Sunday, January 27, 2008
The first question you might be asking is whether or not you should install a real skin head or a plastic head. Skin heads are certainly more authentic, but they are not necessarily a good thing for every banjo. The tension changes constantly with the temperature and the humidity, so be prepared for an ever-changing sound coming from your banjo. If you play old time style, like frailing or clawhammer, and you have an older banjo with an odd size rim, then you might HAVE to use a real skin head. If you are able to find a plastic head the right size, then you will save yourself a lot of headaches by using that instead. The larger the head, the more the tension will change and the harder the time you'll have trying to keep it in tune. I have a small banjo uke that has a real skin head, and I don't have any trouble at all keeping it in tune. The head is 5-1/4" in diameter, so it just doesn't stretch much
Okay, here we go. You have opted for a real skin head. The first thing you need to do is determine how large the piece of skin has to be. It needs to be larger than the rim by at least four inches in diameter so that you'll have enough skin to pull over the rim and back up through the tension hoop. A good place to purchase skins is Mid-East Manufacturing. They have good information about the different types of skin, thicknesses, and sounds that you can expect to get with the different types of skins.
The first step is soaking the skin in water. I soak the skin for 5-10 minutes, depending upon how thick it is. You don't want to waterlog it, but it needs to be supple. Next, you'll drape the skin over the rim of the banjo. Make sure you let the excess skin hang over evenly. Then take the round ring and put it on top of the skin and over the rim. Pull the skin gently to remove any wrinkles.
Next, you are going to put the tension hoop on. This is a little bit tricky, but not too hard. Take the edges of the skin and fold them up on top of the banjo head. The ring should remain about 1/4" on the rim. If you are not sure of the difference between the ring and the tension hoop, take a look at the very next post and you can see two circular pieces of metal. The round ring looks like a thick piece of wire that has been made into a circle. The tension hoop has flattened sides shaped into a circle.
Then take the tension hoop and put it on top of the skin-covered ring. The excess skin will be sticking straight up on the inside of the tension hoop. (This picture shows the brackets already on, but they actually won't be on yet.)
Next, you will put all the brackets on and tighten them a little bit. You don't want to get the brackets too tight because as the skin dries, it will shrink. If you have the head too tight, then it will break when it dries. Once again, make sure that there are no wrinkles or creases in the top of the head or on the side where the ring and tension hoop meet.
When the skin is almost dry, you can cut off the excess skin. I use a razor knife and cut upwards and towards the tension hoop. This keeps me from accidentally cutting the top of the skin banjo head. It also keeps me from cutting myself! (I've been told I can cut myself on a bowling ball, but we won't go there...)
Saturday, January 26, 2008
This is the banjolin all in pieces:
Here it is after putting on the head:
Here it is after it is all back together again!
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Here are the folks that came: Denny, Gene, Del, Warren, Irene, both John B's!, Gary K., Annie, Chelsea, Jim, Terry, Verlan, Melanie and her daughter (I can't remember her name, sorry!), Elsie, Craig & his brother (another name I can't remember), Gary G. and his brother (yet another name I can't remember!). Sorry about all the forgotten names! We had a bunch of new people and when I'm that busy, I can't drill the new names into my head. I hope I haven't forgotten anyone! It was a really great jam. For the short amount of time that I joined in, I really enjoyed myself.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
One of the things that really piqued my interest was the amount of rosin the fiddle players had on their fiddles. Now I'm not one to wipe off the excess rosin every time I play, but nonetheless, I do take care of it at least weekly or so. As the camera panned around the stage during a group of fiddlers playing together, I was amazed at how much rosin was left on the fiddles. (Now I actually know why so many of the old fiddles that come in for evaluation or repair have so much old, dirty, dried up rosin ALL over the tops.) The rosin was not just centered around the bridge, it covered almost the entire tops of the fiddles, all the way to the bouts and within inches of the top and bottom. I was just wondering if anyone knew WHY? Please TELL ME!!!
My thoughts were that it could be like banjo players who don't clean off their banjo heads. It is considered a banjo player's "pride" for the banjo head to show some wear and dirt. (I'm a member of this "club"!) Or perhaps it is the type of strings they used then. Did they need more rosin than what we currently need?
Anyway, I'm waiting for YOUR responses!
Friday, January 11, 2008
I just wanted to take a minute here and thank you for the great CD's you've made for beginning bluegrass. I purchased your first CD a couple of months ago and just now recieved the second one.
I first started playing back in the 70's and played for a year or so, but because there were no teachers available locally I didn't progress too far with just my Pete Seger book and eventually lost interest.
I recently dusted off my "Hoyer" banjo and put some new strings on it after realizing how much information is now on the web for learning. I picked up a lot of information off different sites and also Youtube videos, but after using your first CD for beginners, I have to say that I've learned more from that CD in a couple of months than I did for over a year back in the 70's.
I just ordered a new Recording King R-20 and I'm pretty excited about jumping into your second CD with the new Banjo! I'm loving this hobby again and your CD has given me the knowledge and confidence that was lacking all those years ago.
Here is a picture of Carroll holding the viola and a full size fiddle.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
There were originally four corners with ebony inlays, but none of them were intact, and only three of the ebony corner pieces were in the case. I had to make the fourth one to match the other three, and then glue them back into place.
In addition to the ebony corners, there were also ebony pieces that were inlayed around the heel and button area. These were all completely missing and had to be made and inlayed. I have included a few "before" pictures along with the "after" picture.
If you view my earlier post, you'll see more before photos and this instrument completely apart. There was an entire piece of rib missing along with the end block. Here is what the final repair looks like.
Monday, January 7, 2008
This past week-end I talked with you about my rhythm on guitar and how a teacher had taught me the boom-chic-chic-chic for the 4/4 time and I just didn't get it and didn't like the sound. As I explained to you I have no problem with my 3/4 timing boom-chic-chic which I use a lot.
You took the time and effort to show me and my wife how it should be boom-chic-boom-chic for my timing for bluegrass music. When I got home that night I tried this as I was shown slow and easy. During the day Sunday I continued to work on this and then it clicked. I didn't only hear the beat but felt it. I learned more in my 15 minutes with you then I did with 6-mo's of lessons. I wanted to take the time to share this with you and say thanks as I was almost to the point of giving up on my 4/4 timing for bluegrass. Jim & Ruby