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Mar 6, 2021 - 8:20 AM

Lo-Fi

Canada

7 posts since 1/2/2020

I am fairly new to clawhammer and 2-finger. I've got a pretty good grasp of the bum-ditty but am now trying to find a certain sound and I don't know how to describe it other than it's darker. I understand that this can be accomplished with different tunings and I am experimenting, but I wonder if my banjo itself might be too bright. I currently have a Rickard Maple Ridge 11" open back and it is a wonderful instrument, but it has a thinner and brighter sound than what I'm after. The sound I'm looking for is more along the lines of Old Leatherstocking (Clifton Hicks) in the Youtube video for "O Death". I want more of a rounder "Thunk" and less of a "Tink".

I guess my question is: can this be accomplished by making some tweaks (skin, strings, etc.) to my Rickard, or do I need to be looking at a different size banjo such as a 12"? Any input is welcome. I live in a city where the banjo selection is pretty mainstream (Goodtime, Epiphone, Fender, etc.) so there isn't really a lot of opportunity to sample anything off the beaten path. I don't mind spending money to get the right banjo, I'm just not sure where to start. Thank you in advance.

Mar 6, 2021 - 9:31:04 AM
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BobbyE

USA

2838 posts since 11/29/2007

I play bluegrass but I would start with a bridge possibility  and perhaps less head tension if the head is pretty tight..

Bobby

Edited by - BobbyE on 03/06/2021 09:32:01

Mar 6, 2021 - 9:37:55 AM
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1219 posts since 8/10/2010

A 12" would certainly help. But like bobby said mess around with different bridges and heads first. Also if you're using nickle strings give phospher bronze ones a go. They're much warmer sounding.

Mar 6, 2021 - 10:17:06 AM
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coreyowen

Canada

260 posts since 7/26/2006

I’d begin by trying a skin or fiberskyn head and a heavier bridge.

Edited by - coreyowen on 03/06/2021 10:17:37

Mar 6, 2021 - 10:31:14 AM
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231 posts since 10/18/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Lo-Fi

I am fairly new to clawhammer and 2-finger. I've got a pretty good grasp of the bum-ditty but am now trying to find a certain sound and I don't know how to describe it other than it's darker. I understand that this can be accomplished with different tunings and I am experimenting, but I wonder if my banjo itself might be too bright. I currently have a Rickard Maple Ridge 11" open back and it is a wonderful instrument, but it has a thinner and brighter sound than what I'm after. The sound I'm looking for is more along the lines of Old Leatherstocking (Clifton Hicks) in the Youtube video for "O Death". I want more of a rounder "Thunk" and less of a "Tink".

I guess my question is: can this be accomplished by making some tweaks (skin, strings, etc.) to my Rickard, or do I need to be looking at a different size banjo such as a 12"? Any input is welcome. I live in a city where the banjo selection is pretty mainstream (Goodtime, Epiphone, Fender, etc.) so there isn't really a lot of opportunity to sample anything off the beaten path. I don't mind spending money to get the right banjo, I'm just not sure where to start. Thank you in advance.


I also have a Rickard open back except mine is the 11 inch Maple Whyte Laydie which sounded decent when I received it but like you it was not quite the sound I was looking for I also wanted that more old time sound 

I ended up changing the head from the standard Rickard head to a John Balch (Jeff Menzie) Goat Skin head which got it closer to the sound I was looking for but it was not quite there yet so i went on a quest of trying different bridges I placed a large order of bridges with Elderlies and started trying different bridges, Moon Bridge,several Sampson bridges,several Bart Veerman Bridges,a Neckville enterprise bridge, Steve Davis Bridge, 4 bridges built by Doc Huff and a few others which I cannot remember off the top of my head my least favorite of all of the bridges I tried was the Moon Bridge I could never seem to get the intonation correct with the moon bridge

My Favorites of all of them was the Sampson,Veermans,Steve Davis and Doc Huffs I was finally able to achieve the sound I was after by making the head change and the bridge change the order I placed my favorite bridges in does not reflect which one I ended up with on my Rickard if you are interested in that I can PM you my results as to what I ended up with

You would be surprised as to what a difference you will hear and see with different bridges each one will and does give each individual banjo a different voice so to speak

The one last thing I will note to you is I never had to change the strings and in fact I still have the same strings on my Rickard that was on it when I purchased it 

The second thing I will note to you is you already have a great banjo that is was produced by a great builder, unless you just want a second banjo I feel there is no need for you to purchase a different banjo with a few tweaks here and there I believe you can achieve the sound you are looking for.

