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Click to go to home page.Banjo Pickups, 2016

Written by Paul Race for Creek Don't Rise™
and School Of The Rock™

I first investigated banjo pickups in 2012. Since then I have tried several kinds, and I'm still investigating. Unfortunately, my original, chatty article - which has been read by by thousands of people and helped hundreds, has grown a little long in the tooth. This version will leave out all the autobiographical stuff and just report on what's available, and which products work the best for which application.

How Pickups Work

Looking at aftermarket pickups, I discovered that most of them use a piezoelectric element fastened to the inside of the drum head, a technology that's been around since the late sixties. Still, I checked out the other available technologies as much as I could in the time I had available. There are three basic technologies, plus some hybrids and combinations:

  • Piezoelectric Sensors that pick up vibrations directly from the banjo head,
  • Magnetic Pickups, based on the pickups used on electric guitars, and
  • Tiny Microphones that hover over the drum head like Garth Brook's microphone hovers in front of his mouth.

Microphones

I'll get this one out of the way first - microphones provide the most realistic sound, but they are also the most prone to feeback. The 'Feather' banjo pickup.  Click for a bigger photo.The AKG C411 Condensor microphone has better frequency response than magnetic pickups, but requires a preamp. The AKG version and some others require a balanced preamp input, though, which may add another piece of hardware you need to buy. Others can go right into an "acoustic amp" or mixing board as long as it has "phantom power." The "Feather" version, shown at the far right, is relatively new - I just posted it because it gives you an idea of how some of these work; however I won't recommend it until more people have experience with it. Gold Tone has their own version that's a bit harder to find.

If you're recording a concert for a live album, you might want one of those to feed into the recording system and a separate magnetic or piezoelectric pickup to go to the house PA. One company Schatten, has a dual system with a belt-mount mixer, so you can dial up the piezoelectric when feedback is a problem and dial up the microphone when it is not. More on that later.

Magnetic Pickups

Magnetic coil How a Magnetic Coil Pickup works. click for bigger diagram.pickups are used on electric guitars and on the electrified version of the Dean Backwoods 6-string. Gold-tone also makes an optional add-on system that is very similar.

These pickups have either 1, 2, or six little magnets with wires wrapped around them. They have to be fairly close to the instrument's strings, and the strings need to have an iron component. The little magnets cause a magnetic field, and when the strings vibrate, they cause electromagnetic pulses in the wires. Those pulses go to the electronics in the instrument, and from there to the guitar jack.

Advantages of magnetic pickups include reduced feedback and limited dynamics (believe it or not, having an instrument with a 60db dynamic range in performances is better than having an instrument with a 100db dynamic range). Also there are about a million guitar amps equipped to receive the signal these things give off - no preamp needed. Gold Tone's magnetic pickup system.  Click for bigger photo.

Disadvantages include reduced frequency response, which give you less of a "banjo" sound. Most magnetic pickups and most amps made to receive them go up to about 10K hz. That's great for bass and electric guitars. But some of the sounds that make a banjo sound distinct from any other plucked or strummed instrument happen in the 11K-15K frequency range. It's no wonder that many banjo players who try a mag pickup solution are pleased with the volume and displeased with the sound.

The photo to the right shows a Gold Tone magnetic pickup fastened to the coordinator rods. Several aftermarket solutions work the same way. The closer you can get the pickup to the head without dampening it the stronger the signal will be. The Dean Acoustic/Acoustic Backwoods 2 (5-string) and Backwoods 6 have nearly identical pickups built in. Kavanjo's solution for a 6-string banjo.  Click to enlarge.

Kavanjo - The highest end mag pickup for a banjo is also one of the most expensive. The Kavanjo solution uses a head that has a mag pickup attached. What is special is that these made-to-order heads actually have little holes drilled through them that allows the magnet part of the pickup to get very close to the string. This is Deering's go-to solution for their high-end banjos, and they add to the price. They're also available directly from John Kavanaugh's Kavanjo workshop. Of all the magnetic pickup solutions, this is the one that more professional pickers seems to think retains the natural sound of the banjo the most.

