Bad news banjo actually good news

Discussion in 'Fred's Barcalounge' started by J Bird, Jun 28, 2021.

  1. J Bird

    J Bird Synchromatic

    My grandfather's 30s B&D Silver Bell plectrum banjo that I started playing over 30 years ago just busted its (original?) drum head. Did it all by itself. This thing would honk like nobody's business. With a new head, she will most likely have a huge jump in chime. I never changed out the head because for nostalgia sake. That's my grandpa's finger grease.

    So, what head should I get. I haven't even started looking, but I'm thinking clear plastic is mostly used these days.

  2. sgarnett

    sgarnett Synchromatic

    Apr 14, 2020
    I don’t play banjo. I inherited two banjos ….

    Dad used the frosted top white Weatherking heads.

    Personally, on a vintage open back, I’d be tempted to try a Fiberskyn to somewhat preserve the character of it. However, you didn’t say whether you WANT a big jump in chime from a new head ….
    J Bird likes this.
  3. wildeman

    wildeman I Bleed Orange

    May 10, 2015
    Oh man, that thing would get a new skin head if it was mine but if you insist on plastic, a frosted Weather King. You should get a banjo uke and re-use Grandpa's old head.
    My old Leedy plectrum came with a nicely worn Weather King and sounds great, i prefer my Stromberg Voisinet with the skin for most stuff though. 20210628_165738.jpg
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2021
    J Bird likes this.
  4. Congrats on the banjo! I have a bacon and day tenor from 1926. That head is some sort of skin pulled tight. Never took it off, but dont play it that much as I have a few tenor guitars.

    Try or They have the answers.
    J Bird likes this.
  5. J Bird

    J Bird Synchromatic

    I'm not set on plastic, it's just seems more commonly used for traditional dixieland tones. I actually tune it like my grandpa did, like a guitar, DGBe. I mostly play original music on it ranging from ragtime to surf. I also use it to write music.

    So, I will be looking for a real skin then, that has a bit more of the character I'm used to.

    I was hoping you'd chime in Wildeman. Great suggestion.

    Thanks again.
  6. thunder58

    thunder58 Super Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 23, 2010
    tappan ny
    Admin Post
    Thats a beautiful piece of your family's history .
    J Bird likes this.
  7. dlew919

    dlew919 Country Gent

    Jul 18, 2016
    Sydney, Australia
    Remo weatherking.
    Or a skin one. But the weatherking will last till your grandkids start playing.
    J Bird likes this.
  8. J Bird

    J Bird Synchromatic

    I'm looking at real skins, goat for most part. Stewmac has an unbranded one that I could see myself getting. But, what about etsy and Amazon offerings, they are also unbranded. and are out of stock. I'd like one with an off-white, cream or mottled surface. Any help would be appreciated.

    Also, the tuners. Yes, they will hold the strings in tune, barely. I'd like to keep the originals, but maybe it's time for an upgrade. I'll post a pic soon.

    And another thing, I have a drum trigger as a pickup, stuck to the underside about two inches above the bridge. I rarely plug it in, so sound quality is not that important. Are there any suggestions, besides the $200 banjo pickups I see online?

    And another thing, how the heck do I attach a strap when there are no strap buttons? I've had a strap tied with shoestring and use the resonator's knurled mount for the lower buttonhole. Is there a better way without drilling holes, god forbid?

    Have any of you had a Softpedal on your banjos? What a trippy device. Intended as a mute, but I use it as a tremolo, vibrato, phaser (kind of) and distortion. Yes, distortion. When the felt pads are barely touching the skin it growls so sweetly.
  9. J Bird

    J Bird Synchromatic

    I ended up going all out on this one. Today, I installed a Stern Tanning, JD Balch spiral hoop mounted calfskin head and a Farquhar ebony topped cherry bridge.

    I was a little stuck on how to clean both the lacquered wood and nickel plated brass. It ended up being very straightforward. First, a sudsy sponge, then a Naphtha wipe down and finally, paste wax everything.

    I doubt this banjo has ever looked or sounded better.

    20210906_110104.jpg 20210906_140526.jpg 20210906_110013.jpg
    new6659, Henry and sgarnett like this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.