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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Good banjo for a starter


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/362478

danyjr - Posted - 03/26/2020:  17:00:37


Hello everyone,

As you might tell I'm new here and this is my first post and I was hoping someone could guide me find the right banjo for myself.

I've played guitar for a good 20 years, and picked up charango a few years back and still play it every day to this week. As much as guitar is my main instrument, I enjoy more ethnic instruments just as much. There is just something raw about these instruments that connects deeply with human emotions, in my opinion.

And with that said, I've always had a soft spot for banjo too; I remember watching a guy at a festival playing clawhammer a number of years back and being mesmerised by its sound and feel. And after about a year of "should I? should I not?" I have decided to put some hours into learning the banjo.

I'm looking for a banjo who would suit clawhammer or old timey style but I wouldn't say no to versatility. I have allocated around $1500 to this "project" which I'm hoping should be sufficient. I like an instrument that sounds good and inspires me to play more.

I'm quite a newbie, but I understand there are two main types of banjos, open back and resonator, and from my knowledge an open back is more suited to clawhammer style? Taking versatility into account, I've also been told that some resonator banjos can be converted to open back and vice versa. Would you recommend such a banjo, and there any banjos in my price range that would be suitable? And if so, how long would it take to convert one into the other? Is this something that can be done in a few minutes or does it require a few hours? Also from my years of playing the guitar, most so called versatile instruments often are 'jack of all trades, master of none', as in they sound good in many styles but not great in any style. So I was wondering if I should just prioritise tone and feel instead of versatility.

Sorry to blabber on, my head is full of questions. Many thanks in advance!

Banjo Lefty - Posted - 03/26/2020:  17:10:17


If clawhammer is your thing, then an open-back is the way to go. With a budget of $1500, you have a lot of good choices. One thing I would suggest is to check out Ken LeVan Banjos -- Ken is a member here and a frequent poster. His work is impeccable, and he's within your budget.

Standard disclaimer: I have no connection to LeVan Banjos whatsoever.

Bill Rogers - Posted - 03/26/2020:  18:04:55


I’d look for a used Ome Double-x or Single-X. Either would fall in your price range and they are excellent banjos.

The Old Timer - Posted - 03/26/2020:  18:23:32


There is literally a BLIZZARD of fine open backs in your price range.

GO SHOPPING. Hit every music store (that's open), or jam session or festival once they get started up again, and look and listen. Ask banjo players to show you their instrument. Almost every banjo will love to do that.

Spending that kind of money is about finding a banjo that appeals to you in looks, feel and sound. Since you're not actually playing yet, you might have to just "take the plunge" on one if you like the looks.

Actually I'd recommend you spend $500 to get started with the universal beginner's banjo nowadays, the Deering Goodtime. Get picking!!!! That's plenty good enough to get started. Once you can play a little bit, you'll have a lot better informed opinion when you look at $1500 banjos; you'll actually know something about sound and feel.

Good luck, and don't over-analyze your first banjo. Get a Goodtime and get BUSY.

blazo - Posted - 03/26/2020:  18:27:41


I'll second the recommendation for Ken Levan. With your budget, Ken will build you a one-of-a-kind banjo that may be the only banjo you'll ever need. So much more than a starter banjo!


Edited by - blazo on 03/26/2020 18:30:33

thisoldman - Posted - 03/26/2020:  19:48:20


You might change the title of the thread to "Good banjo for a starter in the UK". Lots of HO members from the UK and they will be able to help you out.

banjered - Posted - 03/26/2020:  20:04:40


Any banjo players near you to show you the ropes, er, strings? It is true that after a while of playing you start to develope "preferences." I like thin pots but others like a banjo built like a tank, a "U" shape neck as contrasted to a "V" shape, an 11' pot or a 12, simple or fancy inlay, various tone rings, neck width.... along list here." Start out with whatever money level you are comfortable with. but an experienced banjo player sure would be helpful for you. banjered

danyjr - Posted - 03/27/2020:  02:51:08


Thanks for your advice. I've checked out Ken Levan's website and wow, fantastic looking banjos.

One trouble for me is that, living in the UK, shipping someone from the States is a bit of a hassle (there are no Ome banjos in the UK/EU), plus paying customs duty and tax on top of that usually ends up being a rather costly endeavour. We have a fair number of Deering banjos in the UK (both new and second hand) as well as Gretsch, and a number of 'entry level' banjos which I'm not keen on.

Having thought it through, I think the advice from The Old Timer is very reasonable. Get something a bit cheaper (maybe second hand?) and get busy playing.