If you can find out from your banjo's manufacturer whether you have a high-crown or low-crown head and the head's measurements, John can make you what you need, with your choice of head type - top-coated, bottom-coated, clear, Renaissance, Fiberskyn, black, etc.

Deering-imprinted Kavanjo head with jack installed in head. Click for bigger photo.You can also order an aftermarket Kavanjo through Deering with the Deering logo. The only problem with those is that the jack for your cord is mounted directly to the head, a solution I don't care for. That's because mounting the jack on the flange rings, as Deering does on factory-installed models, requires routing out a little depression in the resonator, and Deering has had too many customers drill holes right through the thing and blame them.

If you don't want a guitar chord sticking out of the head of your banjo, you can order any Kavanjo head without the Deering logo and with the jack "loose" so you can mount it on the flange ring yourself.

Schatten's least expensive bracket-mount jack - to see the others, click the photo.Or if you don't want to take the risk of drilling through your resonator, you can order Schatten's bracket-mount jack assembly (left) and use that instead (my personal preference). That way you have more choice of where the plug comes out and you haven't done anything permanent to your banjo.

Piezoelectric Pickups

An inexpensive piezo pickup with a built-in jack that can be fastened over the end pin of many instruments for convenience. Click for bigger photo.The most common and least expensive pickup type is the piezoelectric. Piezoelectric pickups have a sort of ceramic crystal that generates a weak electrical field when it is stressed by pressure or vibration. They've been around forever (most phonographs before 1970 used piezoelectrics attached to the needle). But in spite of an early Les Paul experiment, they weren't widely used for musical instruments before Barcus Berry's experiments in the mid- to late-1960s.

Piezos pick up higher frequences better than magnetic pickups, though not as well as microphones. So you can tell the difference between a banjo and mandolin, but you can't necessarily tell the difference between a cheap banjo and a good banjo. Also, their volume is relatively low, and the frequencies they do reproduce are not there in equal amounts, so most professional applications include a preamp with a built in equalizer (tone control). Today most acoustic-electric guitars have battery-powered preamps built right into the guitar. Unfortunately, nobody makes a banjo that way, yet. The Shadow banjo bridge pickup. Click for bigger photo.

Although Shadow makes a piezo-equipped banjo bridge (shown right), most solutions for banjo are stuck on the underside of the head, so they can pickup the head vibrations, too. My first banjo pickup ever was a one-piece banjo AXL pickup that cost about $17, which I installed in a "pop-top" (aluminum-shell) 6-string that I needed amplifed in a hurry cheap.

The photos below show the inexpensive pickup installed. I ran the output to a $200 guitar amp with no problems, though if I was using it in a more demanding application, I may have used a preamp and/or an "acoustic" amp (which are designed to handle higher frequencies). I would do this to a "beach banjo" again without thinking twice. However for a more expensive banjo, I'd use the Schatten bracket-mount jack assembly shown above, instead of drilling a hole.

Inexpensive piezo pickup with end pin jack, installed in a pop-top banjo. Click for bigger photo.Inexpensive piezo pickup with end pin jack, installed in a pop-top banjo. Click for bigger photo.

Offbrand Chines Inline Preamp/Jack Assembly.  Click for bigger photo.As I write this. I have a slightly more elaborate solution on order - an "inline jack" solution. These have a cylindrical preamp that sits on the back of the endpin jack. Wires run out of it to a battery cap, and there's a little 1/8" jack that accepts input from a piezo pickup. Some have wires running out to little volume and tone control dials that you're supposed to put on the inside of your guitar so that they stick out just far enough for you to turn. But there's no good place to mount those on a banjo so I'm looking at the ones sans controls. (I expect any amplifier or mixer I use to have those, after all.)

Metal battery clamp, available in bulk for a few cents to a dollar each.  Click for bigger photo.Most of these come with a stickum-and-velcro solution for mounting the battery inside you guitar. That's one place where owning banjos is easier - so if I install something like this, I'll just screw a little metal battery clip inside the banjo shell - I don't mind two little holes where no one will ever see them.

