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Apr 20, 2021 - 9:54:37 AM
9 posts since 1/4/2013

Hi,
I've got four banjos and my most recent purchase was a Deering Eagle II 6 string banjo. Yes, I know it's not a banjo and I have a couple "real" 5 string banjos as well. :-) For some genres, it works much better than a 5 string banjo.

I think this Eagle II is a very beautiful and well made banjitar (or whatever you might want to call it). My question is about tonality. I'd love to get possibly a little more body from the sound. I know a banjo doesn't have any real low end but I'm thinking more lower midrange. The banjo is plenty loud enough. I'm wondering what setup changes might give it a bit bigger sound. I know that is vague. Possibly a different bridge or head tension? I keep the head pretty well evenly cranked. I don't remember what the pitch was that I went for.

I don't have another 6 string with a tone ring to compare it to. I do have a Recording King 6 string banjo that I got years ago. I've used it a ton on recordings but always wanted a bit more clarity. It does not have a brass tone ring. The head sits on the maple rim, so it has a more muted sound. I like some of that warmth but the low strings do get too thuddy or pudgy sounding. Not real distinct. That's why I got the Eagle II. I'd love to be able to dial in the sound on the Eagle II just a bit more.

Any tips from others with a twenty-ten tone ring would be a great help.

Apr 20, 2021 - 10:16:37 AM

13527 posts since 6/29/2005

I've made a few 6 string banjos and find that lighter gauge strings are a bit mopre responsive in the low end

You can get single loop-end strings from juststrings.com and I'd get a few and experiment with phosphor bronze wound very light strings for the bass—lighter than "ultra light" guitar strings.

Some people use a light string for the 6th string and tune it to a high E in unison with the 1st string.

Apr 20, 2021 - 11:58:35 AM

1121 posts since 1/9/2012

Try: a heavier bridge if you have one; decrease the break angle little-by-little (the Deering 6-string bridge is adjustable; if that's not what you have, there are still always ways to change the break angle if you think about it); lower the head tension, again little-by-little. Each of these will lower what the banjo itself thinks is "mid-range."

Apr 20, 2021 - 12:31:43 PM

5603 posts since 12/20/2005

I play 6-string banjo-guitar, pretty much exclusively. I use banjo strings and for a banjo like yours, I tune to an open G.
Regardless of how many strings you have, getting the sound you are looking for, involves the same process.
The banjo must be set up straight, true, tight and proper.
Then it's simply a process of experimenting with different strings, bridges, tailpiece angle, and head tension.
I'm sure the bridge that came with the banjo is a good bridge.
Nonetheless, I would touch base with some of the custom bridge builders here on this forum. I have used a number of them. Even though I requested a bridge for a 6-string rather than a five-string, each person I contacted was happy to build whatever I was asking for.
I would also invest in a drum dial gauge. This is a gauge that will tell you how tight your banjo head is. For many of us, it is indispensable. It helps to be sure that the head has even tension all the way around.
They tailpiece that comes with your banjo is a good one, one of the best. It is actually designed to be used with ball end guitar strings, but loop end banjo strings can be used on it as well.
That tailpiece is adjustable for angle, which also will play a role in determining the tone of your banjo.
Like Ken said, experiment with some different strings, that's going to be very important. I would definitely go with the lighter gauges.

Seldom do you see a 6-string Gibson style banjo with an 11 inch rim, tone ring and resonator, in standard guitar tuning, that sounds good.

But it is very doable, I promise you. You might be surprised, but you can get pretty decent tone out of even the lower notes.

Anyhow, good luck with your banjo. You have a lot of good stuff to work with, lots of potential there.

Shoot me a PM if you ever want. I'd be happy to help any way I can.

Edited by - Leslie R on 04/20/2021 12:34:26

Apr 20, 2021 - 1:30:49 PM

McIrish

USA

9 posts since 1/4/2013

Thanks for the replies. I really appreciate it. I did watch some video with Jens explaining the concept for the Eagle II / twenty-ten design. It seems that is actually what I was looking for. It isn't quite as bright and bluegrass-ey as other tone ring designs. That's good for me. I need more body than piercing high frequencies. As far as strings go, I do use pure nickel light guage (10's) strings on it. I need to keep tuning standard on this as I have a seven album back catalog I need to be able to play live. Maybe I have the head too tight or the break angle is a bit steep. I will play with those.

