Tom Collins' Review of the Banjo Bolster

Tom Collins Video Review of the Banjo Bolster

The text below is a transcript from Tom Collins' video review of the Banjo Bolster.

“From time immemorial, banjo players have been looking around their environment, trying to find the next thing to stuff inside their banjo to try to make it sound just a little better. I think I have an answer to all our banjo playing prayers today – It’s called the Banjo Bolster! Welcome to Banjo Quest!

So, let’s frame the problem that we’re all trying to solve by cramming stuff in the back of our banjos. The banjo is a wild, cantankerous beast and oftentimes it sounds a little too wild for the context that we’re playing it in. Now, we love these overtones. These overtones are what makes the banjo so rich and interesting to listen to. But, at the same time, these overtones can make the banjo seem unfocused and it can be hard to sort of hear that clear, fundamental pitch that we want to hear. So, we put things in the back of the banjo to try and sculpt away that “overtony” sound and get to that core, fundamental pitch.

Now the problem is, the more we stuff the banjo, the more we change that beautiful timbre that is natural to the instrument. So, along comes one my patrons over on Banjo Quest and they ask if they can send me a product that they have developed over the course of the last couple of years that’s designed specifically to take some of those overtones away but allow the fundamental timbre of the banjo to shine through. I was very skeptical, but I said yeah sure, send it to me and I’ll give you my thoughts, and a few days later the Banjo Bolster arrives, and, I have not removed it from my banjo, except to put it in my other banjos, because that’s how much I like it!

So today I’m going to show you how the Banjo Bolster works, what it looks like, how it fits in the back of the instrument and then I’ve created an A/B comparison of banjos with the Banjo Bolster and banjos without the Banjo Bolster. All right let’s look at the Banjo Bolster. I do want to mention that I was not asked or paid to make this video. This is being made because I want to make it. All Ric did was send me this (Banjo Bolster) and wanted my feedback on it. He was surprised when I said I liked it so much I wanted to make a video about it. So, I’m not getting paid or anything like that. In fact, I’m going to order a Banjo Bolster after this video is done so I can fit it in my 11” banjos.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about this thing. It goes in the back of your banjo; you get it made to order so you have to provide measurements to Ric at He has great instructions. It’s super easy to do and there are lots of ways to run the Banjo Bolster, but let me tell you why I think it’s really special. I can set it into the banjo so that it’s not actually touching the head and that gives me a really transparent calming down of the overtones. It adds focus to the instrument and makes it feel more present in the room without interfering too much with the basic timbre of the instrument. So, for me, it is a transparent way to deal with your overtones. You can go more extreme than this. So, sometimes I’ll toe in the top of the Banjo Bolster so that it does contact the head just a little bit up here near the neck and the rest of it’s kind of floating above the head, and that adds just a little bit more dampening, but it still is a very transparent way to change your banjo’s tone subtly. I really like it kind of just touching up there and it just sort of sits there. It’s pretty invisible, quietly sits in. You don’t even know it’s there.

Now the thing itself is this flexible, soft material filled with batting (polyester fibers). These are made in the United States by Deb Hollander, Ric’s wife and they have this material specially made for the Banjo Bolster and it too is made in the United States. The filling is made in the United States. The thread is the only thing that is sourced outside the United States and that’s from Europe, but otherwise, this whole thing is made right in the United States which I think is really fantastic! Ric has a real advantage in building these because he’s a sound engineer by trade, so he has a deep understanding of acoustics and so he painstakingly researched and tried lots of different materials and stuffings to get the perfect Banjo Bolster. And I think the research really paid off!

A/B Sound Comparison…

So what are my final thoughts on the Banjo Bolster. Well, I think the A and B test is great proof that this thing really works! It makes your banjo sound great but it doesn’t change the tone too much. I think every open back banjo owner should have a Banjo Bolster! There I said it! It’s that plain to me. I’m just about to order one for my 11 inch banjo. Go to and check it out. It’s a great way to focus the sound of your instrument without jamming it full of a bunch of stuff. I think it is absolutely brilliant! I also love the fact that is built by a husband and wife team who are trying to source local materials and building a product specifically for open back banjos. How often can we say that? That is awesome. I think they deserve our support. So give Ric a shout and tell them that you saw this video and I will see you next time, with my Banjo Bolster, on Banjo Quest.

UPDATE: the Banjo Bolster in the OME Omega is just creamy delicious! I didn't think this banjo could sound better ... but it does now!

- Tom Collins
   (Renowned banjo player, educator and owner of the Banjo Quest Patreon and YouTube channels )