Unfortunately, the piezo pickups that come with them are long skinny things you're supposed to stick under the "saddle" of a guitar bridge. So they don't work for banjos. Plus, the piezos that come on the cheaper ones are very uneven in quality. Barcus Berry's stickon pickup with a short cable leading to a 1/8The good news is that Barcus Berry makes a stick-on pickup that has an 1/8" plug (right), which should go nicely into the preamp.

So I'm thinking of a relatively non-invasive solution that has:

  • Barcus Berry stickon pickup, - $20 - $40 depending on where you buy them
  • Metal battery clip - $1-4 depending on where you buy them
  • Inline preamp/jack assembly - $13-$120 depending on whether you buy name-brand or cheapy
  • Shatten PBJA bracket-mount jack - $40 - 70 depending on model and source.

Now there is no compelling reason that Schatten or someone couldn't put the whole thing together in a single, reasonably-priced package. But even at that, I'll have a solution that cost me under $80 and will meet most of my needs.

Rare-Earth Pickups

Fishman Rare Earth Banjo Pickup. Click for bigger photo.Technically in between the mag coil and the piezo pickup family are the Fishman Rare Earth Banjo Pickup that have their own technology. They have preamps that help provide a balanced sound high enough to feed guitar amplifiers, and non-invasive installation. You stick a little metal "shim" onto the underside of the banjo head just "north" of the center foot of the bridge. Then you fasten the pickup itself to the coordinator rods just under the shim. The pickup picks up vibrations from the shim as the banjo's head vibrates and translates them into electrical signals (similar to the magnetic coil pickups I described above). A preamp powered by a 9-volt battery balances out the sound and provides a signal high enough to drive guitar amps, PA inputs, or about anything else you can plug it into. This is probably the most elegant solution, and one of the most expensive, this side of the Kavanjo.

One clear advantage over a standard magnetic pickup is that guitar-style pickups capture only the vibrations of the strings, while the Fishman Rare Earth Banjo pickup actually captures the vibrations of the banjo head, which carry more of the distinctive banjo sound. For many years, this was considered the best-sounding pickup you could put on a banjo. If I ever need to amplify a banjo for a setting that is more demanding than the places I usually play, I would certainly consider one of these.

Incidentally Barcus Berry used to make a very similar pickup, which came with an older Deering banjo I bought on eBay last year. I haven't used it in any really demanding situations yet, so I can't really say how it compares. Except to say that Barcus Berry hasn't supported it for about ten years, so don't go searching for one of these on my account.

Belt-And-Suspenders Solutions

The Schatten mic-and-piezo solution. Click for bigger photo.Since my original investigation, a few companies have begun stressing solutions that use both condensor mics and piezos. They have a little mixer that should allow you to rely on the microphone if there's no feedback problem, on the piezo if you're in a feedback prone setting, or somewhere in between if that's what you need. At the time of my original search, these were not available from any reputable company, and they're still the most expensive solution if you buy one from someone who has a track record, like the Schatten solution shown at the right. I don't know enough people who have used them in enough different situations to recommend them without qualification, but Ovation pioneered a similar solution on a guitar about twenty years ago and it was very effective and realistic-sounding. In theory this should be the best, most effective solution. That said, a number of companies that have no reputation at all have not started making these, so I would recommend going with a provider with a good reputation.

Time to make a Decision

Now if you play "out" often, you're probably running into a lot more folks than I am, and you may run into a lot more brands. Sadly, most music stores in my area don't cater much to banjo players, and most banjo pickups are available only by special order (often with a restocking fee if it comes in and you decide you don't like it). So I spent a lot of time on the internet trying to find manufacturer's specs, etc. At the high end, the Fishman products looked good, but I didn't want to pay more for the pickup than I did for my banjo - especially when the photos were fuzzy and the specs were nonexistent, even on the Fishman web pages. I did track down a copy of the instructions for Fishman's "rare earth" pickup, which has very good reviews and should attach without causing permanent changes to the banjo. But by then, I had already decided to go with a piezo.

