New Banjo Bridge

I have only been playing banjo since December, but I am already changing out the parts! Today I installed a new bridge, handmade by Tim Purcell. I ordered it from his site.

Tim makes bridges out of many different types of wood, some of it reclaimed from old buildings and sunken logs. Because I am playing clawhammer, Tim recommended a bridge made of Black Locust.


I installed the bridge on my Deering Goodtime Americana.  Deering makes a new bridge that they call a “smile” bridge that has the outside feet shorter than the center to compensate for the concave nature of the banjo head.  Reviews of this bridge are very positive, but it costs $45.  Tim Purcell’s handmade bridges are only $22, and as you can see in the picture, they also have the curve on the feet.

Does it sound better?  Well, the difference is subtle, but I think so.  I hesitate to post audio files of my banjo playing because I am such a beginner, but remember that I have only been playing for four months.  I will upload two versions of my shaky rendition of Old Joe Clark recorded with my iPhone 5 SE.

Original Stock Deering Goodtime Bridge:

New Tim Purcell Black Locust Bridge:

As you can tell from the clips, I am not yet anywhere good enough to justify swapping out bridges.  However, I would say that the Purcell bridge has a bit more old timey “chong” than the Deering bridge.  What is “chong” you ask?  I’m not really sure.  It is a technical banjo term I just made up.

Update: After playing a few more tunes I can definitely say that this Black Locust bridge gives a richer sound with more bass and better note definition.  Notes up the neck, which sounded a bit muffled before, now have more clarity and punch.  It’s a keeper! Now I just have to keep practicing and learn to play better.

About guitarsophist

I'm a guitar-playing rhetorician professor.
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