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Sep 1, 2021 - 12:43:16 PM
11 posts since 8/29/2021

I've recently switched to playing clawhammer and 3 fingers with no picks. I'm playing a Morgan Monroe Masterclone replica Flathead tone ring and weighs 13 pounds. I haven't been able to get that warm tone so many old-time players have. How much of this is my bad technique or banjo. My tone is bright and stringy if that makes sense.

Sep 1, 2021 - 1:14:39 PM

rcc56

USA

3844 posts since 2/20/2016

The very nature of the various sounds of the different open back design is much friendlier to frailing and bare finger picking than the typical sounds natural to Mastertone style banjos.

And yes, a lot of the sound is dependent upon your technique, but the right kind of instrument can make it easier to produce the sound you want, and the wrong kind can hinder it.

I personally like the sound of the old Bacon Professionals and Stewart Thoroughbreds. And the Fairbanks/Vega Whyte Laydies, Tubaphones, and Little Wonders are all good. But the WL and Tubbys will tend to be brighter and louder.

Edited by - rcc56 on 09/01/2021 13:27:44

Sep 1, 2021 - 1:40:28 PM
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8296 posts since 3/17/2005

There is a world of differences in resonator banjos, with the tone ring being the most important. Likewise, an openback can be "bright and stringy", too. Again the tone ring is the biggest thing. Whether or not a banjo has a resonator has very little to do with tone, but a lot to do with projection. The head, bridge and general setup can change the tone of a banjo as well. With a fiberskin or hide head, and a heavier bridge, your masterclone will sound much warmer. Simply switching to an openback won't solve your problem.

Sep 1, 2021 - 2:17:57 PM
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rcc56

USA

3844 posts since 2/20/2016

Walter Forbes, who some of you old-timers may remember, had a custom made open back banjo with a flat head Mastertone style ring  that he played for a few years. I don't remember who the maker was.  The banjo was quite powerful, and it tended to be loud and brash no matter whether you picked it lightly or picked it hard.

After some time, Walter stopped using that banjo and instead divided his time between an old Stewart Thoroughbred and one of Bart Reiter's creations. I think the reason that he gave up on the flat head was because it was too difficult to control for his bare finger style of playing.  When I asked him about it, he simply said that the Stewart and the Reiter were a lot friendlier.

Edited by - rcc56 on 09/01/2021 14:24:15

Sep 1, 2021 - 2:43:38 PM
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Paul R

Canada

15149 posts since 1/28/2010
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Here we go again. You can vary the tone of your banjo with inexpensive fixes, and sometimes for free. Head and bridge replacement. string gauge changes - all will affect the tone. So, too, will adjustment of head and/or tailpiece tension (provided you have an adjustable tailpiece, which you most likely have on your Bluegrass banjo).

I have two main banjos. One is a top-tension resonator banjo with a regular top-frosted head, an archtop tone ring, and an adjustable clamshell tailpiece. It's adjusted with looser head and tailpiece tension. The other is an open back with a Masterclone 20-hole flathead tone ring, a Fiberskyn head, and an adjustable Kirshner tailpiece. Its main advantage is its wider string spacing (and lighter weight). The resonator banjo's main advantage is the resonator, which keeps all those bits and pieces from digging into my leg.

Sep 1, 2021 - 3:15:55 PM

Bdoty86

USA

11 posts since 8/29/2021

I can see all those points. But it won't take away the weight. It kills my back lol. I don't follow this forum enough to know where we are going again.

Also, I imagine playing over the scoop makes it warmer too. At least with guitar, you get a warmer tone the further you get away from the bridge.

Also I'm thinking about buying a Stone Banjo. They seem really nice.

Edited by - Bdoty86 on 09/01/2021 15:17:16

Sep 1, 2021 - 3:22:02 PM

58478 posts since 12/14/2005

if EARL SCRUGGS can play sitting down, so can you!

That takes care of the weight.

Yerrrr welcome!

Sep 1, 2021 - 3:31:07 PM
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58478 posts since 12/14/2005

Here's an idea:
Start a post asking for

"OutHangers with open back banjos, anywhere near BRADEN, Ohio",

to invite you over to twang a couple tunes on THEIR instruments.
Whichever one sounds right, and feels right, shop around for one like it.

