Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I just sort of noticed something. I'm always playing around with tension on the head of the banjo, seeking the Holy Grail of tones. I got one today, and noticed that it was when the overtone of the third of the bass string rang strongest when tapping on the edge. The fundamental registers on tuner, but the overtone is quite present. So, not a crazy tight head. Humidity was at 50%. Anyone else chasing this?

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On my oldtime banjos, I slowly evolved to setting the head and the tailpiece screw fairly tight, and then loosening only the tailpiece screw somewhat.  Don't ask me how that worked, but it seemed to give me a real nice tone... having the tailpiece tension a little bit slacker than the tension on the rest of the brackets.

A super tight head is not the criteria for good tone, except maybe for heavily built bluegrass banjos (imho).  I've heard that Scruggs, when asked how tight a banjo head should be, said to tighten it up until the head breaks, and then back off on the tension a bit.   lolol

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