I've been playing for nearly a year now and have a Washburn b11 as my beginner's instrument. As I play through songs with important string bending I cannot seem to get a good sound out of the strings. It sounds very flat compared to recordings. My strings seem to be great otherwise, stays in tune for many playing hours. Is this a setup, strings or a technique issue? I did see an archived topic on bending with two fingers but I'm a carpenter. There's plenty of strength going into the string.
Just off the top of my head, too low action can cause bends to be less than 'twangy'... too heavy of a gauge can also impede that.
Hopefully others will chime in.
You really have to press DOWN hard to get the string to bear on the fret firmly. "Loose" contact will kill the twang.
Virgin Islands (U.S.)
Of course, the tone comes from the fingers. But nonetheless, if you're comparing the tone of a Washburn B11 to recordings of high end professional instruments (or 1930s flathead Gibsons), you're going to be disappointed.
I'd say you should have as light of strings as possible, and bend harder. If it sounds flat, maybe you're not bending enough.
Experimenting with a couple of new gauges of strings may be a great experience to find new tones.
The quality of your banjo can make techniques more difficult but a proper setup for the most part should make them easier or at least possible. I have a cheap MB-100 epiphone as my first banjo and no amount of tweaking will fix the extra effort I have to put into hammer ons and up slides compared to my Eastman white lady, but that’s a 2000$ difference in banjo horse power.
I am giving banjo lessons over JamKazam. My student’s banjo is a bottle cap banjo. Through the internet, it sounds like a banjo. My banjo is a banjo.
Technique is key. Bela Fleck is playing his model of Gold Tone and he sounds fine. Bela’s hands are not fixed in one place on the head. Neither was Earl’s. On his bends, his hands moved closer to the neck. The softer attack is what you are hearing. Trying to bend at the bridge is not optimal. Banjos aren’t electric guitars with sustain and reverb pedals.
Edited by - Aradobanjo on 09/25/2021 04:15:30
We need to hear you playing the bend/choke so post a recording of yourself playing a bend/choke. Playing slowly will be fine, it doesn't need to be an audition. Without hearing and seeing your bend-finger we can only guess.
My guess is that you're not pushing the string upwards far enough while doing the bend/choke and that's why it sounds flat.
In Earl’s Bluegrass 5-string Banjo book, he has a picture demonstrating how far his bends were. Per the picture, to the third string is the bend supposed to happen. Or until the unison pitch is achieved on the next fret. The object of bending is harmony.
'Cindy' 12 min
'Tablature ' 18 min