BANJO "SET-UP" :
Your banjo should be adjusted to perform in harmony with your current ability as
a player. After 35 years of playing the banjo, I personally can say that as your
ability to play progresses, the set-up of your instrument will become an
extremely important component in your quest to be the musician you want to be.
This applies not only to the banjo, but to any musical instrument, in relation
to the player.
The term "Set-Up" refers partially, to the
adjustment of string height, neck pitch, bridge height, proper alignment of
strings, and several other key tolerance issues that result in correct
intonation, ease of playing the instrument, and the maximum output of volume and
String gauge is a crucial factor that must be considered at
the beginning of the set-up procedure. Playing "styles" also determine further
height/action tolerances on the neck. My experiences range from using heavy
gauge strings, as a youthful member of Jimmy Martins Sunny Mountain Boys, to
more of a "tone and accuracy" inspired Studio environment set-up.
I will profile each individual on specific personal
preferences key to their technique, and the characteristics of their banjo, to
custom tailor each set-up. I have owned many fine original pre-war "Flathead"
Mastertones in the past, and have learned a great deal about their tonal
abilities, and more importantly, how to achieve and retrieve the tone from the
instrument. This knowledge is certainly applicable to your banjo. This
introduces us to a more refined procedure I call Tone Chamber Tuning.
THE REAL DEAL
The Flathead Mastertone Guarantee Label
Serial #66-5 circa 1935 Kalamazoo, Mich.
Un-touched * Un-equaled *
TONE CHAMBER TUNING:
At this point, the trained ear (for vintage tone) and the
understanding of the Mastertone design concept, merged with an investment of
time, and adjustment, are key factors that will deliver the response your banjo
is designed to produce. For the past 20 years or so, I have earned an income
performing on a number of vintage 1930's Gibson flathead banjos. I am of the
opinion that even the newer banjos of this quality and design are capable of
producing vintage sound, similar to what we all want, through this process of
tuning the tone chamber. I have seen very favorable results from new banjos time
and time again. I have developed a methodical approach to achieve those results
from most any new high quality Mastertone style banjo.
For some time now, we have been hearing the term "Pre-War
Sound". The "Pre-War" sound of these "acoustic marvels from old
Kalamazoo" must first, "live" and "be" in your mind and memory before you can
truly acquire the ability to recognize "Pre-War" sound when you hear it. We have
the luxury today to buy this or that tone-ring, try this new "pre-war formula"
whatever and "go for" the "pre-war" sound. Well, here is the reality of the
matter. Until you have heard in person, the many different voices (actual
pre-war flathead banjos) of this tonal phenomenon, for many years, day in
and day out, as I have, you may not be grasping the full understanding of the
meaning of "Pre-War Sound".
There is a "common thread" these banjos possess in tone and
in sheer power. The sound is un-mistakable when you know what to listen for.
"Tonal Awareness" you could say, in its' finest form. Just ask anyone who owns
an original flathead Mastertone. We have a common bond.
It is my desire to further explore and bring forth a similar
tone and power found in these vintage banjos to your banjo. This is the most
time consuming aspect of the service I render. Working in a consistent, clean,
smoke free and pet free environment, I know I can improve the performance of
your banjo. I have a current understanding of most products on the market today
that relate to pre-war banjo specs. Tone-rings, etc... I am devoting my time to
build this business to go along with my present musical career. I am looking
forward to helping folks achieve their desires which lie from within their
banjo. I am very fortunate to have this knowledge, to have owned several great
pre-war flathead Gibson banjos in the past, and to have learned this aspect of
the Gibson banjo from the many great banjo players and innovators who have
carved out their careers on these special instruments. If I sound like I'm some
kind of "privileged character", you'd better believe that I am! To be here in
the same community with so many of these legendary Masters of the banjo, and to
share with them in the interest of these old flatheads, I am truly privileged.
Reflecting on "Pre-War Formula" new parts on the market
today, we can all surely benefit from the efforts set forth by these
entrepreneurs. We, as the banjo community, are so fortunate to have these people
who love the same thing we do, to take their intelligence, their time, and their
money, and invest it in the refinement and fruition of vintage banjo sound. I
believe the banjos being made today by the large companies and by your local
luthier are at a new high standard. I have had very satisfying results in doing
complete set-ups on newer Gibson (reissue) banjos and custom built banjos. I
feel this is largely due to the high quality of workmanship and parts found in
these new banjos. The fact that the parts are built to pre-war specs is always a
key factor in sound reproduction. I would even go so far as to say that in some
newer banjos that I have set-up, the "common thread" mentioned previously, is
somewhat apparent. Occasionally, in a new banjo, the "common thread" is so
present, it seems miraculous. But in reality, it is proof that the focus on
re-creating the essence of the classic pre-war banjo has in some instances,
Please contact me via
Email for information and terms regarding banjo set-up and tone chamber
tuning. I will also be working along side some of the builders and luthiers in
the Nashville area who can access my services for you while your instrument is
in their shop.
One closing thought to consider, your banjo should be in good
repair before securing the services that I offer. Should you need assistance in
that department, I will be glad to provide some options for you. Just let me
Together, I feel we can bring your banjo, old or new, up to
and even to exceed in many cases, the sound and performance that you expect from
Thank you in advance for your time and
the consideration that you have allowed me. I look forward to hearing from you.