A banjo bridge is the single member of a banjo that transfers the energy from the vibrating strings to the head of the instrument… but it is also a filter. The material the vibrations move through can enhance the tone, balance and power or they can dampen it. It can also make it muddy, thin or off-balance.
A great banjo bridge make the high notes powerful without harshness or allowing those notes to drop off in volume. It will also bring out the volume and “growl” in the low notes and improve the clarity in all the notes.
Dotson banjo bridges were developed as a result of a conversion with J.D. Crowe and Jim Mills. Both Jim and J.D. wanted a bridge that was a little more like the old bridges that Earl Scruggs used during the 1950s. They also knew that a thin bridge like those would cut nicely through a good quality calfskin head, but modern banjos heads needed slightly more mass… but not too much.
They also knew that the bridges needed to be consistent and that they should be made with old, premium maple that was well seasoned. The aged maple and ebony should also be affixed to each other with only one thing… hot hide glue.
I have done an extensive amount of experimentation and in-shop, real-world research, and no other combination of material and glue works nearly as well as this one.
I encourage everyone to try as many kinds of banjo bridges are you are able. That alone will tell you what works best for your banjo and for your ear.
Still curious about the Dotson Old Wood Banjo Bridges? I think you’ll love it or I’ll buy it back!