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Stuffing the Pot

OK, so maybe I was wrong. In the last post, we discussed stuffing the pot, and I claimed this practice "isn't getting the job done" vis-a-vis the desired tonal qualities of my banjo.

After switching to Chris Sands' heavy nylon strings, I removed all the stuffing from the pot. The result was pure echo. I figured it would get drowned out when playing with others, but then I played with others and it still sounded all echoy.

This problem may be solved by switching to a thicker skin head, but in the meantime it's back to stuffing. Maybe it wasn't stuffing that was the problem, but rather the placement of the stuffing I didn't like. But first, let's talk about what we use to stuff our banjos.

Lots of people like a sock or old rag, while others use a piece of foam of varying sizes and densities. Some people use duct tape, and I know at least one player who uses wadded up tissue paper. A guy I play with on occasion swears by Kroger plastic shopping bags. I've tried 'em all.

While I have a piece of duct tape on the underside of the head beneath the bridge on my banjo, I don't think it does much. My preferred stuffing implement is a variation of the plastic bag. I like clear or translucent bags, such as those found in the produce section of some grocery stores. I like these bags to have a certain crinkle quality without being too thin. I love bags used in most cereal boxes. I have three or four different bags folded over (NOT WADDED!) to form a 3-by-5 rectangle. The ends are taped together so it keeps its shape.

The color choice is purely aesthetic, as it doesn't show as well through my mottled goatskin head. The density seems to cut out just enough of the echo without killing too much of the tone. If placed in the center of the head, it doesn't dampen the tone ring, which was my main complaint from last post. This works, for now.

What do you prefer for stuffing your banjo pot? Anything out of the ordinary? Let me know in the comments!


  1. Depends what I'm trying to do. If I want to play while someone is sleeping, I use a small travel pillow, or an old bath towel. If I just want to muffle it so it doesn't drown out the TV in the other room, I shut my door and use either some bubble wrap or a tanned possum hide.

  2. Banjos are designed to be loud. Some people think banjoes live today should sound the way they did in bad recordings from the 1920s or 30s. I do not. I do use foam in my banjos to get rid of rattle and over playing. Sometimes, I will put foam in to quiet it down if I am playing with the faint of heart who expect banjos not to be loud. I have 4 or 5 banjos that I play and some like my Tubaphone are louder than others like my Enoch Tradesman with no tone ring or my 1894 Electric, but I have no fear of my banjos sound loud. I dont much like low action either. David Day did not design the tone rings in my Tubaphone or my Electric, for it to have a soft, mushy sound.


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