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Feb 27, 2024 - 11:55:49 AM
586 posts since 1/8/2005

Any opinion as to 12" pots vs. more common 11" and slightly smaller pots?

Feb 27, 2024 - 12:14:46 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)


27869 posts since 6/25/2005
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I prefer 11”. More “cut,” I think. 12” to my ear is more thunky than I like. But many others disagree; it’s always a personal thing. Also, I find 12” banjos more uncomfortable to hold and play. All personal preferences. Neither is better.

Feb 27, 2024 - 1:28:32 PM
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65 posts since 3/6/2021

I prefer 11" pots for the same reasons Bill cited. I think set up can affect tone a lot, though. If you want a mellower, deeper sound, there's probably a way to get there with an 11" pot.

Feb 27, 2024 - 1:38:36 PM
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310 posts since 6/20/2020

My personal take on the question is to try and lose the idea that there is an 'old time sound'. Some people will tell you there is; some people may even compliment that you have it. I'd take either comment with a smile and a big pinch of salt. Those type of comment tend to reflect the current 'orthodoxy'.

It's more fundamental to your playing to listen and absorb the rhythms so that you instinctively feel and express them. But given the enormous variables of set up, head size of your banjo is really irrelevant. One of the joys of OT banjo is that a player has scope to sound how we want to sound. For those of us who spend most of our time playing with others that very often is actually how we sound in combination when playing with a fiddle player. As an OT banjo player I think of myself as half of that sound and definitely not the complete 'sound'. I always want to hear how my banjo works as part of that fiddle-banjo whole sound.

Edited by - Pomeroy on 02/27/2024 13:47:54

Feb 27, 2024 - 1:43:30 PM

banjo bill-e


13728 posts since 2/22/2007

I play 12" pots because of how I hold the banjo and my body shape. They tuck in under my arm a bit more securely than the 11". But I prefer the tone of the 11" and agree with Pomeroy that any banjo works well for Old Time Music and that your approach to how you play makes much more difference than choice of banjo.

Feb 27, 2024 - 1:53 PM
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2397 posts since 2/9/2007

Jan Bloom makes a real nice 11.5" Farland-style ('woody") pot.

Feb 27, 2024 - 2:06:16 PM
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2921 posts since 8/30/2012

There's as many old timey sounds as there are players.

If you want to emulate a specific sound, play something similar to what the musicians creating that sound play.

Feb 27, 2024 - 2:26:30 PM
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505 posts since 3/24/2020

There also is the factor of bridge placement, depth of the pot, thickness of the rim, 12” archtop vs 11” flathead& so on. I reckon that with all these considerations there is a big overlap. One thing for sure is that you'll get more overtones with the 12” pot.

Feb 27, 2024 - 4:24:45 PM
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6295 posts since 3/11/2006

Originally posted by KCJones

If you want to emulate a specific sound, play something similar to what the musicians creating that sound play.

Good advice from KCJ

Also as martyjoe says set up is also a determining factor.

*Generally* I've found 11" dia to have more focus, though I mostly play 12".  Another factor is what sort of tone ring the banjo has.

One of my banjoes is a 12" with rolled brass tone-ring, and I once had it with a frosted plastic Remo head cranked down tight, and it could have made a credible BG banjo like that.

All of the set-up variables (head material and tension, tone-ring type, bridge configuration, tailpiece, string type and gauge, string and head muting) are to be considered. Also personal factors like which finger you use, fingernail length, fingernail vs different picks, right-hand attack , etc., etc. are factors. Also, fretted vs. fretless, and scale-length.  The possibilities are endless.

To make things simple, I'd probably opt for a 12" with simple brass rolled tone-ring.  This banjo will probably give you the widest variety of sounds via the many set-up options unless you've already zeroed in on the sound you want.  Just about any banjo can be made to sound any way, so as above, KCJ's advice is golden.  

BTW, how would *you* define an old-timey sound?

Two equally old-timey performances with widely varying sounds:

Wade Ward-Lost Indian (

Clifton Hicks - Hustling Gamblers - Country Blues - False Hearted Lovers Blues - Dock Boggs (

Feb 29, 2024 - 9:50:15 PM
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7116 posts since 6/27/2009

I don't think the size is the determining factor for an "old-timey sound," which is a term I identify with my playing.  When you play the banjo and tinker with its tone, the size of the pot is only one aspect.  I have a Gold Tone Plucky with an 8" pot, a Gold Tone cello banjo with a 14" pot, a Doc's Banjo with a 10" pot, a Carolina Banjo with a 12" pot, a Mac Traynham banjo with an 11" pot, and a gourd banjo with a 7" pot. Sometimes I prefer the sound of one banjo over another, and I can definitely hear differences. The old-timey sound I like is clear, bright and mellow all at once. Sometimes I want to focus on melody, sometimes on rhythm and strums, sometimes on picking, sometimes on accompaniment, sometimes on solo, sometimes on a duet or band sound. I really don't think the size of the pot can guarantee the old-timey sound I want. 

Edited by - JanetB on 02/29/2024 21:58:05

Mar 1, 2024 - 2:09:24 AM
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6295 posts since 3/11/2006

Originally posted by JanetB

I don't think the size is the determining factor for an "old-timey sound," which is a term I identify with my playing...

Agree Janet.

And... if you have a banjo with organic components like a hide head and/or gut strings, your banjo will sound different on different days.

Edited by - R.D. Lunceford on 03/01/2024 02:10:09

Mar 1, 2024 - 8:56:59 PM



280 posts since 2/27/2009

If your playing at a dance or in a big jam a 11 inch pot cuts through a lot better.

Mar 10, 2024 - 9:23:57 PM
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103 posts since 9/13/2017

My best banjo has a 12" pot and a Dobson tone ring. When "designing" it together with the luthier, he strongly suggested a 27" scale for a better sound (not too "muddy"). I'm glad he did. I generally prefer the more mellow tone, but I'd not like it to be too "thunky". I went with a renaissance head, but may try a frosted one. Comfort-wise, I prefer the 12" pot over an 11" one. The larger pot is just about perfect for me.

If I get another 5S banjo, I'd like one that offers a contrasting sound. Maybe a 11" one with a tubaphone tone ring, possibly a long neck.

I wasn't after an established type of sound, though, just a sound I'd like.

Mar 12, 2024 - 5:55:55 PM

6295 posts since 3/11/2006

Originally posted by Mivo

I wasn't after an established type of sound, though, just a sound I'd like.

That's exactly right, and perhaps also what purpose the banjo is going to serve.

My favored fretted banjo is also a 12" dia w/Dobson ring, but with skin head, Nylguts, and a 24" scale, and tuned one tone flat.  Mainly a solo artiste these days.

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