How to Set Up the Best Sounding Banjo Virtual content
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Tuning the head and air chamber (Stelling): The book contains head and air chamber tunings for a Gibson-style archtop and flattop banjo. Here are the optimum tunings for a Stelling: Tune the head to D# (with the resonator removed). Then tune the air chamber to A#. Follow the procedures described in the book for making these adjustments.
Tuning the banjo head: Further to our thoughts on tuning the banjo head, we recently found an interesting article entitled "What Sound Boards Do And How They Do It" by Lloyd Loar that appeared in the October 1925 issue of Jacobs' Orchestra Monthly regarding banjo head tuning. In that article, Loar wrote:
Just a word to banjoists. The elasticity of the banjo sound-board (or head) is secured artificially by tightening the head, consequently it can be controlled very easily. This gives the banjo player a considerable advantage if he cares to avail himself of it. By a little experimenting, he can determine the pitch or tone of the head at which his banjo sounds best, identify this pitch by tapping it lightly with the fleshy part of the thumb or finger while the strings are muffled, and then keep the head tuned to that pitch.
It will be remembered in our article on string instrument bridges in the April and June issues of JACOBS' ORCHESTRA MONTHLY, mention was made of the fact that more vibration was communicated form the strings through the bass side of the bridge than through the treble. To assist in doing this, sound-boards are made slightly stiffer and less sensitive on the bass side than on the treble side. Because of this previous comment, detailed explanation of the graduation in sound-boards most favorable to this, is not mentioned here. This extra stiffness can be secured in many ways: by tone bars so planned, by the board being slightly thicker on that side, by a sound-post, as in the violin family, or by all three of them or any two of them. Our next instalment will discuss this more fully as it deals with sound-holes, tone bars, sound-posts, etc.
The banjoist, to give his banjo this advantage should, after the head is tuned to what he has decided is the best pitch, tighten slightly the four opposing brackets (two at each end) between which the treble foot of his bridge rests. The improvement in his banjo tone may not be startling, but in most cases (depending on the texture of the head) it will be noticeable to a keen ear, and - every little helps.
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