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BigMikeUSMC - Posted - 12/27/2008:  05:57:17

Hello all,

I've been trying to find out what the average weight is for banjos, i.e. how much do Mastertones weigh vs others? What about the other known makers?

It seems I've heard weights up to 14+ pounds but searching on the web for actual weights has been unsuccessful.

One I did find was the Stelling web site that lists their average at 11.7 pounds.

My Alvarez Bluegrass Special weighs in around 7.25 pounds while the Samick Masterpiece (Masterclone) is just over 11 1/4 pounds.

It would be interesting to hear what the actual weight of other banjos is as most of what I've seen is relative: "heavier" "weighs a ton" "lightweight" not giving the specifics.

My guess is the quality banjos will come in somewhere around 11 to 12 pounds for the most part, excepting those made specifically to be lightweight such as the Deering John Hartford model.

All the best,

carteru93 - Posted - 12/27/2008:  06:00:19

I heard once that the Top Tension Gibsons weighed asmuch as 17lbs. My Blaylock weighs in at around 13lbs.

Blaylock Bear Tracks Banjo
There are no stupid questions, just dumb ones - Me

beegee - Posted - 12/27/2008:  06:05:43

How is this information useful? Which weighs more- a pound of lead or a pound of brass?

"It is better, of course, to know useless things than to know nothing."

Dragonnail1 - Posted - 12/27/2008:  06:13:05

or a pound of belly button lint


"got banjo"?

escapee - Posted - 12/27/2008:  06:20:16

Deering Sierra, about 14 pounds. Too damn many!

The spirit is frailling,but the flesh is weak.

TMarshall1 - Posted - 12/27/2008:  06:20:59

Mike, Actually this IS a good question. There was a post a while back where people actually reported the weight of their specific banjps. I did a quick search but didn't see it (I'll look a little deeper later). A true "mastertone" type of banjo will run 12-14+ lbs. Carter is right the Gibson TTs will almost always claim the "most heavy" prize.

There is something pretty cool about holding and playing a quality made, heavy banjo (unless you have back problems).

Welcome to the Hangout!

It''s a gDGBD (Gosh Darn Good Banjo Day)!

Proud Member of

The Gibson Chapter

"...if ya got time to breathe, ya got time for music..."
Briscoe Darling - Apr.29,1963

BigMikeUSMC - Posted - 12/27/2008:  06:37:56

Hello all,

Guess some of you think a pound of 'intelligence' is the same as a pound of 'foolishness'!

One of the major motivations for my asking is the regularly repeated 'rule' that heavier equates to better.

I'm new at banjo playing, but it seems to me the Deering John Hartfords seem to be well regarded while flying in the face of this rule. Similarly, the Nechvilles aren't considered lesser quality while still being well under weights subscribed to by the 'mass = quality' mindset group. As I mentioned in my post, Stellings average 11.7 pounds according to their website.

To those who provided informational feedback - thanks!

All the best,

Reneker - Posted - 12/27/2008:  06:38:04

My Gold Star GF-85 weighs in at 11.4 pounds.


rudy - Posted - 12/27/2008:  06:57:10

I've been trying to find out what the average weight is for banjos

I take it you're concentrating on resonator banjos, but I can thow your averages off if you want to throw in my nylon strung fretless at 4 pounds even.

Docmhc - Posted - 12/27/2008:  07:05:02

My Gibson Mastertone and Stelling Bellflower both weighs 11.4lbs.


"I have a higher and grander standard
of principle than George Washington.
He could not lie; I can, but I won''t." Mark Twain

Prewar00 - Posted - 12/27/2008:  07:27:00

My '34 Gibson conversion with Hopkins ring weighs 12.2 pounds. My Robin Smith Force Five with a custom lightweight archtop ring only 10.8 pounds.

Most Mastertones are around 12-13 pounds - the top tension versions are heavier.

roger martin - Posted - 12/27/2008:  07:38:54

My little openbacks that I build usually come in at about 2 1/2 pounds.I build as lite as possible .

