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Feb 26, 2021 - 8:56:55 PM

DIV

USA

5507 posts since 8/18/2004

Do heads need to be replaced like old batteries? If it's not busted or perforated or damaged or just too ugly for you, does a banjo head need to replaced after say, 10-15 years??
What about the "Freshness factor"?
My good friend Mike Stranger once mentioned on here about how these plastic heads do undergo some chemical changes over time...like chemical outgassing that makes the heads less elastic and therefore less responsive.
Do heads get "stale" and should they be replaced say after 15 years?...
I just reacquired a banjo I sold off 16 years ago and it came back in just about the same shape as when I parted with it, including the same head. It looks and sounds fine, but I wonder if it could be "stale" with diminished acoustic properties...?

Feb 26, 2021 - 9:51:18 PM
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13849 posts since 10/30/2008

If a head sounds good, I leave it until it gets too dirty to let people see.

I've never known a plastic head to "wear out", sound-wise.

I have a Greg Rich Granada wearing the same head it had on it new. 30 years old. Sounds TERRIFIC.

Feb 27, 2021 - 2:41:12 AM

Bill H

USA

1563 posts since 11/7/2010
Online Now

I gave my son a Little Wonder conversion and he wore a hole right through the head. I've had one or two let go or crack at the joint, but otherwise they seem to last indefinitely.

Feb 27, 2021 - 2:41:38 AM

347 posts since 12/9/2010

Instinctively I feel like it's mostly lots of loosening and tightening that would make a head lose it's elastic properties. In fact, that might not even be a bad thing either - one thing drawing me towards natural skins for my banjos is the way that once they settle they just seem really nice and stiff like a board, whereas new plastic heads can sometimes feel a bit trampoline-y until you get them so tight that they're a bit choked up.

Same with gut v. nylon strings - although gut isn't necessarily higher tension, it's generally a stiffer material which leads to that unique click/pop sound when you release the string back to its resting state (I'm no acoustic scientist, but this is just what I've observed ??)

Feb 27, 2021 - 4:34:29 AM
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4604 posts since 11/20/2004

I have heard and read opinions that they do lose something with age but I have not experienced it myself. When in doubt, refer to rule #1. If you like the way it sounds, leave it alone.

Feb 27, 2021 - 4:46:19 AM

13476 posts since 6/29/2005

I have a 1960s Vega Pro pot that I converted, and it has the original Vegalon head that was on it when I got it. By this time it's 60 years old and a great head—I wish I could get more of them.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 02/27/2021 04:46:47

Feb 27, 2021 - 4:59:47 AM

Brett

USA

2446 posts since 11/29/2005

Only quoting Earl in his book “plastic head looses its snap over time and needs replacement”. Of course, Earl also said “a banjo either has it or not, why get technical?”

Feb 27, 2021 - 5:01:19 AM
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244 posts since 3/6/2008

I put a Renaissance head on my Tb-12 back in 1991, it’s starting to look good & sounds great.

Feb 27, 2021 - 8:18:02 AM
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DIV

USA

5507 posts since 8/18/2004

Well the people hav spoken and the nearly unanimous message here is what I try to tell myself more and more: "put down your tools and step away from the table"!!!!

Feb 27, 2021 - 9:05:07 AM
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Alex Z

USA

4190 posts since 12/7/2006

Not quite all the people have spoken.  smiley

So far, responses only from those who have not changed out a head to a new head of exactly the same type.  Most responses are on the order of "The head is old, and after 137 years it still sounds good to me."

There has been no response from someone who changed a head to one of exactly the same type and has said "I hear no difference."  Need a few of these answers to get at least half of the picture.

Feb 27, 2021 - 10:29:37 AM
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2099 posts since 4/18/2006

In my experience, heads do wear out. Some more, and faster, than others. Our ears and hands get used to what we are hearing and feeling and the head wears out and goes dull or dead so gradually that sometimes we don’t even notice something is wrong until it breaks or we replace it.

I’ve had banjos that I thought sounded great that I’ve changed the head on after a few years where afterwards I was blown away by how much it had improved and how I hadn’t noticed that it had gotten to that point or dull or deadness. It’s like the banjo had new life. Fuller, cleaner tone, quicker response etc.

