The following are unsolicited testimonials from banjo players who have tried the Tone Bell (tm) System

Rupert Hartmann, M.D. tries the Tone Bell (TM) modification. To see his instrument and read his comments, click here.

Here is the main part of the e-mail he sent me on June 14, 1997, describing the results in his instrument.

Bill, I came across your Home Page some time ago and was really intrigued by the Rim modification you talk about. When I recently had my Gibson RB-3 apart to apply the new neck I made for it, I decided to modify the rim according to your article. DAMN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Noticeable differance. The instrument seems louder and brighter with no other mods. I'm writing you to let you know that I have mentioned this modification in my Home Page and have included a hotlink to your website and this article along with appropriate credits, of course.

This e-mail came March 1, 1998, on the AcuTab listserver from Bryan F. Reese of Greenville, SC. His method of making the alteration was unorthodox, but it worked!

Date: 1 Mar 1998 21:46:12 -0500
Subject: Banjo modifications

Just finished tightening up the head and tuning up. Had my banjo all apart in a hundred pieces on the den floor(my wife rolled her eyes whenever she walked by!) Followed Bill Palmer's instructions on shaving the rim away from the tone ring, and BOY!...What a difference!!!! It was really like going from a moped to a porsche! I have a sigma mastertone copy that didn't sound to bad, but it wasn't all that impressive, either. I was intrigued by Mr. Palmer's ideas and figured I didn't have too much to lose, since I didn't have that much money(250.00) in the thing,anyway. Well, I shaved away 1/8 of an inch of the rim with a good sized rasp, and finished it out with some scotch-brite. The banjo picked up a massive increase in volume, sensitivity, and note seperation. The first and fifth strings ring so sweetly that it'll raise goose-bumps! It also picked up a good punch in the midrange tones(the most significant volume increase was in this range.) Before I did the actual work, I laid the tone ring an a table and struck it with a knife. It rang fully, like a bell. When I slipped it over the rim and struck it again, it did not ring with as much volume, tone, or sustain. After shaving the rim, it sounded the same either laying flat or installed. I would be willing to bet that this is a good method of determining if the Bill Palmer method would benefit your banjo.

Thanks to Bill so much for researching this and posting instructions on how and what to do! The tone reminds me alot of the old scruggs tone on flint hill and foggy mountain specials.

Here is a testimonial from late 1999
Subject: Re: tone bell system
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 08:38:25 -0500
From: "Tony Wesner"

I made the plunge and cut the rim on my gold plated banjo. The sound is phenominal, the set up is a gold plated Ten20 ring, walnut wood, 5 star non frosted head, a new Stelling bridge that is made for gibson style set ups, old presto tail piece, and Vega light strings. The head tension is fairly tight, no sag in the bridge. This banjo is fantastic, notes are crisp and clean with just the right amount of sustain, extremely good volume, absolutley no overtones. I tried the snuffy compenated bridge on it but went back to the Stelling bridge. I think your system is a good idea at least it worked on the two banjos I have done. Thanks for sharing all of your tone ring research and modifications.
Tony Wesner

Here is yet another unsolicited testimonial for the Tone Bell™ system

Subject: Tone Bell Setup
Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 17:21:52 EST

Hi Bill, I have had an early 70's RB800 since about 1980 and have had the original 500 ply rim replaced with a 3-ply from FQMS about 10 years ago. The original rim delaminated on me. After reading your tone-bell article, I had a friend of mine put the 3-ply rim on a lathe and do a tone-bell modification. This banjo is definitely louder, has much more sustain and sounds much sweeter and more powerful up the neck. This was definitely a modification that produced AUDIBLE results. Thanks for sharing your info with the web. If you ever come through Indianapolis, give me a call.

P.S. My main axe is still my walnut R&T with Tenn 20 tone ring. It's a KILLER...

Good picking,
Kevin L. Donnelly

On May 11, 2000, this e-mail came in as part of a longer communication from Umberto Capasso in Italy.

Hi Bill

I'm Umberto Capasso From ITALY....

I built a banjo with tone bell system with tenn.20 and is wonderful.


On Septermber 24, 2000, this unsolicited testimonial came in from Florida.


I got on the net about six months ago and found your banjo set up page soon after. Just my cup of tea, I've always worked with the set up on my banjos and your ideas echoed some of the things I have found over the years (22). The Tone Bell system made sense of something I have struggled with all along--why have a bell brass/bronze tone ring and then damp it against a hard maple rim not allowing it to do what it was designed to do? However, taking a router to one of my banjos was a big step. After thinking about this Mod. for several months I took the plunge yesterday.

All I can say is...WOW!!!

More volume, balance, tone quality, POP, and no unpleasant overtones. And all this with a very average Alvarez Denver Bell with an aluminum tone ring. It's hard to believe. It's gone fron nothing but a stand in the corner practice banjo to one of my best instruments. All this for an eight dollar router bit and about three hours' time. Still working on set up, will let you know more when I get it the way I want it. Only question is what's next? Maybe my 1974 RB 250, a really good 250, but never quite what I wanted, I'll let you know.

Thanks very much for this idea,
Bailey Henry
Jacksonville, Fl.


On October 17, 2000, I got this e-mail from Bailey Henry:

Update on my Alvarez Denver Bell, I noticed a loss in base response in the last week or ten days, thought it was time for a new set of strings but this did not correct the problem. When I removed the resonator I found that the tone ring had colasped to the altered rim on both sides away from the neck and talepiece. About four inches still open at the neck and tailpiece, I guess the cordinator rod is supporting the tonering at these spots. Keep in mind this banjo has an aiuminum ring, I don't think this would ever happen with a brass ring. The good news is the banjo still sounds better than it did before Tone Bell Mod. I don't know where this will go, at this point I can't see any signs of this on the outside of the banjo. If it goes any futher it is no big deal, I was just before having a new rim and tonering installed and this is the way I will go. Don't you think you should remove my testimonial or at least warn that this could happen? Sorry to have to give you this bad news, I'll keep you informed.

Bailey Henry

Well, there it is--the first collapsed tone ring. Bailey is right--it wouldn't have happened with a normal brass tone ring. Aluminum is just not rigid enough for this installation.

Anyway, I give you the good with the bad.

Dr. Hartmann, Bryan, Tony, Kevin, Umberto, Bailey--thanks for your unsolicited testimonials.

There it is folks, the proof that it really works! What can I say?

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