I sold my Deering and got a Barnes model Bishline after playing one in the store and loving the woody tone. I've never been much of a banjo mechanic and was hoping you might indulge me in a couple of questions about set up. I read in your blog about how to amplify a banjo that "the slightly shorter scale allows you to run heavier strings which fatten up the tone." How heavy are we talking? I haven't seen any brands that sell anything more than medium for banjo. Would you be willing to share what gauge strings you run? If the banjo was set for light gauge strings and I throw something a lot heavier on there am I going to need to get the truss rod adjusted to account for the added tension? I realize a lot of this stuff comes down to personal taste and feel, just looking for a jumping off point. Also do you have any advice about tuning the head?
Thank you for time. You are a continuing source of joy and inspiration.
well, if you take the numbers off a medium gauge set, and gauge up about two numbers, or maybe try just one. like an 11, go up on to 12 and so on. maybe on the low string, the fourth go ahead and go up two numbers there. put them on, and see what you think. yes, if you change string tension, likely the neck will have to be adjusted. i just use the stock ghs medium gauge string with the phosphor bronze fourth. that's good for my work. learning to tune the head is kind of a trick. if that is off, a banjo won't sound good. it's a bit of a tarot thing or a weird kinda thing. i have a trick that i learned from tim o'brien where i take the four brackets that kinda frame the bridge and loosen them a quarter turn. you want the bridge almost completely flat under string tension. and you can play with it from there. this will also alter the action so keep that in mind. basically you want the bolts under even tension, then i make that little adjustment at the end. a torque wrench can help.
i often go and look up things that you mention in your blog posts, interviews, and in response to questions here. always i am glad to have these discoveries, they expand my knowledge not only of music, but of philosophy and spirituality. some of my favorite stuff, i have gotten from you, and i have a backlog of things that i have not had time to look up yet.
your own music, despite that your interests and influences are so diverse as to overwhelm the student with so many directions all at once, it all hangs together and makes sense; it has a continuity throughout your long career. oft mended raiment, for example fits nicely with your most recent work, and even the earliest bad livers material that i can find seems of a piece with your later work, (despite that you continue to get better all the time).
it is almost as though you set out from the start knowing where you were heading to. how is this possible?
So, what's up with the "gigs" section of your website here? It's said you have no upcoming gigs for a couple of months now, but rumor has it you're playing with Matt Sircely (and I'm super bummed about the Eugene show getting cancelled-please reschedule!). Where can I find out when you're playing?!?