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Beginner's Banjo, bang-for-buck?

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by tm1303, Apr 13, 2020.

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  1. tm1303

    tm1303 Tele-Meister

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    Best beginner's bang-for-buck banjo brand?

    It alliterates so well.

    My only constrain is it must be readily available on the international market, I know my USA brethren will have lots of local producers but sadly we are EU import taxable.

    My younger brother is looking to take up banjo here in the UK and is looking for tips on brands/models to look for (or avoid). Any help greatly appreciate :)
     
  2. Vanzant

    Vanzant Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Deering makes one, that was my first descent banjo. The first was a cheap handmedown Kentucky.
     
  3. teleforumnoob

    teleforumnoob Friend of Leo's

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    Stock answer is a Gold Tone CC100(I have one) or a Deering Goodtime, both used to be around $300 new but they have gone up in price significantly.
    But really, for a beginner, just about any old inexpensive open back banjo will do provided it has geared tuners, a straight neck, frets in the right place, and has a decent set up. I woundnt be too concerned with brand really, just find one that works. You can get surprisingly good tone out of a cheap open back if it's set up well.
    Banjos are true parts casters, even morso than Teles. Just about any part on one can be replaced...for a price. But unless you run across the bones of some cool old desirable USA brand for a yard sale price I wouldn't go there. Way too easy to find an import cheapie in decent shape that'll do just fine.
    Avoid tbe friction tuners found on lots of cheapies, esp the older ones and often found on the 5th drone string even if the other four have gears. Very annoying, wont stay in tune, hard to get in tune.
    Also avoid straight thru planetary tuners in this price range, they most likely wont work well. Stick with geared guitar style ones and make sure the 5th string tuner is geared.
    Dont pay extra for a resonator, not needed until/unless you join a bluegrass band, and then you'll want a louder better banjo anyway.

    AS for new, I'll have a look on THomann and see what kind if deal they have going and report back.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2020
  4. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Deering Goodtime is the only one I have experience.
    I scooped the fretboard on one and added a calfskin head.
    Some old timey guys dug it.
    They said it was good and thunky.
     
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  5. teleforumnoob

    teleforumnoob Friend of Leo's

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    Thomann is kinda vague on specs and I cant find tuner info, so ask and make sure these have a geared 5th string. From the pics it appears they do but make sure. Any of these would be a decent starter.
    https://www.thomann.de/gb/recording_king_dirty_30s_open_back_banjo.htm
    https://www.thomann.de/gb/harley_benton_bjo_35pro_5_string_banjo_ob.htm
    https://www.thomann.de/gb/gold_tone_ac_traveler_5_string_banjo.htm

    Cant go wrong with a basic model Goodtime, these are keepers even if he upgrades
    https://www.thomann.de/gb/deering_goodtime_openback.htm
     
  6. getbent

    getbent Telefied Silver Supporter

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    I don't know much about 'good banjos'.. but, I did want to learn to frail a little and see if I could even get it going (and not buy a six string guitar banjo, Taylor Swift kinda thing.

    I found a used, perfect, hardly been played epiphone on craigslist for 80.00

    new strings, found a setup guide for it... LOVE it. My son picked it up and started playing it and LOVES it... I know we don't sound like Earl Scruggs (or Doc Watson which would be what I was after) but we can play tunes on it and it is lots of fun AND we are building a budget for a decent one... like 1200.00 we think we can get a decent one and then really dive in... I hate buying new when I'm just trying it out.
     
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  7. mfguitar

    mfguitar Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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  8. Ledjunkie

    Ledjunkie TDPRI Member

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    Join the banjohangout there are a lot of folk from the UK who may be able to steer you in the right direction for purchase.

    Depending on what style you want to play will help you decide. Tenor, openback resonator. Deering Goodtime, GoldTone, Recording King, lots of high quality choices these days unlike the 60's,70's or 80's. Budget has a large part to play as banjos get real expensive real fast.

    Banjohangout Marketplace UK Lots of choices in different price ranges and styles.
     
  9. 985plowboy

    985plowboy Friend of Leo's

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    I bought a used Deering Goodtime with the resonator a few years back.
    I’ve played a few other budget ones over the years and I prefer the Goodtime.

    Not sure what is available where you are. As stated above, Goldtone are well thought of but I’ve never had the chance to play one.
     
  10. Ledjunkie

    Ledjunkie TDPRI Member

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    The Goldtone Cripple creek is a great little banjo. The only downside is the tuners which you can replace at a later date but they work pretty good.

    Goldtone now offers the CC with upgraded tuners as well and also a resonator model Orange Blossom(?).

    In fact the higher level resonator models are really nice entry level bluegrass banjos.

    I have had both the Goodtime and the Cripple Creek and both are pretty good but voiced quite differently. The CC is more plunky, and the GT is more bright and Bluegrass leaning.

    Options open up if you are wanting to play tenor.
     
  11. bettyseldest

    bettyseldest Friend of Leo's

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    Recording King £193 Harley Benton £105 Gold Tone £210
    upload_2020-4-23_9-11-46.png upload_2020-4-23_9-12-12.png upload_2020-4-23_9-12-44.png

    The Harley Benton is a 5-6 week wait, the other tow are instock.

    I know nothing about banjo other than having knocked out a few Keith riffs on one at t a workshop a few years ago, but is open back the style you are looking for? What type of music does your brother want to play on it?
     
  12. Musekatcher

    Musekatcher Friend of Leo's

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    Setup is really important for more than the usual reasons we understand for guitar. No amount of money will matter if a banjo is not properly setup. It will be hard to tune, hard to play, the intuitive elements of learning won't happen, tone will be unfun, etc. Homework definitely required.

    There's too much to really share, but it is useful to understand if you plan to develop a fast, three finger style that we usually associate with bluegrass, or something different. The former requires more banjo and setup than the latter.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2020
  13. stormsedge

    stormsedge Friend of Leo's

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    I've had a Kasuga for >40 years. It has held up well. I do not see where they are being made anymore, so it would have to be a used one. I'd look for a straight neck, metal in good condition and flail on it a bit to see if it stays in tune. Sorry, my pictures are not very good. A pretty instrument.

    IMG_3143.JPG IMG_6824.JPG
     
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