Once you get under, say $80, the products are all pretty much identical, including the $15 ones. Generally, there's a round pickup about the size of a nickel that sticks on the inside of the banjo head with a goey adhesive or the equivalent of double-faced tape. Shielded but tiny wires attach the pickup to a jack that attaches somewhere on the banjo. One version has a little volume control built into it, but piezos are intrinsically quieter than most other technologies, so the volume control without a preamp doesn't give you as much control as you might think.

You can get to the inside of most banjos very easily by taking off the resonator (if there is one), which makes these things much easier to attach to a banjo, say, than an F-hole mandolin.

  • The Schatten BJ-02, a popular solution. Click for a bigger photo.On some versions (including the one with the volume control ), the jack is attached to a clamp that clamps onto two of the head-tightening brackets. This should be pretty reliable and it shouldn't cause much permanent damage to the body of banjo in case you want to restore it to its original condition. In fact I looked for a pickup like this that had a preamp as well as a volume control, that would clamp to the brackets on my banjo. Several off-brand manufacturers advertised products along those lines, but most of them required you to buy two or three separate items and glom them together somehow. They also had no documentation or specs to speak of, and you couldn't even tell for sure which preamp went with which pickup, etc.

    I chose to pass, rather than buy some combination of things that would definitely Click for bigger photo.look weird on my banjo and might not work at all.

    On some versions, the jack is attached to a velcro strip that's supposed to wrap around one of the brackets. Like the version above, it keeps you from making permanent changes to the body of your banjo, but folks have complained that it's not all that solid. If someone, say, steps on the cord, the resulting tug could pull the jack off your banjo and break the little wires connecting the jack to your pickup.

    If I was using one of these, I might be tempted to have the guitar cord wrap around a bracket once before going into Click for bigger photo.the jack, as a sort of stress relief.

  • On some versions, the pickup is attached directly to a long cord with a guitar plug at the other end. You would definitely want to wrap the wire going to the plug around something as stress relief. But I can't imagine the hassle of having a long wire running out of my instrument all of the time.

    On the other hand, this would be a great solution for drummers wishing to attach sensors to drum pads or the like.

  • On some versions the jack is Click for bigger photo.supposed to clamp onto the strap or onto the end-pin connector.

    I don't see anything intrinsically wrong with this except that it seems somehow "sloppy" to me to have wires running out of the banjo to a whodinky on the strap.

  • On some versions, the jack is meant to replace the end-pin on a guitar, mandolin, or other wooden instrument where the strap attaches to the pin. This is the one I wound up deciding on, because I wanted something that was basically bullet-proof once I installed it, and I didn't really mind drilling a hole. The AXL solution I wound up using. Click for bigger photo.I've put similar Barcus Berry products in acoustic guitars before, so I wasn't afraid of it, but the banjo doesn't actually need an end pin. When I pulled the thing out of the packaging, I realized that if you leave the end pin screw-on adapter off, the jack looks just like any other guitar jack. For a while I toyed with the idea of dummying up some way to fasten the jack on the flanges or to the brackets, so I wouldn't have to drill a hole in the banjo. Then at the last minute I decided to go ahead with the drilling (not recommended if you're bad with power tools or this is someone else's banjo). In the long run it would actually affect the banjo's appearance less than some sort of bracket hoodinky, and, based on my research, I could probably use the end pin jack even if I later upgraded to a better pickup.

Your mileage will vary. By the time you see this, a dozen companies will have come and gone, and a dozen more will be here. But the principle of almost all piezoelectric banjo pickups is the same, so I figure that - with the exception of drilling a hole - you'll find the rest of what I have to say useful.

Now if there was only some way to establish that the $90 versions were really that much better than the $15 dollar versions. I like the Amazon reviews for these products, but they all read about the same. People who know something about acoustics and musical instruments generally like them. Newbies who lucked out and got a good installation on the first try generally love them. People who thought that the things were idiot proof and were going to solve world hunger generally hate them. And there's not a significant difference between the reviews for the $90 versions and the $15 versions. Well, I wasn't going to be playing Carnegie Hall - only a high school auditorium. The $15 version it is.

