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.
When we hear a choir singing, we love the beautifully blended sound that we hear. Each member of that chorus is unique, no one member sounds exactly like the other member.
But when the conductor coordinates their efforts and blends their natural gifts, the resulting sound is harmonious and pleasing to the audience.
The parts of a banjo are like a chorus. At Deering, we give special attention to the natural material that each part is made of and we “balance” or adjust their set up so that the resulting sound is beautiful and harmonious. Not everyone wants to hear the same sound out of their banjo that is why we have a multitude of variations we can offer so that the resulting musical tone is the one you want to hear. But, the basic mechanics of what is going on is consistent. It is this basic mechanics that I want to address today.
Playing a banjo is like an exercise in physics. By definition, physics is the science of matter and energy and the interactions between the two. From this we can see how this fits naturally into what we are doing when we play a banjo. We will be walking through the pathway that the vibration passes to give us the resulting sound that we hear when we play. By understanding this pathway, we can better see how not only what the parts are made of but how they are “balanced” together that gives us the sound we want to hear.
By looking at the pathway, we can understand how the materials themselves can regulate the sound we hear out of the banjo.
When one of our customers asks me how he can make his banjo sound a certain way, it is important to know that not just one component is involved in making the sound one hears from his/her banjo. The ability to adjust the setup of the banjo, the freedom to tweak the components, is one of the reasons we call the banjo the “hot rod” of acoustic instruments.
I hope this article helps you all have more fun with your own “hot rod.”
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