Can we really tell the difference between a maple or mahogany banjo,
or is it just a “Taste Great/Less Filling” argument?
Here is a rough edit of a song played on the Banjo Ben’s Store website, once on mahogany and once on maple. Both are played by the same person in what appears to be the same studio setting. The banjos are identical, except one is maple & the other mahogany.
I mixed things up a bit in this edited version. It might be all mahogany, it might be all maple, it might be half & half or it might be some other mix.
MAP is maple and MOH is mahogany. Do you hear…
It’s #4… MOH_MAP_MOH_MAP
I think the difference is clear between Segments 1 & 2…but after that it is really tough to tell. Broken into segments, it sounds like this -
Here’s the original source material. It’s Robbie Boone for Banjo Ben’s General Store.
I mixed them together because by the time I listened to one, I forgot how the other sounded! Other than that, my short-term memory seems, oh you know.
What we “hear” is a difficult thing to describe. If I ask what you see in your mind’s eye, you can draw me a picture. If I ask you to color it and you do it in pencil, I can surmise you have a form or color blindness and process the input differently from me.
But how can we tell if we hear the same note the same way? This is much more difficult.
All this is the long way of saying, “When buying a banjo, get one that sounds good. And unless the audience is paying you, only you can be the judge of what sounds good. When someone says “Gee, you should have gotten the other kind of wood” you will know they suffer from some mild form of “audio blindness.”
You can help end the torment by sending your donations to me as together we struggle to find a cure for this affliction that afflicts so many today due to insufficient funding for additional banjo infrastructure. With each donation you send me, I will send you a tote bag. Styles may vary.
I could tell that the first section was mahogany and the last one was maple, but the sections in between were too short for me to get a detailed hearing. I prefer the maple banjo, but that’s just my preference.
It was probably not intentional, but the maple sections happened to be almost all higher notes than the mahogany sections. I think a fairer test would have been to hear the same parts of the song one after another so we’d be able to hear the same notes. Maple resonators tend to get thin on the low notes but really shine on the highs.
I totally agree with “Buy what sounds good.” Not only is it buyer’s choice, I find that I tend to instantly play better on a quality sounding instrument, plus I’m likely to practice more (time permitting, of course.)