Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

 I have been having probs .last week , so that I havent even played it. Been playing  a"steel string'OB, sorry.

 When I first got it a couple weeks ago , it seemed to tune fine , stay there , but it was unusual then for us,,, low humidity , and cold.

As the humidity hit,, the pegs seem to swell,  and hardly wanted to move. I eased them out a bit, but when I tried to tune,it didnt go well.  One sunny day I went on the back porch and after a few minutes it was like someone took a glass of water & tossed it on the head. I also noticed the inst. paper I was using ,were soggy too.  Like a sponge sucking up the moisture.  I went in and dried w/ a light bulb, but going back out it happed again.

 Bottom line, it may sound horrible to some,,, but Im wondering if I could somehow take off the skin head & tack a fiberskin head, or something like that on.  How would I stretch it?

 I know our humidity is only going to get worse, its giving me fits now, any ideas?

 Steve

 

I

 

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I don't care about the weather. Anything besides gut strings and a skin head is blasphemy in my opinion.
Blasphemy against what?

Scott House said:
I don't care about the weather. Anything besides gut strings and a skin head is blasphemy in my opinion.

The sound of the 1850's.  Don't get me wrong. If someone wants to rock nylaguts and fyberskin by all means go ahead. It's just not my thing.

the fact that i'm an iconoclast at heart probably means building these instruments isnt the right field for me to be in. that being said, i love them. at the same time, banjos were built to be played. if plastic heads had been around in the 1850s, they would have played with them. yes, there is something to the idea that we can recapture an identical sound, and that is a noble and fun goal to pursue. but its not the only goal. we're talking about art and aesthetics and historical accuracy and functionality, all of which are expansive domains, and it is difficult to bend each in the exact same direction at all times.

many of the hand made instruments from africa we see today, which come straight from the same blood line as the banjos we try to emulate, are made with materials that we would think of as outrageous in context. fishing line strings, for instance? blasphemy!

the appeal of the banjo, to me, has always been the mixture of ingenuity, modesty, and grace with which theyre made. do with it what thou shalt. (that being said, my next two personal projects are hyper-accurate reproductions. ha!)

That was really well said Jay.

Moschella Banjos said:

the fact that i'm an iconoclast at heart probably means building these instruments isnt the right field for me to be in. that being said, i love them. at the same time, banjos were built to be played. if plastic heads had been around in the 1850s, they would have played with them. yes, there is something to the idea that we can recapture an identical sound, and that is a noble and fun goal to pursue. but its not the only goal. we're talking about art and aesthetics and historical accuracy and functionality, all of which are expansive domains, and it is difficult to bend each in the exact same direction at all times.

many of the hand made instruments from africa we see today, which come straight from the same blood line as the banjos we try to emulate, are made with materials that we would think of as outrageous in context. fishing line strings, for instance? blasphemy!

the appeal of the banjo, to me, has always been the mixture of ingenuity, modesty, and grace with which theyre made. do with it what thou shalt. (that being said, my next two personal projects are hyper-accurate reproductions. ha!)

I often play in more intimate settings, with a few people around me.  This happens at reenactments, etc.  I love being able to tell people that all of the materials in my instrument are accurate to the time period, and that the sound they are hearing is what was heard back then.

 

All that being said, I don't think that splitting hairs over the issue is worthwhile.  If Nylgut strings are more cost effective and weather proof, and a plastic head allows you to play when otherwise you can't, then I'd much rather see people playing than not. 

 

As an aside, I've tried Nylgut strings, and as far as I am concerned they are not the same.  I like the tactile feel of gut better, and there is a punchy sound to the gut strings that I can't get with nylgut.  My test is to play Jim Along Josie in the 5th position.  With gut strings there is a nice sound quality.  On the same instrument with nylgut the sound turns to mush.  All of this comes down to personal taste.

 

Happy playing!

"I often play in more intimate settings, with a few people around me.  This happens at reenactments, etc.  I love being able to tell people that all of the materials in my instrument are accurate to the time period, and that the sound they are hearing is what was heard back then."

 

This is what I am driving at.

My old violin making buddy, Rudy, who taught me all about pegs 30 some years ago said a little non-slip peg dope, and a little non-stick peg dope on Rosewood pegs is the best bet for combatting the weather. It works. Rosewood has its own natural slipperyness. It's always the 'dry socket' ebony ones I battle with. On goatskin, I rub on a lot of mink oil (for shoes) and wipe off the excess the next day. Then only on a horrible hot and rainy day do you notice any sagging, and not much. It's a great treatment. I put it on both sides once the skin is installed. This is in Michigan where we have all the weather extremes.
I have a humidified room for my instruments that are wood. It us best if they are kept between 45-55%. However, all drums and skin head instruments are band from that room except for practice. Those instruments stay in the rest of the house at 25-35%. So far, so good. I've been doing this for about one year with great success. Most hardware stores have hygrometers. I don't know if this info helps you. But it has been worth the extra work to protect my instruments. 

Ian Bell said:

Happy to hear the good news!

I play a lot of lo-tech instruments - they should all come with a "Don't Panic" sticker. Things like this often sort themselves out.

 

Steve Jeter said:

 Ok , thanks for the advice,,, I tuned it up last nite & magically it was like new. Im just gonna have to learn to work within  the confines  

 Steve                                                           Tim Twiss said:

I would agree with Ian. If that is how Jay does it, I would try it. His tackys are pretty darn good in the worst of humidity. My gourd is really stable. I'm sure diameter and thickness really affect it...less area to take on moisture.

I would recommend that you find a local repair shop and have your pegs fit. It is an important step that is not given careful attention in some low end banjos. This procedure could really help. There's more to it than drilling a hole and sticking them in.

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