Gentlemen, First let me thank you all for your advice. To add a little more background the head is goat skin with Boucher style hardware. I did tighten it about as far as it would go. I must add I made the banjo and didn't do anything special to the head when I made it. I have read an article from Bob Flesher suggesting rubbing egg whites on both sides of the head to water-proof it, maybe I will give that a try. I think in the future I will try using a lamp or a hair dryer as some of you have suggested.
Thank you again,
When you mounted the head did you let it dry with the hoop high, then over a few days take it down to where you want it? I could be that you did not get the stretch out of it. Could be that you got a bad head.
I like Bill Miller's heads.
I think George uses slunk skins, if so, the one on the banjo I got from him is very good.
I'd not waste my time smearing various preparations on the skin, with a tension hoop and hooks, I would just mount a calf head.
Bo said:Gentlemen, First let me thank you all for your advice. To add a little more background the head is goat skin with Boucher style hardware. I did tighten it about as far as it would go. I must add I made the banjo and didn't do anything special to the head when I made it. I have read an article from Bob Flesher suggesting rubbing egg whites on both sides of the head to water-proof it, maybe I will give that a try. I think in the future I will try using a lamp or a hair dryer as some of you have suggested.
Thank you again,
This is a follow-up to the discussion on playing in soggy conditions.
This weekend I played at an outdoor event at Bennett Place in Durham NC. Knowing that there was a possibility of rain I thought I'd conduct a simple experiment. I brought along three banjos, one with a transparent skin head, one with a translucent skin head, and one with an opaque skin head.
All three banjos were laid out on a table, exposed to the air, but were well under cover. I alternated banjos in my presentations and performances. All was well for the first few hours, but eventually it began to drizzle on and off. There never was a proper rain, just drizzle, and the banjos were all dry as a bone.
After an hour or two the banjos with the transparent and translucent heads had become completely unplayable, the heads having more or less collapsed. I continued to play the banjo with the opaque head for the duration of the event, with no problem whatsoever. It played and sounded great.
When I returned home I removed the "thin skinned" banjos from their cases and placed them on chairs. Within an hour or two both were back to normal with no treatment other than placing them back in a dry environment.
For me the moral of this story isn't necessarily that everybody should have a thick-skin head, but rather that thin skinned heads are probably not the best choice for rainy conditions. The thinner skins definitely provide a clear, crisp sound and are fine for play in most conditions. Just don't expect much if it's going to rain.
Two or three years ago, I wanted to go see Bob Carlin at the Cumberland County Public Library over in Fayetteville, NC. I had learned to play clawhammer from his early instructional videos and was thrilled that he was doing a banjo demonstration so close to me. He was plugging that From Mali to America CD.
The sky was looking ominous, but at the last minute I decided to go anyway. Ravenous, I went through a drive-thru at a burger joint and got this awesome mushroom swiss burger that I nearly inhaled on the way to Fayetteville.
By the time I reached the library, it was pouring down rain and I wanted to go home, but that burger had turned on me, totally upset my stomach, and I got out and crossed a parking lot ankle-deep in water just to get to the bathroom inside.
When I found the men's restroom and went inside, there was Bob Carlin holding his skin-head minstrel banjo up to the hand dryer trying to dry it out enough to play. We spoke. The dryer ran through at least three cycles before he quit and left.
I did get out of the bathroom in time to hear most of his presentation, and when he got around to playing that particular banjo during his talk, it was again pretty dull, but the music came across.
That doesn't help, I know, but it's how I met Bob Carlin.