Actual Installation

The instructions on the pickup were written for guitar, listing two possible "sweet spots" for the pickup location inside an acoustic guitar. Neither of which applied to banjos of any kind. They had few hints about drilling out the end pin of the guitar except to use a 15/32" or 12mm drill bit. Well 15/32" is just over 7/16", and I had a couple 7/16" bits left over from my old days of installing Hot Spots in acoustic guitars. I also brought out my rat-tail file in case I needed to enlarge the hole a bit.

In case you were wondering why I just didn't drill through the resonator, there are a couple reasons. One is that some banjo players take the resonator off for certain kinds of music (I don't usually, but I wanted to keep that option open). Another is that you will have to take the resonator off if you ever need to tighten or replace the drum head, and when you're working on the banjo, you don't want the hassle of a big wooden dish attached by two flimsy wires.

Where to drill? I usually play guitar, banjo, or bass standing up, but for the orchestra I have to sit. So to figure out the best place for the hole, I moved the cord around the banjo to see where it would be least likely to be in my way sitting or standing. I finally decided that the hole should go just over one of the thumbscrews that holds the resonator on. I measured the height of the screw and it seemed like there would be enough room to clear the plug, so that's where it went.

If you have a series of drill bits that go up to 7/16" or 12mm, I would recommend drilling a starter hole, and maybe a series of holes of larger sizes. In my case, I didn't have anything that would cut aluminum between 1/4" and 7/16", and when I put the 7/16" bit up to the 1/4" hole, it wanted to wander a bit. Of course if you have a really good drill press and a way to wedge the banjo in solidly, this won't be an issue, but I'm just pointing it out.

Since I was going to drill the hole regardless of where the piezoelectric sensor went, I did that first. The jack on my pickup had two diameters. The diameter on the outside edge is the same as the diameter for all 1/4" jacks in every electric guitar and guitar amp ever made (about 15/32"). Further in, the diameter increases a bit. I'm not entirely sure why. When the product is installed in a wooden instrument, you drill the 15/32" hole all the way through the end block of the guitar, but then you have to use a rat-tail file or something to wangle the inside part of the hole until it's wide enough to take the fatter part of the jack. Since my banjo didn't have an end block to worry about, I mostly just hoped that the fat part would "snug up" against the inside wall of the aluminum body without the smaller part sticking out too much. Actually that part worked out.

Whether the jack would really fit into a 7/16" hole, or whether my 7/16" bit "wandered" just enough to drill a 15/32" hole, the jack went right in without any further adjustment.

Once the hole was drilled, I put the jack in place and hand-tightened it. Then, with the resonator still off and the sensor dangling, I plugged a cord between the jack and the Crate XT65R combo amp that I planned to use for the orchestra (rather than dragging my bigger, more expensive stuff around needlessly. I "tested" the sensor in various positions by holding it in place (with the tape still covering the sticky part). Click for bigger photo. I know that wasn't ideal, and the instructions for most of these call for sticking and unsticking the thing several times until you're sure you have the right location, but time was running out and I didn't have a backup if the "sticky" failed. I suspected I'd wind up putting it where everybody said to, anyway. Under the middle foot of the bridge was the loudest. Halfway between the bridge and the neck was too quiet. Most reviews for this class of pickup said to put the sensor an inch "south" of the bridge, and that sounded pretty good, so that's where it wound up.

I wrapped the excess part of the cord loosely around the support bar to keep it from banging around inside the banjo, uncovered the "sticky," and put it in place.

Then I tried the thing out without the resonator on. Okay, but not a great banjo sound. Probably if I had a true "acoustic amplifier" it would sound better, but I don't have one - I usually DI my guitars right into the PA.

I put the resonator on. Same difference, more or less. I used the cleanest possible sound on the combo amp, kicked the bass down and the treble up, and got a sound that would pass for banjo in a noisy setting. I was good to go.

Click for bigger photo.Well, almost. As it turned out, the thumbscrew that was supposed to go next to the plug did NOT clear the plug after all. So my resonator will be held on by three thumbscrews instead of four until I can get to the hardware store and get a lower-profile screw.

