Tag Archives: tenor

Trust Tanglewood, New Banjo and Mandolin Range in Stock

We are delighted to announce the arrival of the new Tanglewood range of entry level / improver Banjos and Mandolins. The new range joins the Union and Cove Creek Series of Folk instruments.

The new range includes: Three 5-string models, two 4-String tenor models. one six string banjo, and five new mandolin models.

The specification relative to the retail price on this new range of entry level Tanglewood instruments is quite exceptional. Steve Noon our company owner is involved with and has a long standing relationship with Tanglewood UK in the production of all Tanglewood folk and acoustic instruments.

Steve has ensured that on the budget priced instruments, all the necessary elements that make an instrument ‘work’ are there for the player. eg. The banjos are built from natural maple, they have resonators fitted, they are fitted with an armrest (engraved) to comfort the player, they are fitted with Remo Weatherking banjo heads, they have fully bound fingerboards that are inlaid with side position dot markers. To make tuning easier for the beginner, all the banjos within the range are fitted with geared 5th string tuners rather than the unreliable friction type tuners that are found on many entry level instruments.

As an introductory special offer to our valued customers, we have put some excellent Bundle Packs together of these new instruments that include a range of FREE necessary accessories for the beginner.

Click Here to See the 5-String Banjo Pack

Click here to see the Irish Tenor Banjo Pack

Click on this link to See the full range at Tanglewood Guitars uk
You can trust Tanglewood!

Banjo buyers guide by Eagle Music including explanations of banjo types

Whether you are looking to start playing a Bluegrass 5-String Banjo, Frailing or Clawhammer Old Time Banjo, Open Back Banjo, Irish Tenor Banjo or Plectrum Banjo, Eagle Music will help you to make the right choice.

Original article written by Steve Noon, founder of Eagle Music, 2004

There are three critical but simple decisions that you our valued customer should make when buying a banjo:-

Buy from a Specialist Company… that will set up the instrument correctly
Eagle Music is Europe’s unrivalled leading banjo specialist shop

Buy the Best Quality instrument… that is within your budget
Eagle Music carry Europe’s largest selection of world class banjo brands

Choose the Correct Banjo… for the kind of music that you want to play
Eagle Music’s specialist musician sales team  will ensure this for you

The notes below will help you choose the banjo that is the right model for you.

Types of Banjo and the kind of Music that  is Played on them

There are many ‘types’ of Banjo that have been designed to suit specific kinds of music, these banjos will in general have either four, five or six strings. However, there are crossovers where one particular ‘type’ of banjo can be suitable for more than one ‘kind’ of music. We shall try to keep explanations relatively simple and deal with each of them in the notes below.

An important point to note for beginners is that some banjos are what are called ‘OPEN BACK’ and some banjos have what is called a ‘RESONATOR’ fitted, this banjo is also called ‘CLOSED BACK’. The ‘OPEN BACK’ is a quieter gentle banjo because some of its sound when playing is absorbed by the players clothing.

Whereby the ‘Resonator’ when fitted, helps to push most of the sound forward. Both banjos normally have the same neck and are tuned the same which means that any kind of music can be played on either banjo. However, in the 5-string banjo world BLUEGRASS players like powerful banjos with resonators fitted and the old time FRAILING and CLAWHAMMER players like the more gentle sound of the open back banjo.

5-String Banjo

The 5-string banjo is the most popular and in relative terms the easiest to learn to play as in most cases it is tuned to a ‘G’ chord …so that means that you can ‘play music’ by just brushing across the strings, when the banjo is in tune, that is.
Some types of popular music that are played on the 5-string banjo are as follows:-
Bluegrass, Frailing, Clawhammer, Old Time, 5-string Folk style, Classical etc.

5-String banjo Bluegrass Music style

Bluegrass players choose a powerful banjo that has a resonator fitted. Many bluegrass players play in the style of the USA legend Earl Scruggs. In this style, a thumb pick and two finger picks are fitted to the picking hand which then plays ‘rolls’ alternatively about the strings in what is called the ‘three finger picking style’. With much practise dexterity, solid timing and vibrant attack is achieved in producing the Bluegrass Banjo sound that you hear in American music like Duelling Banjos from the popular film Deliverance.

