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Dec 10, 2023 - 6:53:17 AM



516 posts since 4/19/2011

I'm curious, does anyone else ever feel the need to change their bridge due to seasonal changes ?
I have been performing for 40+ years, but only fully acoustically, ( I removed the pickup and play into a condenser now), for the past 5 years. I recently I have been changing the bridges on my 2 performance banjos because, during the Winter months, I was getting less change in tone to a mellow sound when picking close to the neck. In other words, the banjos ( Gibson RB-4 & Hatfield Custom ) sounded just too harsh in the Winter months. Does anyone else do this ?
Some specs: I live in Highlands, NC, which is technically a rain forest. I play my Hatfield 70% of the time, and the Gibson 30%. During the Summer most all of our gigs are outside, while during the Winter everything is inside, heat cranked up, usually in front of a fireplace (!), and very low humidity.
I started playing with Curt Mangan light strings, which have a brighter, crisper tone, IMHO. They're a bit more expensive, but the crispness last longer than GHS. BTW, I have suggested Mangans to 3 of my pals, and they've all switched.

Sosebee bridges on both during the Summer, and switch to Hatfield compensating for the Winter. I believe the compensating bridges weigh a little more (?). If I were to leave one or the other on all the time, it would be the Hatfield bridge, but the Sosebee gets the high end pop to the mic a little easier and less need to "dig in". Thoughts ?

All the best and Happy Holidays, PKM

Dec 10, 2023 - 9:30:20 AM

Alex Z


5738 posts since 12/7/2006

"During the Summer most all of our gigs are outside, while during the Winter everything is inside"

So right there, different acoustic environment, have a change in how the banjo is going to sound to the player, and you are adjusting the sound -- by changing the bridge -- so it sounds more to your preference.  Seems like a good idea in your situations.

Since you asked, I don't change bridges seasonally.  Same bridge gives the same response and tone to me that I want from the instrument -- although it will sound different indoors and outside.  Even changes in an indoor location will give a different sound.  So I don't change bridges if the acoustic environment changes.

Dec 10, 2023 - 9:49:18 AM

2878 posts since 9/18/2010

Plastic banjo heads are not affected by weather (relative humidity) like wooden instrument tops, so perhaps it is the air itself that makes the banjos sound different to you. When air is warmer or cooler, more or less humid, sound is transmitted differently through the air. Just guessing here, but maybe...

Also, perhaps it is the difference between playing outside and playing inside.
Whatever, change bridges if you like the sound better. I don't do it non do I feel a need, and although I don't play out (gigs) anymore, I didn't swap bridges when I did.

Dec 12, 2023 - 3:53:54 PM

3637 posts since 4/5/2006

In the 50+ years of playing banjo, that has to be the silliest thing I've heard yet.

Dec 15, 2023 - 8:50:51 AM

79434 posts since 5/9/2007

Plastic heads can change their tension all on their own depending on neck relief changes and environment.

Dec 15, 2023 - 2:48:41 PM
likes this

Alex Z


5738 posts since 12/7/2006

The main difference between indoors and outdoors is the reflection of the sound waves from the physical environment. 

Outdoors there is almost zero reflection-- kind of like a big anechoic chamber. Indoors there can be a variety of reflective environments -- think of the difference between a tile bathroom an a carpeted living room with stuffed furniture. 

The bridge is a main tone-producing part, so a player that sets up the instrument for a preferred sound in a tiled bathroom may choose a different bridge versus setting up in a living room or out in the back yard. 

That's essentially what the poster is doing.  I don't change bridges, because I want consistent tone, volume,  and response directly to my ears.  Will let the tone controls and reverb on the mixer take care of what the audience hears. 

Dec 16, 2023 - 12:07 PM

9508 posts since 8/30/2004

Yes to all the above posts,
Our ears also change with barometric pressure and heat and cold. I don't fuss with my banjo too much if it doesn't start playing in another musical language like Middle Eastern Scales etc....HA...Jack

Edited by - Jack Baker on 12/16/2023 12:07:47

Dec 16, 2023 - 3:47:01 PM



2112 posts since 2/22/2006

A lot of guitar players have summer and winter bridge saddles, although I have never needed them. There is wood moving around with the seasons on a guitar, but not so much on a banjo. My banjos stay and sound the same all year round. If it works for you I guess you should do it.

Dec 16, 2023 - 3:55:05 PM
Players Union Member

TN Time


836 posts since 12/6/2021

What are "Middle Eastern Scales?"

Dec 25, 2023 - 9:45:55 PM

Bart Veerman


5643 posts since 1/5/2005

The temp diff between summer and winter in your part of the world is big enough to affect the head tension on your joes. In your case, to a degree large enough to cause to symptoms you describe. Just think of it: the summer heat  will cause the head to stretch enough for you to notice the change of behavior of your jos compared to the head tension in A/Ced places indoors @ winter time room temps.

The easiest thing to do is to use a Drum Dial so you can dial the head tension at the very same tightness year-round. A compensated bridge in this picture is not at all needed or useful.

Yup, this may be hard to believe for the folks who have never experienced outdoor summer weather conditions in North Carolina vs their winter temps. For the ones who do get it: yup, totally makes sense, don't it ever as the head tension can go up/down 2~4 points easily when comparing performing in direct sunlight stages compared to sheltered [sunshine] venues not-in-summer. 

Happy New Year to all!

Edited by - Bart Veerman on 12/25/2023 21:56:59

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