A nice looking Clifford Essex Regal is up for auction:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/143207035808?ul_noapp=true

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Currently only £60. I'm sure it will go for a lot more, though vintage banjo prices are low at the moment. I'll keep an eye on it. Six days to go. 

Lovely banjo, if a little rough round the edges and with a bit fingerboard wear... my guess is...  £650  

We can then work out what sort of an investment it would have been if you had bought a "New Banjo"  in 1932 !

Correct me if I'm wrong, but some people favour steel strings with the Regal, no?

HI Rob. I found that light gauge steel was pretty good on a CE Regal. Medium or heavy turns this banjo into a generator of noise. It's a sensitive banjo and the right combo of bridge, strings, head and the touch of the player which is essential for bringing out the best in any banjo seems even more crucial with  this model.  Most of the time I had my Regal (Chris Cioffi got it next) I used nylon or gut or nylgut.
Rob MacKillop said:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but some people favour steel strings with the Regal, no?

Mine has a lovely tone and superb rasping bass when using a frosted Remo and fitted with medium gauge CE nylon strings.



I strongly recommend a CE Regal for Classic Style.

Well done, Ian. Rasping is the word. It's not my cup of char, but I can see why you like it for that 1920's/30's sound. It does sound like some of the records of that era. 

Cheers, Jody. I won't be bidding for it, but if it does go for £650, that would be an excellent price.

By the way, what's the general opinion of the new Clifford Essex Weaver banjo that Clem put together?

Not to derail Rob's question, but.....

Jody.....you made a comment a while back...might have been in a thread about something here or it was in our direct emails, but i recall you saying something to the effect that you didn't like very/extremely responsive instruments.

Some, maybe you, also said the Regal was such a thorobred it needed calming down in the set up for some, and this may be one reason you said this.

I always meant to ask you about this comment.....I cannot understand why someone would not want a responsive instrument?

Myself, I prefer the most powerful responsive and alive banjo or guitar I can find, and then use that power at will by applying what I need with my hands.

Can you expound on this concept and comment?

Hi Chris,

I don't think I said that I don't like extreme responsiveness in general. If I did, I mis-stated what I really meant.  And I wouldn't have minded if the Regal did I wanted easily.  What I didn't like was that it easily did what I didn't want.  The Regal contains more variety of timbres than most banjos. Until I got the right setup I never knew what I was going to get and not all the sonorities were pleasing.  You know what you get on a banjo when the head is tightened unevenly? And/or the tailpiece is askew?  And/or the neck-to-pot interface is not right?  And/or the bridge is damaged? And/or the string gauges are random and don't work together?  

I got those kinds of sounds from the Regal until I got the setup just right.

What I like is an instrument that will do whatever I want it to do with no bother or fuss.   A few weeks ago I played a Lupot violin. Never in my life have I played such an instrument. Whatever I thought ... it did.  This was truly  an instrument responding to my intention through my touch.

What I do not like is an instrument (or any tool or computer ) that responds to what I do not intend. Imagine a car with power steering so sensitive that if a breeze comes through your side window the car turns, or a computer spell-checker that makes sure that what you type is not at what you meant.  Unless set up Just So, the Regal tends to give extreme responses to small stimuli. For instance if I  move my thumb or finger an eighth of an inch closer or further from the bridge from where I had plucked the previous note I expect to get a slightly different timbre. But the randomly set up Regal gave me an extreme difference, as if I had moved the plucking point several inches. The same thing happened with very small differences in how hard I sounded a string. I expect a small increase of force to give me a small increase of volume but instead I got a big increase. It also produced very complex and not entirely pleasing sonorities, due perhaps to the complex tone chamber. Once set up right the Regal no longer was uncontrollable. I liked it very much.

Rob, one of the selling points in the Regal advert was the sweetness of this instrument. I found an abundance of sweetness and no automatic rasp.  If I tried to elicit rasp, no doubt it would yield some. 

Chris Cioffi said:

Not to derail Rob's question, but.....

Jody.....you made a comment a while back...might have been in a thread about something here or it was in our direct emails, but i recall you saying something to the effect that you didn't like very/extremely responsive instruments.

Some, maybe you, also said the Regal was such a thorobred it needed calming down in the set up for some, and this may be one reason you said this.

I always meant to ask you about this comment.....I cannot understand why someone would not want a responsive instrument?

Myself, I prefer the most powerful responsive and alive banjo or guitar I can find, and then use that power at will by applying what I need with my hands.

