Equipment review: Banjo, Neck and Signature Béla Fleck Tuner

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Béla Fleck is a virtuoso banjo player, acclaimed for his innovative and technically competent playing. Many consider him a pioneer of music and an ambassador for the banjo, having brought the instrument from his bluegrass roots to jazz, classical, rock and various genres of world music. His efforts with the groups New Grass Revival and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones have earned him 14 Grammy Awards and over 30 nominations. In recent years, Fleck has worked with the Gold Tone Music Group to bring a series of innovations to the instruments he uses. Thanks to Gold Tone, innovations such as the “Bluegrass Heart” Béla Fleck Signature Banjo, Béla Fleck Signature Banjo Neck and the Fleck Tune clip tuner are available to the public.

The Gold Tone “Bluegrass Heart” Béla Fleck Signature Banjo is a professional grade banjo that has evolved from Gold Tone’s regular collaborations with renowned artists and offers players what comes closest to the feel and tone of Béla’s pre-war masterpiece. Every detail of this instrument is the result of the personal and practical development of Béla and Gold Tone. Built without compromise, the best available components have been used to optimize the instrument’s sound and playing experience, which includes a Prucha Presto tailpiece, Rickard Cyclone 10: 1 tuners (custom red anodized brass knobs add a head mass), a personalized easel, and the Little Mountain armrest. Each component plays a role in improving tuning ease and stability, producing full-bodied sound and critical playing comfort.

This Béla Fleck Signature Banjo Neck is an updated replica of the wider and deeper pre-war Gibson neck designed for Béla Fleck’s Style 75 banjo decades ago by John Monteleone. Constructed of mahogany to the same specifications as the neck of the signature Béla Fleck “Bluegrass Heart” gold-colored model, this neck is wider than what many consider standard with a 1 3/8 “nut width. ‘26.25 “scale length, compound radius ebony fingerboard and jumbo frets. Gold Tone players will also appreciate Gold Tone’s patented ZeroGlide nut on the Bela Fleck Signature banjo neck, as seen on the Gibson Style 75 banjo from Béla.

The scale of a banjo neck demands smooth and precise position changes, and the satin finish of this neck offers an elegant way to reduce friction to promote easier and faster position changes. The ebony fingerboard, rosewood head veneer, and Béla’s custom inlay (based on the popular “flying eagle” pattern) add distinctive finishing touches.

While this neck is attractive, it offers modern banjo players more than just looks. In terms of sound, this neck promises to enhance the low and mid frequencies of any Mastertone-style pot and can help players achieve a fuller and more expressive tonal palette.

The original Bluegrass Heart collar has a 2.5 degree flat heel, tailored for strapless banjos. However, Gold Tone technicians can cut the heel for a one-piece or tube and plate flange for an additional charge. Gold Tone recommends that your banjo pot be sent to Gold Tone where expert luthiers can fine-tune this neck for you.

To complete Béla Fleck’s Signature Banjo, Gold Tone CEO Wayne Rogers collaborated with the virtuoso on a specially designed clip-on banjo tuner. The tuner is designed in a unique heart shape chosen to commemorate the release of Béla’s “My Bluegrass Heart” album and tour.

This tuner has been specially designed to fill in the shortcomings of most clip-on tuners which become erratic when trying to deal with the many harmonics produced by the banjo. Béla asked for a tuner that would display stable and consistent pitch indications in a clear manner. Twelve models from three factories were tested in the Gold Tone workshops and by Béla himself to find the model with the characteristics, sensitivity and precision best suited to the banjo. The tuner provides settings for chromatic use, guitar, bass, ukulele, and violin / mandolin, and has an auto shut-off and memory recall so the tuner will recall the last setting used when it is on.

Mastertone Signature Béla Fleck Banjo “Bluegrass Heart” with case: $ 3,699.99

Béla Fleck Signature Banjo Collar: $ 749.99.

Fleck Tune clip-on tuner: $ 19.99.


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