5-String banjo Clawhammer Style –  also closely related to Drop Thumb and Frailing  styles

Open Back banjos are chosen by players for this style of ‘Old Time’ Banjo Music, and to facilitate easier fingering, a number of different tunings are chosen by the ‘Old Time’ players to pick out fiddle tunes. This style is also most suitable for singers and vocal accompaniment. Thumb picks are generally not used, but some players do use a pick like the Fred Kelly Freedom Pick’ or the Perfect Touch Clawhammer Pick instead of the back of the natural nail.

This style is very popular in folk and mountain music circles. The desired banjo sound is gentle and mellow, deep and ‘plunky’ and some modifications can be made to the design of the banjo to give these desired requirements.

On some banjos like the Vega Old Tyme wonder, the Prucha Old Time, the OME Juniper and Jubilee Models or Gold Tone White Ladye models a ‘frailing scoop’ (removal of some frets and part of the fingerboard at the bottom of the neck) can be found on the banjo to facilitate the thumb on the ‘Clawhammer’ hand as it comes down to rest on 5th string and then ‘pick’ the 5th string. In the same rhythmic movement, the back of the nail on the picking finger … normally the third or first finger on the picking hand picks the tune out on the other four strings. With practise the frailing / clawhammer rhythm can be learnt quite easily by most players.

5-String banjo folk style

This style is a combination of clawhammer and “up picking” and was popularized by Pete Seeger. Played without finger picks and usually mixing melody playing with chords. Very often a long neck banjo is used because it may be tuned lower to better suit vocal ranges. There are many variations of this style and may be played on an open back or resonator banjo.

The 4-string Tenor Banjo

Tenor banjos are nearly always played with a plectrum (pick) and can be played in the strumming style along with single picked scale runs. It is the typical banjo for New Orleans style jazz sound or Irish traditional music.

The 4-string Tenor Banjos Jazz and General Styles

The four string banjo has a shorter neck than a five string as the tuning is higher 4C 3G 2D 1A and is an excellent rhythm instrument for jazz bands. A resonator is typically used, since the banjo’s sound must be loud and piercing to compete with other instruments in the band. Single string melodies can be played but chord melodies are more traditional. Popular jazz tenor banjo tuning is 4C 3G 2D 1A.

The 4-string Irish Tenor Banjo

The Irish Tenor banjo is the same instrument as a jazz tenor banjo and can have a seventeen or a  nineteen fret neck. The shorter neck allows a higher tuning so the songs are better suited to the keys of Irish music (G, D, A, E etc.). The style is played with a plectrum and often played with rapid single string melodies. The Irish tenor banjo can be fitted with or without a resonator, the sound desired is mellow but with attack. Popular Irish tenor banjo tuning is 4G 3D 2A 1E.

The Long Neck Banjo

As an absolute beginner looking at banjos, you might think that all 5-String banjo have a long neck! most  do in fact have a 22 fret neck but, there is a specific banjo called ‘the Long Neck banjo that was designed by Pete Seeger in the 1960s. this banjo has an extra three frets making it a 25 fret neck and around a 32” scale length (nut to bridge). it is tuned normally to E Which gives the banjo a powerful low tone. The idea of Pete’s design was for accompanying his singing in the lower keys, a style that has been copied and sought after by many aspiring banjo players to this very day.
You can place a capo on the third fret of this banjo and play in open G as on a normal 5-string banjo. Check out the Deering Vega Tubaphone and Woodsongs range and the Gold Tone Long Neck available from Eagle Music shop.

The Plectrum Banjo

The neck on a plectrum banjo has 22 frets and a Deering model has a scale length of around 27” (which is slightly longer than a 5-String banjo).
Some plectrum style players will use a five string neck but eliminate the fifth string. A plectrum may be used in jazz styles, melody chord styles or for just playing chord accompaniment for vocals.  It can be played with or without a resonator. Players usually use G tuning which is D G B D. However, it can be tuned C G B D or D G B E. The chords are easier to learn than on a Jazz tenor banjo.

Alternative Banjos

These include the six string banjo like the Deering Phoenix, Gold Tone Banjitars etc., the Banjo Mandolin, Bass Banjo, Ukulele Banjo, even Dobro Banjo. Most use a banjo-style body but neck and tuning is the same as the names they simulate. They allow non-banjoists to achieve a banjo tone without learning a new instrument.

