Acoustic and Electric Banjo Pickups and Amplification


Nechville Acoustic Harness Pickup System

At Nechville Musical Products, we are happy to see the banjo reaching far beyond its original bluegrass roots. With added stage volume and new (sometimes electric) instruments being introduced into the mix, the challenge of providing banjo amplification solutions is also growing. We are currently and continually experimenting with solutions that meet today’s current challenges.

Our goal when electrifying banjos is simple- plug and play. We want no issues with feedback or strange sound, no matter how big the stage is or how many drums and guitars you have to compete with. We also want the acoustic sound to be easily retained or brought back for acoustic and studio sessions.

The signal from a banjo outfitted with a pickup is typically sent to a house PA system through a direct input (DI) box. The DI provides a low impedance signal via XLR cable so that the signal isn’t lost or degraded on the way to the engineer’s board. This can also be accomplished by plugging into an amplifier with the ability to send the sound to the house PA. This allows direct control over the tone and volume of the your amp, which acts as a monitor. However, it may complicate the feedback issue, depending on the features of your particular amp.

Amplifying acoustic banjos introduces a new set of challenges. There are many factors to consider. Will you need an expert repairman or luthier to install it? For most players, they would prefer to limit the time and expense and do the installation themselves.

Current solutions battle ease of installation with loss of acoustic sound. If your acoustic tone is lost or altered it is not a great solution. Mounting a magnetic pickup to the coordinator rods, or in the case of a Nechville banjo to a removable brace, is less intrusive to the acoustic tone. This does, however, often produces an amplified tone with too much of an electric guitar flavor.

A piezo pickup produces a signal with an amazing ability to create a natural, airy tone. It does a great job of capturing the essence of the banjo sound. A piezoelectric pickup carries a very high impedance signal and is most effective when properly buffered by a circuit placed as close to the signal as possible.

A piezo operates differently pressed up against the head of a banjo as opposed to under the bridge on an acoustic guitar. It can fail to capture the rich low-mids associated with the fullness of a banjo, and end of sounding thin or “tinny”.


Nechville Meteor Electric Banjo

The Meteor Electric banjo was designed in the 1990s with the aid of Bela Fleck, Alison Brown, Eddie Adcock and others. It is truly a plug and play instrument. It allows the user to blend the best of the magnetic and piezo sound. The smaller head on the Meteor allows for an authentic banjo tone but limits the surface area of the vibrating membrane to reduce the chance of feedback.

Recent research and development at Nechville has currently led to an acoustic banjo pickup that utilizes the same dual pickup technology designed for the Meteor electric banjos. The combination of the warmth and balanced magnetic signal with the articulate and bright piezo signal is the solution that Nechville has built into their state-of-the-art dual pickup called the Acoustic Harness.

Special electronics have been pioneered that allow the vastly different signals from the piezo and magnetic pickups to be blended on board the instrument. Once an ideal balance is achieved at the source, there is no need to continually adjust it. You can be confident you are getting the source sound you’ve dialed in every time. Fine tuning, volume and EQ adjustments can be made by the sound engineer or through your own preamp or personal amp.

Installation of the Acoustic Harness is easy. There are at least two ways to mount it in a Nechville banjo. After optionally adhering one or two thin metal inductors to the head, the Harness drops into place and is held securely by the wedge fitting action of telescopic legs that rest in the gap between the tone ring and head. The pickup adjusts up and down and is fixable anywhere along the mounting legs. A jack body and bracket is provided that securely mounts to the outside of the Heli-Mount frame which can stay there even if the pickup is removed.

Contact Nechville to stay up to date on our latest offerings. We also provide custom installations ranging from MIDI/synth pickups to simple piezo or magnetic installations for many stringed instruments.

What Is a Banjo Bar?

