Category Archives: News

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!

 

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!

 

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.