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Jan 28, 2022 - 6:10:30 AM
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32 posts since 8/28/2009

I have a Deering Boston banjo with maple resonator and neck and a clear head. I really like this banjo. I deliberately bought it because I wanted the brightest banjo that Deering makes at an affordable price. I've been playing it for about a year now and I like it, but I still want to reduce the muddy frequencies. 

1 Do you think shaving some off the TOP of the pot where it makes contact with the head would help reduce some low frequencies? I wouldn't shave the entire rim, just the top where it contacts the head. The steel rim is currently 3/16" thick. If I shave off to 11/64" or 5/32" would I get a brighter/thinner sound?

2 If I shave the outside of the upper part of the pot would this minutely make it more archtop-like?

I like a really bright/thin banjo tone, like Ralph Stanley. I know he played an archtop quite a bit, but I don't have the money to keep on chasing the banjo tone I want, so I'm doing what I can with what I have.

I am also planning on shaving my bridge a bit to help reduce some of the muddy frequencies.

Thanks for your help on this topic :)

Video of the banjo here https://www.instagram.com/p/CWyetVVF9En/  I EQ'd quite a bit of low end out in post production to achive this sound here. 

Edited by - fastheartmart on 01/28/2022 06:15:53

Jan 28, 2022 - 6:19:13 AM
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2903 posts since 12/31/2005

No. It could have the opposite effect. Shaving it at all from the inside diameter would increase the diameter of the head that is vibrating, which will only increase the lower frequencies. The theory of archtops (which appears to be the sound you are going for) is to decrease the amount of head that is freely vibrating. Even if you are talking about shaving the outside, the inside diameter won't change, and you may just lose dynamics by reducing the amount of head that contacts the rim. And you will have reduced any resale value.

Thinning the bridge will thin the tone, but not brighten the sound. Difference between brightness and depth. But no real harm in trying. Bridges are cheap.

Bostons (and Intermediates) will not produce a sharp, bright tone. They're just not made that way. They do have decent value though. You should post it for trade for an archtop, or look at selling it to buy what you want.

Jan 28, 2022 - 6:49:45 AM
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1762 posts since 6/2/2010

Replacing the clear head with thinner one might help. Also a different/thinner bridge might help

I sure wouldn't mess with removing any wood.

Jan 28, 2022 - 7:10:19 AM
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1327 posts since 1/9/2012

Have you worked the tailpiece adjustment screw? (The direction you sound like you want lowers the action until it starts choking out all the sound.)

Jan 28, 2022 - 7:27:13 AM

32 posts since 8/28/2009

Brian Murphy Thanks for sharing your knowledge on this subject! I'll keep all that in mind for sure!

maneckep Thanks for the suggestions! I thought the clear head IS the thinnest? And brightest? Or is there a brighter/thinner head available?

davidppp Yes, I have the tailpiece about as low as it can go. Thanks for asking about that :)

Jan 28, 2022 - 9:53:53 AM
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ChunoTheDog

Canada

1314 posts since 8/9/2019

A metal rimmed Boston will never sound like an old Gibston archtop nor a F. Neat Stanleytone.

Every banjo has it's own voice. Just play it and enjoy it. If the tone bugs you too much, buy a different banjo.

There's really no other way.

 

Edit: I checked out your link.. I think that banjo sounds tremendous as-is with the clawhammer!

Edited by - ChunoTheDog on 01/28/2022 10:07:08

Jan 28, 2022 - 12:02:46 PM
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12141 posts since 10/27/2006

Damn, a Boston not bright enough? The suggestions already made are pretty good.

You might try the Prucha Kershner tailpiece. Its additional mass and stiffness, adjusted as close to the head as possible without touching, will brighten it up a little more but will you think the money's well spent? Hard for me to know. I like the version on Greg Boyd's site.

Modified Prucha Kershner

Even better if you can find one is an ODE tailpiece—longer and more massive but good luck with that. There's one listed as SOLD in the classifieds and I think it's the one that I bought recently. 

Otherwise, if you want that Ralph Stanley archtop tone, best to look for an archtop. There were others including Recording King and Flinthill. Gibson made some in the '60s that won't cost a king's ransom and there are many conversions that show up now and then including a few in the Classifieds. Gibson RB-100s and 150s with the 1/4" round rod on the inner lip are non-Mastertone archtops (there are a few in the Classifieds).

If you're looking to peel paint, an ODE aluminum archtop with the bronze inner cap can be set up to do that. You want LOUD and BRIGHT? Look no further. Forget everything you think you might know about aluminum banjos.

