Early minstrel banjos were generally made with larger thin-rimed pots but by the early 1920’s, the 11″ pot with a thicker rim had become the standard. Since then almost all banjos have been made in the 11″ size until the 1990’s when old-time music started becoming more popular and the 12″ pot was found to work well for old-time playing styles and for vocal accompaniment. Since then, the 12″ body has steadily increased in popularity due to it’s warm and sweet tones, and is even finding its way into bluegrass and Irish music.
OME offers two body sizes, 11″ and 12″. Both are normally made of 2 or 3-ply maple (walnut, mahogany, and cherry rims are also available on special order). The 11″ size emphasizes brilliance, penetration, crispness, punch, and cutting power, while the 12″ size produces more bass, depth, warmth, and volume.
Where more brilliance and cutting power are desired, as in a bluegrass or Jazz band, the 11″ instruments are normally used. Where more bass, depth, and fullness are preferred, such as in old-time, Irish, or folk music, the 12″ might be preferred. Regarding banjo tone, response, and use, body size is a major factor and should be carefully considered.
The banjo’s tone ring also plays a critical part with the instrument’s tone. OME offers several tone ring options: the OME TONE-RIM, ROLLED-BRASS, VINTAGE, SILVERSPUN, and MEGATONE tone rings.
The OME TONE-RIM construction offers our woodiest Old-time banjo sound. This design utilizes a minimum of rim glue joints resulting from using a 2-ply solid maple rim which is machined to combine rim and tone ring into one monolithic TONE-RIM. It is available on the TUPELO and MINSTREL models, which uses a minimum number of tension brackets (16) for our woodiest tone. More brackets are added on the WIZARD and JUBILEE models for a slightly brighter, crisper response.
The OME ROLLED-BRASS tone ring has about 50% more brass than what is normally used with this type of tone ring. It is machine fitted into a square groove cut in the maple rim so that it bears on only two surfaces. We use this design for those who want to increase the overall bass and treble response of the instrument. This ring is standard on the OME 11″ and 12″ FLORA, ALPHA, CELTIC, and JUNIPER open-back models.
The OME VINTAGE tone ring is designed to have a large contact surface between the brass ring and the maple rim which tends to bond the tone ring and rim together, producing a very clear and responsive tonal effect. It is also about 30% heavier than the rolled brass ring for additional response. Available on the 11″ NORTH STAR and ORACLE open-back models, and on the NORTH STAR, ORACLE, JUNIPER, and CELTIC Flathead models
THE OME SILVERSPUN tone ring is made on a spinning lathe similar to a cymbal or horn. It is machine fitted to the wood rim and also incorporates an inner steel ring, which adds to its performance. This tone ring has been used on most of our Tenor, Plectrum, and upper end 5-string open-back banjos for over 45 years and gives exceptional treble, midrange, and bass response throughout the entire playing range. It is available on all PROFESSIONAL, CUSTOM, and ARTIST series banjos.
The OME MEGATONE is offered in three Flathead versions: the Megatone 200, 400, and HG50. The HG50 uses the Gibson Prewar bell bronze formula while the twenty-hole 200 and forty-hole 400 use a slightly different alloy. The HG50 and the 200 weigh about 2 pounds 10 ounces while the 400 is 2 ounces lighter. All are excellent tone rings and maximize clarity, response, volume, brilliance, and depth. They are standard on all PROFESSIONAL, CUSTOM, and ARTIST Flathead 5-string banjos, and can also be custom ordered on Tenor, Plectrum, and Open-back 5-string banjos as well.