I'm new to clawhammer. While waiting on a build a friend has loaned me an instrument with a solid brass (11 Pounds) pot. I'm having a real hard time toning it down AND getting a good sound from it. I've stuffed rags and /or foam under the head and while it does calm it a bit, it's still loud as all get out and has a weird chimey sound, almost like a harmonic.
Any suggestions? Thanks
Be patient until you get the banjo that is being built. The heavy banjo that you have is not designed to produce the tone you want. Mass produces a different sound which is what bluegrass players want. Old time banjos are much lighter in weight and darker in tone. I know that sounds confusing.
Case in point; several years ago I built a bluegrass banjo with a 3/4" rim and a Whyte Laydie tone ring. It has a piercing, bell-like sound that an old time banjo player would not be happy with but it is a delightful sounding banjo for bluegrass. Someone tried playing clawhammer on it and it sounded awful. It was too bright and ringy for his style. Put the same ring on a 3/8" rim and it has a warm, mellow sound. The Whyte Laydie tone ring produces its unique tone when it is matched with the thin rim it was designed for.
People stuff rims with different things to change the sound but the banjo has to be capable of producing the tone the person wants in the first place. If it is designed to produce a different tone then it will never give you the sound you want. A banjo is a sum of its components and each one can have an effect on sound but changing one component will only work within limitations. You can't really change the nature of a banjo.
I hope that made sense.
Would your friend be happy with you loosening the head a bit??
Sounds like bridge might be off so mark bridge with a pencil on head and move it starting going towards tail piece and re tune . If better keep going that way till you hear the sweet spot . If worse go the other direction past your pencil mark . If that's no better then put back to pencil mark where you began and maybe something else .
You are new to clawhammer, so your tone is not going to be good.
With practice and self awareness, your tone will improve.
Here is how to muffle or mute the overtones you do not like:
Take a strip of thin masking tape and put it across bridge, covering the strings.
Adjust it until you get a quieter and more plunky sound.
'Help with tail piece' 5 min
'Red Rocking Chair' 2 hrs