I've been looking to buy a banjo for a while now, but I'm new to the forums. Lately, I've been a bit confused as to whether banjo resonators can be removed so that it can be played as an open back. I've been asking around at music stores and while some say that the resonator can be easily removed from any banjo (which I thought was the case), others are saying only some banjos have this feature. I want the option to play both bluegrass and old time music, but I am more interested in an open back at this point. One thing I should mention is that I'm a student, so I've been looking towards the cheap end of things. For starters anyway. I've had a hard time finding an open back within my price range, but I've managed to find a few resonator banjos online. I realise they are probably not the best quality, but it is the best I can do for the moment.
I've been looking at this Karrera model, which, from what I've heard, is great for beginners. My question is whether the resonator can be removed, because the seller wasn't able to give me any feedback about it. cgi.ebay.com.au/ws/eBayISAPI.d...47wt_1139
Hi Georgiemai, welcome to the forum. I checked out the Karrera banjo, there's not much information available. Most resonators are attached by small screws which can be extracted and the resonator removed. It's difficult to tell from the pictures available whether this is the case with the Karrera. I would guess it is an Asian made banjo. The list is around $400 so you are making a saving there. There is a review on the hangout. banjohangout.org/reviews/searc...edir=true Also another Ebay listing cgi.ebay.com.au/NEW-KARRERA-BL...427736746 which shows a closer pic. It looks like the resonator does come off. However, the resonator is there to project the sound so you can play old tyme, clawhammer with the resonator in place. Many players prefer a less bright sound when playing clawhammer so stuff a rag or similar under the banjo head to slightly muffle the sound. I hope this helps but I would probabaly advise you to save some more money and try to buy a slightly better model as you may find this one difficult to play.
The resonator will come off virtually all banjos. The issue is a part (or collection of parts) called a flange. The resonator is often attached to the flange and when the resonator is off the flange can dig into your leg.
From the ebay photo, it looks as if there are three or four small metal pieces which collectively act as a flange and to which the resonator attaches. They may or may not interfere with your playing when the resonator is off. If they do and you want to play open back, then they can be removed pretty easily.
My only warning with buying a low-end banjo is know it is going to need some setting up to sound and play good. If you're good with your hands, willing to tinker, and know a bit about stringed instruments, great!. If not, find somebody who can help you out or do it for you.
ps. There are a number of old-time style players who use resonator banjoes.
Oakridge make a good 5 string open back banjo , they have a nice sound and are easy to up grade. I've had one for about 4 years now and I love it. They should be available from music shops or on ebay .
If you can't get what you want locally don't be scared to buy from the states as the Aussie dollar is at a two year high which makes buying from the states a worthwhile consideration. I have used this reliable American Ebay store several times and had no problems with purchasing and shipping items to Australia. The plus is they list all items in Australian dolllars and have no worries shipping to Australia. Email them for further info as they are very helpful and easy to deal with. I bought an American made Deering Goodtime from this store just over two years ago and it was selling for three times more in in Australia at the time. It is good choice to start with and for $500 or so all up including shipping is a much better choice than most of the Asian banjos in local shops. The good thing is if you want to sell it later on you can easy recoup your money as Asian instruments don't hold as much value as American made ones. To avoid paying import duties, you have to ensure the total price for any banjo including shipping to Oz, in Australian dollars is under $1000. Be brave go for it.
I hope this helps but I would probabaly advise you to save some more money and try to buy a slightly better model as you may find this one difficult to play.
Gradely, could you tell me a little more about why a cheaper banjo may be difficult to play? Is it 'cause it might lose its tuning? or ??? Reason I ask is that I have a very cheap one and I'm not very good!!!! Not too sure just buying a more expensive one is going to help improve that much, but what do I know!?? Thanks for helping me on this.
Cheaper banjos sometimes have narrow fingerboards and heavy necks. They may not be as responsive as better banjos, requiring more effort to play, and the sound quality is not as pleasing. Most inexpensive banjos do not have the attention paid to set-up details like bridge, nut, quality head and action adjustment.
Hi Happyfingers, You ask, Why may a cheap banjo be difficult to play? Lower end banjos do not go through a check at the end of production by folks with much knowledge of what they are supposed to sound like or play. There are usually issues with setup, ie. Strings too high or low. Poorly alingned frets nuts and bridges. Tuners that slip, Tailpieces that are loose. Heads too loose. Neck steup incorrectly. If you find you really have to clamp down on the fret to get a clear note and your fingers fumble over the strings which sound out of tune you'll not enjoy practising
You can remove the resonator on almost any banjo readily. Not quite all, as I have an old Windsor where the resonator is attached to the neck and the pot assembly mounts into it, but that is an 80 year old design. As far as I know, all modern banjos allow you to remove the resonator and in almost all cases you have to remove it to adjust the head.
The problem is, the setup for bluegrass and old-time banjos are different and if you really want to change around you may well want to change the head, tailpiece and possibly the action.
I would just get a banjo and learn. You can play either music on either banjo type without removing the resonator. Actually, a good beginner banjo is the Rover line, which based on postings here seems to be readily available down under. The use of the absolute cheapest one, the plastic rimmed RB20 as a old-time is described here:
I have the same banjo and by simply replacing the tailpiece with a cheap Presto it sounds fine for bluegrass picking also. You can also get it with an Al rim for a little more (I found a RB35 for under $200US by Googling RB35). All these Rovers I have played have a great neck, are very playable and sound surprisingly good in absolute terms.
I have to make a comment on this topic, just for one reason: app. 3 months after I started, I gave up.
In the beginning I was very anxious to start learning to play the banjo, a little over 2 years ago. So I bought one of those 'great deals' on eBay. It was hard to play, actually, it was so hard to play that after practicing a little too long (How can you practice banjo too long you will ask? Well, you can.) that my fingers were so sore I could not play for the next 2 or 3 days. I had no reference to any other banjo, had never held one in my hands before. I ended up giving up because I just could not get an even relatively descent sound from it.
I couldn't help myself and in the past winter I bought a Morgan Monroe MNB1, which is a descent starter banjo. I moved on to a RK80 which is even nicer tho a little more expensive.
To make a long story short, don't buy something cheap if you can afford to spend a little more $$$. It is 100x and maybe even 1000x worth the extra money, not to mention the pleasure of playing a good sounding and easy playable instrument as opposed to the frustration of trying to play a piece of $&%t.
Good luck and welcome to this fantastic website where advise is always at your fingertips.
My thoughts on the subject. The banjo is one of the best external stimulants a person can experience. Better than the others because it gets more enjoyable as time goes by. I have a relatively inexpensive banjo with a narrow neck which is thick and rounded. I am having a blast playing it, but, a thinner neck would make it so much easier when playing up the neck. If you can, spend a little more and buy one that is not so thick. Good luck and welcome to BHO.