Tone Rings

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

As I sit here staring at my blank computer screen trying to figure out what to blog about, something of necessity banjo related, something that will be interesting to you, as opposed to blogging about the amazing roasted cauliflower I made last night for supper, I hit upon the subject of tone rings. Now, tone rings are not very interesting to me. I don’t really care about banjos in a technical way – when peopple start talking about switching parts and trying to get that pre-war sound my eyes immediately glaze over. But people don’t believe me even when I tell them this in so many words. I don’t care what a banjo IS – the wood, the metal, the strings, the picks – I only care if I like the way it sounds or not. And I’m not interested in trying to improve the sound. Once I have a sound that is satisfactory to me, I’m done. I’ll play it for the rest of my life.

I tell you all this so that when I tell you that yesterday I played a banjo that had a tone ring that I a.) noticed and b.) fell in love with, you’ll realize how amazing the experience has to be to get past my very high level of not caring about banjo parts.

Steve Huber has been working on a new tone ring. He said his original ring was “the” ring, but apparently it wasn’t. This new ring is “the” ring. And I had absoultely no interest in trying it out, because I don’t care. But yesterday a friend of mine put his banjo in my hands and said “pick something on it,” and I did, because it would have been rude not to. And holy. Crap. It was freakin awesome. I don’t think I’d ever played that banjo before, so I have no basis for comparison, but I could have played it for a long time. (Actually, I couldn’t have because my next student was standing there, waiting for me to be done.) It had one of Steve’s prototype rings in it and those thirty seconds that I played it were enough to have me considering which banjo of mine I might be able to put one of those rings in. And that hasn’t happened in the eleven years since I got a Huber ring put in my style 11.

So I just wanted to share. I don’t think the rings are on the market yet, and I’m sure they will be expensive, but they may quite possibly be worth it.

7 thoughts on “Tone Rings

  1. Casey

    Post author

    Good thought! I’ve never won anything there before, but maybe if I remember to enter once every day I might have a fighting chance.

  2. Susan

    Casey, is there a button somewhere on the MM website that I can click to find out what custom lessons you have made thus far? I know that you posted it several times, but I’d like to access it quickly. I typed “custom lesson” into the SEARCH, but did not find them. Thanks.

  3. Red Henry

    Glad to hear about Steve’s new tone rings. He really seems to be doing the most serious, in-depth work in developing great alloys and producing great rings. And your “user report” is pretty spectacular.

    I wonder if there’s a banjo around here that could use a tone ring… maybe that flathead I put together three or four years ago… hmmm…


  4. Cap Spence

    Casey, I had one of these HR-30 tone rings in one of the banjos I had at Super Bowl (a pw Style 2), but you never got to play it.

    The rings ARE significantly different. Steve is also working on an “engineered” rim which, when coupled with the HR-30, are said to be nearly indistinguishable from an original flathead.

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