I was also looking at getting a Kavanjo head. That may help in two ways. First it might mellow the sound a bit, which is fine. More importantly, I think I might be able to get move volume before feedback from it. I currently use a Fishman Rare Earth pickup. It does the job but some shows are pretty tough to avoid feedback. I'm competing against loud drums and bass.

Apr 20, 2021 - 2:47:13 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13941 posts since 8/30/2006

I know a banjo doesn't have any real low end but I'm thinking more lower midrange

You can find what you are looking for, but not with that tone ring and rim combination.

that's a factory spec using what they have to give you a decent sound at a decent price.

Go ahead and make the changes suggested, but you will always be limited by the machine that you have chosen.

I build six stringed banjos and I've used Kavanjo heads, I get zero feedback with a Kavanjo, you can crank it. But it only will play what the banjo is capable of.

And I've heard Jens Kruger in concert, remind him to remove his tuner from the headstock and maybe play just one breakdown to honor the roots. 

For your recording, this should be enough money spent, now you'll be on a quest with a high fiddle factor.  And of course you have all that weight on your shoulders, how much does it weigh?.

Contact Mean Mary and ask her about her banjo. 

Edited by - Helix on 04/20/2021 14:48:50

Apr 20, 2021 - 3:42:51 PM

3355 posts since 9/12/2016

Are you speaking of when playing single note patterns or strumming ala carter family style.You would need to get some fullness in the mix if strumming . I doubt the rim or ring change out would be any fix worth mentioning..Loosening the head would go that way at the expense of volume.   Same thing with a thick head. Things mentioned above are the usual and not bad suggestions.
my 2 cents I ask no one to agree

Edited by - Tractor1 on 04/20/2021 15:45:32

Apr 20, 2021 - 3:59:35 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13941 posts since 8/30/2006

I wouldn’t suggest a rim change

Apr 20, 2021 - 10:55:58 PM

49 posts since 1/31/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Helix

I know a banjo doesn't have any real low end but I'm thinking more lower midrange

You can find what you are looking for, but not with that tone ring and rim combination.

that's a factory spec using what they have to give you a decent sound at a decent price.

Go ahead and make the changes suggested, but you will always be limited by the machine that you have chosen.

I build six stringed banjos and I've used Kavanjo heads, I get zero feedback with a Kavanjo, you can crank it. But it only will play what the banjo is capable of.

And I've heard Jens Kruger in concert, remind him to remove his tuner from the headstock and maybe play just one breakdown to honor the roots. 

For your recording, this should be enough money spent, now you'll be on a quest with a high fiddle factor.  And of course you have all that weight on your shoulders, how much does it weigh?.

Contact Mean Mary and ask her about her banjo. 

Good advice in that last line. She does a great job on her video about your certainly great banjo.

 Not so much good advice in the others though. Kinda' "meh" for many of those lines. Jens had some pretty wide spread roots, tends them all well it would seem and though I've seen him play dozens of times, have yet to see him do so with a tuner on his banjo. Your experience may differ, but all in all, I'd say Mean Mary meet Mean Larry, and that's a shame.

 

 


Apr 20, 2021 - 11:02:41 PM

49 posts since 1/31/2020

Helix, very good advice re Mean Mary. She does a fine job in her YT video showing and playing your great instrument build.
Not as much good advice as individual opinion in the other lines though. Kinda' "meh" for many of those lines. For another opinion I'll throw in that Jens has some pretty wide spread roots, tends them all well it would seem, and though I've seen him play dozens of times, have yet to see him do so with a tuner on his banjo. Your experience may differ, but all in all, I'd say Mean Mary meet Mean Larry, and that's a shame because I suspect you're not really a mean guy.

Apr 21, 2021 - 4:26:49 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13941 posts since 8/30/2006

She does a great job on her video about your certainly great banjo. 

 She does a fine job in her YT video showing and playing your great instrument build.

You wrote this in two different posts next to each other.  That's really snarky so read this :  I have plenty of road warriors playing with confidence. 

 I'd say Mean Mary meet Mean Larry, and that's a shame because I suspect you're not really a mean guy.  Then kindly contact me off forum.

 

McIrish:   I would like to discuss banjos and your situation.  Fallingwater has fallen off the subject to become personal, I take full responsibility for that.

Mean Mary plays a Deering.  I thought someone might be interested in her opinion since she's a working professional road musician.

Edited by - Helix on 04/21/2021 04:28:27

Apr 21, 2021 - 7:24:33 AM
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McIrish

USA

9 posts since 1/4/2013

Thank you all for the replies. I didn't expect it to get contentious so I'm sorry if I sparked some debates.

