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Dec 1, 2020 - 5:32:29 PM
132 posts since 10/2/2011

Hey folks.
So I really love the kind of focused tone players get from banjos like Whyte Laydies and the like. I’m not in a position to buy one of those now, and I’ve recently put some time and money into a Washburn Style C conversion. So, I’m wondering what other things a person can change or set-up on an open back to get that kind of electric and focused tone on something like my Style C Conversion.

Dec 2, 2020 - 3:26:49 AM

Bill H

USA

1472 posts since 11/7/2010

Head tension, bridge and tailpiece can all be adjusted to achieve a particular sound. Also the style of the head--frosted. clear, Renaissance, cloudy, skin--I have tried them all. String gauge and material is a factor. Your own style of play is a major influencer of sound and tone as well. I always start with head tension. then consider the best bridge for a particular banjo. Tinker to your heart's content, this is what banjo players are born to do.

Dec 2, 2020 - 4:05:59 AM

1681 posts since 6/2/2010

A Washburn style C makes a fine clawhammer banjo. If the conversion was done well you should never need another banjo. Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting another banjo.

The Washburn should be capable of producing a wonderful sound and can be tweaked many ways as Bill mentioned above.

Dec 2, 2020 - 5:25:39 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

958 posts since 10/15/2019

What do you have going right now in terms of setup? That might help folks steer you toward some tweaks.

Type of head
Head tension (you need a drum dial)
Type of tailpiece
Type of bridge
Weight of bridge (you need a gram scale, and maybe some sandpaper)
Choice of string set

It's a never ending obsession.

Dec 2, 2020 - 5:44:26 AM

132 posts since 10/2/2011

You’re right, Eric. I’ll give you the specs I know.

Renaissance head
Tuned by ear between a G and G#(sorry i don’t have a dial)
Big foot bridge (I can measure it sometime soon)
GHS phosphor bronze PF160 Medium gauge (11-13-16-26-10)
Not sure what kind of tailpiece. I’ll attach a picture.

I sure appreciate all y’all’s insight.


 

Dec 2, 2020 - 6:16:06 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

958 posts since 10/15/2019

quote:
Originally posted by josephryanevans

You’re right, Eric. I’ll give you the specs I know.

Renaissance head
Tuned by ear between a G and G#(sorry i don’t have a dial)
Big foot bridge (I can measure it sometime soon)
GHS phosphor bronze PF160 Medium gauge (11-13-16-26-10)
Not sure what kind of tailpiece. I’ll attach a picture.

I sure appreciate all y’all’s insight.


At a glance, the first thing I would do is try some different bridges.  Lighter/thinner bridges (within reason) will steer you toward the sound you are talking about.  I don't know what a Big Foot bridge weighs, but it looks like a ton.  Perhaps good for certain types of tone, but probably not the best choice for what this thread is about.  I've never tried one, so that is guesswork on my part.  To my ear, the weight has a huge impact, regardless of the maker.

Edited by - Eric A on 12/02/2020 06:24:30

Dec 2, 2020 - 6:28:14 AM

wtalley

USA

263 posts since 7/2/2010

I had a Style C that had a really nice old-time sound. It had a Fiberskyn head, No-Knot tailpiece, a generic Grover style bridge, and strings like yours.

In my experience, changing the tailpiece to a No-Knot will make the biggest change in how your banjo sounds - however, you may like it and you may not.

Dec 2, 2020 - 7:22:57 AM

547 posts since 10/9/2017

I'm no expert, but my experience with phosphor bronze strings was that they are far more "muddy" than nickel ones. I tried them once then cut them off after a day.

Dec 2, 2020 - 7:31:32 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

958 posts since 10/15/2019

I think the OP is looking for a sharper tone.  In my experience, a No-Knot would take it in the wrong direction.  I would advocate for either the Waverly type that he has, as a decent starting point, or something even longer, like Presto, Clamshell, or Kershner.   In the video he linked on another thread, the banjo in question is rocking a Kershner.

Dec 2, 2020 - 8:13:08 AM
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Emiel

Austria

9694 posts since 1/22/2003

I don't think the Renaissance head is really helpful in getting a focussed tone. They have a lot of hollowness in them. Try a top-frosted head (or a skin head if you don't mind the tension changing problems).

Dec 2, 2020 - 9:35:47 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

958 posts since 10/15/2019

The tailpiece looks to me like it is missing the screw that adjusts the tension on it. Any discussion of possible tailpiece adjustments seems moot without that screw. You are just floating there, which could be hurting you.  Generally, on an adjustable tailpiece, cranking the end (that is near the bridge) down closer to the head will sharpen up the tone a bit, within reason of course.

Edited by - Eric A on 12/02/2020 09:37:28

Dec 2, 2020 - 9:49:32 AM
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132 posts since 10/2/2011

Thanks for all that advice folks. I really appreciate everyone chiming in. I’m not at home now, so I can’t inspect that tailpiece, but I don’t think it’s actually made to adjust. I think it’s stationary. I could be wrong though.