Roger MArtin

bnjoplr - Posted - 12/27/2008:  07:40:55

A banjo playing friend of mine had hernia surgery a number of years ago and he asked me to weigh my banjos for guidance on what he might be able to play safely while still following his post surgery instructions. I found that what weighs X number of pounds on one scale, doesn't necessarily weigh that on another scale. I did my comparison using a digital bathroom scale and found that I could easily skew the reading by changing my body posture. It's not the most scientific study out there, but I found the results interesting.

Ome Primrose openback w/Silverspun tone ring w/TKL case 16 lbs, w/o case 7.5 lbs

Stelling Butterfly openback w/hoop tone ring w/Calton case 19.5 lbs, w/o case 9 lbs

Nechville Phantom w/ball bearing tone ring w/TKL case 18.5 lbs, w/o case 9.5 lbs

Stelling Carolinian w/Stelling case 21.5, w/o case 12 lbs

Desert Rose w/Crafters case 22.5 lbs, w/o case 12 lbs

Desert Rose w/TKL case 21 lbs, w/o case 11.5 lbs

TH Bluegrass Woody w/TKL case 16 lbs, w/o case 8 lbs

Windy Strings
Gotoh Tuning Machines, Banjo Instructional Materials, and Accessories
Bluegrass and Clawhammer banjo taught in Northern Virginia

BigMikeUSMC - Posted - 12/27/2008:  07:54:47

Hello all,

Thanks for all the information posted so far.

I'm compiling it into an Excel spreadsheet and will post it if there is any interest.

So far I've entered information on 17 banjos, (and yes, this is specifically for resonator banjos but I'd be happy to include all others as a separate listing.)

The heaviest reported so far is a Deering Sierra at 14 pounds with the majority being in the ~11.4 to 12.5 range.

All the best,

1four5 - Posted - 12/27/2008:  07:57:38

My 7 pound Deering Goodtime Special competes for playing time with my 13 pound Calico. When I think Goodtime I think fun and cheery and unlimited playing time. When I think Calico I think very nice tone but work, and limited time before neck and back pain start, sometimes triggering a migraine.

To me weight does NOT equal better. Lighter= more enjoyment. When you hurt, tone becomes secondary real quick.


pick1936 - Posted - 12/27/2008:  08:12:46

My Nechville (Atenafied) Classic Deluxe, Is about 6 3/4 Lbs. approxamate,, weighed on Bathroom scales?? It is a JOY to play.

Nechville. In Higginsville..
pick the banjer son.

Lee Kelso

mike gregory - Posted - 12/27/2008:  08:22:04

Here's "LAME CREEK" music file, so you can hear how it sounds.

The "Squared Eel" weighs 3 pounds.

I made an "Ultralight" that weighs even less. Used a REMO "Sound Shapes" drum for the head, had NO body.

=):{ )
Mike Gregory, Banjo Maker Infraordinaire
When I say my instruments are as good as anything Gibson or Martin ever made,
I mean MEL Gibson and DEAN Martin!

My banjos can be seen on my own website

Edited by - mike gregory on 12/27/2008 08:25:06

Gomer - Posted - 12/27/2008:  08:24:56

Hey Mike! Welcome to the BHO. I play a Hartford and a Tenbrooks. I guess the the Harford is about 8 pounds and the Tenbrooks is another 6 or 7 more than that. The Hartford is funner to play but the Tenbrooks ounds better and hangs in one place.

"ever searching for that special post-war / pre-submerged sound"

( )=======::

AZJerry - Posted - 12/27/2008:  08:38:54

My old Stelling Starflower #270 weighs in at just under 14lbs. My poor ol' achin' back lets me know it, too. After 20 or 30 minutes it feels twice that. With the case it's a whopping 23lbs.


"I''m not sharp, the band''s flat!"

wrightedward - Posted - 12/27/2008:  08:42:51

My mastertone weights in at 12.6..A lot depends on the ring you have in it
Phillippians 4:13

dixie kiwi - Posted - 12/27/2008:  09:01:41

Someone needs to do a "Sound for the Pound" test to compare the newer lightweight woody tonering banjos against the heavier Mastertones and metal tone rings.

I suspect the traditionalists will probably always prefer the heavier weight of a reso banjo but I think some of these woodies are well worth considering. Kudos to Hartford, Tom Nechville, Tony Pass via Turtle Hill, Desert Rose and Fitch.