Baldwin ODE archtop

At the bottom end, Saga made archtop kits and completed banjos. Here's an assembled kit for $500in the classifieds:

Saga archtop from kit



 

Jan 28, 2022 - 1:20:19 PM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15427 posts since 8/30/2006

The last Boston I did has a Cherry rim

Make a wall clock

Get wood

Jan 29, 2022 - 8:44:42 AM
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32 posts since 8/28/2009

ChunoTheDog Thanks for your feedback!

mikehalloran Wow! Thanks for all the helpful links. That Ode banjo on Reverb.com looks great, but it's 4 string. The Saga banjo is tempting, but I'm reluctant to buy an instrument before I play it. That tailpiece you linked may be a good idea and I may try that :)

I actually had a Goldtone archtop a few years back, but I it was still not what I was hoping for.

My quest for banjo tone doesn't necessarily revolve around brightness/loudness, but actually what I think I'm looking for is less muddiness. In my opinion, most banjos have too much low end mud. In other words, I'm not necessarily searching for bright, I'm searching for less low end/mud. For example, with EQ , I don't necessarily want to boost the highs, I just want to cut the lows. 

Another quandary I face is the fact that I tune to open E, so I use BIG strings 13,15,22,26,13. I can imagine all the people chiming in on this BIG string fact as being my entire problem. They may be right, but I'm optimistic that I can some day find a way to have big strings and not be muddy.

I play a lot of venues where I am totally acoustic and it's the low end of the banjo that causes me most problems in these situations.

Anyways, thanks to everyone who has offered help and thanks to anyone else who will impart some wisdom on this subject :)

Edited by - fastheartmart on 01/29/2022 08:54:34

Jan 29, 2022 - 8:56:54 PM

1021 posts since 10/4/2018

Send your Boston to Helix, he will turn you a wood rim of your choice and put a rolled brass tone ring for $300 or so. Your banjo will have great tone and be loud. Tighten your head, lower the tailpiece, put on some light strings and your banjo will snap and crackle. Loosen the head, raise the tailpiece and put on heavier strings for a more mellow sound. Get rid of the clear head, they look silly. My Cherry Helix with the Deering Maple Boston neck sounds and plays fantastic. I took off the resonator to quiet it down a bit. A Steve Davis compensated bridge will do wonders as well.

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Jan 30, 2022 - 4:34:41 AM
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424 posts since 12/30/2012

I believe you are right about your setup. really heavy strings and tuned down to e, will not a sparkle make! I like the sound of a banjo tuned to E, and sometimes for fun, or a change I will put mine in e or f or a or g#. all are different. However G is the standard tuning for this scale. setups will vary, and all will have a different "atmosphere". you can have that cool low sound but it will have that low sound. cannot have both. Maybe you tune to E to match your voice? Which is cool!

Jan 30, 2022 - 6:17:58 AM
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14440 posts since 6/29/2005

I would say to get a thin snappy sound on any banjo, use a white frosted head, tighten it way up, like 92, crank the tailpiece down, and use a very light bridge.

The reason why archtops sound the way they do is because the vibrating part of the head is smaller.

If you reduce the radius of the bearing edge of the rim too much it could break the head.

Jan 30, 2022 - 11:22:12 AM
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2835 posts since 4/16/2003

OP:
"I like a really bright/thin banjo tone, like Ralph Stanley. I know he played an archtop quite a bit, but I don't have the money to keep on chasing the banjo tone I want, so I'm doing what I can with what I have."

My prediction:
You're not gonna make a Deering Boston sound like Ralph, no matter what you do.

He had an archtop ring (produces a smaller diameter surface) and it was on a full Gibson-style pot, as well.

If you want a banjo that sounds like an archtop, you're probably going to have to BUY an archtop. They're out there at reasonable prices (Look at an older Goldstar).

By the way... Ralph's way of playing, especially as he got older, made even an archtop sound "thinner" than usual. He kept his playing hand very close to the bridge, thus "sharpening" the already-cutting tone of an archtop...

Jan 31, 2022 - 9:44:46 AM

32 posts since 8/28/2009

Good Buddy Oh! I've actually played a show in Phoenix with The man who runs Helix. He was great! I'll check into contacting him! Are you suggesting he would add a wood rim and rolled brass tone ring to my Deering Boston banjo?

I disagree with you about the clear head looking silly. I've actually grown to really like it ;)

I'll check into a Steve Davis compensated bridge. Thanks for that suggestion!

richard baskowski Yes, I tune to E for my voice's sake. I can stretch into G if I really want to, but I'd rather stay down in E. Perhaps I'll get back into a long neck for my Boston.

Ken LeVan Thanks for your suggestions! You think a white frosted head would sound brighter than my usual clear head?

J.Albert Ha! You're probably right about me refusing to give up on my Boston banjo and somehow finding a way to make it sound more like an archtop. I'm always doing stuff like this in life. Goos point about Ralph Stanley playing close to the bridge. I wonder if you played that close to the bridge when he played clawhammer?

