Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

Hi everyone!

I took up the 19-fret tenor banjo a couple of months ago, with Barney McKenna as my major influence!

It came with the regular Remo Weatherking head, and I put D’Addario’s J63i-strings on it! I’m pretty happy with the sound of it, however I’d like it to sound a bit more like, in my opinion, the "Irish" banjo (plunky, rather dull-sounding), instead of the crisp and bright sound of a bluegrass banjo!

My question is if anyone has any detailed information about this legend’s gear, e.g. what pick he uses, strings and banjo head mounted on his old Paragon, and so on.. πŸ™‚

Other suggestions about your own personal string gauge/material and banjo heads to give the banjo the "Irish sound" and make it sound as "Barney McKenna"-esque as possible, will also be appreciated!


SlaΓ­nte!

/Mattias Holm

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

1. plunky rather dull sounding
1. crisp and bright

I equally like & dislike this misquoted comparason from above for so many reasons in many many contexts.

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

@yhaalhouse

Huh? Sorry, didn’t really get your point? :P

OT: Do you have any idea about McKenna’s gear or not? πŸ™‚

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

Hi your banjo could be a flat top, I find an arch top banjo gives a more crisp sound

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

@airport

I have already watched Dick Ptarmigan’s comparison, but thanks anyway! Actually it was due to his comparison that I even started thinking about changing my banjo head! However, this doesn’t solve my question about what banjo head Barney McKenna is using, any ideas? πŸ™‚

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

@eltic strings

Hmm, I actually had a very first look on the tone ring of my banjo today, but I don’t really now if it’s a flat top or an arch top. Do you have any links showing the differences in appearance between them? Or if I posted a picture of the inside of the pot, could you tell me what type on tone ring that’s in it? πŸ™‚

Thank you!

Re: Barney McKenna’s laughing gear?!

Mr Holm: the point is wig glue, old chap!

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

I find that the 17-fret banjo gives that dull, less ringy sound.. the strings are not as long and are a little bit tighter..

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

‘not as long and a litte bit tighter’…exactly what I said about by third wife!

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

Not ‘by’ your twonkler, ‘my’!!!

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

Mattias - In this clip, Barney can be seen to be playing a banjo with a raised (archtop) tone ring. If you look at about 2:52 you can see that it is a Remo Weatherking head - doesn’t look like a fibreskin one, and he has a rather wide tailpiece that I can’t identify. Looks quite heavy - that might contribute to his sound, but there are so many other factors - I think you just have to adjust things until the sound you want emerges. The D’Addario strings are nickel aren’t they? Perhaps you’d like bronze-wound strings better.

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

I know that he uses light strings, not sure exactly what size.

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

Lots of different things can change the tone of a banjo and each banjo will react to those changes in a different way. i.e. the head type, the bridge type, the strings, not just the sizes but also the make and material of them, the tightness of the of the head, the angle of the strings over the bridge and if that’s not enough the way you pick and the type of plectrum you use. The only thing you can do is set the banjo up by experiment to suit yourself and your own individual taste. Its all part of what makes the banjo such a interesting instrument to play.

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

The only sure way to get the sound of Barney’s Paragon is to buy a Paragon.

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

Problem with that, though, is that Barney’s Paragon doesn’t have a Paragon tone ring in it. He’s definitely paying an arch top, though, which means that’s probably the kind of tone ring you want. I would imagine the plunkyness you hear is caused by a sorta loose head at the time of recording.

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

@RichardB

Thank you for your elaborate answer!

I do think that the arch top tone ring is the biggest difference, and when it’s time to buy a more expensive banjo I’m pretty sure that it’s gonna be an arch top!

Well, all I can tell from the clip is that it is a Remo banjo head, however I’m not quite sure if it’s the Weatherking head or the Renaissance head? Would be grateful if anyone could enlighten me! πŸ™‚

Yes, the D’Addario’s are nickel, and as you say I’ve heard from other people that the bronze-wound strings gives a warmer/fuller sound than the nickel!

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

@dinn2

Yes, I’m pretty sure he’s using light strings, because on video you can actually see that his banjo has plain E and A strings, and wound D and G strings. (And as far as I know the thicker gauge string set has a wound A string as well!)

Do you have any idea if he’s using nickel- or bronze-wound?

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

@camwebby

Well, if I got the opportunity I’d sure buy Barney’s old Paragon for all my savings! πŸ˜€

However, he’s actually using a short scale Dave Boyle banjo nowadays - and I love the sound of it as well!

Hmm, maybe I like that banjo sound so much simply because Barney is playing….? Ha ha

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

@Upsetter
That is something that I have noticed while watching other Paragons, in comparison to Barney’s!
Do you know anything about this? Did Barney change the tone ring to get the more trebly sound of a arch top, or was it already mounted when he first got the banjo back in the early 60s?

It sure is rare, I’ve never seen another Paragon like his! πŸ™‚
However, it feels like all Paragons have some slight differences from each other!

It’s a pity he doesn’t use it anymore (though the Dave Boyle banjo is a damn fine instrument too!)

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

You can pay a lot for a tone ring: http://www.americanmadebanjo.com/dannick.php . I am the lucky possessor of a Gibson TB-01 from 1929 (acquired last year), and this has been much liked by others. I like its plain, undecorated look. OK, Paragons are beautiful, but are they not just a little bit showy? The TB-01 does not have a strident, piercing tone, but is plenty loud enough, with a mellow, full sound. It has the original brass hoop, not a mastertone ring. Bluegrassers have these converted, which involve cutting the hoop to install the raised tone ring and installing a replica 5-string neck, but they’re not getting their hands on my one! Mastertones are described as capable of peeling the paint off the walls. I’m happy with mine as it is.

Re: Barney McKenna’s banjo gear?!

GET IN TOUCH WITH TOM CUSSEN AND HE WILL TELL YOU THE EXACT DETAILS OF BARNEY’S PARAGON.TOM WAS THE ONE WHO FITTED THE GIBSON TONE RING FOR BARNEY.