Can you expound on this concept and comment?

Thanks, Jody, I understand now.  I think that I want the same thing in an instrument that you describe.

Was this Lupot violin and old master French expensive thing?  That sounded like a wonderful experience...that would make me want to have that instrument "available to me".

Also, in your list in the first paragraph....I will add poorly installed frets.  I find bad fret jobs to cause SO MUCH more problems than people/luthiers realize, and I seem to be one of the few people aware of how to install them correctly (at least based on my personal experience and a few pro guitar and banjo players that have noticed this)....and I am NOT talking about playability or intonation or buzzing.  I'm talking about just like you mentioned... a poor neck fit.  The problem is that with frets, you can't confirm or show this to someone without removing them....or being there when I install them.  When they are done right, the difference is quite large before and after with nothing else changed.

Thanks for clarifying what you had said that has stuck with me that I didn't understand.  I understand now what you meant.

You said you'ld likely regret selling your Regal.  Do you?.....or maybe I should phrase it, "do you miss it fondly"?

....also.....

Jody, I noticed a few weeks/months ago your video of St. Louis Tickle with the Regal is gone...it shows a blank black screen on your Videos page here, and I can't get it to load or find it.

Is it lost?  Can you repost the same one that was up there?

I really liked that video........

The Tickle video plays when I view it here on the ning banjo site.  yes, the icon is blank.  But the sound and video are all there if you click on it. Click and wait a moment.

https://classic-banjo.ning.com/video/st-louis-tickle-4

The Lupot was insanely expensive. It belongs to Chad Manning.  He went into debt up to his ears to buy it and probably pawned his future grandchildren as well.  You can hear it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRSluROiAtM

and here, where Jerry Wicentowski sounds more like Mac Wiseman than Mac did!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J31G0zMdcys

Would you say more about frets please?  I have had an uncanny experience of having my mandolin frets well replaced and noticing immediately that the OPEN strings sounded better. Nothing was done to the nut or bridge. Now how is that possible? It did happen.

When I sold you the Regal I had too many banjos. I still do. I decided the best thing to do was to sell the most recent acquisition. That was the Regal.  Do I miss it fondly?  Well you know I had a Martin 1-21 guitar which I obtained at age 16.  I made lots of records with it and I toured the world with it and I become identified with it.  That was "the Jody guitar sound".  But then old cracks would open in new climates. And it took longer and longer to tune. I loved that guitar.  But then I didn't play it for 10 years. I didn't see the point of keeping it. I traded to Roy Andrade in Johnson City, TN. I got a great 1941 F-4 mandolin in exchange. And you know what?  Roy sounds fantastic playing it. I think he makes it sound better than I ever did. So the guitar has a new life. I don't miss it. I'm not heartless. I just play other guitars now. I'm happy because Roy is happy.  I didn't have the Regal long enough to develop a relationship with it. You wanted it more than I did. I hope you are happy with it. If you have traded it or sold it, that is not a problem at all.  When it comes to instruments we are custodians. not owners.



Chris Cioffi said:

Thanks, Jody, I understand now.  I think that I want the same thing in an instrument that you describe.

Was this Lupot violin and old master French expensive thing?  That sounded like a wonderful experience...that would make me want to have that instrument "available to me".

Also, in your list in the first paragraph....I will add poorly installed frets.  I find bad fret jobs to cause SO MUCH more problems than people/luthiers realize, and I seem to be one of the few people aware of how to install them correctly (at least based on my personal experience and a few pro guitar and banjo players that have noticed this)....and I am NOT talking about playability or intonation or buzzing.  I'm talking about just like you mentioned... a poor neck fit.  The problem is that with frets, you can't confirm or show this to someone without removing them....or being there when I install them.  When they are done right, the difference is quite large before and after with nothing else changed.

Thanks for clarifying what you had said that has stuck with me that I didn't understand.  I understand now what you meant.

You said you'ld likely regret selling your Regal.  Do you?.....or maybe I should phrase it, "do you miss it fondly"?

....also.....

Jody, I noticed a few weeks/months ago your video of St. Louis Tickle with the Regal is gone...it shows a blank black screen on your Videos page here, and I can't get it to load or find it.

Is it lost?  Can you repost the same one that was up there?

I really liked that video........

Hi Jody-Strange....the video just played...icon picture and everything...so glad it's still up!  I love that video...I guess it was my "courtship" with "our" Regal.

