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Oct 23, 2020 - 1:33:45 AM

Jelle

Netherlands

228 posts since 5/28/2012

Hi everyone,

On YouTube I noticed some open back banjos have thinner rims than others.
How does this difference affect tone? First it seemed to me that a thinner rim meant a less 'deep' sound and cheaper construction. Kevin Enoch models for instance seem to sport a very narrow rim, while other brands have thicker ones. Are there some general rules to keep into account?

Oct 23, 2020 - 6:07:43 AM
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7858 posts since 8/28/2013

Congratulations! Your entry has just been presented the annual "Opening the Largest Can of Worms" award for 2020.

Oct 23, 2020 - 6:17:59 AM
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10844 posts since 4/23/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Jelle

Hi everyone,

On YouTube I noticed some open back banjos have thinner rims than others.
How does this difference affect tone? First it seemed to me that a thinner rim meant a less 'deep' sound and cheaper construction. Kevin Enoch models for instance seem to sport a very narrow rim, while other brands have thicker ones. Are there some general rules to keep into account?


Short answer: "No"

First: thinner isn't necessarily cheaper, unless they're calculating cost vs mass.

Second: the whole concept of "tone" is horrifically subjective. Any given banjo can be loved by person 1 and hated by person 2. Therefore: you have to find what speaks to you and you alone. Everything else is just unquantifiable opinion (in my opinion laugh).

Oct 23, 2020 - 6:18:30 AM
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Jelle

Netherlands

228 posts since 5/28/2012

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Congratulations! Your entry has just been presented the annual "Opening the Largest Can of Worms" award for 2020.


I'm grabbing some popcorn, ready, set, go!

Oct 23, 2020 - 6:28:50 AM

2960 posts since 2/18/2009

My personal experience in this is limited, but early last year I used a piece of Keller drum shell and some 1/16" cherry veneer to make a 1/4" thin rim for a 12" cherry banjo, #103. I have also made numerous banjos to the same design but with 5/8" block rims. I was expecting a difference in the sound when I made the thin rim banjo, but I didn't find one that was noticeable, to me at least. It was lighter in weight by a few ounces, I don't remember just how much, but it wasn't a huge weight change.

Oct 23, 2020 - 6:48:03 AM
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3919 posts since 10/13/2005

Crunch, crunch, yum yum – great popcorn! My limited experience says that thinner rims make for a more mellow sound whereas thicker rims seem more bright. I prefer the thinner rims, 1/4" to 3/8". I respect Reiter banjos but I never cared for the 5/8" rims, seems too heavy/over-built for my tastes, and with a bright/sharp tone ( which some people love!). But, such heavier rims have proven to be much more effective for self defense in any banjo/bar-room brawl. Choose accordingly! banjered

Oct 23, 2020 - 7:01:50 AM
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13459 posts since 10/30/2008

What little dabbling I've done in older Vegas and Fairbanks, it seems the earlier "thin" rims are considered more valuable as players. I had a 1916 Whyte Laydie #7, and I offered it to a well known vintage instrument dealer. First question he asked was "Is the rim thick or thin?" (Also, what was scale length?) I didn't know thick from thin at that time, so I gave him the measurement and he sniffed "That's thick rim, I don't want it. The market wants the lighter thin rim." (Also, the scale was too long.)

So I began to learn a lot about finer points of old Vegas! No different than old Mastertones, when you get down to it -- tons of details and differences.

I also owned a Reiter converted Whyte Laydie #2 from the 1920s, which was I then understood "thick rim".

The thick rim Vegas ARE noticeably heavier. I didn't know enough about them to make any observations on tone. I have played a friend's beautiful old FAIRBANKS #2 Whyte Laydie (lovely instrument). Noticeably lighter.

I don't know if the thin rims had structural problems like warping or cracking. Seems like they would be cheaper to make...