So it sounds like trying out some of these things: new longer tailpiece, nickel strings, lighter bridge, and frosted head.

Makes sense to me to try one thing at a time. So maybe strings first, then bridge, then tailpiece, then head.

Any bridge suggestions for something lightweight?

Dec 2, 2020 - 9:57:21 AM

132 posts since 10/2/2011

This is the video that Eric mentioned.

https://youtu.be/88OlVO9Wkwc

Dec 2, 2020 - 10:15:24 AM

Emiel

Austria

9694 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by josephryanevans

Thanks for all that advice folks. I really appreciate everyone chiming in. I’m not at home now, so I can’t inspect that tailpiece, but I don’t think it’s actually made to adjust. I think it’s stationary. I could be wrong though.

So it sounds like trying out some of these things: new longer tailpiece, nickel strings, lighter bridge, and frosted head.

Makes sense to me to try one thing at a time. So maybe strings first, then bridge, then tailpiece, then head.

Any bridge suggestions for something lightweight?


Yes, once at a time, and assess how it changes the sound…!

Edited by - Emiel on 12/02/2020 10:22:52

Dec 2, 2020 - 10:19:56 AM

Emiel

Austria

9694 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by josephryanevans

This is the video that Eric mentioned.

https://youtu.be/88OlVO9Wkwc

 


That's a Kershner tailpiece (and a Remo top-frosted head btw), a tailpiece that focuses the sound – compared to the Presto at least, not sure how it compares to your tailpiece (New Waverly) in this respect. But it will sound better than your tailpiece as it is made of plated brass. Your tailpiece is probably made of plated steel.

Edited by - Emiel on 12/02/2020 10:21:33

Dec 2, 2020 - 10:26:38 AM

100 posts since 7/5/2010

This is the screw Eric mentioned.


Dec 2, 2020 - 10:31:16 AM
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wtalley

USA

263 posts since 7/2/2010

quote:
Originally posted by Eric A

I think the OP is looking for a sharper tone.  In my experience, a No-Knot would take it in the wrong direction.  I would advocate for either the Waverly type that he has, as a decent starting point, or something even longer, like Presto, Clamshell, or Kershner.   In the video he linked on another thread, the banjo in question is rocking a Kershner.


I agree with your thinking, Eric.  Unfortunately, the OP wants a more focused tone which does leave a lot up to interpretation by the reader.

In my case, when the Style C conversion was first assembled it was plagued with overtones and beat tones.  It made your head swim to listen to it.  Fooling with head tension, strings, and bridges did not cure the problem.  Changing the head seemed too time-consuming.  So, as a court of last resort, a No-Knot tailpiece was put on (as it was the only kind I had on hand) and the problem was solved.  It sure surprised me!  Hence, my reply to the post.

Hopefully, the OP will chime in and tell us what he means by a "focused tone."

Dec 2, 2020 - 10:39:01 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

958 posts since 10/15/2019

LIghtweight bridges, hmmm, that's another whole can o' worms. Pretty much all the standard, three foot, maple and ebony bridges these days are going to start at 2.0 grams and higher from there. That includes the chinese cheapies as well as the $30 designer ones.

I'm like you, trying for a sharper tone out of my open backs, and I always end up with an optimal bridge somewhere in the 1.4 to 1.8 gram range, depending on the banjo.

My sincere advice is to buy 3 or 4 of the cheapest bridges you can find, usually around $5 each, and some 80 grit sandpaper. Play with those as practice in case you wreck one. It takes a little experience to thin them down and still keep them standing straight up, etc. Get one down to 1.8g and another down to 1.6g, and try them. See if you are heading in the right direction. You will definitely need a cheap gram scale, around $10 on ebay.

Once you discover a sweet spot in terms of bridge weight that is working for you, then I'd contact one of the fancy bridge makers that is well known on BHO, like Mike Smith or Tim Purcell, and ask them to make to make you a bridge in your specified weight range. In my experience they will gladly do so, within reason. They don't want to go extremely lightweight because they fear the bridge may break.

I happen to really like a couple of Prowler bridges that Mike Smith (Kat Eyz) made for me to my specs. Some of my other favorites are ones that I thinned down myself.

That's the short version of my bridge journey. Good luck on yours!

Dec 2, 2020 - 10:53:20 AM

1337 posts since 2/9/2007

I think the tailpiece you have gives too much sideways pull on the outer strings. A No-Knot doesn't do that near as much, but also doesn't give you any adjustment of downward pressure. I think this one is a bit ugly, but it's solidly made, excellently functional -- and dirt cheap, too!

https://www.amazon.com/Yibuy-Silver-String-Tailpiece-Replacement/dp/B0732VDSVP/

Dec 2, 2020 - 11:15:30 AM
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132 posts since 10/2/2011

Some of you are asking for clarification of what I mean when I say focused tone. The above video is a good example. Here are two others.

Wailing Jennys

Duhks

 

what I like is that they are bright and cut through the mix. It's sharp and kind of metallic but not abrasive or thin. That's what I want. (Don't we all...)

Edited by - josephryanevans on 12/02/2020 11:17:19

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