Edited by - Don Smith1959 on 03/06/2021 10:45:51

Mar 6, 2021 - 10:51:08 AM
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4071 posts since 10/13/2005
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For a darker sound – 12" head, skin head, thinner rim such as the Enoch Tradesman or ODE Sundance (and look at Stone Banjo here in the classifieds for his latest thin rim), yes the heavier Sampson bridge, and Aquila Nylguts strings to go all the way but let your ears be the judge for that sound, stuffing under the head, wood tone ring.  Good Luck! banjered

Edited by - banjered on 03/06/2021 11:06:27

Mar 6, 2021 - 11:25:24 AM

13849 posts since 10/30/2008
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Contact Rickard and ask his advice.

Mar 6, 2021 - 12:32:46 PM
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Lo-Fi

Canada

7 posts since 1/2/2020

Thank you everybody for the great advice so far. I really do appreciate it. I'm going to start by trying a couple of different bridges like a few people here have suggested. I do really like my Rickard and it's bright sound, so perhaps it's time to add a second open back so I can cover both a dark and brighter sound.

Mar 6, 2021 - 1:02:37 PM
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4071 posts since 10/13/2005
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B.A.S...... this is how it starts...... (Ha!) banjered

Mar 6, 2021 - 2:56:33 PM
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Mivo

Germany

49 posts since 9/13/2017

Looked a little into this myself. Most things have already been mentioned: 12", real animal skin or Fyberskin head, heavier bridge. A shorter scale (25.5") or different construction so the bridge is in a more center position on the head will also make the tone plunkier. Then there's the tone ring, but I'll leave that to others as I don't have first hand experiences with all the different choices for old time sound banjos (rolled brass, Whyte Laydie, Little Wonder, Dobson). You could also lower the head tension.

Mar 6, 2021 - 4:53:58 PM
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1783 posts since 4/10/2005

Haven't seen neck wood mentioned yet--the maple you have is generally speaking the "brightest" tone wood. Mahogany can often be counted on to give a darker tone. Say, a mahogany 12-inch. Like the Reiter Round Peak model, the Ramsey Standard (in both those cases you'd have to find a used model.

Ome currently does several 25.5" scale mahogany "woodys" that come in 12-inch, the Wizard, the Tupelo, and the Minstrel (same tone, different headstock cosmetics). That with a skin head might give you that darker, warmer tone. Or the 26.25" scale Ome Jubilee with a mahogany neck.

Walnut can be funny, it can go either way. Some walnut rim/walnut neck banjos will give you a darker, woodier sound than maple, but walnut can also be quite bright and loud.

Mar 6, 2021 - 5:33:19 PM
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231 posts since 10/18/2020

quote:
Originally posted by banjered

B.A.S...... this is how it starts...... (Ha!) banjered


yes it does LOL

Mar 6, 2021 - 7:24:26 PM
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Wobba

USA

8 posts since 4/15/2020

A 12" pot will do the trick. Also the wood is important. I have a 12" rim made of black walnut as is the neck. It's a 25 1/2 scale length. I has a deep mellow sound and a lot of resonance. I use either LaBella nylon strings or medium nickel plated D'Addario strings. One thing you can do to deepen and increase the sustain with your current banjo is to use a mute on the bridge. You'll be shocked at how much it changes the sound of your banjo. It cuts out the sharp overtones and enhances the bass and adds incredible sustain. Here's the link: goldtonemusicgroup.com/goldton...ries/mute

Mar 6, 2021 - 8:13:53 PM
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1114 posts since 1/9/2012

Bridge -- yes! Not just more weight but more stiffness, i.e., less flex. That's a design thing. Think Spillway or maybe just a solid, rectangular block of wood.

Mar 6, 2021 - 8:42:02 PM
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Tailgate

Canada

14 posts since 8/7/2020
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I think trying a goat skin head would be a good start. Check out Baron Collins-Hill on YouTube. He plays an 11” maple ridge with a goatskin head and it sounds pretty dark and mellow to me, for an 11" banjo.  

Where are you located in Canada? I feel your pain on the lack of options.

Edited by - Tailgate on 03/06/2021 20:43:49

Mar 7, 2021 - 1:12:54 AM
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231 posts since 10/18/2020

quote:
Originally posted by davidppp

Bridge -- yes! Not just more weight but more stiffness, i.e., less flex. That's a design thing. Think Spillway or maybe just a solid, rectangular block of wood.


something like this 7.7 grams


 

Edited by - Don Smith1959 on 03/07/2021 01:14:38

Mar 7, 2021 - 5:44:29 AM

Lo-Fi

Canada

7 posts since 1/2/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Tailgate

I think trying a goat skin head would be a good start. Check out Baron Collins-Hill on YouTube. He plays an 11” maple ridge with a goatskin head and it sounds pretty dark and mellow to me, for an 11" banjo.  

Where are you located in Canada? I feel your pain on the lack of options.

Hey Tailgate. I'm in Edmonton. We have some really great shops here (both chain stores and ma & pa shops) but when a store sells 100 or more guitars for every 1 banjo, it's easy to see why they can't justify carrying more high-end and lesser-known banjo brands. I do keep my eyes on used ads all the time on Kijiji and FB Marketplace and have had some success. That's how I found my Stelling and my Rickard, but those ads are few and far between. Thanks for the tip on Baron Collins-Hill. I'll got take a look.  