Oct 23, 2020 - 7:02:03 AM
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Helix

USA

13072 posts since 8/30/2006

A thinner 11” shell makes a larger resonant cavity. An archtop makes it smaller and looks like gporgie’s head

Depth is part of the equation. Notice how shallow 18” Bhoudron drums are

Banjo cases may help limit the depth of the build. Everything is measured and calculated for successful shipping

Any banjo can now be run through a pickup
Try not to standardize and entrench
New young geniuses are being born right now. They will help us with these symptomatic overcrowding issues like distancing, masks and cleaning

Stay safe over there in Tulip Land

Oct 23, 2020 - 7:47:05 AM
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1356 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Jelle

Hi everyone,

First it seemed to me that a thinner rim meant a less 'deep' sound and cheaper construction.


When I knew almost nothing about banjos I assumed that three play 3/4inch rims were the bees knees, as we say. A few years later when I know a bit more than nothing I learned that thinner rims had a deeper tone and 1/2 inch or a bit less seems to work out best for open backs. My best and most mellow open back has a 7/16th inch rim. Of course there are other factors affecting the sound.

Oct 23, 2020 - 8:44:46 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

870 posts since 10/15/2019
Online Now

Seems a consensus is building. Thin rims for deeper tone, thick for sharper. I think I'll generally agree with that, though I think that type of tone ring, head tension, and other setup issues are still huge. I'm starting to believe that if you have mad setup skills you can make almost any banjo sound any way you like it.

Oct 23, 2020 - 8:56:45 AM
Players Union Member

RoBanJo

USA

195 posts since 7/27/2007

Pitch is due to the speed at which something vibrates. All things equal it is accepted a thicker rim should favor higher pitches.

Oct 23, 2020 - 10:12:26 AM

54 posts since 5/27/2019

quote:
Originally posted by banjered

Crunch, crunch, yum yum – great popcorn! My limited experience says that thinner rims make for a more mellow sound whereas thicker rims seem more bright. I prefer the thinner rims, 1/4" to 3/8". I respect Reiter banjos but I never cared for the 5/8" rims, seems too heavy/over-built for my tastes, and with a bright/sharp tone ( which some people love!). But, such heavier rims have proven to be much more effective for self defense in any banjo/bar-room brawl. Choose accordingly! banjered


You can swing the lighter banjo faster and with more force (baseball bats are made out of ash for a reason), but there is less inertia delivered to the aggressor.  It's hard to know which is better.

Edited by - Uke-alot on 10/23/2020 10:13:17

Oct 23, 2020 - 12:47:13 PM

7858 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by RoBanJo

Pitch is due to the speed at which something vibrates. All things equal it is accepted a thicker rim should favor higher pitches.


That's an assumption, and probably inaccurate. There is no reason why a thick rim would vibrate any faster than a thin rim. The only thing that can be said for sure is that the greater mass of a thick rim requires a greater amount of energy to set it in motion.  

Oct 23, 2020 - 12:51:46 PM

7858 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Helix

A thinner 11” shell makes a larger resonant cavity. An archtop makes it smaller and looks like gporgie’s head

Depth is part of the equation. Notice how shallow 18” Bhoudron drums are

Banjo cases may help limit the depth of the build. Everything is measured and calculated for successful shipping

Any banjo can now be run through a pickup
Try not to standardize and entrench
New young geniuses are being born right now. They will help us with these symptomatic overcrowding issues like distancing, masks and cleaning

Stay safe over there in Tulip Land


I am assuming that you are saying this in jest. I sincerely hope that you are above being crass.

Oct 23, 2020 - 1:19:06 PM

3919 posts since 10/13/2005

From Jim: You can swing the lighter banjo faster and with more force (baseball bats are made out of ash for a reason), but there is less inertia delivered to the aggressor. It's hard to know which is better.

Humm, you've brought up a very serious question of physical strength/agility and banjo weight as applied to optimum banjo player defense. We all know how effective banjo playing is for offense but it appears banjo defense may be more complex than I realized. Perhaps some professional banjo bar-room gladiators can "weigh" in. banjered

Oct 23, 2020 - 5:37:01 PM

Helix

USA

13072 posts since 8/30/2006

I want to talk about the subject
Notice I refuse to copy stuff back and forth
The op knows from the past that I will at least try to answer their questions
The scientific lit is here on the hangout
3 variables enter here: for sound. attack/sustain/decay. High decay is a popcorn Banjo surely
Old time is dry?  High attack Low sustain High decay
Bluegrass is wet! High attack High sustain Low decay. Just my opinion

