Why does the banjo have its unique sound?

Re: Why does the banjo have its unique sound?

Thanks for sharing that.

Re: Why does the banjo have its unique sound?

Oooookay.. Move along, move along ..nothing to see here:-)

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Re: Why does the banjo have its unique sound?

The frequency modulation aspect hadn’t occured to me before. But the Audacity experiment strikes me as a bit of a non-experiment since, surely, a banjo already sounds like a banjo, without introducing further frequency modulation. Perhaps the experiment should be conducted with a wooden-topped instrument (with a floating bridge), to better demonstrate the effect.

Re: Why does the banjo have its unique sound?

Does it still have the metallic sound when pushing "the membrane near the bridge at a rate of a few times per second" ?

Re: Why does the banjo have its unique sound?

How about; a banjo sounds like a banjo because it is in fact a banjo..Either love it or hate it. For the record, I love the sound of banjo as much as I love the banjojokes and the nerdity of many of the operators:-)

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Re: Why does the banjo have its unique sound?

"a banjo sounds like a banjo because it is in fact a banjo" That is, in essence, all the article tells us. Granted, it says the moving head makes it sound metallic, but it doesn’t explain how, or what is going on. Perhaps the original paper contains more useful information (that is, information that is more useful, not more information that is useful); but the linked article, although mildly interesting, is typical of science journalism — i.e. mostly journalism and hardly any science.

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Re: Why does the banjo have its unique sound?

To me he’s used a lot of words to state the bleeding obvious - that a banjo head is tuned to a frequency within the audible spectrum, so when you pluck a string you get vibrations at that frequency added to the sting vibrations.

But that is only one small part of why a banjo sounds like a banjo. Close your eyes, listen to this and try to guess what instrument it is : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC5-0EwiZjM It’s got a wooden head, but despite that it still doesn’t sound like anything other than a banjo.

Re: Why does the banjo have its unique sound?

I just assumed it had something to do with the Fall of Eden.

Re: Why does the banjo have its unique sound?

there is no single banjo sound, because the design of the "pot" has evolved over the last 150 years from a relatively crude all wooden (apart from the skin) construction to a composite of industrially bonded hardwood and complex metal fabrications with sophisticated tension arrangements (i.e. a 3-ply steam bent maple hoop and a metal "tone ring" of some pattern, designed with varying degrees of complexity).

Add to that the change from calfskin to plastic for the head (skin), and from gut strings to wire, not to mention changes in neck design, timber preferences and neck fixture arrangements.

Modern banjos usually incorporate some or all of these improvements over the original design, of pots and necks, heads and strings.

Banjo players rejoice in the variety of sound characteristics that the banjo family can produce, which range from the dull "plunky" sound of the traditional minstrel banjo of the mid 19th century, right through to "modern" and distinctively crisp tones of the Clifford Essex Paragon or far crisper the Gibson Archtop. Although the Essex and Gibson patterns date from the 20’s, there have been other innovative changes in the last 90 years. Whether they represent improvement would be a topic for discussion.

The sad fact is that most of the banjos you’ll hear at sessions, (however they’re being played) don’t sound half as good as they could do, because not many banjo players know how to set their instrument up, and can’t find or won’t go to a competent setup man.

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