This article was sent to us from renowned French banjoist Fred Simon


fredsimonThe other day, when my old friend CC from Nashville asked why I couldn’t hang around, I said “Banjo Bar.”  He said “What’s a Banjo Bar?” and I knew I should’ve kept my mouth shut. A Banjo Bar at Fred’s puts a serious smile on your face and gets your feet tapping, but it’s a challenge to describe properly, plus CC wasn’t invited, so lacking an elevator pitch, I just said “I’ll tell you when you’re a little older, Son” grabbed my hat and skedaddled before he grabbed me.  But on the long drive over to Fred’s, I tried to figure out how to describe it to CC or anybody else, especially if they’re not invited.

It starts with the place. As you get there late afternoon, you go around the corner from a castle; follow the guys with gig bags over their shoulders down a winding narrow street, kind of shadowy, to a house with light green shutters and a light green door, almost hidden under vines reaching up to the second story. If you get close and squint, you can see the name under the bell: “Fred Simon.” Once inside the main room, the view immediately dazzles as you look out onto the deck, like the bow of a ship headed south over a sea of sunflowers, the far shore being the watershed line of this particular continent, where the propellers of a wind farm spin slowly in the distance. At that point, most of the action will be taking place between the countertop island in the main room – loaded with bottles and glasses and nibbles– and the deck – garnished with gig bags – where a couple of banjos, guitars and a fiddle will be going. Someone will be singing oldies like “You Are my Sunshine” or “Downtown” while others lean on the railing, or relax on chairs, enjoying the good sound. But the concert hasn’t started yet. Far from it! Here at Fred’s, folks customarily greet each other with a song and some picking. This is just the appetizer. Fred’s place has a down-to-earth aspect where first things come first: namely the food. Fred worked in his family’s restaurant in his younger days, and this man knows how to feed his friends – heartily and efficiently – and then kick off the concert on time. But you’ll eat what everybody else does, pretty much extended family style, maybe sitting down at one of the tables, standing by the fireboard, leaning on the countertop or perched on the landing of the hardwood staircase – lined with a dozen stringed instruments – leading up to the studio.

Once folks are fed, no dawdling, Fred coaxes everyone downstairs to the concert level, which merits a description. At the bottom of the stairs the floor space is the same as the main room. On the left (street side), no windows, because the house leans up against a hill, so a couple of stone arches keep the hillside out of the house, and form a backdrop for the stage area. On the right, you’ll find another deck with a pool built into it. You’ve got basically the same view to the south, but by this time, it’ll be dusk and the lights of the wind farm will be blinking on the horizon. Below the deck, a garage opens to another street. So if you get the picture, this house on a hill, between an upper and a lower street, has three levels: concert/pool level, jam session/food & drink level, studio/bedroom level.

Meanwhile back at concert level: around 9 pm, forty or fifty people settle onto chairs, benches, couches and cushions to take in the concert. Of course that dang post in the middle of the room is a little tricky to see around, but as it holds up the rest of the house, folks tolerate it. Anyway this is the Banjo Bar, in a friend’s house, not some fancy-dancy, thousand-seat auditorium. And here, folks share music, and sometimes so many are playing at once that the musicians overlap into the audience area. In this homey, welcoming, relaxed and generous atmosphere everybody chips in to cover the cost of food and drink and to remunerate the performers – all top-notch and literally within arm’s reach of the listeners.

And though all good things must end, the close of the concert simply means the start of the jam session, usually with a migration up to the kitchen level for some refreshment. Now anything can happen, for example in November last year Russ Barenberg was there for the concert, along with his wife Susan Kevra, vocals, and their friend Rachel Bell, accordion. After the concert, up at the kitchen level again, I was sitting in the middle of the main room on a straight back chair facing the deck where Nasser and some others got started on percussion with a North African feel to it – relaxed, but energetic – and feet started to tap. Flap got the stand-up bass thumping just behind my left ear; Rachel was seated to the right of me and felt inspired to fire up the accordion; Susan brought out a clarinet from somewhere and bluesed a B-flat from it that floated over my head and latched onto my ear whiskers; Patrick started clacking the spoons just in front of me and my feet were a-jiggle. Then Fred went to picking his banjo just to my left. My feet felt like tapping, but there was no point, as my chair was keeping the beat all on its own, and I just hung on and found myself surrounded by a jam session. It must’ve been Remy’s fiddle that tipped the balance, because that music just lifted me and the chair about three inches off the floor. Fred noticed me hovering, and picked up the tempo. Everyone followed, raising the chair another foot, and they all kept me bouncing and airborne for about twelve minutes, before they let me land. Then Susan got a contra dance going and started calling out the figures for a sure enough shindig.