MEMBERSHIP SEARCH shows dang near FOUR HUNDRED OutHangers in Ohio, and that's filtering OUT anybody who doesn't offer to be helpful.

https://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/default.asp?method=adv&str=Advanced&username=&firstname=&lastname=&city=&state=OH&country=&experience=&interesthelp=true&submit=Search

If you've got a lot of time on your hands, come on up to Grafton, 30 miles north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and try out my Bart Reiter.

Sep 1, 2021 - 5:03:23 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

25395 posts since 6/25/2005
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Bdoty86

I can see all those points. But it won't take away the weight. It kills my back lol. I don't follow this forum enough to know where we are going again.

Also, I imagine playing over the scoop makes it warmer too. At least with guitar, you get a warmer tone the further you get away from the bridge.

Also I'm thinking about buying a Stone Banjo. They seem really nice.


If weight's a factor, an all-wood oppenback makes lots of sense. From personal experience (I own both.)  I can highly recommend Stone banjos and Charles Waldman banjos. Either will give you a banjo with warm tone and penty of projection--but without the ring and clang of a metal-tone-ring instrument.

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 09/01/2021 18:18:31

Sep 1, 2021 - 5:23:52 PM

Bdoty86

USA

11 posts since 8/29/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers
quote:
Originally posted by Bdoty86

I can see all those points. But it won't take away the weight. It kills my back lol. I don't follow this forum enough to know where we are going again.

Also, I imagine playing over the scoop makes it warmer too. At least with guitar, you get a warmer tone the further you get away from the bridge.

Also I'm thinking about buying a Stone Banjo. They seem really nice.


If weight's a factor, an al-wood oppenback makes lots of sense. From personal experience (I own both.)  I can highly recommend Stone banjos and Charles Waldman banjos. Either will give you a banjo with warm tone and penty of projection--but without the ring and clang of a metal-tone-ring instrument.


Glad to hear you like your Stone banjo. They look amazing for the price. No frills just a solid banjo. I like my masterclone don't get me wrong. In a band setting, I prefer the volume it projects but I've moved towards old time and folk and an open back seems like the next reasonable step.

Sep 1, 2021 - 7:02:43 PM
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jacot23

USA

247 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Bdoty86

I can see all those points. But it won't take away the weight. It kills my back lol. I don't follow this forum enough to know where we are going again.

Also, I imagine playing over the scoop makes it warmer too. At least with guitar, you get a warmer tone the further you get away from the bridge.

Also I'm thinking about buying a Stone Banjo. They seem really nice.


 

You can't go wrong with a banjo from Steve, I have 2; can't figure out which one I like best. If you get one from him, tell him Jason says howdy!

Sep 2, 2021 - 7:18:27 AM

250 posts since 9/14/2019

Since I've gotten an open back I play Scruggs on it, too. I like the weight and the sound. To me, resonator banjos are just too loud.

Sep 2, 2021 - 9:32:34 AM

Bdoty86

USA

11 posts since 8/29/2021

quote:
Originally posted by watercarving

Since I've gotten an open back I play Scruggs on it, too. I like the weight and the sound. To me, resonator banjos are just too loud.


I agree, for the most part, resonators and metal picks are great in a band setting though. Especially if there are drums. I've never played an open back with a fiddler though so I'm not sure how they sound in the mix volume-wise.

Sep 2, 2021 - 9:32:59 AM

Bdoty86

USA

11 posts since 8/29/2021

quote:
Originally posted by jacot23
quote:
Originally posted by Bdoty86

I can see all those points. But it won't take away the weight. It kills my back lol. I don't follow this forum enough to know where we are going again.

Also, I imagine playing over the scoop makes it warmer too. At least with guitar, you get a warmer tone the further you get away from the bridge.

Also I'm thinking about buying a Stone Banjo. They seem really nice.


 

You can't go wrong with a banjo from Steve, I have 2; can't figure out which one I like best. If you get one from him, tell him Jason says howdy!

 


Will do.

Sep 21, 2021 - 6:31:56 PM

bf

USA

57 posts since 2/3/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Bdoty86
I've never played an open back with a fiddler though so I'm not sure how they sound in the mix volume-wise.

