Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I had been considering a mountain banjo because it just seems like FUN!! However, I decided another minstrel banjo is probably the way to go. My Stichter repro tends to wilt with heat and humidity (as most do) due to the skin head and low string height at the neck/head joint. So, I've got it down to either a fiberskyn head, thinking the synthetic would be more forgiving to the elements; or, a tackhead, because my gourdie holds up pretty well to the elements (though that could be due to the smaller surface area). I'm looking for experiences, thoughts, etc. It baffles me how they played these banjos in the mid-19th century!!

The obvious answer is ALL 3!! Lol But I'm pretty sure that won't fly with my wife...

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The fiberskin head though not period is very forgiving of the elements and has a good sound (to my ear anyway). Gardner's Dulcimer Shop makes repro banjos with fiberskin heads for Civil War reenactors who like to play them at encampments. If you are looking for a banjo that will do well outdoors in various weather condidtions, this may be a good place to start. He has a web site but I can't remember what it is at the moment. I can look it up and send it to you if you like. I have heard of folks warming up their banjo heads over the campfire (I'd be very carefull doing this though as you may damage the instrument). I have heard that folks of the 19th century used to store their banjos near the fireplace to help the head tension remain relatively constant.

Thanks, Tom!!...Gardner and Prust are the two makers on the short list. I like playing on the deck, but hate the disappointment of the weather not being "just right". I was hoping that would be the consensus for the fiberskin heads. Though, I'm not courageous enough to get it near an open flame. lol  Last year at the Sweeney Convergence, we tried a hair dryer on low w/ minimal results...

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