Then the next thing is the creation of a plenum and how to make the variables make complete or partial results like those exhibited or not with different setups with the same banjo and parts
Or walnut, Cherry or the shape of somebody’s head

Ferrari uses a plenum in the intake manifold, it helps atomize fuel

A Flute and all other horns and woodwinds use a plenum and produce real TONE
Just like the plenum produced by a good Sullivan Mastertone instead of less sustain produced by rolled brass or scallops or an archtop shaped head

So the Banjo comes alive without any moving parts and warns your neighbors better than other Helmholtz generators = fire on the mountain, run boys run

Edited by - Helix on 10/23/2020 17:45:27

Oct 23, 2020 - 11:11:29 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

24066 posts since 6/25/2005

Note that what is still arguably the favorite banjo among old-time players is the early Fairbanks Whyte Laydie, which featured a thinner rim than later (Vega-made) iterations. But it’s all so subjective that you simply have to find an iinstrument that works for you—whatever the rim thickness.

Oct 24, 2020 - 5:51:47 AM
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13258 posts since 6/29/2005
Online Now

Probably no other part of the banjo has been the subject of more theories, widely held beliefs, anecdotal oral tradition,
folklore, and “conventional wisdom” than the rim—you’d think it was the “sounding board”of a banjo.

In actual fact, the “sounding board” of the banjo is not the rim, but the sound is created almost entirely by the head,
which acts like the sounding board of a violin or guitar— the banjo rim is more like the sides of a guitar than the top.  
In order for the sounding board of any instrument to be able to vibrate to its fullest, it must be held rigidly in place.

The rim, then, is like the foundation of a building, which doesn’t move, and firmly supports the rest of the structure.
Its two functions on a banjo are:
 (1) to hold the head rigidly and allow it to vibrate with none of its energy being dissipated or stolen
by unnecessary vibrations and motion of other parts,
and
(2) to be the terra firma where both the hardware that tensions the head and the neck are attached.
Of course, when the banjo is being played, the rim, being an integral part of the system, will inevitably provide some tone color,
but this is more subtle, even, than the effect of neck or bridge.

Based on my experience, and recent papers written by Physicist David Politzer, the most important aspects of a rim are:

(1) Geometry— the diameter of the rim determines the diameter of the head, which is what makes the sound,
The depth, along with the diameter, is also very important, particularly in the balance between bass and treble—
what David refers to as “growl and sparkle”.
Thickness of the rim is less important as long as the rim retains stiffness, and only a very small and negligible amount of "chamber volume" is added by thinning the rim.

(2) Physical properties— Since the rim is the foundation of the banjo, it must be a firm one,
and so, strength and stiffness are very important—a too flexible rim (which can be the result of "too thin") steals energy from the head, as does a squishy one in the absence of a rigid tone ring.


The method of making the rim— laminated vs block vs other types, and the type of glue are only important
in terms of how they contribute to the strength and stiffness.
This why I prefer laminated rims made with catalyzed laminating glue— they are very stiff around the circumference.
and stiffness in material and construction becomes more critical with thinner rims.  Also, I would never make a rim with the grain running vertically.

The species of wood is important cosmetically and in terms of its strength and workability—
some kinds of wood are too soft and weak to make good rims, some don’t lend themselves to steam bending,
in which case other methods must be used.

 
Hardness and crush resistance become important if you are using bolted through shoes, which I don’t do, and can be a real problem with very thin rims.

I've made a lot of different kinds of rims over the years in various thicknesses from 3/8" to 3/4", using various methods of construction: laminated with various numbers of plies,
 finger-jointed, block construction, using a wide variety of materials in order to achieve the optimum physical characteristics.
I am what you might call a "realist " when it comes to building rims and, as I have said earlier, stay far away from folk wisdom and magical thinking.

Here's a page about rims from my website:  https://levanbanjos.com/levanbanjos.levandesign.com/Rims.html

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 10/24/2020 05:59:49

Oct 24, 2020 - 7:09:12 AM

7858 posts since 8/28/2013

"Probably no other part of the banjo has been the subject of more theories, widely held beliefs, anecdotal oral tradition,
folklore, and “conventional wisdom” than the rim—you’d think it was the “sounding board”of a banjo."

