Scott D. from California writes:

I listened to the MP3 of you with Phish – hot!! (though I could barely hear you – I think something might be wrong with my Sound control panel!

Well, I am pretty quiet on it, but you can definitely hear me when I’m featured. I was using a mic only (a Lavelier, the kind the people clip on their shirt for TV interviews), inside the banjo. Hearing the volume problem was one reason I broke down and got a plug-in banjo for such situations. Still definitely prefer a good banjo on a good mic.

Did you get a Crossfire?

Prucha, made in the Czech Republic. You can read about it in my Dr. Banjo Goes to Jamfest article in recent BNL or on my site under Notes From The Road. Crossfire doesn’t sound enough like a banjo for me to use in these situations, when I want to be loud and still sound “like a banjo”. Though I have a Crossfire and like it for what it is.

Are there fundamental reasons why an internal mic or pick-up in an acoustic banjo shouldn’t be able to get as much gain?

It’s all about avoiding feedback. A sensitive mic is worst, a mic that only hears nearby sources is better, a pickup is better, not having a resonating cavity and banjo head would be lots better. You can fight feedback with careful eq but that is a bother and changes the sound too. In-ear monitors are gaining popularity, as is “no monitors, just stand close together and play loud”

Unfortunately, getting more of the good, banjo-like sound that I love, correlates exactly inversely with the above list of factors that make you more feedback-free.

So in sum, the Prucha is what I have found is the best combination of good banjo-like sound, volume-ability, and convenience, at least to this point in time.