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Feb 27, 2021 - 10:58:18 AM

tag78

USA

27 posts since 11/5/2014

I noticed an annoying tone in my playing and identified it as my fifth string, dominant tone that rings too loud. I figure it is from the strength of my thumb not being controlled enough to keep it from overtaking the other strings. I hear it in excellent professional bluegrass bands as well. The Seldom Scene banjo player has a real problem with it as far as I am concerned. I don't think it is the mastering of the recording - it seems that the droning overpowers all of their songs and he is an excellent picker. The banjo man for the Del McCoury band seems to have it under control. Does he tune differently, use a different gauge string or just balance the power of his thumb picking? Any help here?

Edited by - tag78 on 02/27/2021 12:11:53

Feb 27, 2021 - 11:26:29 AM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

25735 posts since 8/3/2003

It may just be that you don't like the sound of the 5th string being played over and over. I use the 5th string drone quite often and don't think it sounds overbearing at all.

If you don't like the sound, then try to stay off the drone string and play some other string or just let that note be a rest rather than a drone note.

And, of course, you can learn to play softer, with less pressure/strength, whatever you want to call it, using the thumb, it just takes some practice.

Feb 27, 2021 - 11:31:27 AM
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chuckv97

Canada

56578 posts since 10/5/2013

Some people wrap a bit of tape around the 5th string near the bridge to take some of the volume out.

btw, which Seldom Scene banjo player - Ben Eldridge or his recent replacement Ron Stewart?

Edited by - chuckv97 on 02/27/2021 11:33:57

Feb 27, 2021 - 12:14:42 PM
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tag78

USA

27 posts since 11/5/2014

I'm pretty sure it was the early banjo player. I think it was a video from the '90s that I was hearing and it was consistent throughout the video/audio. Thanks for the tip.

Edited by - tag78 on 02/27/2021 12:20:53

Feb 27, 2021 - 12:24:31 PM

tag78

USA

27 posts since 11/5/2014

I forgot to mention an important idea - When I bought my ODE from a friend he said it had the reputation of being a loud banjo. I'm now thinking that is what he meant. I may try taking some of the tension off the head and going to a heavier string.

Feb 27, 2021 - 12:36:40 PM

tag78

USA

27 posts since 11/5/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo

It may just be that you don't like the sound of the 5th string being played over and over. I use the 5th string drone quite often and don't think it sounds overbearing at all.

If you don't like the sound, then try to stay off the drone string and play some other string or just let that note be a rest rather than a drone note.

And, of course, you can learn to play softer, with less pressure/strength, whatever you want to call it, using the thumb, it just takes some practice.


Texas - don't get me wrong, the droning fifth string is one of the things I like about the sound of the banjo. I just don't think it is supposed to ring louder than the melody notes. IHO it should complement to sound not be the main sound. Whoever the banjo player for Del's band is, he has it nailed.

You are right either way about working on the technical aspect. My picking on the guitar "feels" a little bit of my banjo playing. It isn't a problem with my bare thumb but put a pick on it and watch out!

Feb 27, 2021 - 12:44:01 PM
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650 posts since 11/21/2018

Going to a thinner gauge string (if you can) may help. And/or a different material. Stainless vs. nickel, etc.
A piece of tape on the string is a good starting point.

I've also found that if the 5th string is even microscopically sharper or flatter than the lst string at the 5th fret, in pitch, it can "drill a hole in yer brain" and seem louder even if it's not...

As a "last resort" you can try dampening a portion of your head with the traditional tea cloth, etc, but that's more of a "crapshoot".

Other than those things, you'll likely have to adjust your striking intensity with the thumb or try use a softer thumb pick.
Hope that helps for experimentation. I had a beginner student try playing without the thumb pick once. It was awkward with the other picks but he could hear much better how loud and hard he'd been striking the drone and was able to notice when he did it in the future.

Feb 27, 2021 - 1:59:04 PM

tag78

USA

27 posts since 11/5/2014

belle - thanks, all great thoughts. Sounds like I have it backward. I thought a thicker string would give it a little less "timbre". I will look into a thinner string as well.

Feb 27, 2021 - 2:00:39 PM
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3707 posts since 3/28/2008

And FWIW Del's banjo player is his son Rob.

