Show and Tell: Springs and Hollow Necks in Banjos

I though this might interest some people here. It’s an old Windsor “zither” banjo , with a few unusual features.

August 2013 Banjo pics 190
I was asked to fit a new vellum and to see if I could source/ make some replacement tension screws as sadly seven of them had been sheared off inside. The screws are nickel plated brass and won’t stand excessive tightening.
Anyway, the neck is hollow and was designed to act as a sort of ‘tone chamber’ . The mother of pearl inlays are slotted in places to allow the sound to resonate out. This hollow neck joins the body in a sort of bell mouth, trumpet shape …..( still with me ? 🙂 .So, the neck and the pot of the banjo, make up one big resonant cavity. At least , that’s the plan.

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But, that’s not the end of it….oh no! Inside the pot there is a pretty impressive collection of springs . These are of various shapes and tensions and are soldered at strategic points , presumably to resonate at different frequencies.

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Another interesting feature is the split , or compensated second fret. There are some very involved explanations for this but as far as I can gather, from reading and asking around, the simple answer was to enable an accurate and pleasant sounding C major seventh chord to be played.
Oh, one last thing, sometimes people wonder why these banjos are referred to as “zither” banjos. The truth is, they bear no relation to a zither but the term came into use when certain manufacturers began describing the sound of their instruments as “zither like ” . A hundred and twenty odd years later , the term is still being used. Those cats knew how to market ! …fast as lightning , .. I believe 🙂

Comments

  1. Hi John, hi Will, .thanks for getting in touch…sorry I’ve been a bit slow getting back.
    The banjo is back with it’s owner now, so I’m afraid I can’t do a talk banjo comparison. It was just in for a new vellum and setting up. I was really intrigued by all the springs and the hollow neck. I knew these banjos existed but I hadn’t come across one before. I asked Ben, the owner if he wouldn’t mind me showing the pics on the site and he very kindly agreed.
    I’d have to say, I couldn’t really tell if the springs added anything but the banjo did sound very full. It had a very’ ‘big’ round tone, which surprised me, maybe down to the hollow neck? But anyone expecting Hank Marvin style reverberation from the springs might be disappointed 🙂 . I strung it up with nylgut strings and as you know they give a very different tone from steel. I think that would probably confuse a comparison too. All the same , I’m , sorry I didn’t do a sound file of it now. Next time I get something like that, I’ll be more prepared ! Thank you both so much for the comments 🙂

  2. John Hornig says:

    So what’s it sound like? More sustain and volume I guess?

    • Please compare and describe the sound with a non-sprung version when its back together – in an audio file vis TalkBanjo would be excellent. Thanks

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