Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I'm a banjo picker, and I've heard so many different banjo breaks on so many different instruments, but yours has a sound all its own that I really have loved for the past 25 some odd years. I was wondering in particular about how you achieved your sound on the Dwight Yoakam track 'Since I Started Drinkin' Again'. Does the banjo actually sound that 'twangy', or was it enhanced in the studio? ~ Posted by Doug Richardson
A: A couple other banjoists have asked about that track also so I just went back and listened to it again. I still have the Deering Deluxe, plus a wooden Samick 5 String that sounds a bit warmer. I can't be absolutely sure, but it's possible it could've been the latter.
To my ear, the recording of the banjo sounds warm. Of course, the engineer may well have selected an EQ and/or Compression that created the sound you're hearing. The tuning was standard 5 String D-B-G-D-G
Q: I was hoping you could tell me what you used equipment wise on the Patty Loveless Sleepless Nights album. ~ Posted by Brandon Bankes
A: I use a Risson STA tube amp made by Bob Rissi in CA. It has an old Alnico magnet 12" JB Lansing D120 that has a paper voice coil cover replacing the original metallic one. The amp is small but being all in one cabinet it still gets a little heavy. A two piece 'piggy back' version is now being made. Also, the Neodymium magnets sound very good and reduce the speaker weight considerably.
When I record, I use a little Boss delay stomp box, but I also use the amazing Asterope guitar cables.
My foot volume pedal and pedal steels these days are made by Noel Anstead in Brisbane, Australia. They are called Anapeg. The foot volume pedal uses no potentiometer, instead, he uses a dual photo cell light pedal that is impervious to stage lights and has a smooth taper from full on to nil.
I play a single neck E9th 11 stg with a rest pad. The 11th is a low E and may dropped to D. The guitars are made with rare woods harvested in the great Outback and cured for 1 yr. The carriage drop in is nil, as is the return problems. It's also his own key-less and undercarriage design and his pickups sound similar to my old ZB Custom guitars but are constructed a bit differently. They are dynamic yet quiet and resistant to polarity issues.
Q: Which 'souvenir' do you keep from the Manassas days, and what is your opinion about this period compared to the other experiences you had? ~ Posted by Philippe Lemmer (France)
A: I have, on my desk a beautiful Pearl, from the ocean, in an open shell, encased in a clear acrylic cube. It was presented to us by Japanese fans for their appreciation of Manassas.
One of the first world concerts we played with Manassas was in an old very long train station that was used for concerts in the late winter or early spring 1972. It is very special right along with our Gold record, but we were given many little things pertinent to our membership in the band. Things like T shirts, football jerseys, luggage, Buck knives, cards, etc.
My relationship with Stephen Stills was always very good. He was very nice and considerate to me, and I to him. I learned a lot being in the group. My time in Manassas was very special. The group rose to great recognition quickly and has remained in the annals of music with great respect ... It was truly one of the highlights in my career.
Q: What's your tuning method for E9? As you know everyone as a different method so I'm curious what your technique is. ~ Posted by Brandon Bankes
A: Std E9th, top to bottom: F#, Eb, G#, E, B, G#, F#, E, D, B, E L-R,1st Pedal, low F# to G# & low B to C#, 2nd pedal B's to C#, 3rd pedal G#'s to A, 4th pedal, mid E & B to F# & C#, Knee Levers: LKL E's to Eb, LKR E's to F, LKV G#'s to G, RKL B's to Bb, RKR (inside) Eb to D & lo E to D, RKR (outside) F#'s to G#
Easy as pie!
Q: I'm going to have a pickup installed in my Dobro and I would like to know which one you think would be the best pickup, the Fishman or the McIntyre Feather? ~ Posted by Myron (USA)
A: Dobro pickups have long been a quandary. While the latest transducers, i.e. McIntyre/Fishman, seem to give the best results overall, Feedback has always been the enemy of the Resophonic Guitar by nature.
With EmmyLou's Nash Ramblers, I used a one piece Baggs guitar pickup mounted in the Spider, in place of the normal bridge pieces. Along with it, I placed a Countryman Isomax 2 microhone on the underneath side of the Cover Plate, pointed to the center of the Cone. The only problem was that the pickup sounded too electric and the sound man, too afraid of Feedback, would always use more of the Baggs in concert, since our stage volume with drums was pretty high.
I thought the older McIntyre, which stuck onto the Spider like the old Buffalo Nickel mandolin pickup, was a little better than the new Feather. I prefer nothing touching the active area of the Cone itself.
I'm using the Fishman currently, and I like it pretty well. I always adjust my Tension Screw on the loose side, or just snug, so as to generate as much Low Frequencies as possible. The Nut uses a friction washer type surface that should keep it in place, so it shouldn't be necessary to overtighten. It's never worked loose on mine.
As with all Transducers, you'll find they are low output and very thin sounding. You can eliminate this by using a Fishman or Baggs Preamp to fatten and boost the signal. There are several other good preamps available also.
Q: I know you played on the live Burritos album 'Last Of The Red Hot Burritos' but did you ever make any studio recordings? ~ Posted by Mike (UK)
A: No, we only did the live recording. However, there have been other Gram Parsons / FBB releases and compilations which have featured 'out-takes' ie other songs not on 'The Last of ...' album.
Q: Who is your favorite guitarist?
A: Steel - Jerry Byrd, Pedal Steel - Tom Brumley, Rock/Blues Guitar - James Burton, then Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton.
Q: On which track did you play on Exile on Main St.?
A: 'Torn & Frayed' on a newly acquired 11 stg ZB Custom
Q: Would you recommend any playing principles to beginners?
A: I would always recommend anyone starting out to follow the '4 Ts' of Tone, Touch, Timing and Taste.
However, having heard some playing examples recently, a fifth 'T' is a must - 'Tuning' !!
Q: Different guitars are referred to as 'steels', and this can be confusing - what are the differences?
A: The first steel guitars came electric with or without legs. Later, the one placed in the lap was then called a 'lap steel'
Q: And which instrument do you prefer playing?
A: I'm equally happy on each, but so long as it is appropriate for the song and artist.
Q: What gauge of strings to you favor?
A: Monel (Nickel) Lights on Guitar, Std Monel Sets on Pedal Steel, Dobro (and Lap steel).
Q: What albums were most influential for you?
A: The Ventures' 'Colorful Ventures', Rick Nelson's 'Live at The Troubador', Byrds' 'Sweetheart of the Rodeo' Jimi's 'Are You Experienced?' Buddy Holly and Early Beatles also.