Every banjo has one of two types of heads: A skin head or a synthetic head. When you order a banjo, you choose the type of head.
I give you three choices:
Skin head - My favorite banjo head option for a variety of reasons. See below for more information about skin heads. A skin head had the richest sound of the three choices.
Fiberskin head - A synthetic head that has the look of a skin head. A little thicker than Renaissance head. Deeper sound than a Renaissance head, not as much volume.
Renaissance head - A synthetic head that is a transparent amber color, which I color to a brownish color. Lots of volume.
More About Skin Heads
To me a skin head is the best choice for a banjo, they look great and they add a lot of character and depth to the sound of your banjo. While I can’t promise a skin head will never need fussing with, I can say that I expose each head to high humidity, then dryness and do the adjustments the head needs until it doesn’t respond to the different humidities and sets stable. I do this before I ship each banjo out. I also use a square flesh hoop to keep the hide from ever slipping.
A. A. Farland, a banjo maker, teacher, and performer, used to put this quote on his banjos:
“If the tone ain’t right, the head ain’t tight”.
I have to agree. If your banjo isn’t sounding right and isn’t responding like it used to, tighten the head. I generally set my string action just below 5/32” at the 17th fret. If your strings are lower than that, tighten the head until the strings reach that height again. You only need to worry about a head popping if you leave your banjo in a hot car, in direct sunlight, in a hot tent, or if the head gets a small hole or rip in it.
You need to worry about loosening your head only if you are heading from extreme moisture to extreme dryness. In this case, loosen each nut about two turns, before you head to the dry climate. Then adjust it accordingly when you reach the drier climate.