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Mar 6, 2021 - 11:54 PM
20 posts since 11/29/2017

Hello, I play plectrum mostly and some clawhammer style on my five-string resonator banjo. Now I wish to get a tenor banjo because I was told it is better to use than a plectrum in a band setting because its tuning helps the chords cut through the mix more. I was thinking on getting a 19 fret Tenor because they are louder than a 17 fret. I also want an open back banjo because I think the resonator tenors sound too plinky. Would an 11 inch or 12 inch pot be louder ? Thank you!

Mar 7, 2021 - 1:16:58 AM
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13814 posts since 8/30/2006
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12" can give more bass. Resonators can be seen as frequency clippers. Bass is what travels through the crowd. The pipecap resonator is like doing bank shots and streaming out to the audience in vaudeville. But they work. Not as good as they could.

Open back might not reflect as well. A passive distributor inside the banjo rim itself is also possible, here's just one example:

Edited by - Helix on 03/07/2021 01:17:48

Mar 7, 2021 - 3:22:40 AM



1374 posts since 11/6/2008
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What kind of band and music are you going to play with your tenor? in you play in a traditional jazz band for exemple I think 11' head with resonator is the best choice, I play often an openback banjo with wooden tone ring and like it a lot it has a sweet tone, but it depends on what are you playing, I have also a mastertone tenor when I need to play loud in a band with drums and horns...

Mar 7, 2021 - 3:32:48 AM



11718 posts since 2/7/2008

Lots of videos here of Eddie Davis playing his 12", 17 fret tenor. Sounded great

Edited by - Fathand on 03/07/2021 03:34:51

Mar 7, 2021 - 5:46:15 AM

8385 posts since 8/28/2013

Some of your choice should be based upon what music you'll be playing, what types of band you will be playing with, and the acoustic conditions you'll be playing in. There may be entirely different requirements than playing with guitars and violins in a small room, and playing with trumpets and tubas in a large room.

Also, bear in mind that banjo sound isn't simply head size or resonator or open back. There are also tone rings and set-ups to consider.

My advice would be to try as many tenors as you can, and make your choice based on the sound you are after, and not head size or whether it has a resonator or not.

Mar 7, 2021 - 11:30:22 AM
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2756 posts since 6/27/2013

"I was told it is better to use than a plectrum in a band setting because its tuning helps the chords cut through the mix more."

Do keep in mind that is just someone's opinion.  If you're looking for a more punchy sounding chords accompaniment on your plectrum, just play the same chords up the neck in a higher register.  If you're playing with an exceptionally loud Dixieland band, you can always amplify your banjo.  Just check with your leader to see what will make him happy.  Most just want plain vanilla "straight fours" and the occasional solo chorus.

Edited by - Omeboy on 03/07/2021 11:30:59

Mar 7, 2021 - 2:09:32 PM

304 posts since 10/8/2018

I’ve gotta agree with Paul...

Just check out this hepcat plectrum virtuoso... Brad Roth---  he da bomb!


Edited by - guitarbanjoman on 03/07/2021 14:13:49

Mar 7, 2021 - 2:49:15 PM



2756 posts since 6/27/2013

If you're relatively new to the banjo, it's worth remembering that if you plan to play in a band with horns and consequently plenty of volume, you'll need a banjo with a good brass or bronze tone ring and a resonator to punch out that banjo voicing. That is true regardless of tenor or plectrum. The 11 inch rim will be brighter than the 12 inch, but the tone ring and resonator are a must-have. And as mentioned earlier, you can always amplify any banjo in a stage situation.

........ @MatthewPaul1305

Mar 7, 2021 - 7:49:51 PM

20 posts since 11/29/2017

Yes so I want to play in dixieland group of 4-6 with a clarient, trumpet, drums and a bass or tube, maybe a sax. I would rather stay away from speakers. So my plan was to get a 19 with 11 inch open back, but are you saying I should get a resonator?

Mar 7, 2021 - 11:09:17 PM



52 posts since 12/29/2012

With loud horns I don’t see how you’ll get by without a resonator.

My first tenor was a Prucha Pioneer (flathead MasterTone style). Not fancy, but first rate wood, metal, and workmanship. It was mahogany, and it just couldn’t cut through all the horns in the big, loud band I was playing in. I had to beat the snot out of it and they still told me I wasn’t loud enough. It broke my heart but I eventually replaced it with a maple Sierra, which in my opinion wasn’t as well-made and had so-so materials, but put out a different frequency spectrum. Everybody else is happy now and I’ve gotten used to it. Its days are numbered, though, as a custom Silver Bell style is being built.

But for a trio I play in in which volume isn’t everything (clarinet banjo bass), I’d like to have an open back with a wood ring.

Just my 2 cents.


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