EDIT to add that I do not know the weight of my Mastertone but I DO know the Huber ring is a heavier ring than the stock PM. A beast! We all need to drop some LBs after the holiday!!

And, Bobby, you are right - I am being selfish. But the last time I checked, we don''t have a whole lot of songs that feature the COWBELL!!!
-Will Ferrell

Edited by - dixie kiwi on 12/27/2008 09:07:14

ban-joe - Posted - 12/27/2008:  09:09:52

I saw a Gold Tone case at a festival awhile back that had been amended with black paint to read "old Ton". I own an OB-250 and thought that was a pretty good description.


beegee - Posted - 12/27/2008:  09:36:56

My point is that there is no direct correlation between weight and quality of sound. Weight is objective and sound is subjective.

If a basketball hold 10 lbs. of air, how many pancakes can you stack in a doghouse?

"It is better, of course, to know useless things than to know nothing."

Edited by - beegee on 12/27/2008 09:39:55

goldtopia - Posted - 12/27/2008:  09:58:43

It should be stated with every new banjo what the weight is, but many manufacturers are afraid to do that because heavy banjos could lose sales.


moparcolt - Posted - 12/27/2008:  11:06:27

I have a HeliX Hurricane, all maple 5 string resonator banjo that weighs 7lbs even. It has a brass hoop tone ring instead of a fuill blown cast tone ring, much easier on the back and such and great sound!


Gomer - Posted - 12/27/2008:  11:55:15

Bob, 10 pancakes will fit on a doghouse when a basketball has 10 PSI of air. . . Simple Calculus!

"ever searching for that special post-war / pre-submerged sound"

( )=======::

Gold Star GF-85 - Posted - 12/27/2008:  12:26:20

Wow, I stood on the bathroom scale while holding my Gibson Banjo and it looks like it weighs in at 348 pounds, then subtract my weight, and it looks like my ESS weighs just over 12 pounds.

Big John and his 1987 Gibson Earl Scruggs Standard

stelling man - Posted - 12/27/2008:  14:12:32

Since we're talking banjos with resonators and full tonerings, all my Stellings weight about 12 pounds each..


beegee - Posted - 12/27/2008:  14:55:00

Originally posted by Gomer

Bob, 10 pancakes will fit on a doghouse when a basketball has 10 PSI of air. . . Simple Calculus!

"ever searching for that special post-war / pre-submerged sound"

( )=======::

Not ON a doghouse! IN a doghouse....The equations are different.

"It is better, of course, to know useless things than to know nothing."

Helix - Posted - 12/27/2008:  14:56:00

I make banjos that use more rim and less tone ring, thus the weight of the banjos I make is public and posted. I am the only one willing to do that up front, and not reluctantly. Full depth rims.

My Black Walnut with rez and longneck weighs 8 pounds.

My Maple openback longneck weighs 7 pounds

As Moparcolt stated, these ain't woodies, but tone ring banjos using all the best of the wood to make tone AND volume and lightweight.

I've got somethng new, takes a little time to sink in. Alder is a cousin of Birch, my Alder banjos weigh 5 pounds 5 ounces with a tone ring.

If it ain't a hernia, it ain't a banjo.

Some people aren't curious enough, please excuse their rudeness.

(_)====''===::} Banjo is a verb

stanger - Posted - 12/27/2008:  23:35:03

I honestly don't believe weight alone is a contributor to tone.I also have found weight doesn't create more volume.

It's simply a factor that depends on the type of construction and the heaviness of many different parts that when combined, tend to create a banjo that's in a given weight range.

Some parts need to be very stiff and rigid, and other parts need to be very flexible, but neither need to be heavy to fill their functions, especially these days- there are many modern materials that have been developed to cut down on weight.

If a banjo is made in a certain way, such as being built on the Mastertone prototype, it's going to have a certain weight.

But there is no true tone standard- only tones that are more or less popular at a moment in time. So far, I've never found a banjo that was perfect for all the styles I like to play and the conditions I play my banjos in. Every one of mine works better in some circumstances than my others.
If I like a banjo's tone and volume, then I accept it's weight, whether heavy or light.


