John writes on Banjo-L:
I am playing with a local ‘megaband’ group this year that includes 75 instruments. In a group that big, it is sometimes difficult to hear your own instrument. Has anyone rigged up (or do you know of) a device with small earphones that magnifies the sound of the instrument you are playing so that you can hear what you are playing?
In banjo camps, when people tune, I always have people rotate the banjo so the head is facing up (dobro-like). People are amazed how loud the banjo “becomes”. I point out that it REALLY IS that loud, and that we banjo players tend to be oblivious of that. To hear a banjo well after, say, a luthier has done setup work, I always point the banjo at a wall a few feet away, and judge the sound by what I hear “bouncing” back at me.
Perhaps the answer to your dilemma is to have a flat, reflective surface angling the bounce of the banjo sound toward your face (ears). Maybe something as small as a clipboard or an empty music stand, positioned correctly, would make a significant difference. That might be all you need. Let me know if it works.