Travel Banjo

A travel banjo is a smaller version of a standard size banjo. Check out the Deering Goodtime 19 fret Parlour 5-strings and 17 fret Tenor Banjo models. Also the Gold Tone range of travel banjos.

Contact our Technical Department

If you have any questions about the above notes or about banjos in general or any other musical instrument, please contact our banjo technical department at Eagle Music shop on 01484 661460

How Does your Banjo Ring and Frequently asked Questions. Author, Steve Noon, Cleckheaton, 1988

Banjo parts and adjustments, simple explanations of how they affect the sound and tone of your banjo.

Eagle’s answers

I have revised this article that I wrote back in 1988 during my Cleckheaton days with Dave Mallinson and David J Taylor after being asked so many questions about banjo set-ups by many banjo playing friends and customers. Also see our other specific blog articles relating to all banjo parts.

If you are a banjo player, you may already be afflicted by the ‘vellum pluckers’ condition. A condition which leaves you constantly asking yourself, “It’s not quite sounding right, is it? Or is it?” If you haven’t yet been afflicted, the following hints, adjustments and modifications will help you through some of the traumas. A banjo is different from most other stringed instruments: you could think of it as a mechanical ‘drum’, with many adjustable parts. So, as a banjo player, it will help you to develop your D.I.Y. and mechanical skills, along with your musical ones.

What kind of banjo do I need?

Choosing a banjo, we have many books, tapes and videos to take you from beginner to advanced player. You may ask “what kind of banjo do I need?” Here is a description of the most common banjos used today, and a simple explanation of the music they are chosen for.

The Tenor banjo

In the early 1900’s this banjo was designed and made for playing jazz music, it was tuned C4, G3, D2, A1 and either picked or strummed. This is the banjo that has been adapted for playing tunes in Irish and traditional music. In order to make the playing of fiddle tunes, jigs, reels etc. easy, we put heavier strings on the tenor banjo and ‘drop’ tune it to G4, D3, A2, E1. (The fiddle and mandolin are tuned to G4, D3, A2, E1, only an octave higher). Scales and tunes that are written for fiddle are now much easier to play. You can play the tunes on a ‘C’ or jazz tuned banjo, but it is much harder. Another golden rule when stringing ‘drop’ tuned banjos is ‘The shorter the scale length, the heavier the strings’. Tenor banjos come in standard scale (usually 19 fret) or short scale (usually 17 fret), the scale length is the distance between the nut and the bridge. They may be ‘open back’ or have a resonator fitted. The resonator was designed to increase the volume of the banjo. The resonator projects the sound forward.

The Five String Banjo

The earliest banjos that came from America (even earlier, from Africa!) reached maturity around the late 1800s. Many fine open back five-string banjos from this period can still be found today. The most popular five string models today have heavy tone rings and are fitted with a resonator. These banjos are chosen for playing bluegrass, folk and general banjo music. The most popular tuning is G (fifth drone string), D4, G3, B2, D1. Normally played with a plastic thumb pick and metal fingerpicks fitted to the first and second finger. Open back banjos have a more ‘gentle’ feel. They are a favourite type for frailing style. A point to note is that all five string banjo types can be used for bluegrass, frailing, old time and jazz. (In some cases you just tune the strings differently).

The Plectrum Banjo

This banjo has a neck as long as the five-string banjo but is fitted with only four strings. The instrument is ideal for chord work. You can ‘pick’ or ‘strum’ using a plectrum.

Heads, skins, vellums, which type do I need?

The skin, vellum or head This can be adjusted and tensioned like a drum. The choice of skin and tension applied will give a different sound to the banjo.
a) Clear plastic This head will give the loudest, bright thin sound.
b) Plastic head spray finished “Frosted Top” This head will give slightly less volume than the above, but with more “body”. These heads can be obtained with the sprayed on coating applied to the inside or the outside.
c) “Fiberskyn” plastic head This head will give less volume than the above heads but will give a rounder sound with much more body and depth. The sprayed on fibres are applied to the outside of the head to emulate a real vellum, but unlike the vellum, the fibre head is not affected by humidity.
d) Calf or goat skin vellum The vellum will give the traditional full bodied “mellow” sound, but remember that a vellum is affected by humidity and temperature. You can experiment with different heads and different head tensions to find your desired “personal” sound but remember, any adjustment on head tension will affect the height of the strings in relationship to the fingerboard, as the bridge moves with the head All the above heads and vellums are stock items at Eagle Music.

