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Banjo and parenting advice

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Steve 78, Mar 26, 2019.

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  1. Steve 78

    Steve 78 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I seek the wisdom of TDPRI.

    My nearly 7 year old son has asked several times for a banjo. My father-in-law suggested some brands that start at about $1000, which is a wee bit over budget. My sister suggested a $20 Kmart banjo. Well, I have a philosophical objection against bringing "instruments" into the house that can't be used for real music. (Aside from this, $20 Kmart banjo doesn't actually appear to be a thing in Australia).

    He already has a ukulele which he has taken no interest in, so I thought a 5 string type banjo would be the best option. The cheapest I can see start at just over $150 for Chinese made eBay thing, which is what I'm leaning towards.

    I played him a few different types of banjo music and he said he didn't like it, but still insists he wants a banjo to do his own thing.

    What would you do in my situation?
     
  2. Boubou

    Boubou Doctor of Teleocity

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    At 7 years I did not even know that banjos existed!
     
  3. Steve 78

    Steve 78 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    He had a kid's bagpipe set when he was about 3. I think it's the grandfather's influence. He likes celtic folk music, bluegrass, etc. (as well as opera and loads of other stuff).
     
  4. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Is the Epiphone MB-100 available in your territory?.

    A little over your price, but an Epiphone would resell better ( do banjos resell? ) than a no-name cheapie, plus it's a known maker.

    At seven though, wouldn't a ukulele be a better bet?
     
  5. Steve 78

    Steve 78 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Epi MB 100 looks to be just north of $450 (in AUD). Getting a second hand is a good idea, in the sense that I could sell it on without losing much, but I don't know what the market is like here (how easy to find/sell).

    He does have a ukulele so not sure whether a uke/mando banjo would be different enough to interest him. You may be right though.
     
  6. D_W_PGH

    D_W_PGH Friend of Leo's

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    Celtic and bluegrass are sort of on opposite ends of banjo types. But if he likes bluegrass, he's going to need a resonator.

    I'd probably tend toward a used fender banjo on the older side. I don't know if $300 or so is in your budget, but there are some older fender banjos that are very good. Budget a little for a setup unless you can do it yourself. Banjos aren't hard fingering, so it's not critical that everything be perfect.
     
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  7. Nickfl

    Nickfl Friend of Leo's

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    Tell Grandpa it very generous of him to offer to buy his grandson such nice instrument.
     
  8. Wallo Tweed

    Wallo Tweed Friend of Leo's

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    Is there someplace you could rent one for a month or 2, to see if he has a real interest?
     
  9. SacDAve

    SacDAve Poster Extraordinaire

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  10. psikes

    psikes TDPRI Member

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    Look for a Deering Goodtime. Great starter banjos that will last a long time and still have a resale value when he outgrows it. Just about anything less than that in price is kindly described as a banjo shaped object.

    Phil (banjo, guitar, dobro player)
     
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  11. TelZilla

    TelZilla Friend of Leo's

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    My advice as a father of four: wait two weeks, and make him do something to prove he really wants it. 7 is a little young for digging post holes, so maybe tell him "if you still want it in two weeks, and you make your bed everyday without complaining (substitute your chore of choice), we can get a banjo. Or maybe tell him to learn You Are My Sunshine on his uke to prove he can follow through on something and then get a banjo. I think it's important for kids to do the "prove it" part up front, not at the end.

    Another thought: 7 is pretty young to get your fingers to do the right stuff. I know zero about banjos, but something kid-sized is prob the way to go. Personally I'd get the cheapest thing that's playable.

    I have two sons (now 20 and 18) and both of them are somewhat musical. But the 20 year old got inspired by drumming for Beatles rock band (the drums are the only part of those games that bear any resemblance to the actual making of musivc). He played so much he went through two of the nintendo drum sets, and then we got him some real drums. He also sort of picked up guitar along the way. The younger kid had two or three abortive attempts to learn guitar- the pattern was the same- he wanted to learn, he'd take some lessons, he'd never practice, and then we'd make him quit. But about two years ago, he just started taking one of myy guitars, getting on youtube, and learning stuff. And now I think he's in for good.
     
