Gift Shop Open!

Framed-Queen-Original

A number of people have been asking if they can buy stuff that was available from the Indiegogo campaign even though it is over. Of course the answer was “yes”, but now it is much easier, because you can find everything right at WeitzelBanjo.com in my new GIFT SHOP (located under the “Purchasing” tab).

It’s all there: The playing cards, hats, t-shirts, framed artwork, bumper stickers and more!

If you are looking for something like a bridge or tailpiece, they are located on the COMPONENTS page (also under the “Purchasing” tab).

Happy Shopping!

Northwest Handmade Instrument Exhibit in Review

Todays show was a successful event. I was able to turn many heads in my direction with banjos that have not been seen by many before.  It was also a great opportunity for networking between luthiers, players, suppliers and other builders and I made numerous contacts to all those ends, as well as having fun ogling at some truly incredible workmanship and trading pointers on building.  I wish I could have spent some time taking in the many performances that were done on these handmade instruments, but at least my family came along to take in that part and tell about the stellar musicians and the instruments they played. Here are a couple of shots from todays show.

NWHIE-Jeff-Hinoki

Hinoki and myself at the table

NWHIE-Eichler-Progress

The Eichler Banjo – just far enough along to get some strings on for the show!

There will be much more to say on the Eichler banjo as it gets finished up. Stay tuned for updates!

A Big Thank you to all of the Contributors!

As promised, part of everyone’s perks for contributing to Pickin’ Beyond Tradition was to receive a shout out on my Website (which will also be posted to Facebook). I find the list of names quite impressive, not just because there are 50 distinct people there (representing almost 100 separate contributions), but because I don’t know many of them – this isn’t just family and friends (although I certainly could not have done it without the family and friends!). This campaign has helped me beyond just earning funds to make more banjos, it has helped me spread the word far and wide about the next wave of innovative banjos! As a result, more doors have opened, and new friends and connections have been made. There were also another 18 contributors who wished to remain anonymous. Thank you to all!

Here is the list (in no particular order that I can figure out):

Jean E Jordan, Tyler Frank, Dorothy Brunsvold, Angie Boettner, Marcia Cottrill, LeRoy McCoy, Kate Ali, Mike Lawrence, Steven Brunsvold, Jerry Burgess, Rudy Brunsvold, Rebecca Legard, Claire Wagner, Dianne Weitzel, Sally Hines, Jane Scheidecker, Don Borchelt, Rob Legard, Paul Kosiewicz, Rich Peterson, Brian Gillogly, EllenTykeson and Ken Hiday, Jill Davidson, Ed Snyder, Buff Vaughan, Cindy Wilson, Kari Carlisle, Kim Legard, Dan O’Keefe, James Schroth, Alex Mallett, Andrea and Martin Campanella, Duncan Knarr, Gail Weller, Erik Weitzel, Joe Deetz, Cynthia Sayer, Mike Culbertson, John Halley, Lew Stern, Andrew Stevenson, Ian Smith, R. Ragan, Philip Lawson, Steve Goodale, Michael A Sanchez,  Jamie Harms, Ed Hines, Chico Schwall, Takayuki Yamada.

Weitzel Banjo, around the world!

Here are some exciting end-of-year statistics about weitzelbanjo.com.  In my first year, with very little marketing or social networking done, this site has been viewed by people in 37 countries. Many of these countries surprise me, but there you are.  I’ve had email inquiries from a number of them, too – including Chile, Australia, Denmark, and, of course, the US. Here is the complete list of site views, listed most to fewest:

UnitedStates, Canada, UnitedKingdom, Australia, France, Japan, Germany, Slovakia, Netherlands, NewZealand, Ireland, CzechRepublic, Argentina, Denmark, Spain, Croatia, Sweden, Russia, India, Austria, Switzerland, Ukraine, Portugal, HongKong, UnitedArabEmirates, Thailand, SouthAfrica, Pakistan, Italy, Tunisia, Norway, CostaRica, Belgium, Bolivia, Turkey, Greece, China.

In order to get more of these views and inquiries to turn into orders, I am soon launching a campaign which will allow me to sell my banjos less expensively. I will be raising money via Indiegogo, a crowdfunding site, for some new tooling and materials for a run of banjos, with a design based on the successes of my prototypes.  There will be an incredible selection of rewards for those who donate.  Check out my Facebook page (and like me, if you haven’t already!) to view the banjo playing card deck and updates on the campaign!

 

New Sound Files!

