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Oct 26, 2021 - 9:37:17 AM
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390 posts since 9/4/2007

With so many outstanding banjo builders these days, especially with new builders that have started just within the past five years or so, what are some of the "woodiest-sounding" open back banjos built for clawhammer players, particularly when playing solo?

Especially interested in banjos with just a wooden tone ring/rim or, at most, a modest rolled brass/other metal tone ring. Thanks.

Edited by - hayesdt on 10/26/2021 10:05:49

Oct 26, 2021 - 10:02:15 AM
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2739 posts since 12/31/2005

Woody is not really a sound. There are wood tone ring banjos that you would swear have a bronze tone ring. I just traded one that was loud and bright. Likewise, there are a lot of tone hoop banjos that sound completely organic to me. Do you like a lot of sustain/little sustain? A lot of bottom end? Can you post maybe a video or sound clip of what kind of tone you prefer?

One builder I really like that features wood tone rings is Cedar Mountain Banjos. I have a 23-year old L model, made by Lo Gordon, which I'll take to the grave (my wife's choice, not mine).

Oct 26, 2021 - 10:06:56 AM

hayesdt

USA

390 posts since 9/4/2007

Prefer little sustain, fewer overtones, and a lot of bottom end. Thanks.

Edited by - hayesdt on 10/26/2021 10:07:24

Oct 26, 2021 - 10:26:04 AM
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Players Union Member

Emiel

Austria

9985 posts since 1/22/2003

It has been reported several times before on the BHO how a woody sounded brighter than a brass hoop banjo. You might prefer the rolled brass tonering…

Oct 26, 2021 - 11:14:07 AM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

25392 posts since 6/25/2005

It’s all in the setup. I “wood” look for a Charles Waldman 12”. He seems not to be making new ones though. You might try checking with him.

Oct 26, 2021 - 11:15:26 AM
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2739 posts since 12/31/2005

quote:
Originally posted by hayesdt

Prefer little sustain, fewer overtones, and a lot of bottom end. Thanks.


Have you found you prefer the sounds typically from a 12" rather than an 11?"  A lot of bottom end often comes with more sustain, but there are adjustments that you can always make to compensate/compromise.  12" pots are a little less focused but can also give you that bone rattling bass.   Also if you have a price range, that will make a lot of difference also.

Oct 26, 2021 - 12:18:54 PM

hayesdt

USA

390 posts since 9/4/2007

I prefer something on the order of, or similar to, a 12” Ramsey Woody in sound, but unfortunately it’s virtually impossible to find any of his used instruments these days. He was an outstanding builder when in his prime. His “Woodies” had that outstanding Old Time clawhammer sound, at least to my ears.

Wish I could find something similar in sound.

Oct 26, 2021 - 12:21:43 PM
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KCJones

USA

1522 posts since 8/30/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

It’s all in the setup. I “wood” look for a Charles Waldman 12”. He seems not to be making new ones though. You might try checking with him.


There's one at Elderly right now, a "chromatic" version. I played it, it has a tone unlike any banjo I've heard. I almost bought it right then and there but I'd already bought 2 open backs that week so I couldn't pull the trigger.  

Oct 26, 2021 - 2:17:43 PM
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182 posts since 6/5/2006

I agree about Mike Ramsey; I sold a 12" fretless and now I miss it.

Off hand I would recommend Leon Ballard (11" walnut w/ rolled brass rod and goatskin head) youtube.com/watch?v=r_he7d3nCFM but he's in England.

I would also recommend Riley Baugus ( 11" walnut or apple with 5/16" brass rod and Fiberskyn head- he recently said he's still making banjos but he takes his time - let me know if you want to contact him) youtube.com/watch?v=nFeBUtAHxrg.

Also Lucas Pool at the Ozark Banjo Co. (12" walnut with brass rod) youtube.com/watch?v=as68Q046GYQ

Also Jason Romero if you've got years to wait. (various hard wood tone rings with goatskin heads) youtube.com/watch?v=vTb32gz6AkE

Edited by - restreet on 10/26/2021 14:23:39

Oct 26, 2021 - 2:40:58 PM

hayesdt

USA

390 posts since 9/4/2007

quote:
Originally posted by restreet

I agree about Mike Ramsey; I sold a 12" fretless and now I miss it.

Off hand I would recommend Leon Ballard (11" walnut w/ rolled brass rod and goatskin head) youtube.com/watch?v=r_he7d3nCFM but he's in England.

I would also recommend Riley Baugus ( 11" walnut or apple with 5/16" brass rod and Fiberskyn head- he recently said he's still making banjos but he takes his time - let me know if you want to contact him) youtube.com/watch?v=nFeBUtAHxrg.