That evening’s Banjo Bar, like many others, continued until the predawn brought a hint of color back to the surrounding fields. Neighbors wandered home, while visitors from afar bedded down right there at Fred’s. And of course, some Banjo Bars are followed by master classes with, for example Russ did one the next day.

So I guess I can tell CC all that about the Banjo Bar, plus Nasser Soltani’s comment that for him it’s playing at a professional level, but with the feeling of being at home, close to an audience made up of friends. Now old CC just has to meet Fred and get an invite.

THE CONCERTS – Fred has organized 35 Banjo Bars since 2010. In every concert, Fred is sure to play, either in the first thirty-minute session, along with friends from his groups Camel Ride and Joey’s Band or other opening acts. Or, thanks to his versatility, he may play with the headliner in the second session, usually lasting about ninety minutes. Themes range from bluegrass to modern jazz, from time-tested oldies to original compositions, in an international context, with musicians such as Russ Barenberg from the US, Lluis Gomez from Spain, Papa Banjo Redon from France, Ben Somers and the Absentees from the UK, and Nasser Soltani from Marseille. Fred’s often joined by his good friends Bernard Minari on mandolin, and the Portalès brothers: Daniel on mandolin and Patrick on guitar.


TOM NECHVILLE & FRED SIMON – Fred had tried out one of Tom’s acoustic banjos thanks to Papa Banjo Redon, and liked the fret board. Fred then contacted Tom via the web, and ended up ordering a Nechville Cosmos Electric Midi banjo. During a European tour, Tom brought the banjo to Fred. They stayed in contact, and met again in 2014 at the La Roche Bluegrass festival in the Alps. At Tom’s stand, Fred’s demos drew crowds, so Tom invited him to do the same at the Telluride and Bean Blossom festivals this year. So if you haven’t been invited to a Banjo Bar yet, but you happen to be at the festival, here’s a chance to meet Fred and hear his music and Tom Nechville’s banjos. In the meantime, check him out on the web.

– Tim-Billy Bow, May 2015


Why A Good Banjo Sounds Like A Nechville

574 This seems like a pompous question, right? Well, my purpose here is not to demean any other brands but to point out as clearly as possible how Nechville’s construction eliminates many potential problems.

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.

hm1If 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.


Tone Rings and Banjo Sound


Hey you are either a banjo geek or a wannabe banjo geek, or you wouldn’t be reading this, right? Well coming from a lifelong banjo addict, I want to remove the top of Pandora’s banjo for a moment.

A single magical element that causes wonderful tone in a banjo does not exist. What makes for a wonderful tone in reality is the musicianship and skill of the player along with an acoustic tone chamber that generates a pleasant musical resonance.

The secret to an inspiring musical tonality is a combination of all the following factors.

  1.  A proper fingerboard with the right geometry and playing action.
  2. An instrument with structural integrity and adequate mass
  3. Head tension that is even and adequately tight
  4. A good bridge between 2.3 and 2.8 grams

The ring of dense material upon which the head is stretched is called the tone ring. Traditionally in most Bluegrass banjos, this component is made from bronze. The ideal formula for the tone ring is debated in banjo circles, but any formula containing copper, tin lead and zinc will work.

