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View Full Version : Banjo Uke: Open Back...or Resonator????



Papa Tom
11-09-2010, 12:48 PM
This may have been discussed here before, but I couldn't find the thread.

I'm so confused about banjo ukes right now that I'm right on the verge of scrapping my idea to buy one altogether. To me, the ones selling on eBay for $150 look just as well-made as the ones made by Gold Tone for three times that amount -- and many people who have bought the eBay models ("Rally") have sworn that they play just as well as any banjo uke on the market. Still, I don't want to make a mistake, as even $150 (+$60 shipping) is a lot for me to spend right now.

Anyway, with all this research I've been doing on a constant basis, I realize I still haven't even decided if I want an open-back model or a resonator model. I like the idea of an open back because I'd imagine I can produce some good "choking" effects by moving it to and away from my body while playing, but I also like the idea of a resonator because I expect that I will be playing chug-a-chug rhythm exclusively and like the idea of having TOO MUCH volume, rather than too little.

Can somebody give me an idea of how loud an open-back banjolele is compared to a typical wooden soprano uke? And can you tell me if the extra weight of a resonator is worth the trouble? Any other things I should consider?

Thanks, all!

harpdog
11-09-2010, 01:22 PM
The Gold Tone may be better by virtue of having 16 hooks instead of 12.

I had a resonator B.U. and it was loud (Gold Tone)

I also enjoyed playing it without the resonator, and you can use your body to damp the sound from the open back. Probably did not project as well that way.

Papa Tom
11-09-2010, 01:25 PM
I read somewhere else that a resonator can make the sound of a regular banjo muddy. I would translate this as, rhythmic patterns won't reproduce as crisply on a resonator model as on an open-back. Does this sound accurate?

BobN
11-09-2010, 02:27 PM
Can somebody give me an idea of how loud an open-back banjolele is compared to a typical wooden soprano uke?

The energy put into vibrating the string is dumped into a drum head that has almost no sustain. Most of the energy is dumped into volume.
A typical soprano uke may have more than 2 seconds of sustain. If you had a 2 foot long hunk of lead and hit it with the same amount of energy it would ring out a very soft tone for a few minutes.

The volume has to do with the energy that you put into it and how fast the energy is released as sound.

Banjos are loud.
I like open back and I like old time music, but most resonators are removable, so most resonator banjos can be played open back.

The resonator directs the sound (coming out of the back) to the audience.

TCK
11-09-2010, 02:33 PM
I could not imagine mine with a resonator on it- I like it open back, like the ability to dampen it with my body...like to stuff something in back when the neighbors are tired of hearing the same 8 songs. And oh yeah, it is LOUD. Super loud. Loud enough that it will be heard, like it or not- not sure the resonator is really necessary (but they look sooooooo cool).

Papa Tom
11-09-2010, 02:33 PM
>>>>The energy put into vibrating the string is dumped into a drum head that has almost no sustain.<<<<<

That's the OTHER question I have. Having been a drummer for most of my life, I came to understand the science of "sympathetic vibrations" somewhat. How does the tuning of the banjolele head affect the resonance of the instrument overall?

vacuousnacho
11-09-2010, 03:10 PM
I'm really looking forward to the mainland banjolele that's coming out soon, although it is more expensive than the ebay ones and I don't believe that it has a removable resonator? Does anyone know for sure?

rasputinsghost
11-09-2010, 03:16 PM
Get one like a Morgan Monroe that has screws on the wood reso, so you can take it off if you like. I had a banjo-uke with an open back and I didn't like that so much, it was too loud and too muddy.

TCK
11-09-2010, 07:38 PM
Sympathetic vibrations...
It is HUGE. Not sure if you will get this answer here, but yeah, tuning to around "A" totally wakes up the uke. It is not a definite "A", but you will hear it- total sweet spot just like on a drum

Troll
11-10-2010, 06:10 AM
I saw one at the Tampa Bay Ukulele Getaway last weekend and my impression was that the resonator was NOT removable.

Chap
11-10-2010, 06:23 AM
I have one of the Anuenue models....the resonator is definitely removeable on it, just a matter of removing a handful of screws. I haven't tried it myself, but I might, I'm not happy with the sound yet.

hoosierhiver
11-10-2010, 07:16 AM
I saw one at the Tampa Bay Ukulele Getaway last weekend and my impression was that the resonator was NOT removable.

