July 11, 2004

#82: Hearing your banjo in a crowd

John writes on Banjo-L:

I am playing with a local 'megaband' group this year that includes 75 instruments. In a group that big, it is sometimes difficult to hear your own instrument. Has anyone rigged up (or do you know of) a device with small earphones that magnifies the sound of the instrument you are playing so that you can hear what you are playing?

Dear John,

In banjo camps, when people tune, I always have people rotate the banjo so the head is facing up (dobro-like). People are amazed how loud the banjo "becomes". I point out that it REALLY IS that loud, and that we banjo players tend to be oblivious of that. To hear a banjo well after, say, a luthier has done setup work, I always point the banjo at a wall a few feet away, and judge the sound by what I hear "bouncing" back at me.

Perhaps the answer to your dilemma is to have a flat, reflective surface angling the bounce of the banjo sound toward your face (ears). Maybe something as small as a clipboard or an empty music stand, positioned correctly, would make a significant difference. That might be all you need. Let me know if it works.