I’m really excited to add these new sound files. Sean Shanahan is a local musician who is as comfortable in a bluegrass setting as he is playing amped up psycho-billy rock. He has played with Vassar Clements, John McCuen, Doug Dillard, Joe Craven and many more. We took a trip to the recording studio today to record a bit of the bluegrass stuff on my banjos today. These are the tracks I’ve been waiting for to showcase the sound of these banjos. There are three tracks on each banjo, the Denuo and the Accipio. They make it easy to capture the character difference in each banjo, the Denuo’s cutting attack and the Accipio’s, round full profile. Have a listen and enjoy!

On the Denuo Banjo

Shenendoah Breakdown Blackberry BlossomWeeping Willow

On the Accipio Banjo

Shenendoah Valley Breakdown Banjo in the Hollow Home Sweet Home

Denuo Banjo is here!

Well, its finally done!  The Denuo Banjo (Denuo is Latin for “a Fresh Beginning”, or “a second time”) is Weitzel Banjo’s second attempt at creating what a modern banjo should be. I believe it has been very successful. This time, I’ve introduced an adjustable neck to rim connection and lowered the weight to an incredible 6lbs, 5oz! Any pickers with chronic back pain like myself will really be able to appreciate that weight. But it is certainly no lightweight when it comes to its sound.  It has a full, clear ring that is as loud or louder than any resonator banjo that I’ve heard. I’ll be getting some more recordings of it done in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned!

Oh, and one more thing. This banjo is for sale, so please contact me with any inquiries.  I would love to get this banjo out into the hands of a well deserving player. 

Denuo-From-Head-2

Sound tracks and a sneak peak at the new “Denuo” Model!

Yes, it is long overdue for this site, but I finally got around to getting some decent recordings to post on the site. Just head on over to the LISTEN! page. There are 7 tracks posted by the mulit-instrumentalist and songwriter Chico Schwall. As a bonus, not only can you hear tracks from the Accipio model, you also get a sneak peak at the sound of the Denuo model, which is so fresh that it was recorded before the instrument even got any finish on it. Yes, it may sound a bit different after finishing, so check back after it is completely done and photographed for the site, when I will have time to record it again (Chico has promised to come back over… He almost missed work last time because he kept wanting to play it.) Please check out Chico’s own website, too – it is well designed and entertaining. You can find him at http://www.chicoschwall.net/.

Speaking of the Denuo model, I should give you a bit of info on what to expect. This is a very light weight banjo, but only physically; its tone and volume is every bit a heavyweight. It features a Cocobolo tone ring and trim pieces (the density of that wood gives it every bit of the volume of a bronze ring, but weighing close to 3 pounds less). It has much more modern styling, with Gotoh “stealth” tuners and no-nonsense head shape. The neck and resonator back are made of Port Orford Cedar, an amazing local wood that is incredibly stiff, yet super light. The rim and resonator back are still maple, although with a block construction this time, for added rigidity, allowing me to completely eliminate the coordinator rods, again reducing unnecessary weight.  Not having those rods also allowed me to introduce my new favorite feature:  An adjustable neck-to-rim connection, that allows for super easy changing of the string action. Look for all of this and more in the upcoming weeks as this banjo readies itself for the website!

New Bridges!

Four bridgesRecently I’ve been experimenting with new bridge designs and listening to the resulting changes in the tone they made on my banjo. I made four very different designs and one standard shaped three footed bridge to compare with.  The results have been quite pleasing and a little surprising.

Bridge Design DiagramsMy point was not just to come up with something that looked interesting and see how it sounded.  I stayed with my theory of having more even string response by either not having no direct path through the wood from the string to the head or having an equal number of paths for each string. All of the above designs met those criteria differently, as did my original violin style bridge. The standard three footed design has an arch under 2 strings and feet under 3 of them, however it is interesting to note that a shorter version of this design will end up with one path for each string over a foot and no path for the strings over arches, whereas a taller bridge of this design will end up with two paths for the strings over the arches. Either way will end up with an uneven response among the strings.

 All of the bridges tested are 3/4″, as I had found that the 5/8 I had been using left me with very low action, and although there were no buzzing issues from it, the playability was noticeably better once I upped it to 3/4″.  [This was done mostly on the advice of Béla Fleck, whom I had on opportunity to meet and show my banjo to recently.  He loved what I was doing with a lot of the design improvements I had made, but also had some setup suggestions.  The bridge height was chief among them.  He uses an astounding 1″ bridge on his banjo. This is not to everyone’s tastes, of course, but I did find that going up to 3/4″ made a noticeable improvement in tone].  The weight of the bridges were all exactly 2.0 gram except for the bottom right in the photo, which weighed in at 1.7 grams. Having mostly the same weight helps by having one less variable involved in the experiment, but was completely unintentional.

