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The Tone Ring

Tone rings come in many designs and are made from many types of alloy. Some banjos do not have a tone ring but stretch the head over the wood or metal rim. Bluegrass style banjos (like the Deering Sierra) have a bell bronze tone ring that weighs 2-3 pounds and is precisely fitted to a three ply violin maple rim. Historically, Maple is the most accepted rim material in banjo building.

Old time music banjos are commonly open back, with tone rings made of brass and the tone rings are lighter in weight. Some entry level banjos have steel tone rings that have a bright, responsive sound and feel. Many Eastern banjos advertise a “bluegrass style tone ring” but don’t tell you what kind of metal they are made from. Most of these are “pot metal” or zinc alloy, which, while appropriate for a flange or shoe, is inferior in tone to the USA built tone rings. Even the Eastern banjos with “brass” tone rings can have cheap die cast tone rings that do not have the correct grain structure or alloy for the best musical vibration and yet these banjos can sometimes cost as much as a good American made banjo.

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