Thanks to everyone who responded to my post!

Jan 31, 2022 - 1:37:07 PM

14440 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by fastheartmart


I disagree with you about the clear head looking silly. I've actually grown to really like it ;)

Ken LeVan Thanks for your suggestions! You think a white frosted head would sound brighter than my usual clear head?
 


l o n g time ago in a galaxy far away,  when I was playing bluegrass in bars in Brooklyn with my 1927 Granada archtop,  I had a clear head that I made by cleaning the frosting off a Weather King with Lacquer thinner.  It didn't sound so hot, but it was a big hit in the bars because I had an exciting  picture pasted on the inside of the resonator that you could see through the head.  It wasn't a picture of Ralph Stanley.

I think that's the highest and best use of clear heads, the second best use is if you just spent a lot of money having your tone ring gold plated and want to show it off.

A white frosted head may not sound brighter than a clear one, but it would have more expressiveness or tone, whatever you want to call it.

Beyond that, I don't think you can make a flathead sound like an archtop—easier to do it the other way around— I've spent some time toning down  my old Granada with an amber head tightened to 89, a spalted maple bridge and no down pressure on the tailpiece, just the opposite of what you are after.

BTW—resist the temptation to get a new rim— you need a whole archtop setup with a tone ring.

Jan 31, 2022 - 5:24:41 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15427 posts since 8/30/2006

I make archtops with tone rings 
Archtop woodies too

Edited by - Helix on 01/31/2022 17:26:15

Jan 31, 2022 - 7:01:24 PM

32 posts since 8/28/2009

Helix Hey Larry! Thanks for chiming in! I'd love to look into an archtop from you!

I don't know if you remember, but I played a gig with you a few years back at the Fiddler's Dream? You were great :)

Feb 1, 2022 - 3:56:01 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15427 posts since 8/30/2006

fastheartmart You used to play guitar, now you travel with the Hartford. It's a pleasure to reconnect with you.

Stanley: Oh Death, won't you pass me over for another year.

We've been closed at Fiddler's Dream for almost two years. We are surviving with two open stages each week on ZOOM.com and the good graces of supporters donating on Facebook.

What we liked about you, Martin, was the commitment, you travel everywhere, you are an ambassador of your own construction and the tide will be shifting shortly, mariner. Way to go, I'm very proud of you.

I have two pre-war zinc flanges that were broken, so I cut them to a short shoulder with the band saw, I just mounted one to an archtop woody made from Cherry. Snappy. It has its own audio signature: high attack, lower sustain and rapid decay.
The weight of the Boston should be proud American mild steel, it is just one of the "innovations" by that maker. They never vintage just like carbon fiber, and kind of hard to handle dynamically.
I played the Boston extensively before I took it apart.
You got to hear my Chestnut with the eight gold spoons with light strings.
The medium strings made a great difference with the Hartford, like it was out there on its limit.


Edited by - Helix on 02/01/2022 04:02:30

Feb 1, 2022 - 10:46:02 AM

32 posts since 8/28/2009

Helix So great to reconnect with you! I'm very interested in your banjos! Yes, let's hope the tides ARE turning. I'll be in Phoenix April 1st and I hope to reconnect with you there!

Feb 1, 2022 - 11:45:02 AM
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Bart Veerman

Canada

5166 posts since 1/5/2005

I just checked their website, Elderly's has one left:

https://www.elderly.com/products/bart-veerman-archie-banjo-bridge-for-archtop-banjos-crowe-spaced-5-8?variant=26855902117952

Light weight, bright, punchy, no mud & loud! I'v retired from making bridges so there won't be any more of them available...

Feb 1, 2022 - 12:03:15 PM

32 posts since 8/28/2009

Bart Veerman Wow! That looks like a great bridge! Thanks for showing me! Any chance there's a "compensated" version of this?

Feb 1, 2022 - 12:59:21 PM

Bart Veerman

Canada

5166 posts since 1/5/2005

quote:
Originally posted by fastheartmart

Bart Veerman Wow! That looks like a great bridge! Thanks for showing me! Any chance there's a "compensated" version of this?


Nope. That bridge on that banjo should not need to be compensated  :)

Feb 1, 2022 - 1:30:11 PM

32 posts since 8/28/2009

Bart Veerman 10-4! I just bought it now :)

Feb 2, 2022 - 4:20:46 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15427 posts since 8/30/2006

April in Phoenix, sounds like a song.

Feb 7, 2022 - 12:31:12 PM

32 posts since 8/28/2009

quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran

Damn, a Boston not bright enough? The suggestions already made are pretty good.

