Hi Ross, Would you please send me photos of the new banjos when they arrive? The EK76 and RK-85?
I have a couple questions,
What is the Snuffy Smith bridge?
How do you set them up for the best sound?
I read somewhere that replacing the head will greatly improve the sound. Any comments?
Ross Nickerson Answer:
Thats no problem, we'll take some when they are done getting set up, You're talking about the RK R76 Elite and RK R85 limited edition correct? the 76 is either here or will be Monday, the new Recording King Flamed Maple RK85 i'm guessing 10 or 12 days,
In my experience, unless the head on the banjo is unusual and not a standard frosted remo banjo head, like a fiberskyn which purposely muffles tone on old time banjos, or the head is old and been on there a long time, .. A banjo head that is "broken in" sounds much better than a new one. They take about 3 months to break in with pretty steady playing. I really dont think pros change their heads that often. I know I dont't. Once the head and the banjo start to vibrate together I don't want to mess with it unless it's at least 5 plus years old.
The bridge however has a tremendous effect on the tone, and often it cam be one of the last places people look to improve tone or change the tone. In a perfect world someone would hand each of us a box of 50 bridges and we could pick the best one for our banjo, even a choice between 10 would be great, but in the real world if you choose a higher quality maple bridge it will likely for sure improve the tone dramatically, How much is depending on the quality of the bridge that's on your banjo to begin with.
For Banjo Set Up, first we inspect them and see if anything cosmetically or structurally slipped through Recording King quality control which can happen but doesn't very often. For set up, we set them all banjos up with low action, file the nut if necessary for better contact and to eliminate any buzzing, the 5th string nut usyally needs to be filed for better contact and to eliminate buzzing. The head is tuned to G# or (91 on the analog drum dial). We also offer 5th string capo spikes which is sensible and most people get, and zero glide nut installation too. If you buy a recording King Banjo from a big box store like amazon, musicians friend, a website like ebay or reverb, or a guitar store that sells 95% guitars, It's it's sent to you the way Recording King sends them to us, which is, they need to be set up. So buying a Recording King banjo from anyone that ships it to you with the factory set up only is not advised. They check them for defects and cosmetic flaws before shipping but they don't come in ready to play, you will end up looking for someone to at minimum tweak it after you get it.
That's how I began doing set ups on these. I love these banjos and wanted to carry thembut the factory set up was causing me a lot of headaches with customers, All it takes is a couple of those and I'd rather go to the trouble of getting them right before shipping and have happy customers than have to field complaints, or banjos being shipping back for minor repair. I don't have a ton of employees to take customer service complaints and pretend they care, nor do I need to make Fed Ex and UPS any richer shipping banjos back and forth at my expense. Id rather get it right the first time and utilize employees doing that.
I recommend the Snuffy Smith bridges, the RK 76 and 85 sound good with the standard bridge but what I hear is better bass, response and tone balance with the snuffy smith bridge. If you were sitting there watching, its really obvious when you swap them out. Again, this is an improvement, a slight upgrade. These Recording Kings kick butt with the standard bridge to begin with so this is a bump you can give it for a bit more bass and better volume response or sustain.
Here is a link to check out the snuffy smith banjo bridges more if you are thinking about getting one. We include the standard bridge when we send the banjo so its easy to hear the difference after if you want to experiment.
Snuffy Smith Bridges
Thanks, Ross Nickerson