Mar 7, 2021 - 6:49:59 AM
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Tailgate

Canada

14 posts since 8/7/2020
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I’m also in Edmonton. I just got a 12” walnut with rolled brass tonering and goat skin head from Dan at County Banjo Co out of Ontario and it sounds like it might be just what you are after.

I was considering Richard’s as well, but Dan was able to get me exactly what I was after for about half the price.

Check his Instagram page and you’ll see mine there as his latest build.

County Banjo Co


One day once we can get out and about, I’d be happy to let you give it a try, plus I also wouldn’t mind trying a Rickard sometime just for fun. 

Edited by - Tailgate on 03/07/2021 07:05:40

Mar 7, 2021 - 9:22:35 AM
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1114 posts since 1/9/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Don Smith1959
quote:
Originally posted by davidppp

Bridge -- yes! Not just more weight but more stiffness, i.e., less flex. That's a design thing. Think Spillway or maybe just a solid, rectangular block of wood.


something like this 7.7 grams

 


In addition to helping with the desiderata described in the OP, more weight gives more sustain (with accompanying quieter attack).  There's no end to the possibilities...

Don S '59's bridge is certainly stunning.  I'm at a loss for words... but maybe rococo or Beaux Arts?

Mar 7, 2021 - 10:08:22 AM
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231 posts since 10/18/2020

quote:
Originally posted by davidppp
quote:
Originally posted by Don Smith1959
quote:
Originally posted by davidppp

Bridge -- yes! Not just more weight but more stiffness, i.e., less flex. That's a design thing. Think Spillway or maybe just a solid, rectangular block of wood.


something like this 7.7 grams

 


In addition to helping with the desiderata described in the OP, more weight gives more sustain (with accompanying quieter attack).  There's no end to the possibilities...

Don S '59's bridge is certainly stunning.  I'm at a loss for words... but maybe rococo or Beaux Arts?


Your description is exactly correct as far as what that bridge did they are made by Doc Huff and photos do not do them justice I have four of them and each one gives something different the one thing they all do have in common is they are all heavy ranging from 4.6 grams up to 7.7 grams I was always one of those that believed a bridge had to be under 3 grams to work and sound great well I have since changed that thinking because of Doc Huffs bridges each one is different in looks but all are absolutely beautiful in looks and sound, especially when paired on a goat skin head. 

Edited by - Don Smith1959 on 03/07/2021 10:09:12

Mar 7, 2021 - 12:19:50 PM
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Emiel

Austria

9846 posts since 1/22/2003

You should look for the sound you're after. That's great, so should everyone. It's a personal thing. But it is not so, that the darker sound is always more old-time. Old-time is pretty much varied and can be pretty bright too. I, for me, like the bright sound, also for clawhammer.
 

Mar 7, 2021 - 1:16:54 PM
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231 posts since 10/18/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Emiel

You should look for the sound you're after. That's great, so should everyone. It's a personal thing. But it is not so, that the darker sound is always more old-time. Old-time is pretty much varied and can be pretty bright too. I, for me, like the bright sound, also for clawhammer.
 


I agree 100% with you a dark sound can also be bright me i like all types of music except one and i would not call that one, music at all

Edited by - Don Smith1959 on 03/07/2021 13:17:39

Mar 7, 2021 - 2:49:29 PM
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474 posts since 4/27/2013

The "darkest" banjo tones I've ever heard came out of a half-spun 12" Rickard with a white ladyie tone ring. It was set up with a rennaissance head, whatever standard bridge Rickard uses, and (probably though I didnt measure it) 25.5ish" scale and medium strings. That banjo sounded like I was hearing it from the other side of a wormhole or something - I was hooked on that sound but I already have a bunch of nice banjos (the sounds of which arent necessarily "dark," but are equally entrancing in other ways). 

Mar 8, 2021 - 6:06:04 AM
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bigleaf

USA

74 posts since 5/5/2019

You might look at an Enoch Tradesman. 12”, Fiberskyn head, with one of those spillway dam bridges from Don New. So dark and sweet that my wife has to turn the lamp on when I play.

Mar 12, 2021 - 9:01:11 AM

26 posts since 6/23/2015

Am I crazy or does Clifton Hicks play a cello banjo with nylon strings?
youtu.be/5aYfOLsACAQ

Mighty big looking pot there...

Mar 12, 2021 - 9:03:54 AM
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28 posts since 7/18/2020

Lo-Fi This might be more of a microadjustment, but I recently switched from my index finger to my middle finger for clawhammer. That resulted in a more subtle tone for me. I think it's a result of hitting the strings at more of an angle with my middle finger fingernail. My index finger fingernail flatly hits the strings, which produces more of a bright twang.

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