Here is what I found after testing each bridge on the same banjo (the “prototype” on this site). I’ll number these according to the drawing diagram, with 1 being on top.

  1. The top left design in the photo (2.0 grams) has three feet and no direct path to the head for any string.  It had a very bright and open sound and even string response.
  2. The bottom right design (1.7 grams) has 6 feet and 2 paths to the head for each string.  It had an incredibly bright, crisp sound, even more so than number 1 and 3.  It was loud, open and even.
  3. The bottom left design (2.0 grams), which I had great fun adding a bit of chip-carving to, has seven feet and 2 paths to the head for each string.  One of the biggest surprises of this test was that this bridge and #1 sounded all but identical.  This also had very even response and a very bright, open sound.  The designs are so radically different, that I am not quite sure how that happened, but it did.  I am curious to see if that holds true on other banjos, a test that will have to be for another time.
  4. The top right design in the photo (2.0 grams) has four feet and no direct path to the head.  It had probably the most even string response of those tested.  Its brightness fell in-between that of the standard design and top left design.  
  5. The standard bridge (2.0 grams), as expected, had an uneven response. It was heavy on the bass response with a muted tone on the treble strings. 

Which was my favorite?  I am very pleased with numbers 1, 2, and 3, as they all really helped to open up the sound of the banjo.  Number 2 is quite possible the best of the bunch and I think would be great in performance as it really has a bright and piercing punch, but for playing at home it is just a bit much after a while, so I prefer numbers 1 and 3 – still very clean and open, but just not quite as piercing.  Some people prefer a darker or more bass rich sound and numbers 4 and 5 would be great for them.  Another test for another day would be just doing variations on the standard bridge to see how the sound changes as it goes from a lower to a higher bridge and to see if I can come up with one in-between, maybe slightly asymmetrical, that would allow one path for each string.  

These bridges are all available for sale if anyone is interested.  Contact me for more information!

 

How does the Capo system work?

Capo at Fifth Fret

A number of people have requested more information on how the capo system works, so let me explain a bit for those technically minded folks. Each fret (or as many as you wish) has its own integrated capo that can be either in the up or down position. The capo itself is a piece of 1/8″ steel with a very fine slot cut into it to accommodate the string. This steel is housed in a brass sheath to allow easy up and down travel without wearing the wood. Underneath the capo steel is a small neodymium (rare earth) magnet, just strong enough to hold down the capo and keep it from vibrating when not in use.  When you want to engage one capo, there is a stronger magnet that is supplied (which conveniently stores at the base of the neck via its attraction to the interior magnets). Holding that magnet on any capo will pull it up just high enough to allow insertion of the string.  The slot will always be at the right height thanks to a stop on the underside of the capo that will only allow it to go up so high, and can never fall out.

Is there ever any problem with the string coming out with heavy playing?  To avoid this happening, I suggest simply using two capos.  Generally I have the 2nd fret capo also in the up position with the string behind it, not in the slot.  This puts side pressure on the string, which makes it very difficult to come out of the functioning capo during even very heavy playing.  If you will be capoing either the first or second fret, there is no need for an additional capo as the capo is close enough to the nut that the string will not want to come out. 

Can you tune the string while it is capoed? Yes. The string still tunes quite smoothly, and without string breakage.  Furthermore, using the capo does not throw the string out of tune when changing to another capo or playing without it any more than pressure from your fingers does while playing. 

Weitzel Banjo is Up and Running

This is an exciting time for me, as I’m finally able to start introducing Weitzel Banjo to the world. As you have probably already seen, I am not about making your every day banjo.  These are not “Master-clones” or anything else.  The banjo has been re-invented from the ground up.  Every aspect of design has been analyzed as to whether there is a reason for doing it beyond tradition.  Where I have not found a suitable reason, I’ve tried to improve what is usually done, if at all possible.  The result is a very fresh instrument that has broken away from banjo tradition, while at the same time borrowing ideas from other traditions.

If you live in or will be visiting the Northwest, you will have the opportunity to try my banjo out firsthand at my debut at the NW Handmade Musical Instrument Exhibit. The exhibit is the weekend of April 27 &  28, however I will only be in attendance on Sunday April 28.  It takes place at Marylhurst  University, in Lake Oswego, Oregon (just south of Portland), and features instrument makers from all over the Northwest US. Please check out the link.

Can’t make it? Of course, you can always call me to set up an appointment to see/play my banjos, or visit my shop.