Chad sounds great on the Lupot....a great instrument is wonderful, but at this point in my life after owning old Martins and prewar flathead Gibson banjos, I've decided it's not worth it....unless it's a special one, but even then, the money makes no sense the last 20 years of the insane market.  Glad Chad got it, and hope he makes good use of it. His hands and mind are certainly well fit to it, or vice versa.....

Yes, Jerry sounds great! 

Keith looks odd to me with gray long hair...when he was my next door neighbor in Nashville, he had short quaffed BLACK hair!  I haven't seen Keith since the late '90's before he moved back home.  He sounds great as usual, as do you.

On the frets....stop thinking about frets as things that affect playability, buzzing, and contact the strings and do what everyone thinks they are suppossed to do for a moment in my explanation...yes they are suppossed to do all that, but......

....under the surface, they must be mated to the slots correctly, seated properly, and some other things I deal with that I don't want to talk about in public that involve how they are installed (I have my techniques that I'd prefer remained mine until I feel it time to pass them on).  Just say that I'm shocked when I see and pull others' frets and see what's "under the hood".  I have many stories about leading banjo makers being shown a banjo I rebuilt for a customer and being totally gobsmacked not only by the sound and FEEL of it in their hands/lap/against their body, but many times, a "blimey" reaction to looking at them sitting on the board and how the fret ends look/mate with the binding/edge.  But outward appearance is only part of fretwork's impact on the instrument they are installed upon.

Jody, like the neck, or the tailpiece, or the head, the frets are part of the banjo.  If they are not ONE with the banjo as much as separate pieces could ever be, they are exactly as you describe in your list....a bad neck heel fit for instance, which is a great example.

If the neck acts like several loosely attached pieces, especially if they have holes in them, instead of acting as ONE unit together, you loose solidity.  Like if a xylophone or marimba had it's keys made from loosely attached pieces instead of one sonorous piece.  If you HAD to make each key out of several pieces (like the assemblage of parts or ingredients in a neck) then you'ld want to make that piece/key act as much as one piece as you possibly could.

There are several scientific concepts/theories regarding resonance and sound dissipation that I have studied from disciplines other than lutherie but that involve acoustics, and...physics is physics.

From what I can tell my fretting techniques are different than anyone elses and maybe somewhat original....got to be careful there as there is nothing new under the sun.  But, the difference I have made in almost 2,000 banjos is unmistakable, even to those without keen ears.

I'm not surprised about your mandolin fret story.  I can turn pretty much any banjo around with only my fretwork.  That is only part of the story for the assemblage we call a banjo, but I've A/B placebo tested my techniques constantly over the years to isolate and improve my approach and technique, always critically comparing my results.

Most refret by going by the book, yank 'em, bang 'em back in, no buzz, out the door.  It's a travesty that the customer base is just....used to.

This is the first time I've gone very deep in public about some of my work and I'm a bit self conscious about it.  Any review you read of my work from a customer is more powerful than what I could say.  My reviews are all on banjohangout...unfortunately, in the reviews, my rim stick/open back banjo work is under represented by having some customers just not post reviews (as with bluegrass customer as well, but I just have more of them), but the results are the same....as they would be on any fretted banjo (you should see my fretwork on fretless banjos....LOL).

On the Regal....good story and happy ending on that guitar.  I get very attached to my instruments....unless I don't like them or need more money than an instrument, which hopefully will happen very much less at this point in life on than it has in the first 40 years of my playing instruments.

You just mentioned when you sold the Regal to me that you would likely be sorry you sold it as it was a somewhat crazy decision....that's the only reason I asked.

Unfortunately, I have not developed much of a hands on musical relationship with it yet either as life has thrown some great opportunities my and my wife's way the last year and a half, and to bring these changes to completion will take another year or more, so there hasn't been much time for personal banjo work or serious musical pursuit/practice.

But I will say yes, I love it, it will not go anywhere anytime soon barring some unforseen emergency, and I admire it greatly....and I have another one coming from the same area that Fighter Command Groups 10 and 11 covered during the Battle of Britain....ironically, the same time period that "our" Regal would have been on the CE workbenches not far from there.  THIS is one reason I love the Regal. 

It is an historic model that dovetails with a time that I am fascinated with in England, and it is, by my estimation, the last great classic banjo development in design.

Who knows who will be the next custodian of the current offering of Regal #251?

Rémi playing 1st Bj on the Regal 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYPN_qsX4Lc 

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