The magic depends on the proper execution of the 4 requirements above and mounting the tone ring solidly upon its base. The character of the sound differs slightly from instrument to instrument. But with years of experience in building and setting up instruments, one gets better at control- ling the sound quality.

The general myth that lives on in banjo circles is the one of the “Pre-war” banjo. The tone rings from these old banjos is most often cited as the magic component, while in reality the old seasoned wood of the rim is responsible for most of the pleasant resonance that comes from them.

All these facts aside, The tone ring is still a link in the chain of good tone. So if you are building an in- strument or just want to know more about them, here is a short tone ring crash course.

Bronze tone rings are cast in foundries and are machined to final shape on a lathe. As a major tone ring manufacturer, Nechville obtains cast billets and machines them to close tolerance in their CNC lathe.

Generally speaking, alloys with a 5% or higher lead content create rings with a good bass response. Lower lead alloys tend to encourage a wider range of harmonic con- tent which may cause a brighter perceived tone.

The pursuit of the ideal reproduction of the best sounding tone rings has resulted in clever marketing campaigns that add confusion to the well-known business of tone ring manufacture and have fostered false hopes in prospective buyers.

The tone ring is a part of a system that needs to work together in order to fulfill your musical desires. You can trust that Nechville is one company that will reveal the clearest path to achieving the sound that you are after.

Please take a look at our 30 year track record of producing world class custom instruments. No other company will give you the benefit of choice between classic design and helical mount banjos. No other banjo company is as vertically integrated and dedicated to providing tailored customer service. Whether you need tone ring advice, or want to upgrade your whole instrument, we are here to help.

The Road Home from SPBGMA

Nechville booth at SPBGMA.

James McKinney and I…

Being in-person at these shows gives us a chance to show off the versatility of our product line. Our booth always displays something that raises questions from the curious pickers looming about. This year we had a tempered fret scale neck mounted on an open back Moonshine EX. We got constant questions about the weird crooked frets on that banjo.

Another curiosity was another Excelsior Heli-mount pot with a nice traditional looking neck and a wild Cocobolo Turbo module installed. That monster was tuned a full fifth low to open C tuning and vibrated the entire room when turned on. Sometimes we get tire kickers who sneak a pick on a Nechville and escape before learning how to tailor the tone to their liking. It is just as common however to have someone return a year or two later, pick up a similar banjo and be completely blown away because they never suspected the tone they were looking for could be hidden in there.

We congratulate our Friend Barry Waldrep as the new banjo guru at for picking up Nechville’s Vintage line. Congratulations also to Capo’s Music’s Gill Braswell and Emory Carty for adopting the Saturn line. We are excited to see the Banjo Revolution gaining ground.
We were happy to have spent the evening with Sonny Smith, super picker from Pigeon Forge. We outfitted Sonny with his latest “Diamond Joe” model now with fancier outlined binding, visible Turquoise side dots and nickel hardware.
SPBGMA weekend also gives us a chance to yuck it up with our friendly banjo rivals. Since it is all in good fun, we like to go visit each other’s displays and play each other’s banjos. Huber had a neighboring suite to our room and was a handy place to go for borrowing screw drivers. Ha ha. A trip to Arthur Hatfield’s Room is almost like a trip to his living room. You always feel welcome and a great jam is always imminent. Arthur played lots of guitar for all the drooling banjo players. I was one of them. We drool when we play because his ‘joes sound so sweet!

The best part of any festival is the good times with friends. Of course it is awesome to see my old friends Ian Perry, Jack Hatfield, and Tim Carter. It is also a treat to get better acquainted with friends and associates like John Lawless and Sean Dysinger from Bluegrass Today. We love having the entire banjo spectrum covered between the Nechville booth, the fine selection from Paul and David Hopkins and the forest of banjos displayed by Mitch Meadors and Dan Garrett.