Just a few notes. i do not play bluegrass and I don't use finger picks. On most songs, I finger pick with just my fingers. One some songs I use a flat pick as well. The Eagle II is plenty loud enough on it's own. I play in a rock band so when doing shows, it will always be amplified. This is a video from an older show when I was using the Recording King 6 string banjo. It does not have a tone ring. The head is right on top of the maple hoop. It has some nice body but lacked clarity. That's why I bought the Eagle II. This video is only for reference as to style. I don't have any recording with the Eagle II yet. I have it on the next album but that isn't finished. 

I'm not really looking to buy another banjo. I was hoping for some advice on getting the sound a bit closer to what I want. I appreciate all the replies and help given.


Edited by - McIrish on 04/21/2021 07:26:51

Apr 21, 2021 - 8:30:38 AM

5603 posts since 12/20/2005

Dang. Overall, you and your band are outstanding. That's a terrific performance. And such a good song. I enjoyed it.
You are getting about all your gonna get out of that Recording King, and honestly it's pretty good.
I can see where you want a little more lower midrange. I'm sure you have a banjo-guitar that's up to it.
It would be helpful if we could hear the Deering.
Any chance you can post a video of you playing the Deering ?

Apr 21, 2021 - 8:45:02 AM

McIrish

USA

9 posts since 1/4/2013

Thank you for the compliment. I really appreciate that.

I might be able to extract the Deering from a mix of a newer song that I used it on. I was able to add enough EQ to get what I want, but if I can get it acoustically, that would be better. I have no videos with me using the Deering, just some unfinished mixes.

The Recording King was fine and I do still have it. I just thought it could be a bit brighter (acoustically) and I wish the lower strings were not so thuddy sounding. The Deering Eagle II has the clarity I want but lack a little of the warmth in the lower register that I'm used to. For recording, I can add what I need. I'm just looking to adjust it a bit to make it as good as it can be acoustically.

Apr 21, 2021 - 8:51:25 AM
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Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

1134 posts since 10/15/2019

Just a thought. Attack angle can have quite an effect on clarity. For me, more perpendicular to the stings is sharper. Seems like you feel the RK was not clear enough, and maybe a more perpendicular picking angle would help. So you went to the Eagle, and now it's maybe too clear. Maybe the Eagle needs a more of an angle of attack. You are trying to find a middle ground and you have one banjo on each side.

I dunno. Just noodling here.

Apr 21, 2021 - 9:04:17 AM

5603 posts since 12/20/2005

Just to give an idea of what can be done and what the potential is, I thought I would add this.

This is a Bishline banjo-guitar, being played by Rob Bishline.  This banjo is of identical size and similar construction as your Deering.   This is a world class, well set up banjo-guitar.

To my ear, mid-low range and even low range are pretty good.  Perhaps better than what many would expect.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNBDFkcCNyY

 

 


 

Apr 21, 2021 - 9:24:17 AM
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Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

9868 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by McIrish

Thank you all for the replies. I didn't expect it to get contentious so I'm sorry if I sparked some debates.

Just a few notes. i do not play bluegrass and I don't use finger picks. On most songs, I finger pick with just my fingers. One some songs I use a flat pick as well. The Eagle II is plenty loud enough on it's own. I play in a rock band so when doing shows, it will always be amplified. This is a video from an older show when I was using the Recording King 6 string banjo. It does not have a tone ring. The head is right on top of the maple hoop. It has some nice body but lacked clarity. That's why I bought the Eagle II. This video is only for reference as to style. I don't have any recording with the Eagle II yet. I have it on the next album but that isn't finished. 

I'm not really looking to buy another banjo. I was hoping for some advice on getting the sound a bit closer to what I want. I appreciate all the replies and help given.

 


Wonderful performance!

Apr 21, 2021 - 9:30:18 AM
Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

9868 posts since 1/22/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Leslie R

Just to give an idea of what can be done and what the potential is, I thought I would add this.

This is a Bishline banjo-guitar, being played by Rob Bishline.  This banjo is of identical size and similar construction as your Deering.   This is a world class, well set up banjo-guitar.

To my ear, mid-low range and even low range are pretty good.  Perhaps better than what many would expect.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNBDFkcCNyY

 

 


 


We all have different ideas, of course. But I more like the sound that Sam McGee got from his Gibson guitar banjo, it was an archtop banjo. Whether cast archtop or ball-bearing, I don't know. Somehow I think, a guitar banjo should be an archtop.