  12. drf64

    drf64 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Maybe he’s a young John Hartford ready to unleash his musical passion. How cool would that be?
     
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  13. Steve 78

    Steve 78 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Instrument rentals here seem to have a minimum of 6 months. The best deal I could see would be at least $120.
     
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  14. Pualee

    Pualee Tele-Holic

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    If I had it do do over, would be a deering goodtime banjo without a resonator.

    You really need to know if the tone the kid hears in his head includes the resonator or not... that changes the cost a bit. Also, the gootime (when I looked) was about $550 - but then again, my kid at 7 was already performing guitar live - and I knew the banjo would get played.
     
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  15. Steve 78

    Steve 78 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Antarctica level cool :).
     
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  16. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    WOW!, you really do get taken for a ride on prices. They're £150 here, which equates to ( online currency converter used ) $278AU.

    There's always banjo tuning a uke, or a uke banjo in banjo tuning, or just get Granddad to make good on his 'offer' to buy :)
    How important is the fifth string anyway? ( note :- thanks to having a deficit of working right hand fingers, I can't do banjo rolls, so a banjo isn't a known quantity to me )
     
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  17. telleutelleme

    telleutelleme Telefied Silver Supporter

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    I faced a similar situation with my grand kid. I paid for two music lessons and told him he had to go to those and then we would make a decision. After the lessons he switched to wanting drums. I knew I was too close and too wanting of him to play that my "instruction" and decisions would fail. Once at that early age he wasn't "dying" to learn guitar.
     
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  18. trapdoor2

    trapdoor2 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    Two thumbs up for the Deering Goodtime. Uniformly good, well made, played by many modern "non-bluegrass" bands. Every one of them I've had my hands on was a good starter banjo...far and above the cheap crap you find.

    A 7 yr old is usually too small for a standard size banjo (although they can be adapted by simply capoing up, etc.). Gold Tone produces a travel/child's banjo called a "Plucky", it has an 8" pot and a short, "C scale" neck. I think the scale is just under 16" (40cm). It has guitar tuners and is a pretty robust design...and usually sells for under $400 ($560 AUD). Fun little instrument, the headstock is built like a Fender.

    If you want training materials, I have tons.
     
  19. D_W_PGH

    D_W_PGH Friend of Leo's

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    Forget that, it's a waste of money. This is a good time to teach a child about buying something used and learning to find something that isn't going to "cost you anything" if you decide you don't like it.

    A full featured bluegrass banjo will have resonator hardware and a metal tone ring (generally cast). A lot of the lower priced banjos have a round ring or just wood, and those things are fine, too.

    When I used to play banjo, the deering good time had a good reputation as a starter banjo, but it brings a lot of money for what it is (which can be a good thing if you want to dump it). Some of the full feature korean banjos are probably more for the money, but a full feature banjo with a tone ring and flange, etc, is not light (heavier than a guitar and butt heavy - figure 12 pounds or so).

    I had three banjos at one point. None were under $3K, but I was paying for convenience (they were new or close to new and made in the united states). At this point, I think I could probably track down a fender fb58 and duplicate their sound, or relatively close, if I wanted to get back into playing banjo).

    Gold tone was another popular brand, but in the 12 or 14 years since I bought mine, overseas banjos have become more plentiful and better.

    Weight would be a concern for me with a 7 year old, though. The weight of a full spec banjo is awkward for a beginning adult, and it may be better to buy something stripped down without a full tone ring and maybe without a resonator at this point. As long as it's five strings, you can play bluegrass on it. If your grandson takes to it and gets a little bigger, then maybe a full weight and full spec banjo with a resonator (which will also be loud, don't kid yourself) may be in order.

    The reason the overseas banjos give you a little more is simple - deering likes to make their lower-end stuff still in the US, and it's hard to get as much in return because of that, but their reputation does make it easier to buy now, resell later if you can get something used and keep it in similar condition.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2019
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  20. SolidSteak

    SolidSteak Friend of Leo's

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    This. Rent one, maybe sign up for lessons with it.
     
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