If you are looking for an American made bridge that is full of tone, easy to set up, has increased volume and sustain and just plain works then you are ready to try the absolute hottest bridge on the market today. Sullivan Banjo Co. is proud to introduce the newest addition to our banjo parts offering, the new Sullivan roasted maple bridge. Available in 5/8, .656, and 11/16 in either standard or Crowe spacing and with a special introductory price of $10.00 each making this is one of the most cost effective upgrades you can get. You will not be disappointed.
Review by Bob Piekiel on 3/7/14
I had the opportunity to test several of First Quality Music’s “roasted wood” bridges on several different instruments. As Eric Sullivan explained to me, the wood undergoes a special baking process, far above ordinary kiln drying, which causes a chemical change in the wood resin, “roasting” or “carmelizing” it. The result is a wood with less moisture content than obtained by other conventional drying methods, and a permanent, almost sealed-in property that makes the wood harder and more resonant than untreated maple.
Wood is always the biggest variable when building instruments. In a banjo, the three wooden components, the rim, the neck, and the bridge, all contribute to the tone of the instrument in ways we’re still trying to figure out. Each particular banjo is a combination of these component’s properties, along with those of the meta parts, and what works for one banjo might not work for another. There are many fine banjos on the market, but far less “exceptional” ones. With years of setups in my memory banks, I have often found that to get the most response out of a banjo, you have to set it up the way IT wants to be set up, which is not necessarily how YOU want it to be set up. For example, a particular banjo may sound its best when tuned in open F#, with a loose head, and light-gauge strings. It may really bark and growl this way, despite the fact that what the player wants is one tuned in G with medium strings.
Since swapping a bridge is about the easiest thing to do on a banjo, many of us have tried it, but I usually find that for every new bridge, careful re-adjusting is required to get the banjo to that perfect “sweet spot,” and like I just mentioned, it may be in a way that doesn’t lend itself to where you want it to be.
I’ve swapped bridges that made banjos louder, at the expense of sustain. I’ve swapped bridges that made banjos ring much better, at the expense of treble response. There was usually a trade-off somewhere. What I found when using the roasted-wood bridges is that I could put one in just about any banjo and get an immediate improvement in volume and sustain (and to a great extent, that low growl we all like to hear), no matter what the particular setup was. I could tighten or loosen the head, adjust the tailpiece, etc., even change strings, and not lose the improvement I noticed right away from one of these bridges. In other words, it added good characteristics to all banjos regardless of how I wanted to tweak them. I was able to get more of whatever that particular banjo had, and still have room for some fine-tuning. I didn’t have to dial in a particular, magic “sweet spot” to get the banjo to respond.
I tried these bridges on Gibsons and Gibson copies, Stellings, an inexpensive import, and even an old open-back, to name a few, and I was impressed each time. I was definitely pleased, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense – the treatment of the wood eliminated “soft spots” or variables in the wood, making it a better transmitter of sound energy with less internal damping. This technique allows one to continue to use the traditional materials (i.e.: maple wood or other types) and impart an almost uniform characteristic to it.
If you have a chance to try one of these bridges, go for it! You should be pleasantly surprised. I can’t wait to see what a whole banjo made out of this wood sounds like!
Bob Piekiel 3/7/2014
Our first TKL case shipment of 2013 has arrived! If you’re in the market for a new hardshell for your banjo, mandolin or guitar, now is the time! If we don’t have the case you need in our building, we can have it sent to you directly from TKL.
Jeff’s been typing his fingers off to get all the TKL cases up on the website, but if you still don’t see what you’re looking for, just give us a call!Posted in Accessories, Acoustic Guitar, Banjo, Cases, Mandolin - Written by Marsha Sullivan on January 14, 2013