Banjo Tone


#1

Anyone know how to make your banjo have a bright ringing tone with great sustain? I know that it was once popular to put brass nuts on a guitar for sustain. Any suggestions for banjos?
Jack


#2

Hey Jack

I am no expert but I replaced the frosted head on my Fender FB58 for a smooth white plastic REMO head and it really has a bright tone. I am not sure that I like it all that much even after about five years and have decided to put a frosted head on when I next replace the strings.

If your banjo is a bit dull tweak up the tension hooks a little that might be just enough get more sustain.

Disclaimer if you don’t know how to do this seek out a Luthier or someone who knows and can teach you. As a banjo player it is essential that you need to learn some basic skills of how to maintain of your instrument.

Ben has posted a great tutorial on Banjo Set Up by Steve Huber and I would encourage you to watch this seven part course. https://banjobenclark.com/courses/banjo-setup-with-steve-huber


#3

Thanks Archie. Good advice. I’ve watched that whole video. It covered a ton of stuff. I did have a luthier set it up and he did a good job, but I had to loosen a couple hooks when I installed the banjo strap, which led to the intonation going out and some of the brightness lost.

Guess I’ll either take or back to the luthier or mess with it myself. I love a really bright, ringing tone.

Jack


#4

There are so many variables here that I can’t begin to tell you what it could be, but I would take it back to a luthier if you have a chance.


#5

It was recommended to me to tune my banjo head using a drum dial. I’d never heard of this method, but after watching some YouTube videos about it, it seemed like a good idea.

So I bought a drum dial and tonight just used it on both of my banjos. I have to admit that the tone and sustain are improved on both. It makes sense. The head can literally be tuned to different notes in different places, which can cause subtle undertones according to videos I watched. Once I got the whole head to the same tension, both banjos seemed to ring better.

I still need to play around with it some more. The best video I watched recommended the head be tuned to a G#, but I’m no where that on either. One is an E and the other is a C#. Both heads are way too tight to try to get them up to a G#, so I need to keep researching.


#6

Keep us posted. I’ve thought about getting one but they are pricey. I def like the idea of very good tone.


#7

This morning someone on Facebook recommended I dial up the Gibson from 91 to 93, and even as high as 94. To my surprise, when I hit 93, I found that magic G# I’ve seen referenced so many times. I was shocked that so little movement of the head increased the tone from C# to G#.

The tone is even more improved now. It’s still not what I’d call pre-war tone, and I think I lost a little growl on the low D string, but everything else is definitely brighter and less muddy sounding. I wish I would have done a before and after recording.

This is the dial I bought.

Guitar Center sent me a 15% off coupon, which got it down to about $50 after tax. I think it was definitely a worth while investment.


#8

My current method is to take off my snark and lay the back down on banjo head and tap around on head to get a reading. I test the four corners. Usually have about an A#. Anything below that gets muddy fast.


#9

I read someone else that found an A# was the best tone for their banjo too. I think if I tried to tighten to that note my head would split.


#10

I use a drumdial it takes away all the guess work my Deering golden era set at 93 gives me a G#


#11

I’m no expert in this but I follow Huber’s advice and tap-tune it to G#.