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May 28, 2022 - 10:15:45 AM
282 posts since 12/6/2021

I have often read comments about various makes of banjos and their "sound." Many times the comments state that "it is a good banjo but doesn't have that Gibson sound." What exactly is the Gibson sound? It would seem that if a Masterclone rim and the neck is made from the same wood, it has the same hardware, the same head, the same bridge, the same tuners, and a tone ring made from the same metal as an actual Gibson, that it would sound like an actual Gibson. What am I missing here? I will admit that I don't own a Gibson and I have never owned a Gibson so I guess I have nothing in my mind to compare it to. I have owned some nice banjos over the years yet I don't know how they compared to a Gibson sound wise.
Robert

May 28, 2022 - 10:46:07 AM
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2912 posts since 3/30/2008

I think chasing down the Gibson "sound", is like looking for the legendary Snark. I doubt anyone could identify a Gibson in a blindfold test. .. And we generally don't have good enough language to describe "sound".

May 28, 2022 - 10:58:46 AM
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4406 posts since 5/29/2011

I had a friend who kept trying out banjo after banjo. Each time I would tell him the banjo had no bottom. He didn't understand what I meant, and I couldn't describe what I was trying to tell him. Then one day he played a banjo that had "the sound." It had that deep bottom and full rich tone I had been trying to explain all along. And he said, "Now I see what you mean."
It's not something you can describe; you just know it when you hear it. And not all Gibsons have it.

May 28, 2022 - 11:04:26 AM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

26041 posts since 6/25/2005

TN Time is right. The “Gibson sound” comes from the type of banjo Gibson originated and others copied, often better in quality than Gibson. But Gibson archtops obviously sound different than Gibson flatheads. Both, by definition, have “Gibson sound.” So do well -made clones. Deerings, Nechvilles, Omes, Odes, Stellings and Vegas, among others, sound different because they are different. But the “Gibson sound” is associated with the Gibson Mastertone banjos of the 1927-41 period, especially flatheads, and the numerous banjos that copied them. It has nothing to do with the name on the banjo and has not for decades.

May 28, 2022 - 11:05:45 AM

1349 posts since 1/9/2012
Online Now

"I said it in Hebrew -- I said it in Dutch --

I said it in German and Greek;

But I wholly forgot (and it vexes me much)

That English is what you speak!"

 

...He [the Baker] had softly and suddenly vanished away --

For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

 

The Hunting of the Snark

May 28, 2022 - 11:36:51 AM
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heavy5

USA

2279 posts since 11/3/2016

The Fender in your avatar can emulate a Gibson sound as the construction is very similar assuming it is one of the early Ca. Fenders .
Don Parmley of BG fame played an early Mastertone w/ a Ca. Fender tone ring that was just an incredible sounding banjo that I always admired !

Also I have an early Fender that will blow away some Mastertones .

https://www.banjohangout.org/classified/93336

Listen to this demo blindfolded tell us what u hear ?   

Edited by - heavy5 on 05/28/2022 11:46:44

May 28, 2022 - 1:13:13 PM
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1848 posts since 5/19/2018

The ubiquitous “The Gibson Sound” thread. Comes around every month, just like a full moon.

I ha e played and owned innumerable Gibson banjos. Pre and post WWII. All original and some not so all original. They have all sounded completely different. Even had two pre- WWII’s. Same year, same model. They all sounded completely different from one another. Played completely different also. And that’s what I love about them.

It’s been said before. 99.99% of an instruments sound is what is behind the instrument.

May 28, 2022 - 4:14:14 PM

5291 posts since 5/9/2007

A fella once told me ... 

 "Sounds like a fire engine goin' down the street ringing it's bell; Dingle-Dingle-Dangle-Dangle-
Dingle-Dingle-Dangle-Dangle ..."

Now I can't seem to get that outta my head.  frown

Edited by - mrphysics55 on 05/28/2022 16:21:26

May 28, 2022 - 4:43:11 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

64286 posts since 10/5/2013
Online Now

Three Granadas very close in age to each other - Earl’s, Sonny’s, and J.D.’s. (correct me if I’m wrong, pls). They all sound different to me. Like the man said above - it’s who (what’s) behind the banjo.

May 28, 2022 - 6:17:35 PM
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14764 posts since 10/30/2008

Just because no one can put "the Gibson sound" in words DOES NOT MEAN that there is no such thing.

The way to learn about is to play every bluegrass banjo you encounter. And make mental notes.

I went to Jim Mills' shop years ago and tried every old Gibson he had there. Yes, they all sounded SLIGHTLY different, and one of them I liked the best, by far. But they all had "Gibson sound" which is a general characteristic that I have not heard in Vegas, Odes, Stellings, Nechvilles, etc. As was well said above, the "general Gibson sound" can come from the whole class of very well made Masterclones. First I ever heard that I thought "had it" were two 1980 Gold Star 100s (flat heads). Since 1981 I've heard many more.