Congratulations also to Katie Keller from the Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro KY. She took on the challenge of learning the banjo with her new Moonshine and help from Todd Fink of the Giving Tree Band.
Well it is time to go home and pack up for Wintergrass where we will be participating with Al Price for the 22nd time. We will again be a sponsor at Merlefest and we are participating in Banjo camp North in May. In June I will be traveling and doing workshops with monster picker from Toulouse France, Fred Simon. We have a demo June 11th at Down Home Guitars in Frankfort Illinois, an informal presence during the first weekend of Bean Blossom, A demo/jam at Brewskis in St Charles MO on June 15th, the same at Tejon Street Music on June 16th before we spend the weekend at Telluride Bluegrass Fest.

Banjo Revolution- My New Year’s Wish

Nechville Heli-Mount Banjo

Here is Nechville’s special wish for the new year and beyond. We hope that you will be encouraged to make music a priority in 2015 and support the work of the Banjo Revolution.

First the “Banjo Revolution” obviously refers to the one-piece revolving flange on the modern Helical Mounted banjos. When Nechville entered the professional luthier business, no one was really asking for a better banjo. However, our instinctive understanding of the instrument gained from many years of obsessive study, emboldened  us to put forth some radical redesigns that we felt had the potential take this traditional American instrument to the center stages of popular music. During our three decades of banjo “rebellion”, the revolving Heli-mount design has caught on with top performers, grassroots players and music lovers across the globe.

In addition to hailing our “Revolutionary” banjo design improvements, the pun intimates a reverence for what our forefathers fought for, i.e., freedom of expression. The banjo originally came to us in the freedom songs of slaves. Its unmistakable sound echoes of America’s trials and triumphs through its history and remains a sound of freedom to this day.

Today the freedom to create a future for oneself;  to pursue happiness, is considered the central benefit of being a free human being. In my personal example, with the full support of my loving wife and family,  my once imaginary career of designing banjos is now in full bloom. Similarly for your life; if you have a musical vision and play your way toward it, you will get there. The joyful phenomenon of making music that our banjos were designed for should be among everyone’s life goals. It will spread a friendly revolution of musical experience, and good times for all.

The “Banjo Revolution” slogan therefore invites all of humanity to discover the creative spirit such as that which guides our hands in making music. Musical collaboration, especially that involving bluegrass music, opens new social channels and connects people of diverse origins in fun family-friendly festivities. Personal bonds won through music can influence the world significantly for all of us. The hope behind the Banjo Revolution, therefore is social revolution; when a major segment of our population embraces bluegrass-inspired music.

The ultimate victory for the Revolution will be when our lawmakers and powerful money-moguls  develop a commitment to spreading work to everyone while lessening the burdens on themselves and others, with the goal of creating more leisure hours for everyone. The Banjo Revolution describes a lifestyle choice based on relationship building through homegrown music among friends and family worldwide.

Mankind has lived for thousands of years without cars, planes and computers, but with the explosion of time saving technology and mechanization, we should have discovered how to redeem benefit from the fruits of our ingenuity to arrive at a better balance between work and play.  Happily our work satisfies much of my creative desire, but I still struggle to find that ideal balance. Unfortunately, artistic pursuits such as learning the banjo are completely off the radar by those over-stressed by full-time jobs and basic lifestyle responsibilities. Let’s encourage people from all walks of life to take time for the challenge and camaraderie of learning music together.

The Banjo Revolution as a force for positive change can remain forever a fantasy, OR it can instantly become a reality if it sparks a musical fire in your life. Our sincere congratulations if you decide to invest the fruits of your labors in an instrument, or simply decide to turn off the TV to jam with your kids or friends. Banjo has the power to “revolutionize” your life as you experience the true meaning of making beautiful music together.