Feb 27, 2021 - 2:23:07 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

56578 posts since 10/5/2013

Speaking of which here he is doing a tune by sadly-departed singer/songwriter Canadian Stan Rogers that was adapted for banjo by Larry Perkins.
youtu.be/3KpmgJFpA1Y

Edited by - chuckv97 on 02/27/2021 14:23:49

Feb 27, 2021 - 4:55:25 PM

316 posts since 1/8/2013

Sorry, but I'm finding the notion that Bill Emerson wasn't able to control his volume hard to swallow.

Feb 27, 2021 - 6:51:24 PM
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4273 posts since 6/15/2005

quote:
Originally posted by SteveMurtha

Sorry, but I'm finding the notion that Bill Emerson wasn't able to control his volume hard to swallow.


I agree with you, but I think you mean Ben Eldridge - and I agree with you as to him as well.

With all due respect to the OP, this strikes me as a total non-issue. 

Feb 27, 2021 - 7:19:49 PM

316 posts since 1/8/2013

Yes, of course Ben Eldridge, I must be getting senile.

Feb 27, 2021 - 7:24:28 PM

4273 posts since 6/15/2005

quote:
Originally posted by SteveMurtha

Yes, of course Ben Eldridge, I must be getting senile.


Nah, it's easy to understand - they have the same initials, and Emerson has the John Duffey connection albeit with the Country Gentlemen long before the Seldom Scene's formation.

Edited by - arnie fleischer on 02/27/2021 19:28:23

Feb 28, 2021 - 11:30:43 AM
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650 posts since 11/21/2018

tag, It won't hurt to try the thicker gauge string. More mass might give you something different, but I play medium gauge strings that are pretty stiff and loud. You'll want to be mindful of your nut slots too to be sure the thicker string sits well and isn't going to widen it over time. (Not too much of a concern usually)....
I think the elasticity of a thinner string maybe a "9" would either lesson the overall volume a bit or at least give your ears less "bite/volume"/ perception. (Psychoacoustics). We'll be interested to see what works best in your situation. Best of luck.

Feb 28, 2021 - 12:55:54 PM
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3967 posts since 12/6/2009

Your thumb is the strongest digit and just has to be controlled is all. Sometimes I find I am hitting it too hard. But if I concentrate and try to pick more gentle it goes’ away. Sometimes I find my thumb trying to be the beat and that’s a no no…that also will make it ring louder. When rolling along just concentrate on making all digits playing in unison except the melody which can be any digit while playing. (one of the reasons I sand the blade on the thumb pick thinner to match the finger pick sound as it hits the strings.)

Edited by - overhere on 02/28/2021 12:58:28

Feb 28, 2021 - 8:50:08 PM

tag78

USA

27 posts since 11/5/2014

quote:
Originally posted by SteveMurtha

Sorry, but I'm finding the notion that Bill Emerson wasn't able to control his volume hard to swallow.


Well, I tell you what - listen to this from 16:45 through the end of the song and tell me your ears aren't worn out by the end of the song. I suppose it could be his third finger on the first string, I can't say for sure. It was just that this song that led me to think about my own errors. I wouldn't want to sound like this for 6 or 7 minutes straight.

https://youtu.be/Ov8xNHJ2xtE?t=1005

Edited by - tag78 on 02/28/2021 20:58:15

Feb 28, 2021 - 8:57:26 PM

chuckv97

Canada

56578 posts since 10/5/2013

Sounds like bluegrass banjo to me. I do notice though when capo’d at 4 the fifth string “ pings” a bit more. Ben is digging in & playing hard,, just the way it’s supposed to sound, imho.

https://youtu.be/L8eAoh3qaqg  listen from 4:58 to 6:12... it's Ben Eldridge again. Do you hear the same thing that's annoying to your ears? 

Edited by - chuckv97 on 02/28/2021 21:03:15

Feb 28, 2021 - 9:19:22 PM

tag78

USA

27 posts since 11/5/2014

chuck - I agree with you that the song you mention is more mellow, that is why I used the other song as an example of how I might be over-emphasizing the fifth string. I have listened several times on a good sound system with plenty of EQ control and I couldn't get rid of that frequency without completely ruining the song. Maybe it's just me and this is just a "non-issue" as has been suggested. Too bad you can't go to a site to communicate an idea anymore without getting rejected offhand by an expert. Thanks to everyone that had useful feedback.

Feb 28, 2021 - 9:30:13 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

56578 posts since 10/5/2013

Well, the suggestions given could be useful to you.. a thinner thumb pick, tape on the string, conscious effort when practicing slowly to ease up on the strength of your thumb stroke. Good luck on your continuing banjo journey. 