 


Do you ever make it down toward central Ohio? I've got more than a few open backs you could try out, and I'd even play fiddle with you.

Sep 24, 2021 - 11:58:31 AM
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m06

England

10501 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Bdoty86
quote:
Originally posted by watercarving

Since I've gotten an open back I play Scruggs on it, too. I like the weight and the sound. To me, resonator banjos are just too loud.


I agree, for the most part, resonators and metal picks are great in a band setting though. Especially if there are drums. I've never played an open back with a fiddler though so I'm not sure how they sound in the mix volume-wise.

 


Here's an open back (Mac Traynham, cherry wth 12" skin head) with two fiddles and a dancer.


Edited by - m06 on 09/24/2021 12:08:58

Sep 24, 2021 - 12:18:18 PM
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747 posts since 5/22/2021

You might need to loosen your drum head a bit, and play open-back. Thicker strings also give a folky tune.

Sep 24, 2021 - 12:24:49 PM
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banjo bill-e

Tuvalu

11697 posts since 2/22/2007

The best reason to chose an open back banjo is if that can deliver the sound that you want then you don't have to lug around, or pay for, a bigger and heavier resonator banjo.

Sep 26, 2021 - 6:39:10 AM

52 posts since 3/15/2020

Can tone rings be removed?

Sep 26, 2021 - 6:51:29 AM

52 posts since 3/15/2020

quote:
Originally posted by ipik5

Can tone rings be removed?


found answer on old post from 2008.......best not to!!!

Sep 26, 2021 - 1:23:06 PM
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8296 posts since 3/17/2005

iik5, not without filling the vacancy with something else. Why would you want to remove it? So many of the old banjos that are sought after today, had tone rings of all sorts. If you think you'd like the tone and volume of a woody then try one or two out before you spend your money. A great way to sample banjos is to attend a large
Old Time festival like Mt Airy, Clifftop or others. There will be vendors with plenty of banjos for you to try.

Sep 27, 2021 - 7:31:07 AM
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52 posts since 3/15/2020

quote:
Originally posted by chip arnold

iik5, not without filling the vacancy with something else. Why would you want to remove it? So many of the old banjos that are sought after today, had tone rings of all sorts. If you think you'd like the tone and volume of a woody then try one or two out before you spend your money. A great way to sample banjos is to attend a large
Old Time festival like Mt Airy, Clifftop or others. There will be vendors with plenty of banjos for you to try.


Was just asking in general if that was an option for the ones asking that have a resonator and tone ring that rings to bright for their likings........i have a WL tone ring in mine and love it

Sep 27, 2021 - 8:15:27 AM
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Players Union Member

Eric A

USA

1339 posts since 10/15/2019

quote:
Originally posted by ipik5
quote:
Originally posted by chip arnold

iik5, not without filling the vacancy with something else. Why would you want to remove it? So many of the old banjos that are sought after today, had tone rings of all sorts. If you think you'd like the tone and volume of a woody then try one or two out before you spend your money. A great way to sample banjos is to attend a large
Old Time festival like Mt Airy, Clifftop or others. There will be vendors with plenty of banjos for you to try.


Was just asking in general if that was an option for the ones asking that have a resonator and tone ring that rings to bright for their likings........i have a WL tone ring in mine and love it


WL tone ring is the King of Kings as far as I'm concerned.

A woodie can be ok - ish.

A brass hoop is so much better.

A Whyte Laydie is the ultimate.

A Tubaphone is a different critter.  You either like it or you don't.  There's no in between.

A flathead can sound good but it's too heavy and not worth it.  It's a boat anchor.

Edited by - Eric A on 09/27/2021 08:26:30

Sep 28, 2021 - 10:13:23 AM

11061 posts since 6/17/2003

A few ideas you can try involving setup rather than changing the tone ring:

Reduce your head tension.

Attach a piece of moleskin to the underside of your head to dampen vibration (experiment with size); or scrunch up a plastic shopping bag and set it between the rod and the head.

Try lighter gauge strings.

Try different bridges.

Banjos are so adjustable...that's what make them fun!

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