What Is A Dobson Tone Ring?

by David Bandrowski

In the past decade or so, banjos featuring a Dobson style tone ring have been gaining popularity among old time 5 string banjo players, who praise its tone. But what is a Dobson tone ring, and how does it affect the tone of your banjo?

The Dobson tone ring is an early style banjo tone that was invented by Henry Clay Dobson and was originally used on his Dobson Silver Bell banjo that was patented in 1881. You can see the original patent of this banjo below.

Dobson Banjo Patent

The tone ring is made from a piece of spun metal, usually brass, and formed into a "doughnut" shape which is then fitted onto the rim of the banjo.

How Does A Dobson Tone Ring Effect Banjo Tone?

The Dobson tone ring gives a banjo a good "tubby" and warm bass response with a balanced sparkle on the high end. This type of tonal response is great for old time style banjoists who want an authentic old time tone with a little more richness and clarity than you would get with a banjo that does not have a tone ring.

Being made of brass, the tone ring is very warm sounding and not overly bright. The Dobson style tone ring is a fairly simple design, but it does achieve some pretty good results for old time openback 5 string banjos.


Dobson Tone Ring front


Dobson Tone Ring back

Deering will soon be releasing a new banjo featuring a Dobson tone ring. Let us know if you are interested in finding out more about this upcoming new banjo by entering your information in the Comments below.


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