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May 28, 2022 - 8:03:40 PM
Players Union Member

TN Time

USA

282 posts since 12/6/2021

quote:
Originally posted by heavy5

The Fender in your avatar can emulate a Gibson sound as the construction is very similar assuming it is one of the early Ca. Fenders .
Don Parmley of BG fame played an early Mastertone w/ a Ca. Fender tone ring that was just an incredible sounding banjo that I always admired !

Also I have an early Fender that will blow away some Mastertones .

https://www.banjohangout.org/classified/93336

Listen to this demo blindfolded tell us what u hear ?   


The Fender in my avatar is a 1970's made in California Fender Artist. I'm not sure what "sound" it has but it is a cannon and to me has a great sound, loud and powerful. This is the banjo that caused the old lady at an acoustic jam to "shush" me and tell me I was playing too loud.

Robert

Robert

May 28, 2022 - 9:06:33 PM
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beegee

USA

22961 posts since 7/6/2005

The Gibson sound is what one hears when a superb banjo picker meets up with a superb instrument that is set-up to maximize his playing style.

May 28, 2022 - 9:34:10 PM
Players Union Member

TN Time

USA

282 posts since 12/6/2021

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

The Gibson sound is what one hears when a superb banjo picker meets up with a superb instrument that is set-up to maximize his playing style.


So, you are saying that a "Gibson Sound" does not necessarily have to be produced by a Gibson?

Robert

May 28, 2022 - 9:48:07 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

26041 posts since 6/25/2005

quote:
Originally posted by TN Time
quote:
Originally posted by beegee

The Gibson sound is what one hears when a superb banjo picker meets up with a superb instrument that is set-up to maximize his playing style.


So, you are saying that a "Gibson Sound" does not necessarily have to be produced by a Gibson?

Robert


Of course not. That sound can be produced by any Gibson-style banjo. There was a time when Gibsons were made by First Quality, and a similar FQ banjo would sound the same. See my earlier post.

May 28, 2022 - 10:51:10 PM
Players Union Member

TN Time

USA

282 posts since 12/6/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers
quote:
Originally posted by TN Time
quote:
Originally posted by beegee

The Gibson sound is what one hears when a superb banjo picker meets up with a superb instrument that is set-up to maximize his playing style.


So, you are saying that a "Gibson Sound" does not necessarily have to be produced by a Gibson?

Robert


Of course not. That sound can be produced by any Gibson-style banjo. There was a time when Gibsons were made by First Quality, and a similar FQ banjo would sound the same. See my earlier post.


Yeah, I know what you are saying. That's what I was basically asking/saying in my OP. So I think everyone is in agreement that a banjo made the same way with the same woods and components would sound very close to the Gibson, give or take a little as not even two exact Gibsons would  sound exactly the same but close enough to have the "Gibson Sound." 

But then, according to beegee, a given banjo will only have the "Gibson Sound"if the player is a much better than average player. I have to assume that he means that even a Gibson that has produced the Gibson Sound will not have that Gibson Sound if played by an average player.

Robert

May 29, 2022 - 12:26:42 AM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

26041 posts since 6/25/2005

Well, it will have a Gibson sound, but not an Earl sound nor, most likely, a pre-war sound. I used to have a renecked ‘27 archtop. Flathead sound? Nope. Gibson pre-war sound? Yep. Ditto for my ‘25 ball-bearing. Then there was my first MT-style banjo: 1926 PB-1 shell. 1962 RB-100 neck. 1962 Gibson flathead tone ring. Tried and approved by Earl. Gibson sound, no doubt.

May 29, 2022 - 1:54:37 AM
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eljimb0

USA

2061 posts since 7/24/2007

I have several Gibson banjos. They all sound a little different than each other. Some of them have good days and great days, a couple of them I never play for more than a few minutes because they just don't seem to be interesting or something hard to describe. None of them sound anything like a bottle cap banjo. None of them sound like a Bacon & Day, or a Vega or a Paramount, I had a Stelling Sunflower that sounded terrific. It sounded enough like a Mastertone that it could be one of the Gibsons, but it was uncomfortably heavy to stand up and play with. Is there a Gibson sound? Is there a Harley Davidson sound? .. Of course there is.

May 29, 2022 - 8:00:03 AM
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3980 posts since 9/9/2010

I agree that there is a "sound" that you can chase with a Gibson banjo. My Stelling has a recognizable Stelling sound that is nothing like the Gibson "sound."  When I bought the Stelling, I played variations of Stelling banjos until one was the ultimate example of "the sound."

