A nice looking Clifford Essex Regal is up for auction:


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OK, but there are fretless banjos. They are complete that way. Now if we put frets on the same neck do you think the open strings will sound different than they did when the neck was fretless?  If I understand you correctly you are certain that there will be a difference in sound and response between the same banjo with the frets properly installed and if  the frets were installed haphazardly. But why would either of them make a difference in the sound of the open unfretted strings?  I think maybe I know at least part of the reason:  The frets do vibrate!  I have tested it. But it never occurred to me that they contribute to the sound. But in fact everything contributes to the sound. Tuner buttons and their screws have an effect. There is even a difference in sound when a tailpiece cover is closed all the way or partially. But there seems to be more to the story.  

I'm thinking about your marimba key analogy.   By the way the rosewood neck of my fretless banjo (with large Tubaphone pot) was made by the recently departed and deeply missed luthier Paul Hostetter from guess what?  A marimba key blank. It yielded 2 necks. 

Chris Cioffi said:

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?

I'm sorry to hear Paul passed.  I always wanted to talk with him.  I had heard he was not well a while back.

On the fretless rather than or then for comparison converted to fretted.  I don't know.  I'd have to think, but many times logic and thought does not apply to instruments the way our logic can work, and since I've never done or experienced that, I don't have an insightful comment....other than certainly, my premise would stand....if the frets are not installed in a way that couples them to the neck properly, it would be substandard result as compared to having them installed "correctly"....and fretless certainly implies it is one piece not kerfed (meaning the fretboard....er...I mean in this case...fingerboard).

I dont' think the frets vibrate independantly, they would vibrate with the neck.  This is my whole point.

I can't explain exactly what is happening from a real or physics standpoint, and I don't think anyone can...anyone who does, their words must be viewed with some skepticism....for if these things could be totally figured out and brought under control consistently, debates and results regarding the best flat top guitar or "prewar" sounding flathead banjo would be over as someone would bottle and sell the concept....and some have tried and make claims, but based on my experience with them on my work bench, they have failed.  Violin and guitar people have pursued these studies for decades with no real "aha" moments, other than sound material choice, design, and workmanship....but results between a good, great, and "mortgage the farm for" a certain outcome in an instrument is still not something that is predictable, and continues to stymie, motivate, and mystify luthiers and musicians.

All I know is that neck resonances have been studied and measured in the violin and guitar worlds ad nauseum for a long time, and it has been proven by the scientific method of testing/observing/repeat that necks do resonate and contribute quite a bit to an instruments sonic performance/response as a whole (it was thought for many years necks had nothing to do with what the soundbox produced, and for that matter the upper portion of the sound box itself near the neck on a guitar...also proven false)....most any banjo player can tell of how swapping a neck made a difference.

How would you control/affect neck resonances, beyond it's coupled effect to the soundbox?  Well...how you construct it and how the various parts interact with each other when excited.

The rest....like rosewood is "better" than mahongany, (or my favorite totally stupid one in the bluegrass banjo world of how ebony fretboards are substandard in a large way to rosewood...I imagine mainly becuase Earl's banjo was rosewood.....) etc....is again, something that is not something any luthier has understood to the extent that is under complete and consistently repeatable control.

All I gather from my experience and observations and results is that the more the instrument, like a turntable/record player or other similar device, vibrates/resonates/disipates resonances it is excited by as one piece....or it's resonant frequency is more and more reduced to one frequency (acting as one piece) of the combined parts, the better things go.

This means to me that anything that is not solidly coupled together and acting more as one than as several "loosely" attached parts will not be an efficient resonator of vibrations but more....I guess like a wind chime with danglies.

All I can do is explain my theory based on the results I experience.  Completely understanding what is happening, and then being able to fully explain a repeatable consistent result  and why it is happening, is basically beyond me....and so far at this time, everyone else.

Marc and Remi-That is EXCELLENT.

I love how Remi's Regal sounds and projects in the upper register...very bell like and clear yet full.

Marc, is that a Windsor Premier you are playing with 5th peg in peghead?  What is the large fretless banjo behind Remi on screen right?

You mentioned "Hop Scotch" is from a wax cylinder?????  I've not known this tune I don't think and unaware of this recording....what record company/label and catalog number and artist/player is it?????  I would love to have a transcription/copy of it.

That is a very nice tune and you both play it so well together and Regal sounds great!

That shot up: £470 now.

Get the popcorn out......

Place your bets gentlemen!

Obviously the value is in the rim assembly.  I bet this is destined to have a tenor neck fitted to it.

thereallyniceman said:

Place your bets gentlemen!

<Merci Chris //  the banjo i play is a 11 13/16 Windsor popular n°1 with the vellum i Believe to be original to  it ; beside are my 2 cellos , the fretless is the beautiful 16 '  éric Stefanelli used to buid for me in 2001 , the other is an English , 13 ' , unmarked & originally unfretted , i fretted it myself .  The Waw cyl  is " Hop Scotch ,  bell solo  n° 1134 / Sterling "

once we listened this cylinder , it was great fun , & i wrote an arrangement
Chris Cioffi said:

Marc and Remi-That is EXCELLENT.

I love how Remi's Regal sounds and projects in the upper register...very bell like and clear yet full.

Marc, is that a Windsor Premier you are playing with 5th peg in peghead?  What is the large fretless banjo behind Remi on screen right?

You mentioned "Hop Scotch" is from a wax cylinder?????  I've not known this tune I don't think and unaware of this recording....what record company/label and catalog number and artist/player is it?????  I would love to have a transcription/copy of it.

That is a very nice tune and you both play it so well together and Regal sounds great!

Merci, Marc....Great info on the banjos....the cellos are big!

Ok, the cylinder is a bell solo, not banjo, this is why I didn't recognize it.....that's a GREAT duet arrangement....I really like it....I imagine a bit of time to arrange that duet.

I have several old records like that of piccolo and yes, even bell solos, and some band ones that I keep to someday do what you did with Hop Scotch.

That's really great stuff......

I've wanted one since I was 15 and played my first one (the treble strings sounded just like a woman's voice singing and I never forgot it), and then even more when I played the Webb Brothers original five string 20+ years ago at Gruhn's.

Seeing this at the price it was available for a few days ago, I made a decision that 2 Regals for me for now is enough, and the white van just dropped it off this afternoon while William Ball was playing for me.

Exactly the configuration/version I wanted, complete, direct from under the original deceased owner's bed, but will have to wait a while before I can make the proper neck for it, though the laminated curly maple and ebony striped billet I glued up 3 years ago in anticipation of today's arrival is sitting next to my workbench.

SO....I'm out of the running on this Regal, and Joel, I sure hope you are wrong and that someone here gets it and will put it into the proper service it was meant to work under.  

But here it is.....the last biggie on my want list...just 2 more non-tonering banjos to go on my list and a few I'd like to build from scratch......


Ian knows his banjos...it went for exactly £650. But who too? Not I. 

thereallyniceman said:

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

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