The new Mainland has a solid back not a resonator.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPuVXsqPpZc

Jnobianchi
11-10-2010, 07:27 AM
Resonator or no resonator .... here is the answer you dread. It depends on the instrument. :)

For example: I've got two Slingerlands, an openback and a flush resonator back (almost looks like it doesn't have a resonator - its just an arched-back piece of maple that's got six screws mounting it about 3/16's of an inch from the back of the pot. Both were made with tone rings, and both can be played very loud. However, the one with the resonator back is potentially MUCH louder than the open back, and from the front, it's louder with the resonator on than off. On the other hand, my S-V with the resonator is louder without it, but it doesn't ring/sustain quite so well.

Some instruments sound louder from the front with a resonator back, some don't and simply have a longer sustain.

On sharpness and clarity: I've heard and played Gold Tones, Morgan Monroes, an Ozark and Lanikai. All sound OK to me, but can be slightly muddy. This can be compensated for by tightening the head. A head that yields only slightly to thumb pressure will be a much louder instrument than a head that has 'give'. Head tension is the difference between sharp clear tones and muddy ones, with or without a resonator. The only thing to watch out for is an overtightened head, which creates a harsher tone. You'll know when you've tightened passed the point where you should be. One point - always tighten only a quarter turn per bracket - and tighten hooks by going with the opposite hook next - never go 'round the pot or you'll get a really uneven mounting.

My last bit of advice is to think about a vintage instrument, and to suggest that if you do, go with Elderly Instruments - their mail order department has a couple of folks whose job is to take the instrument you're interested in off the shelf and describe it to you, play it out for you and to answer your questions. I've gotten two from them which have arrived exactly as promised and in the condition they described. They're great to deal with, and you have a seven-day $ back guarantee with them - don't like it, send it back. I unreservedly recommend them: http://elderly.com/welcome.htm

Finally, if you do go vintage:

Slingerlands have tone rings and are great players for cheap instruments - should run you about 100-$150. Model 24 is their 8" standard pot uke, models 18, 20 and 65 are the seven-inch pot models. The 20 is a great open back; the 24 came in both open and resonator back. Btw - The 20 and 24 were also made for S.S. Stewart, which labeled them as "Collegian" and "Univeristy" respectively - they tend to be comparably priced.

Gibson UB-1s are cracking little ukes and run about $400-600. They were made with flush resonator backs, but here's another instrument that's not quite as loud without the resonator. If you're going to spend $500 on a new uke, why not spring for a Gibson that will be an absolute pleasure to play and only go up in value?

Probably not that helpful, but I've had a lot of them and really love banjo ukes.

Fuzzy
11-10-2010, 09:55 AM
Probably not that helpful, but I've had a lot of them and really love banjo ukes.Actually that was quite helpful. Thank you.

Papa Tom
11-10-2010, 10:28 AM
Yes, I found it helpful, too, but I can't seem to find any of the $100-150 Slingerland banjo ukes you mentioned.

vacuousnacho
11-10-2010, 11:50 AM
The new Mainland has a solid back not a resonator.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPuVXsqPpZc

Hmmm, so how are the acoustics on it?

Jnobianchi
11-11-2010, 04:20 AM
Go to eBay and you'll find several at any given time. Right now, things are a little lean there, but there are always a couple of cheapies, including Slingerlands.

Papa Tom
11-11-2010, 06:00 AM
>>>>Go to eBay and you'll find several at any given time.<<<<<

Sorry. I just re-read your post and realized you were talking about VINTAGE ukes. I guess I got a little over-excited when I first read it and thought Slingerland was making banjo ukes again!

The problem with eBay is that I'm at war with PayPal over a $30 late fee they hit me with for a $4 sale. I still swear I never received the bill, but I guess it's always a possibility it got diverted to my spam file. Anyway, I refuse to do any more business with eBay because of it.

On the OTHER hand, I have $125 in Amazon gift certificates still burning a hole in my pocket, so if anybody wants to trade them toward a used banjolele (I'm starting to lean toward an open-back model now), let me know!

Jnobianchi
11-11-2010, 07:12 AM
OK - I'm letting you know. :) I'm sending you a message.

marymac
11-11-2010, 06:48 PM
The new Mainland has a solid back not a resonator.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPuVXsqPpZc

Mike - any due date on the banjo ukes? Are you going to have concerts or just sopranos?

hoosierhiver
11-12-2010, 03:41 AM
Mike - any due date on the banjo ukes? Are you going to have concerts or just sopranos?

They are still saying the end of this month and we should have a limited number of concerts in the first batch too.