Bill Evans demos his Czech-made five-string banjo, which offers modern features and a contemporary sound.
by Teja Gerken
December 07, 2015
Fascinated by American bluegrass music, Jaroslav “Jerry” Prucha began building banjos in his native Czechoslovakia in the early 1970s. He didn’t have much more than a few photos for reference—his country’s government had banned most types of American music, and he had no access to ready-made banjo parts, books, or other building resources. But his efforts paid off and eventually he ended up with a functioning instrument for himself and requests from other enthusiasts to build banjos for them as well. Fast-forward 20 years, and Jaroslav turned his passion into a business in the new, post-Velvet Revolution Czech Republic. Today, Prucha Bluegrass Instruments has grown into a major manufacturer of banjos and mandolins, as well as a supplier of parts used on instruments built by other brands.
Prucha offers vintage-style banjos as well as models that incorporate innovative contemporary elements. Peghead Nation banjo instructor Bill Evans often uses his Prucha Diamond Point Mahogany banjo, which he demonstrates in this video, in his trio with guitarist Dan Crary and bassist Steve Spurgin. “It’s an alternative to the Gibson flathead Mastertone sound,” he says. “It’s definitely a mellower instrument, with a setup that’s geared toward a contemporary player who might play a lot of single-string and melodic-style banjo.”
While the Diamond Point Mahogany may not depart from tradition at first glance, it is a thoroughly modern design. Most significantly, the Diamond Point has a slightly wider neck (about 1.3 inches), and the fretboard has an 11-inch radius, rather than the flat playing surface found on most vintage banjo designs. The instrument is available with several types of metal plating; Bill’s banjo has a special natural lacquer finish on its copper parts.
SPECS: Five-string resonator banjo. Concentric tone rings. Dual coordinating rods. Carved mahogany back. Maple rim. Mahogany neck. Keith tuners. en.pruchabanjos.cz
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