That being said, I’ve seen heads go dead within two years and seen heads that have been on for many many years that haven’t gone dead yet. I think it depends on the individual head and how responsive your banjo happens to be. I tend to change my head every two years unless I’m experimenting with a different type (always go back to top frosted remo or amb) or am supremely lazy.

Feb 27, 2021 - 11:08:53 AM
Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

1116 posts since 10/15/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan

I have a 1960s Vega Pro pot that I converted, and it has the original Vegalon head that was on it when I got it. By this time it's 60 years old and a great head—I wish I could get more of them.

 


Ken, I have a '62 Folk Wonder with an old Vegalon on it.  I've been pondering swapping on a new head.  If I do, I'll let you know.

Feb 27, 2021 - 12:17:07 PM

8385 posts since 8/28/2013

What Alex saqys may or may not be measu5red in an exact manner. When a person changes a head, it's usually because it has broken, so most players won't change a head for reasons of "deadness." If they did, they most likely won't use the same head, because as far as I know, Remo has chnaged their coatings and other features several times since they started making banjo heads, and if one is speaking about a Five Star, they can't even get one.

Feb 27, 2021 - 1:42:25 PM

13476 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

What Alex saqys may or may not be measu5red in an exact manner. When a person changes a head, it's usually because it has broken, so most players won't change a head for reasons of "deadness." If they did, they most likely won't use the same head, because as far as I know, Remo has chnaged their coatings and other features several times since they started making banjo heads, and if one is speaking about a Five Star, they can't even get one.


The old Vegalon I was referring to is a lot like a 5-star.

Feb 27, 2021 - 2:18:08 PM

110 posts since 9/27/2014

I replace my banjo head when I wear through the frosting so I get a chance to clean and revisit set up. It’s probably more of an aesthetic thing for me. I may try a new bridge, string gauges, etc.

It gives me the opportunity to implement new set up ideas I have read about in BHO and better understand banjo construction.

I never thought that I lost the voice of my banjo on replacing a head - my sound struggle has been with technique and clarity, dexterity, etc.

Feb 27, 2021 - 7:04:21 PM

8385 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by DIV

Do heads need to be replaced like old batteries? If it's not busted or perforated or damaged or just too ugly for you, does a banjo head need to replaced after say, 10-15 years??
What about the "Freshness factor"?
My good friend Mike Stranger once mentioned on here about how these plastic heads do undergo some chemical changes over time...like chemical outgassing that makes the heads less elastic and therefore less responsive.
Do heads get "stale" and should they be replaced say after 15 years?...
I just reacquired a banjo I sold off 16 years ago and it came back in just about the same shape as when I parted with it, including the same head. It looks and sounds fine, but I wonder if it could be "stale" with diminished acoustic properties...?


Did he offer any scientific evidence for this bold statement?

While it's pretty much true that some plastics outgas various plasticizers, I would have to know for sure whether mylar is one of those, and the exact rate of the out-gassing (if it actually happens). Would it chemically change quickly in a few hours after it's produced. or is it a slow process that takes hundreds of years? Is it a gradual change, and if so, how gradual? Does the tension affect the chemical changes, or the atmosphere and what's in it (smog, water vapor. cigarette smoke"), or what about the temperature, and what about the perspiration on the player's forearm?

Feb 28, 2021 - 7:10:06 AM

DIV

USA

5507 posts since 8/18/2004

Stanger always backs up his statements with sound evidence. I’ll see if I candid up his post...it was well over a decade ago when we used to discuss the pros and cons of The “pre-EPA” Remo Weatherkings.

Edited by - DIV on 02/28/2021 07:11:26

Feb 28, 2021 - 7:15:32 AM

DIV

USA

5507 posts since 8/18/2004

Ok, I think I found it.
In This link I point to yet another thread where we discuss in depth...

Feb 28, 2021 - 8:43:33 AM

118 posts since 12/9/2018

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

Not quite all the people have spoken.  smiley

So far, responses only from those who have not changed out a head to a new head of exactly the same type.  Most responses are on the order of "The head is old, and after 137 years it still sounds good to me."

There has been no response from someone who changed a head to one of exactly the same type and has said "I hear no difference."  Need a few of these answers to get at least half of the picture.


Coincidentally, I recently swapped out a Ren head that was a few years old for a new one on my 12" Rickard Maple Ridge. 

There was nothing wrong with the original head other than some mild burnishing near the neck/ pot junction from where I used to play. The main reason for the swap was purely cosmetic and to let me experiment with staining the underside of the old one.