The pen is mightier than the pigs.

ddale79 - Posted - 12/28/2008:  04:31:15

Mike, I play a Fender FB 59....yes, easily says Im a total beginner. I always thought mine was heavy at 10 lbs. Seen several on this post that are much heavier.

Interesting topic.


BigMikeUSMC - Posted - 12/28/2008:  08:20:55

Hello all,

So far I've entered 34 weights in three categories - resonator, openback and specials (Squared Eel and Ultralight, Thanks Mike!)

Of the 27 resonators, the median is 11.4 pounds, with low weight of 7.25 and high (so far) of ~14.5 for a Deering Tenbrooks. Need someone with a Gibson TT to weigh it and send in the info as it will evidently be the 'winner' for heaviest. (And yes, I know this sampling is too small and not specific enough to be absolute.)

Interesting to note the number of posts having to do with back troubles and how they may be associated with the banjo weight.

So far it's been an interesting exercise and has helped me understand a bit of the mystique. Seems to be the banjoist's version of 'mine's bigger than yours'.

Agree fully the weight is objective vs. the subjective sound, and also no one banjo will provide the entire range of sound/tone/power/brilliance one might want, of course, it appears Mr. Scruggs was pretty satisfied with The Gibson!

Thanks for all the information supplied and hope we can get some more. If anyone wants a copy of the Excel spreadsheet, just send me an email and I'll forward a copy.

All the best,

TMarshall1 - Posted - 12/28/2008:  09:50:58

Sorry I don't have more precise scales Mike BUT my RB-3 weighs in around 12 and my Flint Hill Special around 12 1/2.

It''s a gDGBD (Gosh Darn Good Banjo Day)!

Proud Member of

The Gibson Chapter

"...if ya got time to breathe, ya got time for music..."
Briscoe Darling - Apr.29,1963

stanger - Posted - 12/28/2008:  12:34:44

Hi, Mike...
Yup. For a long time, banjo weight was equated to lots of stuff that was considered to be good qualities, and still is, but not as much as in the past.

The question comes up pretty frequently these days- since ca. 1998, there have been thousands of new players take up the banjo, and the largest percentage of them are in middle age. Back problems are most common to older folks, and as this group continues to age, banjo weight will be an increasing concern to the players and to the builders alike.

The same goes with hearing troubles. There is a possibility that the open backed banjo may eventually become the most popular, because they are sometimes easier on the ears than the bluegrass cannons. They don't necessarily weigh any less though- a Vega Tubaphone is a heavy banjo when it has the bracket band and heavy rim.

The pen is mightier than the pigs.

wrightedward - Posted - 12/28/2008:  15:20:59

I believe you will find most mastertones weight between 12 to 12 1/2 lb ,,not to include top tension ..Not for arguments sake ,,but i love a heavy banjo ..
Phillippians 4:13

Edited by - wrightedward on 12/28/2008 19:15:13

lethegoodtimesroll - Posted - 12/28/2008:  15:24:13

Wow! 14.6 for a Tenbrooks.........I thought my "back breaking" Top tension ( with a correct solid carved resonator)was at the top of the heavyweights at 13.6.

Edited by - lethegoodtimesroll on 12/28/2008 15:25:37

nycs - Posted - 12/28/2008:  18:51:56

For what it's worth:
RB-18 with 4 Keith pegs, solid reso - 12lb 14oz
For comparison:
TB-3 tube and plate pot, no-hole AT, Sullivan maple H&F neck - 11lb 7oz
Weights were taken on a reasonably accurate spring scale with 24lb range. The TT is heavier but not all that much.


jethrobodine - Posted - 12/28/2008:  19:41:30

My early model ESS is 12lb 6oz


BigMikeUSMC - Posted - 12/29/2008:  05:05:25

Hello all,

The numbers continue to come in (now up to 33 resonators and 8 others) and some trends are starting to show: with 11 Gibsons, including one TT, the average weight for Gibsons is 12.4 pounds, while the average for the total is 10.86 pounds.

