I recently heard from a customer who was concerned to learn that our Goodtime Six 6 string banjo was designed for ball end strings. His concern was that loop end strings gave more of a “banjo sound” than the ball end strings. Since our Goodtime Six was designed for ball and strings he felt he could never get a true banjo sound.
It is generally accepted that the first banjos were constructed without a tone ring. They were built with a round rim made of wood with a skin head (just like a drum head) stretched over the round, wood rim. Early banjo builders discovered stretching the head over a metal ring that was mounted on the wood rim gave the banjo a little more clarity, note separation, a bit more midrange definition, along with increased brightness and even a little more low frequency clarity.
“Do I need a banjo case?” sounds like a pretty simple question. Most folks would say no, if they only play at home. Let’s take a look at why you should have a case for your banjo - as Sherlock Holmes might say “An Elementary Case for Cases!”
Using a banjo strap will make you a better banjo player. Such a dramatic statement needs to be backed up with good reasons. Let me show you why.
We all want a shortcut to get better without putting in the time and hard work that professional musicians do. In reality, there is no shortcut. You must practice, listen to music, and dedicate yourself to truly get better. There are though a few things you can do that do not involve practicing which will change the tone you are getting out of your banjo. Here is a quick list of 5 easy things you can do.
Inherent in the construction of banjos are certain parts that help address the needs of banjo set up. Among these are what we will call your “hot rods” - the coordinator rods and the truss rods. But what does all this mean to you, the player, when it comes to banjo set up?
As most of us know, standard tuning for a 5-string banjo is an open G tuning (G,D,G,B,D). Open G tuning means that if we strum all the strings without fretting any of them, we will be playing a G chord. Open G is a great tuning, but there are many other ways you can tune your banjo as well. By tuning it differently, you can get a completely different tone out of your banjo. It also can make it easier to play certain songs in different keys.
This seems like a simple question, right? But as I have the privilege of talking to so many of you on the phone and via email, it has occurred to me that we have not offered you a simple answer to this question. We have told you about rims, heads, tone rings, etc. but a simple “what is happening” explanation about the mechanics of what is going on when you play has not been offered. Let’s see if I can break it down for you in a simpler “1-2-3” order so you can understand what is going on.
The most favorite part of my job is talking to customers! I love hearing their enthusiasm for and love of the banjo! There are some common questions, however, that are shared by folks who have or are searching for banjos. I thought sharing those might help others who are on the same journey.
The “wire” for instruments is called music wire. This name does have industrial meaning because it denotes the alloy, temper, hardness, resilience, and tensile strength of the wire, as compared to electrical wire, copper wire, etc.