How To Make Your Banjo Sound Better

Maybe I'm not the best person to take banjo advice from, but I am here, you're here, so obviously you want to make your banjo sound better. 

Over the years, us banjo players have developed thick skin. Not only are we the butt of every bluegrass joke, but over the course of a 4-hour gig, the bright, stinging tone can be super fatiguing on your ears (and your band mates... and the audience).

Anyway, on to the tip. Check out this picture.

See the wear on the banjo head? Those marks aren't from the fingerpicks. They're from where the previous owner would rest his non-picking fingers. Sometimes they are focused into one circle; other times the wear is in a linear pattern. The banjo pictured above suggests the previous owner liked to pick in three places. On top of the bridge, just in front of the bridge, and closer to the neck. This also tells me, this guy was a pretty good picker (or at least aware of tone and dynamics). Picking closer to the bridge will yield bright, crispy tones with a bit more volume, but move closer to the neck and you will notice rounder, warmer, softer tones. 

For example.


This isn't just a banjo thing. You can apply this to acoustic or electric guitar, bass, mandolin, and pretty much anything with strings. 

Next time you pick up your instrument of choice, pay attention to where you are hitting the strings. Try to incorporate these different locations in your playing for more interesting dynamics and a bit of style. 




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