Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Given the choice, would you get a Prust Boucher with 8-key tensioning and figured wood, or a Bell and Sons Boucher with six-key tensioning and an aged finish with a red band head?

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Bell.

Bell.

I have one of each.... I like my Prust Boucher after Terry Bell replaced the bridge and set it up action... I love my Bell, she "Lisa" play right out of the gate... 

Tonally speaking, how do they differ?  The prust has an oak body and maple neck while the Bell seems to be made entirely out of oak, but I may be wrong about the neck.  Also, which has better construction? Finally, I will be using this for reenacting, including some overnight outdoor events.  Would the bell be too nice for this?

Bell.

What- I can't have both?  You must be listening to the Comptroller, Mrs. Wanda. Stop that right now, she says I can't keep buying toys! I have both sites bookmarked, but I would go with Bell, and almost definitely a kit, so I can leave my own personality in it. Personality, in my case, means scratches and oopses, but that's just how I am. My dulcimers were kits, too. And yes, they have "personality."

Hi John. I'm proud to say that I use hard Michigan Ash for my rims. Boucher used Ash and Red Oak. I like Ash a little better, the sound is a little more bold and clear. My curly maple for the necks comes from Pennsylvania. I use plain maple when I do the Boucher 'Paint Job' banjo. My construction and setup can't be beat. The wood, the construction, the heel/rim joint, the skin, the bridge, and the tailpiece all contribute to the sound in a "Rubic's Cube" way. There are 12 points of tone (I call them), and each of my banjos must pass a 'sound' test conducted with an old fashioned strobe tuner which detects the harmonics of any given note. I was schooled by a violin maker, a piano technician, and a banjo maker and strangely enough decided to concentrate on minstrel banjos. I love the sound, the feel, and the music!!

Speaking of outdoor overnight events, the skin must be sealed from the moisture. After experimenting with about 20 different things, I've decided, and proven, than artist's "Workable Fixatif" is best. It's an aerosol 'sealer' for pencil and chalk art. Also, and probably just as good, and surely cheaper, is aerosol Aqua Net hair spray. Both are simply polymers and do a great job of sealing the skin without getting INTO the skin and altering the tone.

John the best way to answer your question of how do they play.  Each one as any banjo has its own voice. My Prust became very playable after Terry set it up.  

My Bell played right off the get go... 

The voice between the two of them... One is a little deeper than the other, But that is because the Prust is a tackhead. 

The Prust is not truly dead on accurate of the really Boucher.  Terry's are a lot closer... I say a lot closer only because I have never seen or had my hands on a real Boucher.  But if you look at all the info that is out... Terry's are a very far and very close reproduction of the originals. 

I had a video of my Prust Boucher here on the site...  (I have to be honest its Terry playing it)  Terry may still have that file if its not here.... I do not know.

Today my Prust is with a Older Gentleman from my church, I am helping fill his bucket list... By teaching him what little I know along with the help of Tim Twiss banjo tutor book he published.  

Before I started to help my friend learn to play... The Prust was not played much after picking up the Bell... 

Yea... The Prust is a little lower in cost, vs finished Bell and close to the same price as a Bell Kit.

As far as sound, Both have very nice voices depending on your ear and taste...

I will not knock my Prust.  It is a nice playing banjo.  

After getting my Bell my Prust became a teaching tool to help others. The Bell became my main player.   

So, if you can put a few more nickels together...  I would go with the Bell... 

Not sure where you live.. But if made a trip to the Bell Factory... you could totally appreciate the Bell Banjo and it Maker...  Both are a joy to see... and hang out around... 

And If you are lucky,  A jam session my break out in the middle of Terry adjusting our banjo...  TOTALLY COOL! 

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