Queens Bush

Playing Location and Banjo Sound

Too much humidity in the area will cause the banjo to sound dull or brassy. Lack of humidity will cause the banjo to sound thin or tinny.

If you play the banjo in a small room with hard walls, the banjo sounds great compared to playing the banjo outdoors. The bathroom is a great sounding room. You can even watch your face contortions in the mirror as you play. It is difficult to watch your hands when you play the banjo in the mirror. All the actions are backwards to what you are used to seeing.

Some people have other suggestions about playing the banjo. Its like the bagpipes, you either like ’em or you don’t. A guitar player once suggested to me where to put the banjo, not only would it not fit, but it would also be hard to play it in that position. Be considerate of others who may not enjoy the banjo as much as yourself.

Playing the banjo outdoors is a true test of banjo tone and volume. You will be able to pick the sound of the banjo you like when you hear it played outside. Take the banjo, or several, and a friend (preferably a banjo player) outside. Sit or stand in front of a building or trailer facing the wall. Have the friend listen about 50 feet away. Now, play or strum the banjo. If you have more than one banjo, have the friend choose which banjo is the loudest, clearest, mellowest, etc. Now, change places, have the friend play or strum the banjo. You can then decide which banjo you like best for your taste.

Another way to hear the banjo tone is to stand about a foot away from a wall facing it and play the banjo. This is how a microphone will hear the sound. Experiment with playing the strings closer and further away from the banjo bridge. This also influences the sound.

Another way to listen to banjo tone quality is to tape record the sound as you play in several locations ( inside, outside, against the wall, etc.) Youu can also record the sound of several banjos and listen to the playbacks. Choose the sound you like best.

If you are going to own a banjo, listen to several before you decide. Some people like the ‘popping ‘ sound, or the deep bass ‘twang’ or a high ‘ringing’ sound. Everyone’s banjo sound taste is different.

A ‘die-hard’ bluegrasser will like the hard driving loud volume. Most other band members like the banjo to be clear, mellow, and not too loud to drown them out. Some of us older pickers who play a variety of musical styles like a banjo that does it all. We adjust the volume and tone by how we play a certain song. The secret to being a good banjo player in a band is to ‘ blend in’. That is, not too loud or too soft, but to be heard at the right times, not overpowering.

Most good quality banjos can be ‘set-up’ to maximize its sound and produce the sound you like. Lesser quality banjo are not too variable in the sound tone because they cannot be adjusted correctly.

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