The new head was set up using the same procedure as the old one; getting the tension hoop level to start and then uniformly tightening hooks until I was at my desired tension using the straight edge/ coin method. While I don't have a drum dial to check tension, I'm very methodical with the process and believe the new head to be set up very, very similar to the old one. Other than the head swap, everything else stayed the same including the strings as they were only a couple weeks old.

All that being said and knowing it's nearly impossible to duplicate the setup from old to new, the new head does indeed sound different. It is more open and seems to have a bit more low end punch than before. It isn't a night and day difference, but it is noticeable. 

Mar 1, 2021 - 5:03:57 AM

660 posts since 2/15/2015

quote:
Originally posted by Bill H

I've had one or two let go or crack at the joint, but otherwise they seem to last indefinitely."


Not to mention that both Voyager 1, and 2 and countless other craft (including LEMs) were all sheathed in mylar.

Mar 1, 2021 - 6:32:22 AM

8385 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by geoB
quote:
Originally posted by Bill H

I've had one or two let go or crack at the joint, but otherwise they seem to last indefinitely."


Not to mention that both Voyager 1, and 2 and countless other craft (including LEMs) were all sheathed in mylar.

 


That may or may not apply to banjo heads.

There are probably multiple formulations for mylar (Remo couldn't have changed their heads if different varieties weren't around) and the mylar used on spacecraft may be a superior mylar formulated for different characteristics, such as resistance to cosmic radiation and ultraviolet light. 

I also doubt seriously if spacecraft myl;ar was ever tested for tone characteristics, or that anyone will ever check those tone characteristics for changes, now that Voyager 1 has left the solar system. smiley

Mar 1, 2021 - 7:42:57 AM

8385 posts since 8/28/2013

No need to change heads Put your banjo next to a Glade plug-in. It'll give you a fresh head every time.

Mar 3, 2021 - 5:08:42 AM

660 posts since 2/15/2015

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie
quote:
Originally posted by geoB
quote:
Originally posted by Bill H

I've had one or two let go or crack at the joint, but otherwise they seem to last indefinitely."


Not to mention that both Voyager 1, and 2 and countless other craft (including LEMs) were all sheathed in mylar.

 


That may or may not apply to banjo heads.

There are probably multiple formulations for mylar (Remo couldn't have changed their heads if different varieties weren't around) and the mylar used on spacecraft may be a superior mylar formulated for different characteristics, such as resistance to cosmic radiation and ultraviolet light. 

I also doubt seriously if spacecraft myl;ar was ever tested for tone characteristics, or that anyone will ever check those tone characteristics for changes, now that Voyager 1 has left the solar system. smiley


I also have a history of hand percussion behind me, and at one point in time the preferred Bongo head material for the higher "macho" bongo drum was exposed x-ray film. Synthetic heads have taken over and good thing too, as x-ray film went through a change where it was upgraded and not is thin and therefore it was unusable for covering a bongo because it didn't cinch up as well as the old x-ray film did.

I wonder if one of those space blankets would work? Hmmmm...

Mar 3, 2021 - 5:36:56 AM

660 posts since 2/15/2015

quote:
Originally posted by geoB
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie
quote:
Originally posted by geoB
quote:
Originally posted by Bill H

I've had one or two let go or crack at the joint, but otherwise they seem to last indefinitely."


Not to mention that both Voyager 1, and 2 and countless other craft (including LEMs) were all sheathed in mylar.

 


That may or may not apply to banjo heads.

There are probably multiple formulations for mylar (Remo couldn't have changed their heads if different varieties weren't around) and the mylar used on spacecraft may be a superior mylar formulated for different characteristics, such as resistance to cosmic radiation and ultraviolet light. 

I also doubt seriously if spacecraft myl;ar was ever tested for tone characteristics, or that anyone will ever check those tone characteristics for changes, now that Voyager 1 has left the solar system. smiley


I also have a history of hand percussion behind me, and at one point in time the preferred Bongo head material for the higher "macho" bongo drum was exposed x-ray film. Synthetic heads have taken over and good thing too, as x-ray film went through a change where it was upgraded and not as thin and therefore it was unusable for covering a bongo because it didn't cinch up as well as the old x-ray film did.

I wonder if one of those space blankets would work? Hmmmm...

 

 

 


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