Apr 21, 2021 - 9:32:15 AM
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McIrish

USA

9 posts since 1/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Emiel
quote:
Originally posted by McIrish

Thank you all for the replies. I didn't expect it to get contentious so I'm sorry if I sparked some debates.

Just a few notes. i do not play bluegrass and I don't use finger picks. On most songs, I finger pick with just my fingers. One some songs I use a flat pick as well. The Eagle II is plenty loud enough on it's own. I play in a rock band so when doing shows, it will always be amplified. This is a video from an older show when I was using the Recording King 6 string banjo. It does not have a tone ring. The head is right on top of the maple hoop. It has some nice body but lacked clarity. That's why I bought the Eagle II. This video is only for reference as to style. I don't have any recording with the Eagle II yet. I have it on the next album but that isn't finished. 

I'm not really looking to buy another banjo. I was hoping for some advice on getting the sound a bit closer to what I want. I appreciate all the replies and help given.

 


Wonderful performance!


Thank you so much!

Apr 21, 2021 - 7:02:30 PM

49 posts since 1/31/2020

With egg on my face, let me apologize publicly, not privately.
1.The double posting was due to user unfamiliarity with posting procedures. No snark intended. The second post  was sent out after it appeared tthe first had not gone through.
2. No snark intended re the comment on MM's banjo video: I mistakenly thought I had seen  her demoing one of yours and only meant my comment as a compliment on your work. I've heard players with you instruments and they sound great and the players love them. There was absolutely no intent to disrespect your work. FWIW, the Helix brand is on my dream sheet list of what to buy next if or when the money pot gets replenished. (I know, sounds self serving, but true.)
3. Re MM meet Mean Larry: a poorly chosen wording meant as a tongue in cheek chiding for what I took to be a fair amount of snark directed at Jens Kruger and the Deering folk. I'll stand by that. If I wanted to be scathing I'd have worded it differently. I wanted to be TIC to suggest you could have been less snarky about your wording, but also point out that by all things any BHO reader or YT video watcher could know, you're a good guy. I certainly did a poor job of it. My regrets to all for my offending remarks.

Originally posted by Helix

She does a great job on her video about your certainly great banjo. 

 She does a fine job in her YT video showing and playing your great instrument build.

You wrote this in two different posts next to each other.  That's really snarky so read this :  I have plenty of road warriors playing with confidence. 

 I'd say Mean Mary meet Mean Larry, and that's a shame because I suspect you're not really a mean guy.  Then kindly contact me off forum.

 

McIrish:   I would like to discuss banjos and your situation.  Fallingwater has fallen off the subject to become personal, I take full responsibility for that.

Mean Mary plays a Deering.  I thought someone might be interested in her opinion since she's a working professional road musician.

 

 


Apr 21, 2021 - 7:44:57 PM

PaulRF

Australia

3193 posts since 2/1/2012

I really don't think you need to apologize. You did nothing wrong that I can see and hopefully this won't stop you from posting again.

Cheers, Paul

Apr 22, 2021 - 1:42:27 PM
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49 posts since 1/31/2020

Thanks Paul. I appreciate your comments.

I will say I never mind apologizing to someone who has been offened by something I said. My intent and their interpretation might have been different, so I appreciate the chance to restate my thoughts in a different way, while also apologizing for any offense given. Life's too short to leave bad feelings if they can be avoided.

I do appreciate your message, as I said, because I'd been thinking of never posting again to avoid future bumps in the road. Will take you kind advise and not quit the scene. Best regards to you.

Apr 22, 2021 - 5:29:18 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13941 posts since 8/30/2006

I hope we will see you both on open stage tonight.

McIrish: Your Recording King could do with a rolled brass tone ring, and that would solve that lack of depth.

Fallingwater: please accept my apology as well.


Apr 22, 2021 - 5:36:56 PM
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49 posts since 1/31/2020

Helix, no apology required. My wording was not clearly written out, I had MM's banjo make wrong (thinking it was yours, etc.).I can see how your take varied from my intent. Appreciated the chance to clarify. Best wishes to all.

Apr 23, 2021 - 5:15:38 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13941 posts since 8/30/2006

Back to the subject.

Apr 23, 2021 - 10:08:28 PM

32 posts since 10/12/2018

Why not try a Remo Ebony head? They're supposed to bring out the lower frequencies, and it's a cheap change to make.

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