Thinking about buying a Banjo.

Maguchi

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NoBanjoNoBanjoN0.jpg
 

Peegoo

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Just a word of warning--
View attachment 940803

That Penny Marshall was a funny woman.


I have a Gold Tone CB100 open back. I got it seven years ago when I got a bit bored with guitar, and I had always wanted to learn banjo. It was fairly simple for me because I went down the clawhammer/frailing/downpicking/"old-tyme" path--rather than Scruggs style. It is a whole lot of fun. Go for it!

My only word of caution is this: be careful when transporting it in your vehicle. I mention this because about three years ago I was on my way to a bluegrass jam and I stopped at the Wawa for a cup of coffee. I didn't lock the doors because I was only going to be in there for a minute or two. When I returned to my car, I discovered someone had opened the passenger door and threw an accordion in there with it.
 

brindlepicker

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Bought a Korean one 25 years ago for 100$ from a guy that got it from his family and never played it. I had fun with it a while.
Teacher I had taught songs and not really how to pick up the rolls by ear off records. So I quit after about 6 months. I learned cripple creek,orange blossom spec., Ghost Riders in the sky,Dueling banjos, Pretty Polly. Still have it and haven’t played it in a long time. Got a banjo mute for the bridge when I got married.
 

JamesAM

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A few years back I got the banjo itch. I ended up with a deering goodtime with a resonator for about 650. It was good, but didn’t have a tone ring and likely wouldn’t have been able to hang with a real BG group. I ended up selling it because I really just didn’t enjoy playing it (banjo in general, not that instrument- it was a really great, high quality instrument, actually).

However, deering does have a goodtime with a special steel tone ring that seems to be able to do the job. I believe they even make them with dyed maple that looks a bit like an ebony fretboard. I also think they even have railroad spikes on a few of the high g frets. The good time special artisan:


Seems like basically the only thing missing is a truss rod- I’d bet you could play out with that no problem.
 

Dave Hicks

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I bought one when I was about that age, actually. Not the worst decision I ever made. Started with a Deering Goodtime openback. Clawhammer style is kind of frustrating, I found.

D.H.
 

catdaddy

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Thanks my friends. I too hope that playing bluegrass banjo will make me a better finger picker on my acoustic guitars. The Scruggs banjo style looks to have a lot in common with Travis style picking on the guitar.
It's just a vision I've had of myself one day retired and sitting out on the covered porch with a banjo in my hands and the great grand kids joining in singing and dancing. When I was 4 or 5 my family used to spend a lot of time doing that with a couple of my parents friends. It was always Frank on pedal steel, Henry on banjo and Clarence on guitar. Maybe I want to go back as the old adult this time. It just feels so down home cool. I'll check out Banjo Hangout too. I think I've already been there when cruising banjo sites but didn't know it was such a well thought of site for information. I'm thinking TDPRI for banjo players? :)
About 10 years ago I got the itch to try banjo. As you mention, I also thought learning Scruggs style banjo might be helpful to me in my Travis picking on guitar, and as it turned out it was. Learning those Scruggs style three-finger rolls made me a lot more disciplined and accurate as a Travis style guitar picker. I thoroughly enjoyed the learning process with banjo and its related benefits as a guitar player, but I realized after several years that I was never going to be able to attain the speed and accuracy on the banjo that would allow me to become a real bluegrass player, and since Scruggs style picking is pretty much an exclusively bluegrass genre specialty I stopped playing banjo. I don't regret the time I put in because of the beneficial results in my guitar playing, but I should have also spent some time learning clawhammer style which is more applicable to my singer/songwriter performance style. I still have the banjo so maybe I'll end up doing that eventually.

As far as the instrument itself is concerned, I found that Deering was the best quality instrument for the buck, and I ended up buying a Deering Goodtime II with resonator. Unless you're in a full bluegrass band the Goodtime II is plenty loud enough, and without a tone ring it's a light weight instrument. Any banjo with a tone ring is going to be louder, but it'll also be pretty darn heavy.

Best of luck in your banjo quest!!!
 

fjblair

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I didn't put that much work into the decision, but I bought a Recording King for five or six hundred bucks and it has served my occasional banjo needs just fine. I know they are often recommended, but I was never impressed with any version of the Deering Good Times.
 

Tedyjoe1

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Ive recently taken up bluegrass banjo at 58, it's great fun and it's definitely a learning curve but if you've got some thumb picking under your belt that will go along way. A lot of people recommend the Recording King RK35 banjo as a good reasonably priced banjo that will hold some resale value. Good luck with it , the banjos made for a good time!
 

Dan Miller

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Back in the late 90's, when I was living in Madison, Wisconsin, there were a number of bluegrass jams that we liked to hang out at. I was inspired to learn banjo then. I bought a Deering Boston, which was midway between the Goodtimes and the higher end banjos. As I recall, the Goodtimes were only available in blonde at the time, and while probably would have been adequate for my needs, I opted for the Boston 'cause it looked more like a "real" banjo, and sounded quite good.

Shortly before we moved away from Madison, we visited Richelieu Banjos, which was just south of Madtown in the village of Oregon. Old man Richelieu was still alive at the time, and we met him there, but the shop was being run by a new owner. It's since closed, I understand. While Richelieu was more known for their tenor banjos, they had a second hand five string resonator at a decent price that I bought.

I later traded the Boston in for a Summit mandolin. I still have the Richelieu, but sadly, it just sits under the stairs.

That's my story, even though it won't help the OP much in his venture.
 

Wallaby

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Fun!

Now you got me thinking about it too.... I don't want to get all mystical but banjos can be life-changing.