One thing that is obviously a problem is how these weights are being determined - I doubt everyone has a scale that is accurate in this range, and using other scales invariably will introduce some degree of error. I don't have any solution for this so we will have to accept there is a bit of 'SWAG' involved with weights being submitted. I've tried to find weight information on a number of the makers sites, but so far the only thing is the average of 11.7 from Stelling.

Again, if anyone wants a copy of the spreadsheet, just send me an email.

All the best,

fred davis - Posted - 12/29/2008:  18:35:48

YOU are right as we get older are backs seem to get weaker since my surgery I rarely play my gold tonr white lady open back weight 7.2 I play and old imperial without the resonator at 4lbs and a 17 fret tenor openback at 4lbs. and even then at a jam of and hour or two my backs tells me in no uncertian terms and my mandolin is looking really good as is my uke banjo at 2lbs. best of luck and happy new year

banjoplyr. - Posted - 12/29/2008:  20:53:11

Fender Artist is heavy,about 16lbs .the first hr of standing and playing ,after the second hr it feels like 25lbs.

RS bridges

vtyankee5 - Posted - 12/31/2008:  03:49:01

Kel Kroydon has the KK46 model that is lightweight. They also have an aluminum tone ring made to replace the heavy brass ring. The banjos are around 10 pounds and sound pretty darn good. Specially the KK46

flange5st - Posted - 12/31/2008:  12:07:17

...........Howdy Mike ........welcome to the H RB-1 and my RB-150 both weigh in at around 9lbs.........neither one has a full flathead/ arch-top tone ring but they sound great and are easy on your shoulder....peace

.........difficile est tenere quae acceperis nisi exerceas...........

BvilleDon - Posted - 12/31/2008:  12:18:28

I know we are speaking of weight for the most part for the comfort of the player. Sometimes, when tone is concerned, I think it is important to look at the banjo and the mass, as opposed to weight, of different components. There are necks that are so large they choke out the sound. A poorly designed tailpiece cxan do the same thing. So I see the sense in compiling a list for everyone's info, but if someone ends up using the chjart in terms of more qeight ias better, they may be in for a surprise. This comes from a Mastertrone owner who does not know the weight of my banjo, but i know it is heavy. I have even seen people hang all sorts of things off their peghead, because they liked the change in tone brought about by the extra mass being in just the right spot. However, in the wrong spot, extra mass can deaden the tone. Just my opinion and I don't expect everyone to agree with me!


BvilleDon - Posted - 12/31/2008:  12:20:19

sorry for all the typos above, my fingers are not working too good this morning! Everyone's patience is appreciated!


banjer23 - Posted - 12/31/2008:  12:28:10

My '79 Stelling without a doubt outweights the new Stellings,,dont know how much,,but,,a significant amount Id guess.

g3zdm - Posted - 12/31/2008:  12:34:17

My Ome Monarch Megatone (2002) weighs 12 pounds.
(probably a lot of it is the tone ring).

Chris Muriel
Manchester, UK

minstrelmike - Posted - 12/31/2008:  12:44:14

I saw Clarke Buehling play 'classic' banjo tunes (from two centuries ago now) on a large open back that was the loudest thing I have ever heard. And it only weighed about 6 ounces (which is why he could twirl it over his head for one song). He let us play all his banjos after the concert. That was worth the price of admission for me.

It was all wood and no resonator yet was as loud as anything I've ever heard. If your back's hurting, look into some of those old-time banjo makers.
Or sit down.

Mike Moxcey
Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

SJL - Posted - 12/31/2008:  17:53:51

I had always heard the heavier is better theory. I have an Aria Pro, a good quality seventies Japanese Masterclone. It is quite heavy. I was at one of Chris Quinn's shows one night and he handed me his Neat, a handcrafted top end professional banjo with a Blaylock ring. The very first thing that I noticed was that it was noticeably lighter than my Aria. I have since bought a Hatfield and still have the Aria. The Hatfield is a much better banjo despite being lighter. I would say that it is about the same weight as Chris's Neat. I no longer the 'heavier is better' theory.

"If the woman is alive at the end of the song, it ain''t Bluegrass".

2007 Hatfield Walnut Custom

1976 (?) Aria Pro Tree of Life

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