You might try the Prucha Kershner tailpiece. Its additional mass and stiffness, adjusted as close to the head as possible without touching, will brighten it up a little more but will you think the money's well spent? Hard for me to know. I like the version on Greg Boyd's site.

Modified Prucha Kershner

Even better if you can find one is an ODE tailpiece—longer and more massive but good luck with that. There's one listed as SOLD in the classifieds and I think it's the one that I bought recently. 

Otherwise, if you want that Ralph Stanley archtop tone, best to look for an archtop. There were others including Recording King and Flinthill. Gibson made some in the '60s that won't cost a king's ransom and there are many conversions that show up now and then including a few in the Classifieds. Gibson RB-100s and 150s with the 1/4" round rod on the inner lip are non-Mastertone archtops (there are a few in the Classifieds).

If you're looking to peel paint, an ODE aluminum archtop with the bronze inner cap can be set up to do that. You want LOUD and BRIGHT? Look no further. Forget everything you think you might know about aluminum banjos.

Baldwin ODE archtop

At the bottom end, Saga made archtop kits and completed banjos. Here's an assembled kit for $500in the classifieds:

Saga archtop from kit

1 How do I know that Prucha Kershner tailpiece will fit my Boston? 
2 How hard would it be to fit a 5 string neck on that Ode tenor banjo? 
3 Is that Saga brighter/less muddy than my Boston? 

I'm really considering listening to you about getting an archtop, but I had a Goldtone archtop a few years ago and I'm pretty sure I had the head pretty tight.  but I still found it to be too muddy for my taste. I don't mid buying another banjo IF it's going to give me the tone I desire. 

The other consideration is the age of my strings. I change my strings about every month, but maybe since I'm playing gigs about 16 hours a week, I should change my strings every two weeks? 

Anyways, thanks again for all your help :) 


Feb 7, 2022 - 1:21:31 PM

12141 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by fastheartmart
quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran

Damn, a Boston not bright enough? The suggestions already made are pretty good.

You might try the Prucha Kershner tailpiece. Its additional mass and stiffness, adjusted as close to the head as possible without touching, will brighten it up a little more but will you think the money's well spent? Hard for me to know. I like the version on Greg Boyd's site.

Modified Prucha Kershner

Even better if you can find one is an ODE tailpiece—longer and more massive but good luck with that. There's one listed as SOLD in the classifieds and I think it's the one that I bought recently. 

Otherwise, if you want that Ralph Stanley archtop tone, best to look for an archtop. There were others including Recording King and Flinthill. Gibson made some in the '60s that won't cost a king's ransom and there are many conversions that show up now and then including a few in the Classifieds. Gibson RB-100s and 150s with the 1/4" round rod on the inner lip are non-Mastertone archtops (there are a few in the Classifieds).

If you're looking to peel paint, an ODE aluminum archtop with the bronze inner cap can be set up to do that. You want LOUD and BRIGHT? Look no further. Forget everything you think you might know about aluminum banjos.

Baldwin ODE archtop

At the bottom end, Saga made archtop kits and completed banjos. Here's an assembled kit for $500in the classifieds:

Saga archtop from kit

1 How do I know that Prucha Kershner tailpiece will fit my Boston? 
2 How hard would it be to fit a 5 string neck on that Ode tenor banjo? 
3 Is that Saga brighter/less muddy than my Boston? 

I'm really considering listening to you about getting an archtop, but I had a Goldtone archtop a few years ago and I'm pretty sure I had the head pretty tight.  but I still found it to be too muddy for my taste. I don't mid buying another banjo IF it's going to give me the tone I desire. 

The other consideration is the age of my strings. I change my strings about every month, but maybe since I'm playing gigs about 16 hours a week, I should change my strings every two weeks? 

Anyways, thanks again for all your help :) 


 


The Boston comes with a standard tailpiece hanger bolt and a Presto or NoKnot style tailpiece depending on the year and configuration. The Prucha Kershner copy will fit.

Hard to believe that a properly set up archtop would be too muddy for anyone's taste but without hearing and watching you play, all I can do is guess.

As for a new neck on that ODE, anyone can do it but you want them to fit the neck to the pot. Most aluminum ODEs (but not all) have a slight taper that uses a straight angle cut instead of 3°. 

Here's an old Stew Mac Eagle archtop that I saw at Keith Holland's last week. Interestingly, it has the same Elton hooks and shoes used by ODE (Stew-Mac started as the mail order parts dept for ODE befdore the sale to Baldwin) but not the aluminum rim or Waverly tailpiece. If it sits there long enough I might buy it just to see what I could make it do. It is reasonably bright as is but doesn't have the power that the ODEs with the bronze inner cap like 4 string on Reverb are capable of.

Stew-Mac Eagle

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