Since choice of tone and playability is to varying degrees adjustable on most banjos, it is worth understanding as much as possible about how they work in order to satisfy your perception of musical tone and reach your goals as a musician.
What I want to address are the design limitations common to standard banjos that I find unacceptable, given the solution is now at hand. Let me give you my simple understanding with straight facts.
If you pick up a banjo and the strings are too far away from the fingerboard to easily play, you would put it back down and look for another. Or if the strings are so low that they rattle on the frets. Either scenario is unacceptable for anyone seeking enjoyment from the instrument.
In my role as repairman, I commonly deal with playability problems. The simple truth is that all these problems would not exist with a property functioning two way truss rod system in combination with a means for setting the angle of the neck up and down.
Unfortunately for owners of traditional non-Nechville banjos, you are out of luck. No means of angle adjustment exists on a traditional banjo. That means that only one size bridge can ever work on the instrument and it severely limits your tonal choices and ability to customize your playability. The problem is especially bad if if you are forced to use too small of a bridge.
At Nechville we have done away with the antiquated non adjustable neck to rim attachments. The Quick-Cam system, standard on all helical mount and Flux capacitor equipped Flex-tones solves such problems and creates several additional benefits.
All Nechville made instruments are not only infinitely adjustable throughout a wide range of action and bridge height choices, but are also instantly separable for transport or travel. Nechville modular design also means that trading or upgrading necks and other parts on Nechville’s is practical, quick, easy and fun.
Let’s consider some other scenarios involving problems with a traditional banjo body. Let’s say that one of your hooks or nuts is rusty or impeded in some mechanical way. In that case it would be impossible to judge if you had achieved even tension on the banjo head.
It is well known that even tension leads to balanced tone. With the numerous fasteners to equalize around the banjo body it is nearly impossible to achieve even tension on the head. We might all agree that a much more acceptable thing would be to have an automatically controlled head tension system.
Another common problem is restriction of the natural tone of the acoustic chamber of the instrument from the mechanical fastening of rods and other metal parts. The whole instrument works together to produce its own sound, therefore the best banjos have been adjusted to minimize the negative effects of metallic connections. The rim, head and tone ring should be allowed to act as “tone components” while parts like the neck and hardware should provide structural integrity without limiting the effectiveness of the tone components.
At Nechville, every effort has been dedicated to streamlining the banjo’s design. Our sound is automatically balanced because of our freely mounted tone ring system that is completely free from sound altering or restricting forces from coordinator rods or other metal parts. One part turns which places automatic even tension on the head. This results in unrestricted beautiful tone whether you want deep and dark or bright and snappy.
Let’s consider a couple more unacceptable but easily remedied situations. With the advent of carefully sculpted bridges that account for the varying scale lengths of different string sizes, why to so many players still play with noticeable intonation problems? The easy solution is our Enterprise Bridge; made to correct intonation and to enhance playability.
Perhaps the most frequent complaint is the banjo’s weight. While it is commonly assumed that the heavier banjos sound better, Nechville has proven otherwise. Many much lighter options are available for the Heli-Mount system that open up new frontiers in sound performance.
If that is not enough, consider another common complaint from banjo players, the discomfort that comes from your arm pressing against a hard metal edge on traditional banjos. All Nechvilles are equipped with Comfort Bevel wooden armrests that encourage long periods of practice and improvement. The Comfort Bevel armrest and Enterprise bridge are available from Nechville for any banjo.
The physics of sound in a banjo is complex, but by simplifying the design without detracting from its potentials, Nechville has made it easier and much more possible to control the resulting tone to your liking. We are dedicated to your success in music and are here to help whether it be in improving your existing instrument or building your custom creation.
Stay Tuned! Tom Nechville.