Absolutely.  It's this very "folklore" and "conventional wisdom" that I was considering when I presented the "Can of Worms Award."

So much of banjo knowledge is not objective at all. Tone is a very individual concept, and the "why" of it is a matter mostly of conjecture. People can debate it until Heck freezes over, or Heaven becomes hotter than Heck, and it won't make a difference, and it won't be scientific in the least; it will all be conjecture. Although the rim may be (and most likely IS) 99.9% structure, it's that .1% "tone color" that will always lead to arguments, anecdotes, and myths, about what the rim actually does, and it's that .1% that can make a thread continue for days, and sometimes even get some people's comments hidden.

Oct 24, 2020 - 7:43:14 AM

71 posts since 8/9/2007
Online Now

I think what trying to be said is:
Nataka kuzungumza juu ya mada hii
Angalia nakataa kunakili vitu nyuma na mbele
Op anajua kutoka zamani kuwa angalau nitajaribu kujibu maswali yao
Taa ya kisayansi iko hapa kwenye hangout
Vigezo 3 vinaingia hapa: kwa sauti. kushambulia / kuendeleza / kuoza. Kuoza kwa juu ni Banjo ya popcorn hakika
Wakati wa zamani ni kavu? Mashambulio ya hali ya chini Chini huendeleza Uozo mkubwa
Bluegrass ni mvua! Shambulio kubwa Juu huendeleza uozo mdogo. Maoni yangu tu

Halafu jambo linalofuata ni kuunda plenamu na jinsi ya kufanya vigeugeu kutoa matokeo kamili au ya sehemu kama zile zilizoonyeshwa au la na seti tofauti zilizo na banjo sawa na sehemu
Au walnut, Cherry au sura ya kichwa cha mtu

Ferrari hutumia plenum katika anuwai ya ulaji, inasaidia atomize mafuta

Flute na pembe nyingine zote na upepo wa kuni hutumia kiini na kutoa TANI halisi
Kama vile plenum inayozalishwa na Sullivan Mastertone nzuri badala ya kudumisha chini inayozalishwa na shaba iliyovingirishwa au scallops au kichwa cha umbo la archtop

Kwa hivyo Banjo inakuja hai bila sehemu yoyote inayosonga na inawaonya majirani zako bora kuliko jenereta zingine za Helmholtz = moto kwenye mlima, kukimbia wavulana kukimbia

Oct 24, 2020 - 8:30:20 AM

Helix

USA

13072 posts since 8/30/2006

That’s nice
The science always is used here to beat us up again and gain nothing
Mr Politzer can speak for himself. I like your wooden straight pull tailpiece, Dave, plenums unite

If the rim doesn’t matter, then make them out of rope and epoxy, or IKEA could give a rim made of chipboard

Many people want to have fun here and learn something, too

I’m surprised we didn’t hear the taunt about pseudo science, but never a word about plenum in all those dorksticks and bands and ten pounders

All these words and opinions expressed as fact can’t play one single note on a banjo or make someone happy by the sound

Nor can they change the shape of somebody’s head

Good to have some smiles here, just my considered opinion

I’ve tried to answer the person’s question

I don’t like billboard responses “can of worms”. But that’s your opinion. Are you wearing a resonator as a hat? Shallow, I guess it fits your head
Is that your head or are you wearing that snazzy Rez?

and then I'm just kidding, George, it's like getting acquainted on a long space trip, my dog is named George this week, won't listen to me at all, and I'm your elder , show respect    It feels like you may have been teased, I noticed it last Xmas  be of good cheer, this mess won't be over soon

you don't need to copy my whole response, everyone can read just fine

For an answer :  think of each tree and millions of variations like shrubs and citrus. They all move water one molecule at a time

each type of wood has in general, a tap tone being produced by the number of strands or fibers and how much pitch is in the way.  Those subtleties can touch one player's heart and not another's 

 

thank the Lord for that, she really knows what she's doing.  
time to make the banjos ?? 


 

Edited by - Helix on 10/24/2020 09:24:09

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