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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.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript. 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript. 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 🙂

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