Danny Barnes demonstrates his signature model banjo.
by Teja Gerken
April 01, 2019
Innovative banjo master and Peghead Nation instructor Danny Barnes uses several banjos, but his go-to instrument is a signature model made by Oklahoma’s Bishline Banjos. Founded by luthier Rob Bishline, the company specializes in individually made banjos, often incorporating custom features, and several years ago, Danny and Rob designed an instrument that became the Danny Barnes Amplified Woody model. During a recent video shoot for his course The Banjo According to Danny Barnes, Danny demonstrated the model and explained the instrument’s design.
Not surprisingly for a player who operates in numerous musical contexts, Danny wanted his signature-model banjo to be highly versatile. “It’s designed to be very usable,” he says. “I can plug it in, I can get a convincing bluegrass sound, and it also sounds good playing old-time or clawhammer banjo; it’s kind of a Swiss-army-knife banjo.” To achieve this, Danny specified a shorter-than-usual scale (25.5 inches) and a wood tone ring. He says that the wood rim/tone ring makes the banjo darker- and softer-sounding than a typical instrument with a metal tone ring, and he also appreciates its light weight. The shorter scale also contributes to the warmer tone by allowing Danny to use medium strings, which produce about the same tension as a light-gauge set on a banjo with a standard scale. The instrument also includes a custom L.R. Baggs pickup mounted in the bridge, which Danny finds useful when playing with bands that include drums and bass.
Other design elements include the pre-installed spikes at the seventh and ninth frets and a custom truss-rod cover. “I fly a lot, and I have to work on my truss rod a lot, so we put the truss-rod cover on a hinge, so you can adjust it without having to hunt down the little tiny screwdriver.” Danny also had the banjo’s flange and stretcher band powder-coated in a black finish, a nod to his love of motorcycles.
SPECS: Five-string resonator banjo. Mahogany resonator. Wooden rim/tone ring. 11-inch head. Mahogany neck. 25.5-inch scale. 1¼-inch nut width. Maple binding. Custom L.R. Baggs pickup. Black powder-coated hardware. Made in USA. List price $3,370. Bishlinebanjos.com
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