Also, there was a rattling sound whenever I played the G string, not unlike the sound I've heard on many cheap guitars. But I figured out that the little thumb screw that holds the tailpiece had worked its way loose with all of the other things shifting around. Problem solved.

In Performance

The next evening, I took my banjo, cord, and combo amp to the dress rehearsal. After arguing with one of the high-school sound guys about why I needed to plug the amp in for it to work, I tested the combination out. No sound. Turns out that the jack on the thing is a little touchy. So I needed to push it in really hard; then it was fine. That's doable when you're sitting down in the same position for two hours (it's a short musical) but it could cause problems during a typical concert performance, when you're standing and moving around. Well if I have to replace it, I've already done the hard part.

The director kept telling me to turn the banjo up, and even without a preamp, the little Crate XT65R provided volumes that were plenty loud for the nearly-empty auditorium. Keep in mind that everybody else was unamplified and the drummer was holding back for the most part, so your mileage will vary if you're in a country band in a packed bar or some such. For such a situation I would still consider either an outboard preamp, or an amplifier with input AND output volume controls.

After the rehearsal, I asked the sound guy whose musical judgment I trust if my volume was right. He said it was too loud, even though he knew that it was where the director wanted it to be. (Actually he used the phrase "an assault on the senses.") So I figured I'd back it down for the actual performances. Plus a house full of people absorbs a lot of sound, so maybe all I really need to do is not turn up any louder during the actual show.

Update for 2016 - I still don't mind these pickups, though I'm not crazy about drilling holes in my better banjos. So I was recently glad to find the Schatten PBJA bracket-mount jack assemblies. that way, I can install jacks on any of my banjos without risking any damage. Of course, if you're considering spending money on a cheap piezo and a separate bracket-mount jack, you may decide to go all the way and get a Schatten banjo pickup, most of which come with the bracked-mounted jack. That still begs the "preamp" question, though. I'm now taking at least two banjos to most gigs, and having to fiddle with external preamps is a bit of a pain. One partial solution that has presented itself recently is the "endpin preamp," a version in which a cylinder-shaped preamp is attached to the back of the jack. Wires run out of it to a battery cap, and there's a little 1/8" jack that accepts input from a piezo pickup. Some have wires running out to little volume and tone control dials that you're supposed to put on the inside of your guitar so that they stick out just far enough for you to turn. But there's no good place to mount those on a banjo so I'm looking at the ones sans controls.

Most of these come with a stickum-and-velcro solution for mounting the battery inside you guitar. That's one place where owning banjos is easier - so if I install something like this, I'll just screw a little metal battery clip inside the banjo shell - I don't mind two little holes where no one will ever see them.

The reason I call this a partial solution is that the piezo pickups that come with them are long skinny things you're supposed to stick under the "saddle" of a guitar bridge. So they don't work for banjos. Plus, the piezos that come on the cheaper ones are very uneven in quality.

So to make the solution complete, I needed to find piezo pickups that would work on the underside of the banjo head and have 1/8" plugs to plug into the pin-mount preamp. I did find some Barcus Berry pickups in that configuration, so that's one option.

Conclusion

Since I wrote this article, I've had a few chances to play my first "electric" banjo "out." It always did what I expected. In fact the one "fail" was a time when I wanted to use a real house mic because we were going to be on and off the stage quickly. It was great in practice. But when it came time to play in front of six hundred or so people, the sound guy forgot to turn the banjo's mic on. You can complain as much as you want about the piezo's sound being "inauthentic," but at least there is sound.

After a couple of years, the stickum on the pickup failed, so I used some Fix-All glue (available at Big Lots) to fasten it back where it was before. So far it's holding.

Once I was done with the faux-Dixieland music, though, I wanted a 6-string with slightly less sustain, because all of those ringing notes turned my normal fingerpicking picking patterns into mush. So I've "upgraded" to the electric version of the Backwoods Six, electric meaning that it has a magnetic pickup under the strings. The description of that experience is here. The built-in mag pickup is convenient, I'll grant you, but, plugged in, the piezo sounds better. So I considered adding a piezo to the "acoustic-electric" version eventually. Then I came across an even better banjo that also had its own pickup, so the black Deering may find another home.