Your friend in music, Tom Nechville
Viva La Banjo Revolution!
a [email protected]

The Banjo Revolution: Not Just a Slogan


For most of my career as a banjo designer and manufacturer I have used the slogan “Banjo Revolution” without often explaining its fullness of meaning…

First, it obviously refers to the mechanical revolution of the flange component of my unique Nechville Heli-Mount banjo. When I entered the professional luthier field, no one was really asking for a better banjo. However, having studied the instrument from an in-depth mechanical design perspective for many years, I instinctively understood the difficulties that tended to keep this traditional American instrument on the sidelines of widespread popular music, and made it my personal mission to correct this limited perception. Now having reached the point in my efforts where many world-renowned professional performers are appearing with my instruments in hand, the merits of Nechville’s common-sense designs are beginning to manifest themselves not only for top performers, but with grassroots players and music lovers across the globe.

But in addition to hailing my “Revolutionary” banjo design improvements, the pun intimates a reverence for what our forefathers fought for, i.e., freedom of expression. Having the freedom to create a future for oneself is the central benefit of being a free-thinking human. In my example as a free-born North American, I have been fortunate to be able to follow my passions in this way. As impractical as it may seem to some, with the full support of my loving wife and family, I decided to invent, build and play banjos for a lifetime career. The joyful phenomenon of making music that Nechville instruments were designed for can cause a revolution of thought that reinforces our freedom to act toward global betterment.

The Nechville world view summed up by the “Banjo Revolution” slogan invites all of humanity to discover the creative spirit such as that which guides our hands in creating music. Musical collaboration, especially that involving bluegrass music, opens new social channels and connects people of diverse origins in fun family-friendly festivities. I dream of a social revolution when a major segment of our population embraces bluegrass-inspired music, since personal bonds won through music can influence the world significantly for all of us.

Mankind has lived for thousands of years without cars, planes and computers, but with the explosion of technology and mechanization, we should have discovered how to redeem benefit from the fruits of our ingenuity to arrive at a better balance between work and play. Perhaps our currently overdrawn government obligates us to work off our national debt to sustain the credence of our dollar as a functional form of currency. The ultimate victory for the Revolution, however, will be when our lawmakers and powerful money-makers develop a commitment to allowing employment to all that want to work. therebyfreeing up more priority time for relationship-building among family and friends. As idealistic as it sounds, why not promote the proliferation of homegrown music worldwide? Our existence becomes a little happier when we experience the true meaning of making beautiful music together.

I feel fortunate to have found a form of work that satisfies much of my creative desire, but even I struggle to find the ideal balance between work and play. Unfortunately, artistic pursuits such as learning the banjo are considered unattainable by those over-stressed by full-time jobs and basic lifestyle responsibilities. The reality, however, is that people of all walks of life and the world at large can benefit from creative pursuits as simple as friendships through music.

The Banjo Revolution can remain forever a fantasy, OR it can actually happen if you decide to invest the fruits of your labors with a Revolutionary banjo. Nechville banjos are made by inspired craftsmen who truly believe in our mission to build better banjos for your musical success along your life journey.

Your friend in music,


The Changing Bluegrass Sound

I was in a conversation with Sonny Smith the other day. He said the bluegrass banjo sound is changing and that the Nechville banjo fit that change perfectly. I thought that was interesting. I don’t know if I would say it the same way however. There is a complicated web of factors that influence what sound you might consider to be best. Let me say this at the risk of raising an argument. My view is that with the development of more varied styles and genres, it benefited the music to make modifications to the traditional set up in order to smooth and refine the sound. I think people are finding that the influence of jazz and other music on the banjo has indeed resulted in the banjo becoming a little more musical. Evidence of this long term trend can be heard during any bluegrass radio show that spans the 30’s to today. Players of traditional Bluegrass today are mostly aware that the “old banjo” is not the only sound that works. In fact, our obligation to honor the essence of Bluegrass does not mean we should use 1940’s technology to produce music that will thrive into the future.

