Banjo in the Dance Hall Pimps

Banjo was not originally a part of the band. We were doing an early gig at an underground cabaret Halloween theme party. So I wrote “Beast For Love” in the New Orleans style for that show. I knew the song needed a touch of ‘Nawlins. So having played 5-string banjo when I was kid (I never got very good) I went out in search of a jazz banjo. I found a sweet 1939 Ludwig Kingston plectrum…. a gorgeous sweet sounding classic that I amplified by fitting it with a Shadow 930T transducer.

And I played the Ludwig on our demo. But the vintage Ludwig proved too delicate and subtle to play with the raucous DHPs. It was like Mel Torme singing with Aerosmith. So now I play a Deering Goodtime Classic Plectrum Two acoustic/electric with built-in electronics (but no pre-amp).

The steel tone ring delivers a powerful sound, strong and clear enough cut through our full-volume swampy rock and brass section. I sometimes fingerpick mine in a bluegrass style, but mostly I strum the bejeebers out of it with a light gauge pick.

My stage amp is a relatively inexpensive Acoustic AG60 60W 2X8 Acoustic Combo Amp. This amp has multiple channels so I can have one channel for banjo and others for guitar in one amp while on stage, and it delivers a wallop of sound when turned up.

Still, feedback at loud volume was a huge problem. I struggled all last year searching for the right amp and pre-amp combo that delivered power, volume, some FX and no feedback during live shows on stages like the Roxy and Viper Room on the Sunset Strip–where they don’t see or amp a lot of banjos.

The solution was the LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI. This device is about $170 but I could tune out the offending frequencies, invert the phasing, and lay some additional presence and gain on the banjo to play and ear popping volume without losing tone. I can also run it to a board and experiment with banjo FX that range from clever to F-in’ crazy. Best part, it’s easy to set so our Roadies Alex and Andrew can do it for me. Yay, roadies! Giving me more time to spend with fans before getting on stage.

Read a version of this article and other useful banjo articles and tips at: http://www.banjohangout.org/

Links in this article:

http://www2.shadow-electronics.com

http://www.deeringbanjos.com/

http://www.lrbaggs.com/

http://www.banjohangout.org/

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