It may seem anticlimatic that after examining several different technologies and a wide range of prices, I settled on a $15 solution. But during my "quest," I realized that there aren't many good resources for this information on the web. So I figured, this was as good a place to start as any. If I find myself playing $2000 banjos and using $300 solutions a year from now, I'll be sure to report on that, too.

The Barcus Berry Banjo pickup installed.  What you can't see is the little ferrous sliver glued to the banjo head which transmits the banjo head's vibration to the mag pickup.  Click on the picture to read the whole article.Update for 2016

I've just installed a decades-old Barcus Berry banjo pickup into one of my 6-strings. It's no longer made, but the technology is somewhere between the Fishmann Rare Earth pickup and the Gold Tone pickup. Which gives me some ideas for maybe using the mag pickups I have to get a more authentic banjo sound. The experiments have just begun. The article about the pickup itself is here

In addition, I have acquired a used and somewhat-abused Deering Sierra 5-string that came with a seriously damaged head. So I did something I wouldn't ordinarily do - I ordered a Kavanjo head to replace it. the banjo needs a lot of other work, though, so I can't give you a report on my success or lack thereof yet. Stay tuned. :-)


In the meantime, please contact us with any additions, corrections, suggestions, or other feedback, and if it's printable, we'll add it here and give you credit.

Best of luck, all, enjoy your music, and carry the flame!

    - Paul Race Click to see Paul's music home page Click to contact Paul through this page. Click to see Paul's music blog page Click to visit the Creek Don't Rise discussion forum. Click to learn about our Momma Don't Low Newsletter. Click to see Paul's music page on Facebook Click to see Paul's YouTube Channel.


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Heartland-inspired music, history, and acoustic instrument tips.
Best-loved railroad songs and the stories behind them.
Visit musings about music on our sister site, School of the Rock With a few tools and an hour or two of work, you can make your guitar, banjo, or mandolin much more responsive.  Instruments with movable bridges can have better-than-new intonation as well. Acoustic-based, traditional, singer-songwriter, and folk music with a Western focus. Check out our article on finding good used guitars.
Carols of many countries, including music, lyrics, and the story behind the songs. X and Y-generation Christians take Contemporary Christian music, including worship, for granted, but the first generation of Contemporary Christian musicians faced strong, and often bitter resistance. Different kinds of music call for different kinds of banjos.  Just trying to steer you in the right direction. New, used, or vintage - tips for whatever your needs and preferences. Wax recordings from the early 1900s, mostly collected by George Nelson.  Download them all for a 'period' album. Explains the various kinds of acoustic guitar and what to look for in each.
Look to Riverboat Music buyers' guide for descriptions of musical instruments by people who play musical instruments. Learn 5-string banjo at your own speed, with many examples and user-friendly explanations. Explains the various kinds of banjos and what each is good for. Learn more about our newsletter for roots-based and acoustic music. Folks with Bb or Eb instruments can contribute to worship services, but the WAY they do depends on the way the worship leader approaches the music. A page devoted to some of Paul's own music endeavors.
- Trains and Hobbies -
Free building projects for your vintage railroad or Christmas village.
Visit Lionel Trains. Click to see Thomas Kinkaded-inspired Holiday Trains and Villages. Big Christmas Train Primer: Choosing and using model trains with holiday themes Building temporary and permanent railroads with big model trains Click to see HO scale trains with your favorite team's colors.
- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -
Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site. Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions. Click to return to the Old Christmas Tree Lights Table of Contents Page Click to sign up for Maria Cudequest's craft and collectibles blog.
Click to visit Fred's Noel-Kat store.
Visit the largest and most complete cardboard Christmas 'Putz' house resource on the Internet.
- Family Activities and Crafts -
Click to see reviews of our favorite family-friendly Christmas movies. Free, Family-Friendly Christmas Stories Decorate your tree the old-fashioned way with these kid-friendly projects. Free plans and instructions for starting a hobby building vintage-style cardboard Christmas houses. Click to find free, family-friendly Christmas poems and - in some cases - their stories. Traditional Home-Made Ornaments