I have succeeded for 30 years as a builder only because I have found customers with discerning ears. They have taken time to figure out why helical-mounting leads to enhanced tonal purity. I didn’t invent the modern banjo sound, but I initiated several sound design enhancements when I wasn’t getting what I needed from my old Mastertone. I realized in the early 80’s that for Bluegrass and acoustic to grow as it has, the banjo needed some refinement and variety, so that is what I dedicated my life to. (I sometimes wonder about myself)

Sonny is right. Banjo makers and set up specialists have learned to improve traditionally made banjos, with better tone and balance, which indeed has helped the Bluegrass sound evolve. Lucky for me, the even, pure tone inherent to all helical mounted designs fits in all musical situations and is adaptable as musical needs change. . . I’d simply say, Bluegrass continues to get better as musicians discover banjos that enhance but don’t distract, and blend but can still stand out when you want them to. What is holding you back from learning more about Nechville?

Reflections of a Banjo Designer

There are times in my life that I need to remind myself that no matter how trivial my career seems in the grand scheme of things, banjos are my particular specialty. Building, playing, repairing, listening tweaking; an endless cycle in the continuing quest for the perfect banjo sound.Tone components placed within my Heli-Mount construction are unencumbered with hardware and neck attachments and are therefore free to produce a purity of tone that is unique to Nechville instruments.This fact is what excites and motivates me along my journey. If, for example, you wanted to test all the various types of tone rings, you would have a very big job indeed. Different weights, shapes and tone ring material compositions offer countless options. If you combine the myriad of different rim constructions, types of heads and bridges you face a limitless expanse of potential tone combinations. With a bit of knowledge and intuition, exploring the universe of banjo sounds is great fun! I love my job.
One relatively unexplored region of banjo space has recently reopened to me. The long neglected Bronze Heli-Mount, originally cast in 1987 has been dusted off and outfitted with an antique maple 3 ply rim and a Nechville made experimental tone ring. The discovery of this particular combination justifies all my exploratory work.  It speaks with a luscious voice that removes all doubt that banjos are destined to grow and thrive upon this planet.If you are interested in knowing more about the one and only Bronze Heli-Mount, or the other pieces in Nechville’s private collection, you contact me at [email protected].

I see banjos as mankind’s gift to a happier future. If you build, play, teach, perform, listen to, learn or just appreciate the banjo, you may want to join me in supporting the vision of the Banjo Revolution.

Nechville and Wintergrass


Al Price, Emory Lester and Tom Nechville

22 years ago, Tom Nechville was approached by Wintergrass promoter Earla Harding at IBMA in Kentucky. Tom accepted her invitation to participate as a vendor at a new festival called Wintergrass, and has been a part of it ever since.

Over the years, Nechville has been a part of various Wintergrass programs and workshops, teaching and providing mini-banjos to kids. This long term commitment to led to Nechville becoming one of the festival’s major sponsors. For several years, Nechville has donated a banjo worth between $3000 to $5,000 while exhibiting his unique line of banjos and doing on-site repairs for pickers. And yes, another Nechville banjo will be up for raffle again this year.

“The friendships I have made out here have made all the difference in my business,” says Tom Nechville. Nechville’s business was propelled forward when one of his Wintergrass customers and friend, Al Price from Auburn WA decided to go to work for him as Nechville’s sales and marketing manager in 2004.

Nechville Banjos from Minneapolis MN stand out as being the world’s leader in banjo design and innovation. “Being a picky musician and an inventor, I can’t stop finding new solutions to old banjo problems,” Tom says.

Nechville makes banjos for everyone, but has had particular success with traveling performers. Steve Martin likes his Orion because it keeps its consistent good tone even after rugged tour transport. Nechville is the originator of Heli-Mount acoustic banjos and pioneer of electric banjo technology and continues to innovate with new tools for string musicians.

You may see some Nechvilles in the hands of members of Elephant Revival, Dailey and Vincent, Emory Lester, Noam Pickelny, and other Wintergrass artists at the 2014 Wintergrass Festival in Bellevue. For certain, the Nechville booth will be in its customary spot, buzzing with activity. Stop by and say hello to Tom and Al.