Also, as has been said here, not every Gibson has the "sound" and there are wide variations to it within Gibson itself.

For example, my Gibson Les Paul sounds nothing like a Gibson Les Paul, even though it was the top of the line Les Paul that you could get at the time. My friend had the cheapest Les Paul made at the time (Studio model) and it had the Les Paul Gibson sound.

The Gibson banjo I have has a good enough variation of "the sound" even though it's neck was made by Arthur Hatfield and it has a TN 20 ring in it. So, how much is really pre-war Gibson?

Edited by - JMalmsteen on 05/29/2022 08:01:53

May 30, 2022 - 5:47:11 AM
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2971 posts since 12/4/2009

Hello,

To me, that Gibson sound starts out with what our favorite player is playing and nothing we have sounds like it. I have been around pre-war and post-war Gibson paired against a pre-war Vega. The Gibson sound is there.

My 2005 Gibson RB-12 has more depth and breadth than my GoldStar GS-100FE. My wife prefers the RB-12 over my custom Recording King neck, Dannick 20-Hole, Ken LeVan finger-jointed rim, and a Cox resonator. I like my custom for certain conditions. Why risk the Gibson? Gibson stopped producing them.

May 31, 2022 - 5:57:23 AM
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7960 posts since 9/5/2006

there is no ONE gibson sound,,they all vary a bit ,,but most sound great... earls didn't sound like dons,,dons didn't sound like sonnys,,sonnys didn't sound like JDs. they all have a different sound which is driven by the player... i played the mack crow 75 and jim played my style 11 in front of each other,,, he still sounded like jim mills on mine and i sounded like me on the 75.

May 31, 2022 - 7:10:29 AM
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bill53

USA

432 posts since 3/26/2004

Ive had 3 pretty good banjos an rk35 a 89 rb250 a 2008 rb250 I finally found the one that sounds right its a 94 earl scruggs a real barn burner the other one is a 27 gibson conversion it has that sweet sound.I will also say ive never played a Hatfield that wasnt good great banjos.I quit looking when I found the earl Im using EJ 55 daddario on the prewar EJ60 lighter but a sweeter sound. I believe strings are everything .

May 31, 2022 - 5:03:45 PM

2865 posts since 4/5/2006

I have a custom built Gibson clone. The four hole arch top tone ring is pressed on a block pot. It's a decent sounding AT banjo & I never had a problem competing with real Gibson's in a jam. Not saying it has that Gibson sound, but the only banjos that overpowered it were Stellings.

Some people say a Stelling will never sound like a Gibson. My Stelling is/was a first generation, full thickness, heavy block pot Star Flower. It had a broken neck when I got it, but the price was right. The replacement neck is patterned after the early Gibson RB4 H&F, having the Mastertone inlay on a fiddle peg head, except mine is purposely misspelled. smiley

Sound like a Gibson? Aw well, maybe close enough to pass muster, until  those bow tie cut outs in the flange give it away. devil

May 31, 2022 - 6:51 PM

bill53

USA

432 posts since 3/26/2004

read jd crowes book the guys were half asleep he gonged his banjo with his thumb scared the living daylights out of em i bet they levetated

Jun 1, 2022 - 5:20:04 AM

1911 posts since 4/10/2005

While it's generally true that Deerings and Omes have their own sound, both offer models specifically designed and built to deliver "that Gibson sound" aka "that Prewar Gibson sound." With Deering it's the Golden series (Golden Era, Golden Wreath, that other Wreath whose model name I forget). With Ome it's the Southern Cross, though other models can be ordered with "Gibson sound" tone ring and pot construction.

Don't forget the PacRim lines. Recording King, Goldstar, etc.--Fact is, they are nailing "that Gibson sound" in a number of instances.

Jun 1, 2022 - 6:03:23 AM
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76224 posts since 5/9/2007

I suppose that would depend on what Gibson one is talking about.
Earl once owned "Nellie" and didn't like that particular "Gibson sound" enough to want to keep it.He wanted the "Gibson sound" of Don's Granada,instead.

A short list of banjos other than Gibson that have a great Gibson Sound:
Cox,(archtop or flathead),Stelling.(Banjo Sandwich) and the Master's Cross I used to pick at the Music Emporium,My '76 Gold Star after I replaced the multi-ply rim with a 3 ply from StewMac and any banjo built to the Mastertone specs.
Specs for a good Gibson sound are 3 ply rim,quality ring and hardware carefully and expertly assembled and fitted.

Gibson sound from the 70s is sketchy.

Jun 2, 2022 - 5:54:32 AM

7960 posts since 9/5/2006

buddy of mine had a huber VRB 75 i played years ago that sounded as good as 99% of gibsons i have played,, pre war included

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