I had one a long time ago and played the crap out of it all summer, learned some rolls, jammed a little bit, my S.O. at the time "expressed herself" about it - we lived in an urban area and I liked to play on the front porch... so I switched back to my Tele. And introduced it to my new love, fingerpicks :D

That banjo, the American Standard Tele ( first year of those ), the Gretsch 6120 that followed and a Silver Face Twin are distant memories along with that particular relationship. I hate to think what would have happened if I hadn't had that banjo :)

Life-changing.

Play it in good health and worship in Church of Scruggs!
 
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Jared Purdy

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I've always wanted to add a banjo to the instruments I play and, having just passed my 67th birthday, started thinking if I'm ever going to do this I'd better get it done. I've been researching everything I can about banjo brands, models, dealers, lessons, maintenance, etc. Because I don't have the time it took to climb through the build quality from beginner to professional of the banjo like I did with guitars, keyboards, etc. I've decided a good middle tier model would be the way to go. One banjo. Bought new. Never needing to be upgraded. So ..... I'm interested in the 5 string resonator "bluegrass" banjo.
I fell in love with this instrument way back in the early '60s when "The Dillards", a Missouri ozark band, accepted the role of "The Darling" family on the Andy Griffith Show. Doug Dillard played the banjo and impressed the heck out of me. Over time I got into Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, Pete Seeger, Roy Clark, Carl Jackson, (check out Carls banjo playing when he teamed with Glen Campbell to do "Dueling Banjos"), Tony Trischka and Steve Martin.I've been a follower / listener for a long time.
I've pretty much narrowed it down to the brands Gold Tone, Deering, Recording King and Gold Star. A lot of guitar brands also make banjos but I figured since the banjo wasn't their primary focus and banjos being so different of a build that I would stick with brands that made the banjo their #1 product. I've found a handful of dealers on the internet and have had discussions with three of them. I've played a number of banjos in local stores but most of those are pretty low tier. Ibanez, Oscar Schmidt, Epiphone, Fender, Deerings "Good time" range, etc. Out of those the Deerings are the best of the lot in my opinion. In the middle range I've played a couple of Gold Tone and Recording King. They are definitely a step up and probably something I'll end up purchasing if I go through with this plan. I found a couple of middle tier Deerings but, in Deerings world, middle tier starts in the low to mid $2000 range. When I ask about "pro" level banjos all of the online dealers use the Deering Sierra line as the starting point. They run in the upper $2000 to lower $3000 range. They're supposed to be the most popular of the professional banjos too. Still ...... that's pretty pricey. Then again, you'd probably be surprised that the majority of the professional tier "production banjos, (not custom or boutique), range between the mid $3000s to lower $7000s. I think production banjo makers and production truck makers might be in cahoots.
Anyway ..... any thoughts or advice would be appreciated. I'm sure there's got to be a nest of banjo players embedded in a Telecaster forum. Maybe in a tavern backroom, church basement or horse barn? :)
Be aware the banjo jokes....
 

Buckocaster51

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Deering Sierras are excellent banjos. You will not regret owning one.
 
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Peegoo

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While Richelieu was more known for their tenor banjos, they had a second hand five string resonator at a decent price that I bought.


Here's a Slingerland tenor from 1929. I cleaned up the fretwork, re-skinned it, and set it up. I tune it like the top four strings on a guitar so it really simplifies playing the thing (Thank you Tommy Tedesco!)

Slingerland-Tenor1929.jpg
 

aging_rocker

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I have an elderly relative who has threatened to leave me his banjo when he passes.
I presume it's quite a nice instrument, but other than that I know nothing about it, other than it's a banjo, and therefore the work of the devil.
 

stxrus

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I’ve always enjoyed banjo music but put it in the same category as 12 string guitar. Love it but I can’t play it
 

1955

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My great grandfather was apparently a good banjo player in Pageland, SC. Everyone in my family could play something. I wouldn’t mind a 6 string tuned like a guitar. Don’t have the patience to learn the different tuning. I found a set of his strings from the ‘40’s or ‘50’s in a box of family stuff. Saw Steve Martin a while back and he played really good banjo.
 

teletimetx

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“Thinking about a banjo” is a recurring thread. Obviously invites all the banjo jokes and cartoons and even some improvised variations on the standards. All good fun.

Deering makes good stuff. That’s where I landed, after playing less expensive imports from the 70’s. Like others here I favor the clawhammer older styles, open back. Slightly less strident mostly, but depends on the player, as always.

Since you’ve already tried a few, continue trying as many as you can. See if there’s elements that you prefer, etc.

The budget you allocate is a balancing act, but you only live once, yes?

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Wildeman

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Last week i took my 5 string downtown to have some work done on it, my old friend called me for some drinks and around half way through lunch i was horrified to remember that i left the windows down, i ran back to my car and not only was it still there but there were three more banjo's and an accordion.
 

arlum

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Well ..... I've placed my order. After starting by checking out Gold Tone, Deering, Recording King and Gold Star I plunged head first into American made small shop banjo builders. I chose one built by Tim Davis. It's the Davis Don Reno mahogany 5 String Resonator. This banjo is a replica of Don Reno's Gibson RB75 that he acquired through a trade with Earl Scruggs. It's brand new but the metal parts have been aged to look like the original. I purchased it from The Banjo Warehouse. I'm looking forward to this delivery. It should be here by the 26th.

 

Telekarster

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All my Banjo's are ancient, newest one is a '64 ODE so i can't help with the new brands but i can say, do it! Its a ton of fun (literally a ton) if you're gonna by a reso!😏

Ode's are VERY good banjo's man, and rather hard to find! Kudos to you! I learned on an Ode that belonged to a friend of mines grandfather, I'd say probably about the same age as yours... it's been decades since I've seen that banjo, but I'll never forget it.
 




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