Bridge, how does it affect the sound of my banjo?

The bridge The bridge can alter the tone and the volume of your banjo. If you change your bridge from 1/2” to 5/8” you will get more volume. Don’t forget that this might, depending on your instrument, make the “action” (that is the distance you have to push the strings down to the frets) higher and more difficult. If you sand a bridge to give less area contact with the head, the tone will be “snappier”. You can also taper the bridge from the bass to the treble end to try to eliminate unwanted overtones and harmonics. Compensated 5 string bridges are also available. Maple and ebony bridges are supplied in various heights, also with bone inserts for a clearer sound. Remember, the bridge must be positioned on the head the same distance from the 12th fret as the 12th fret is from the nut. The bridge can be slightly angled to compensate for the heavier fourth string on a tenor or plectrum banjo, the distance at the fourth string thus being slightly greater than at the first string.

Tailpiece, how does this affect the sound?

The tailpiece The tailpiece plays a very important role in the tone and volume of your banjo. Its prime function is to anchor your strings. Its secondary function is to angle your strings to exert maximum pressure on the bridge in order that the bridge transmits sound into the banjo head. Adjustable “clam shell”, “Scruggs” type, “Kershner and “Nashville” types are available. Please enquire for prices.

Resonator, what is it’s function?

The resonator If you fit a resonator to your banjo, it will have more volume and will project the sound forward. Without a resonator, your banjo will be quieter and sound more mellow. A “frailing” banjo would not have a resonator.

Armrest, do I need one?

How can the arm rest affect the tone of a banjo? If an arm rest is fitted to your banjo, it can keep your arm from deadening the movement of the head, which could lower the potential volume of your instrument; also, it can he adjusted to alter the angle and position that you “attack” your strings, which brings in the… strings.

Strings, what type should I use?

Strings come in many different grades, materials and gauges, each of which gives a different sound and “feel” to your banjo. Experiment with all aspects to find your preferred tone and volume, but remember this brief note: thinner steel and nickel for more “clang” and “twang”, heavier wound bronze or phosphor bronze for a “warmer” sound with more body. Note that custom gauge sets can be made up at no extra cost Last but not least, the position that you strike your strings, what you strike them with and the pressure that YOU can exert accounts for much of your banjo’s tone and volume.

Plectrums, picks, The choice is yours

Plectrums, picks etc If you are a plectrum player, experiment with different shapes, thicknesses and materials. The nylon picks give a softer sound, the harder the pick the “chunkier” the sound. Remember this brief note: the closer you pick to the bridge, the harder the sound. The further you pick from the bridge, the mellower the sound. The “old masters” prefer to use a tortoise shell plectrum: I prefer to see the shells on the backs of the tortoises! Fingerpicks and thumbpicks likewise come in all shapes and forms. Again, experiment, although you don’t have as much choice as you have with plectra. Bluegrass players go for metal fingerpicks for attack and volume.

Vellum, how do I fit a new one?

Please note – these instructions apply to natural skin vellums only! Fitting a plastic head is much simpler. Basically, all you need to make sure of when fitting a plastic head is that you apply equal tension gradually, all round the circumference of the head, tightening up hooks evenly and symmetrically.

Fitting a Natural Skin ‘Banjo Vellum’.

When the time comes to fit a new vellum, it is also a good time to clean all the metal parts of your banjo and remove all grime and dust from the inside of the banjo rim! (The ‘rim’ is sometimes called the hoop) Vellums (Sometimes called ‘banjo heads’ or skins) are available at Eagle Music Shop in different qualities and types. Calf skin and goat skins are the most popular …natural white calf skins are the most expensive. Order a skin that is larger in diameter than the banjo rim, normally 30mm excess all around is sufficient, this allowance is for pulling around the flesh band (sometimes called the vellum wire), and gives you some leeway for cutting off and finishing the job neatly on the inside of the bezel (sometimes called the stretcher band or hoop).

Firstly study how your banjo ‘pot’ (The pot is the whole assembly) is assembled (If you have a camera, take some photos to remind you later) note the position of the bezel in relation to the neck, tailpiece and rim. (Banjo parts can be distorted and ‘out of round’ from years of use or abuse!).