Edited by - chuckv97 on 02/28/2021 21:30:47

Mar 1, 2021 - 12:48:04 AM
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3089 posts since 10/17/2009

Might not be as much player technique (or strings/picks), but sound engineer. Things like mic choice; the way it's placed and angled; EQ, creates a different balance than in pure acoustic hearing.

As well, recording itself can seem to amplify the issue; make what is not too noticeable in live playing,  as problematic for recordings.  Studio engineers often want, guitar players for example, to use a different technique, to control or dampen/mute the extraneous ring (usually lower strings). Some, despite good guitar players, sound good live; end up needing to use tape in studio. 

There  are lot's of other annoying undesired sounds or imbalance in many instruments that can show up with sound system and/or recording.

Of course, with all that, some of the banjo fifth string ring is rather subjective...

Edited by - banjoak on 03/01/2021 00:53:42

Mar 1, 2021 - 3:04:56 AM
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3967 posts since 12/6/2009

Ben’s playing is typical bluegrass banjo sound… I hear nothing out of the ordinary for the sound. Perhaps when concentrating on looking for the sound you just become more aware of it…..also to think about for your own playing that may help, if your 5th string is a hair sharp or flat that also could make it noticeable when struck….Just practice controlling that thumb …. Better still don’t play rolls practice playing phrasing that also helps. IMHO

Mar 1, 2021 - 9:05:12 AM

4273 posts since 6/15/2005

In recent years, I've become increasingly sensitive to high-pitched sounds, but I just don't hear anything out of the ordinary in your example, and my ears are not worn out by the end.

And with respect, I don't think any of the posters who have disagreed with you, including myself, have rejected your experience offhand or have claimed to be an expert.

Mar 1, 2021 - 5:25:29 PM
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2619 posts since 2/10/2013

I read more complaints about banjos not "ringing" like they should than a banjo that is"overringing" (is there such a word ?) . I want to hear that 5th string and my Stelling delivers the sound I want to hear.

Mar 2, 2021 - 1:57:22 AM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13812 posts since 8/30/2006

tag78 I hear it, it's too much 5th string thumb in my opinion. How many 5's are in the roll? Too many. Then he goes into a long solo with thumb and first finger.

First finger lead 21215215 has six possible melody notes and only two fives which allows a whole bunch of drop thumbing/drop index.

I got to play the Smokey and the Bandit Bellflower which is an older beautiful Maple rim from '76 before Tony Pass.  That Stelling defined that era of '70's building, competing with a different voice. 

I think some of what tag78 hears is in the player, some is in the banjo set up.

I also want to hear the low G below the D string, that's a sympathetic note made by the 3rd and 4th strings. Some say it's a pre-war trait.
I think it's a possibility with a good banjo, good player and good luck.

One of my first posts on the hangout was asking about "undertones." I was corrected to calling them overtones. I mean that low G note.
I was new to the banjo world in 2006, so I thought everybody could hear that, or other banjos all produce that note, it seems they don't.

I have since gone away from bone pips. I use a steel screw instead. I play well with others is on my report card - not.

I want to hear a clear and top end 5th string, just not so many times during the 8 beats.

Also during vamping, I may frail softly out over the 19th, it seems to "help" broaden the sound range instead of too much boom chik and choonk. A little cluck never hurt nobody.

I find that some people can't handle a Maple rig and they look for a fuller mid-range in Walnut or Cherry. Mahogany tends to learn each player and reflect what they can do, not necessarily what the banjo can do.  I love to hear other people play my banjos.  I never get to hear from across the room.  Fun, huh?


Richard Hauser I also want to hear the 5th, but not so many thumbbeats. The fiddler does the downbeat, banjo does syncopation.

Edited by - Helix on 03/02/2021 02:06:45

Mar 2, 2021 - 4:09:41 AM
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1164 posts since 1/25/2017

quote:
Originally posted by tag78
quote:
Originally posted by SteveMurtha

Sorry, but I'm finding the notion that Bill Emerson wasn't able to control his volume hard to swallow.


Well, I tell you what - listen to this from 16:45 through the end of the song and tell me your ears aren't worn out by the end of the song. I suppose it could be his third finger on the first string, I can't say for sure. It was just that this song that led me to think about my own errors. I wouldn't want to sound like this for 6 or 7 minutes straight.

https://youtu.be/Ov8xNHJ2xtE?t=1005

 


The problem lies not with Ben's thumb or fingers. The problem is with your ears - or perhaps between them.

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