite pucker factor in play.
I thought it sounded good before, but it really smoothed out the tone.

Jul 23, 2020 - 1:01:56 AM

Polle Flaunoe

Denmark

5421 posts since 3/7/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Leslie R

I tried the heat treatment on a 14 inch banjo yesterday. I only went around the edge, and only once. Used a hair dryer. I got the tension up from 85 to 90, measured with a drum dial. I figure that is tight enough for 14 inches. Definite pucker factor in play.
I thought it sounded good before, but it really smoothed out the tone.


Leslie - a desired head tension and thus the Drum Dial measure is independent of the pot size. I´ve worked on 4- and 6-string banjos with pot sizes going from 10" to 11-13/16" - either flattops or archtops - when putting on a Renaissance head I´m always going for a measure of 94 on my analog Drum Dial.

For e.g. a top frosted Weatherking head on a 5-stringer I´m going for a lower measure - let´s say 90-91.

My beloved analog Drum Dial has served me well for 10+ years - it has being used almost every day - it has over the years been dropped at the floor a few times - and yet it´s still extremely accurate.

But - as mentioned in my guide lines above it gives me a relative measure - by the factory meant for comparing the head tensions next to the tension hooks - not for giving an exact measure of the overall tension. I do however know my DD by heart and know how to relate its measure to the performance of a certain banjo and head type.

A "first-time" user will not have this knowledge - and what´s more - I´ve so far had the chance comparing the measures from 3 analog examples and 2 digital ones - all analog examples gave me appr. the same measure for a certain head - but the digital examples gave me a measure 2-3 units lower.

So please take care - maybe your DD will not show the same measure as mine - especially if it´s of the digital version!

Edited by - Polle Flaunoe on 07/23/2020 01:03:35

Jul 23, 2020 - 4:05:33 AM

5384 posts since 12/20/2005

Thanks Polle

I would not have thought that would be the case.
The head is a Renaissance.
I would have thought that that a large head would require a bit of a reduction in the tension.
I don't use a digital drum dial. I would not be surprised if it is the same model as the one you are using.
I've used it for many years. Not every day, but I use it a lot.
I'm intrigued by this possibility.
I have an old Kershner tailpiece on the banjo.
Thought of 94 on a 14 inch rim makes the hair on my neck stand out.
Still, it is something for consideration.
What's the worse that can happen ?
I also have an old Vega Electric and an old Vegaphone, both have 11 & 13/16 rim.
I also have an 11.5 inch Stromberg Cuppaphone.
They all have laminated rims.
I'm not sure about cranking it up to 94 on the Electric or the Stromberg.

Does it make any difference if the rim is a block rim ?
If you had a modern12 inch, block rim tubaphone, with a sturdy internal resonator, do you think it would hold together ?

Reminds me of Star Trek.

Jul 23, 2020 - 11:42:14 PM

Polle Flaunoe

Denmark

5421 posts since 3/7/2006

 

Leslie - I can´t comment on all of these brands/models - you´ll have to use your own common sense - but here are e.g. two BigPot VEGA´s set up with Renaissance heads - with a measure of 94 on my analog DD - indeed some fantastic performing jos.

Edited by - Polle Flaunoe on 07/23/2020 23:47:51

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