It may have appeal for only a limited sector of the banjo world, but pro-picker Ryan Cavanaugh has come up with a new bridge for use on electric banjos that dramatically enhances the natural banjo tone. They will only work on models with a bridge that sits on a banjo head like the Deering Crossfire or Gold Tone EBM, not fully solid body instruments.
The Cavanaugh bridge is made from metal, and it is designed to excite the magnetic field generated by the pickup installed under the head with greater intensity than a wooden bridge with metal inserts. Product testing indicates that an electric banjo using this bridge generates more volume and a far more natural banjo tone through the pickup.
The knock on these electric banjos has generally been that while they can function well in a high volume stage environment, they simply don’t sound like an acoustic banjo. It might seem initially counterintuitive that metal would offer a more transparent tone than wood, but consider that on a banjo like this, response is entirely determined by the reaction of the pickup. The more the magnetic field is disturbed, the more the pickup sends out.
Ryan produced this short video to demonstrate.
At this point, the bridges are offered as an aftermarket update for the Deering and Gold Tone banjos.
Ryan developed this new bridge with his dad, Larry, who makes them for him. Since he performs often with Bill Evans’ Soulgrass show, which uses a jazz/funk rhythm section, Cavanaugh has been eager to get a more banjo-y sound from his electric banjo, and has been studying on the matter of late.
The Cavanaugh banjo bridge sells for $100, with $10 for shipping. They can be ordered online.