Also Lucas Pool at the Ozark Banjo Co. (12" walnut with brass rod) youtube.com/watch?v=as68Q046GYQ

Also Jason Romero if you've got years to wait. (various hard wood tone rings with goatskin heads) youtube.com/watch?v=vTb32gz6AkE

------------

All of these are great suggestions, though I don't know that I've got enough years left to wait for one of Jason Romero's or Lucas Pool's banjos!!  And much like you, my sale of my Ramsey Woody a few years ago is the biggest banjo mistake I've ever made and have deeply regretted.

 


Edited by - hayesdt on 10/26/2021 14:42:29

Oct 26, 2021 - 3:16:49 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

25392 posts since 6/25/2005

Funny how tastes differ. When I played a friend’s favorite, a Ramsey woody, I thought it sounded dull, mushy and thuddy.

Oct 26, 2021 - 3:55:14 PM

182 posts since 6/5/2006

What I remember about the Ramsey was stopping because I thought there was a hollow knocking sound coming from another room but I eventually realized it was just the the 5th string. I can sometimes get it with the Baugus or Romero but as I have always feared, it's probably more likely about the banjo player than the banjo.
I often wish I had spent more time playing than searching for the right banjo but its all been great fun.

Oct 26, 2021 - 4:26:03 PM
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315 posts since 4/10/2018

The Ome Tupelo has a wood tone ring and a great sound. I don’t think there is a long wait.

Oct 26, 2021 - 5:12:38 PM

hayesdt

USA

390 posts since 9/4/2007

quote:
Originally posted by paco0909

The Ome Tupelo has a wood tone ring and a great sound. I don’t think there is a long wait.


Actually, there is a wait of approximately 18 months.  I contacted them last week.  Occasionally there will be a few that will arrive at dealers, but not too many.  And yes, the Tupelo is a great banjo; great tone and a genuine beauty -- I'd sure like to get hold of a used one, though I don't really care for an 18-month wait should I want to buy a new one.

Edited by - hayesdt on 10/26/2021 17:14:37

Oct 26, 2021 - 5:36:44 PM

hayesdt

USA

390 posts since 9/4/2007

quote:
Originally posted by hayesdt
quote:
Originally posted by paco0909

The Ome Tupelo has a wood tone ring and a great sound. I don’t think there is a long wait.


Actually, there is a wait of approximately 18 months.  I contacted them last week.  Occasionally there will be a few that will arrive at dealers, but not too many.  And yes, the Tupelo is a great banjo; great tone and a genuine beauty -- I'd sure like to get hold of a used one, though I don't really care for an 18-month wait should I want to buy a new one.

--------

And I also just discovered that the new one received just last week or so by a California dealer I contacted had been ordered a year ago.  So many great banjos from all kinds of makers are just completely sold out and backordered these days, probably because of a shortage/unavailability of parts I'm guessing.


Oct 26, 2021 - 6:03:28 PM
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1568 posts since 1/13/2006

In addition to the other suggestions, (all of which are great), Zach Hoyt is an upstate NY openback builder who makes a variety of reasonably priced banjos many of which are similar to some of the Ramseys. Worth checking into if you haven't already.

Oct 26, 2021 - 10:26:06 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

25392 posts since 6/25/2005

quote:
Originally posted by hayesdt
quote:
Originally posted by hayesdt
quote:
Originally posted by paco0909

The Ome Tupelo has a wood tone ring and a great sound. I don’t think there is a long wait.


Actually, there is a wait of approximately 18 months.  I contacted them last week.  Occasionally there will be a few that will arrive at dealers, but not too many.  And yes, the Tupelo is a great banjo; great tone and a genuine beauty -- I'd sure like to get hold of a used one, though I don't really care for an 18-month wait should I want to buy a new one.

--------

And I also just discovered that the new one received just last week or so by a California dealer I contacted had been ordered a year ago.  So many great banjos from all kinds of makers are just completely sold out and backordered these days, probably because of a shortage/unavailability of parts I'm guessing.


Ome always has that lead time. My Mira took more than a year, and that was in 2015-16, long before COVID and its attendant problems  


Oct 27, 2021 - 4:01:47 AM
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364 posts since 1/26/2020

At risk of sounding pedantic, any banjo is a "clawhammer" banjo, as far as I'm concerned.

Blaine

Oct 27, 2021 - 4:40:12 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14793 posts since 8/30/2006

What Bill Rogers said. Set up.

Here's a 3-1/2" deep 12" with Cherry and Black Walnut alternating blocks, 8 hooks and 4 golden teaspoons.
This banjo plays every weekend over in White Chapel at the Saturday Market. She clogs on a flat board while her husband plays clawhammer.
Unfortunately, Mr. Ramsey who built this neck has caught the Westbound. A Semi-fretless with a simple paddle head.
The other 12 can be heard across the Missouri River from Ft. Scott, Kansas. It's a build up laminate with Maple and Purple Heart stripes and Black Walnut.

11's and 12's are not that different. Once you learn to drive the 4 x 4, then you play anything you want anywhere.