Remove the strings from your banjo and commence to strip down the ‘pot’. Keep all the tensioning hooks (Sometimes called brackets or ‘J’ hooks) and nuts as they are matched (This makes it easier to assemble later, as threads can differ from one hook to another)
Take some time out here to clean all the metal parts …Take care with plated parts, and do not use abrasives on gold or thin nickel plating.

Now is the fun part …To Mount Your New Vellum on The Flesh Band/Vellum Wire
Study the new vellum and note which is the ‘face’ and which is the ‘back’. The ‘face’ is normally smooth and the ‘back’ is normally rough. This is very important, as I have seen a fair number of vellums fitted the wrong way around!

Have a large clean towel at the ready, laid out on a flat area …Fill a large clean bowl with fresh clean cold water. Immerse the vellum completely in the bowl of water and leave until the vellum is supple, this normally takes about ten minutes depending on the thickness of the vellum. Remove the vellum from the water and shake off the excess water, place the vellum ‘face’ side up on the flat towel. Visually check that there are no wrinkles in the vellum and feel that the vellum is supple. Place the ‘flesh band’ (Sometimes called the vellum wire) central on the vellum leaving an equal amount of surplus skin around the edges. Holding the bezel above the ‘flesh band’, start to fold the surplus skin up and around the outside of the ‘flesh band’ and at the same time folding and tucking it inside the bezel and working in a circle motion around the whole circumference of the bezel. Visually check all around the vellum for evenness.

Now working with the hoop on your banjo…evenly spaced around your banjo’s hoop, fit half a dozen of your banjo’s tension hooks and nuts. Ensure that they are loosely fitted and ready to accept your new vellum. Now place your new vellum, flesh band and bezel assembly onto your banjo hoop. Here you can note if your bezel has a weld joint and position this to be hidden underneath your tailpiece. Position the vellum assembly carefully and evenly around the hoop and locate the six tension hooks in position …do not over tighten the tension hooks at this stage but visually check that they are evenly pulling down on the vellum. Seeing that no folds or wrinkles appear …ease the vellum up and under the bezel and ensure that there are no overlaps or folds as it passes over the ‘flesh band’. Gently press down in the centre of the vellum to give a little ‘slack’ in the vellum for later tensioning after the vellum has dried. Visually check again that the bezel is pulling down even and gently tighten the six tension hooks to leave the bezel slightly higher than the face of the vellum …The bezel will be tightened down to it’s final position when the banjo is assembled before being finally ‘set up’ for playing. Have a last final check that the vellum is evenly stretched and that there are no wrinkles or folds evident.

Now lay the whole pot assembly on one side in a clean dry position, in a cool dry room. Under no circumstances should you use a ‘hair dryer’ or any form of heat to speed up the drying process. Leave for at least twenty four hours, best to leave even longer to ensure that the whole of the new vellum is dry. Please Note: The part of the vellum under the bezel will take much longer to dry than the face of the vellum, so don’t rush the process when you ‘feel’ that the face of the vellum is dry!

After a day or so, remove the vellum from the hoop by undoing the six fitted tension hooks. Leave the vellum ‘off’ the hoop for a further few hours, this will allow the mating parts to further dry out. The vellum should not feel ‘tacky’ and should not stick to the hoop. If you try to fit a vellum that is not completely dry, you can cause distortion of the vellum or even cause it to split. When you are quite sure that the vellum is completely dry, this is the time to finish off the vellum by trimming the excess skin from the inside of the bezel. Use a sharp ‘Stanley’ type knife for this process, it is also good practise to protect the face of the vellum with a thin piece of card or plastic (a piece of old banjo head is ideal for this purpose) as you work around the circumference of the bezel.

Now to Fit Your New Vellum to Your Banjo Rim

Sprinkle some French chalk on the inside of the vellum in the area where it locates with the rim, and shake of the excess before offering it to the rim. Note the orientation of the bezel and place any welding joints in position so that the tailpiece will cover the join. Fit all tensioning hooks and nuts until finger tight. Working diagonally and evenly, tension each hook and nut so that the bezel pulls the vellum down evenly. ‘Correct’ vellum tension is a personal choice. However, the vellum needs to be tight enough so that when pressed with your thumbs, you feel a reasonable tension and no sign of ‘sagginess’. Experience will teach you how tight your vellum needs to be. Please do not hesitate to contact our technical department at ‘Eagle Music Shop’ if you need more information.