Skip to main content

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!

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.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Getting Blitzed with Tom Collins

A little more than a year ago, Salem, Massachusetts-based banjo player and teacher Tom Collins embarked on a yearlong project he called Banjo Blitz. The weekly YouTube series provided short banjo lessons on technique. Each video is about five minutes long, give or take, and presents a short pattern — or “ostinato” — designed to teach and improve a specific aspect of banjo playing.

The mission was to get the audience “to practice clawhammer in discrete chunks every day without the burden of trying to memorize tunes,” Collins says. He wanted to build skills rather than repertoire.

“Let’s take the tune off the table,” says Collins, who has been teaching banjo for 11 years. “Let’s focus on a simple, mantra-like ostinato that can train your body how to execute a technique properly, while training your ears how to hear it properly. Let’s also make it so that you can do this every day without it sucking every spare minute from your life. The big dirty secret about learning how to play an ins…

Clawhammer Picks and You: A Review

Clawhammer picks are a useful tool for increasing volume or to overcome fingernail challenges, such as broken, too short or weak nails. There are all sorts of commercial and homemade solutions available for banjo players, but it can be difficult to decide which options to choose. Thankfully, I've already done some of the work for you.
Just to be clear, I prefer my natural fingernail for frailing. However, there was a time when I experimented with regularly using a pick, and there are instances now where I find that a pick is necessary. Today, I'll take you through the five options I've tried. These are all available online at prices ranging from about $1 to $13.

Reversed/Reshaped Dunlop Pick ($0.75)
This was the most common suggestion before other companies started addressing the gap in the clawhammer pick market. Take a bluegrass pick, flatten it out and wear it backwards. The problem is that it's hard to get the fit right. While Dunlop picks are cheap and readily avai…

Erynn Marshall, Mark Olitsky, Doug Unger: An Old-Time Smorgasbord in Peninsula, Ohio, for Music on the Porches, Sept. 23

Old-time music and banjo fans alike would do well to aim their GPS units toward Peninsula, Ohio, the historic village nestled in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Cleveland and Akron. This Saturday is Music on the Porches, which features a number of musical acts playing all around town, starting at 11 a.m. 
The showcase event is Saturday night at the G.A.R. Hall, an evening concert that will feature fiddler Erynn Marshall and multi-instrumentalist Carl Jones, the married old-time duo based in Galax, Virginia; followed by Sean Watkins, formerly of the progressive bluegrass band Nickel Creek; and finally headliner Tim O'Brien, who has recorded with everyone from Steve Martin to Dirk Powell, including the excellent "Songs From the Mountain" album with Powell and John Herrmann (one of my all-time favorites). Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with Marshall and Jones set to start at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online via Eventbrite
But wait, that's not all! 
Marshall wi…