Good set up and how tight or loose the head is where the action is. Each person's heart strings get touched by what touches them, not a factory specification nor plating thickness. People listen better all the time. Enjoy the journey


Oct 27, 2021 - 8:35:13 AM

1775 posts since 1/3/2004

My experience of the Ramsey “woodies” has been that they are somewhat paradoxically brighter than his brass hoop banjos. I agree that “woody” isn’t a very useful term when talking about banjo tone — I’m not sure what it means. If you want deep & plunky, I’d suggest a 12” banjo with a thin, fairly deep rim and a rolled brass rod. If you really like the sound of a Ramsey woody model specifically I would try to find one of those. Be patient or put out some “want to buy” ads. Another maker’s wood ring banjo (e.g. Cedar Mountain or Ome Wizard) might be similar on paper but there are so many weird variables with banjos that it’s hard to predict if it will have the sound you want.

Oct 27, 2021 - 8:47:23 AM
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182 posts since 6/5/2006

The Tupelo is a great banjo but it seems overpriced and I would prefer walnut for a mellow sound.
I'm interested in buying a Buckeye banjo. Greg Galbreath makes custom banjos with a long waiting list but also what he calls a "B100" for $2,500 that has standard features with limited options for a wait of about a year.

For me a walnut B100 is perfect with the addition of a "traditional" peghead for $100, brass scoop plate (free and optional) and a case for $150. No tax unless you're in Virginia.
buckeyebanjos.com/standard-models.html
youtube.com/watch?v=BFrRvqiBYZ0
There's one of his banjos for sale on the hangout but its one of his custom banjos and quite expensive. banjobuyer.com/banjo/82705
Here are some photos:
 








Edited by - restreet on 10/27/2021 08:58:49

Oct 27, 2021 - 3:08:54 PM
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14020 posts since 6/29/2005

I'm not sure what's meant by a "woodie" sound.  There are banjos that are what we call "woodies" that are often brighter than banjos with a brass tone ring, then there are banjos often with metal tone rings that have a funkier sound due to setup, which often includes a skin head, not so tight and a deep pot that increases the bass vs the treble and more so with 12" pots.  You can easily go too far with this.

The head is what makes the sound, seconded by the bridge, so I would tend to go with setup more than what kind of wood, etc.. How it's played is tremendously important.

You can make a banjo with a wooden head, and it will sound very woody, but not much like a banjo.

I don't live all that far from Canandaigua—you're welcome to visit my studio and see and hear different banjo constructions if you want— I think what you seek is something you have to hear rather than us talking about it and showing pictures.

Oct 27, 2021 - 4:30:39 PM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14793 posts since 8/30/2006

I guess our photos were under appreciated, but alas there is so little time and so many banjos.
Best of luck on your quest.  Come sit on MY tailgate. 

Edited by - Helix on 10/27/2021 16:39:08

Oct 28, 2021 - 12:19:35 AM
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PaulRF

Australia

3256 posts since 2/1/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan

I'm not sure what's meant by a "woodie" sound.  There are banjos that are what we call "woodies" that are often brighter than banjos with a brass tone ring, then there are banjos often with metal tone rings that have a funkier sound due to setup, which often includes a skin head, not so tight and a deep pot that increases the bass vs the treble and more so with 12" pots.  You can easily go too far with this.

The head is what makes the sound, seconded by the bridge, so I would tend to go with setup more than what kind of wood, etc.. How it's played is tremendously important.

You can make a banjo with a wooden head, and it will sound very woody, but not much like a banjo.

I don't live all that far from Canandaigua—you're welcome to visit my studio and see and hear different banjo constructions if you want— I think what you seek is something you have to hear rather than us talking about it and showing pictures.


I am sure if he visited your site he would have access to good sound files and great quality pictures of your work to help him.  When I purchased my Bishline Patriot banjo I relied a lot on sound files and pictures on their site and of course reviews.  Quality builders always seem to have multiple high resolution photos to show off their work which helps buyers make a decision. 

https://levanbanjos.com/levanbanjos.levandesign.com/Home.html

Oct 28, 2021 - 12:25:33 AM

PaulRF

Australia

3256 posts since 2/1/2012

quote:
Originally posted by GSCarson

In addition to the other suggestions, (all of which are great), Zach Hoyt is an upstate NY openback builder who makes a variety of reasonably priced banjos many of which are similar to some of the Ramseys. Worth checking into if you haven't already.


Zach's site and also Helix

https://hoytbanjos.com/banjos/

http://www.helixbanjos.com/home.php

Oct 28, 2021 - 4:31:14 AM
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182 posts since 6/5/2006

For what it might be worth, a source of wood tonering banjo sound files is at Jason Romero's site.
romerobanjos.com/sounds
I've tried but never found the source of his goatskin heads but I know they're thin. Romero offers a Renaissance head often with the back side painted with shellac and a Fiberskyn head with the backside sanded to be thinner.

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