Dave likes pies - Posted - 03/27/2020:  02:58:35


Eagle music shop in Huddersfield sell Ome banjos. Have a look at their website

TiGweld - Posted - 03/27/2020:  04:18:06


My 5 cents from my very limited recent experience, aged 58 & not having played any instrument throughout my life whatsoever - exactly one Month ago I picked up a used generic (Redwood B2-5) 5-string open-back for $75, which can actually be purchased new on Amazon for around $130.....the only real drawback from this banjo being neck flexing, but this doesn't deter my practicing - I figure that I'll purchase expensive when suitably experienced.

I've practiced every day for an hour, firstly learning frailing but I wasn't at all happy with the sound so after the first week I ordered finger picks & moved onto Scruggs style which I'm absolutely in love with - my chord fingers tips have hardened well & I can 3-finger roll a good number of styles, even at speed, my only real issue being the transition between chords as I'm learning the scales but I'm getting better at that as time progresses.....it's likely not helping that my fingers aren't the longest but I do like a challenge & I'm finding innovative ways of compensating.

One-to-one banjo tuition is utterly non existent in my immediate area so I turned to YouTube, also what I consider an absolute godsend to any first-time player in 'Banjo Basics' by D.A. Jacobs....downloadable pdf free issue.

I so want to be at the stage where I can play licks similar to Dock Boggs & Colton Crawford with 'Broken Cowboy' & 'In Hell I'll Be In Good Company' as this is what I consider to be the very best examples of the style in which I intend on playing - upbeat & steady.

danyjr - Posted - 03/27/2020:  04:30:51


quote:

Originally posted by Dave likes pies

Eagle music shop in Huddersfield sell Ome banjos. Have a look at their website






Thank you Dave. Wow, those Ome banjos look amazing. Unfortunately all are a long way outside my price range (£1200/$1500).



There is a J.E. Dallas second hand banjo that might fit the bill. Anyone heard of this brand?

Dave likes pies - Posted - 03/27/2020:  05:33:47


Why don't you buy a Deering Goodtime, my daughter got me one for my 50th birthday and I've played it every day for the last 5 years and absolutely love it. It was bought for eagle music and was set up superbly.

danyjr - Posted - 03/27/2020:  08:44:38


Thanks all.



I have narrowed down my list to 4 banjos, in order of price:




  1. Deering Goodtime open back (£400/$490)

  2. Gold Tone CC-100R Cripple Creek Resonator, convertible (£550/$680)

  3. J E Dallas 5 String Vintage Open back banjo, second hand (£1000/$1220)

  4. Deering Eagle II Open back (£1200/$1480)



I understand the price difference between the cheapest and the most expensive is 1000 bucks. I'm leaning more towards the Eagle II, mainly cause of the looks I must admit.


Edited by - danyjr on 03/27/2020 08:45:03

LouZee Picker - Posted - 03/27/2020:  11:04:32


If your just getting started, Buy a good used Deering Goodtime openback. Great banjos for starter banjer pickers like yourself & they make great back up banjos when you decide to upgrade at a later date.

Brian

mike gregory - Posted - 03/27/2020:  16:08:53


Welcome to the HangOut.
I agree with Mr. ZeePicker:
A Deering GOODTIME is a fine banjo for the price, and an even FINER banjo for a USED price.
And hang on to it, so that when your More Expensive banjo is in for repairs or adjustments, you've still got a very good banjo to enjoy, during the wait.

OregonJim - Posted - 03/28/2020:  10:10:36


Here's my suggestion:

1. Get a Goodtime now, new or used depending on what's available. After a few months you may decide, "hey, I like this banjo stuff, but I want to explore different sounds." If so, you still have $1,000 (or the UK equivalent).

2. Go out and get a resonator banjo to give you a choice of sounds.

This is exactly what I've done over the past 4-5 months. I'm now awaiting delivery of a Recording King R35, and I can't wait to have two banjos to choose between. Even if you never get around to step 2, you'll have a great starter banjo and cash in reserve.

Jim

danyjr - Posted - 03/28/2020:  12:28:13


Wow, a lot of people recommending Goodtime banjos here. I didn't expect this as I thought they were poor quality banjos. Let me explain.



Back in my days, when I started learning the guitar, those entry level guitars were really bad. They all sounded dead, had awful actions, strings buzzed, you name it. Had it not been for my persistent youth, I would have quit playing guitar on day one, or day two, tops. Getting my first 'real' guitar was like being introduced to a completely different species of guitar. They sounded nice and your fingers didn't end up bleeding.



I'm guessing the quality standards for entry level instruments have improved over the years. As such I think Goodtime is now a strong contender for me. Now all I need is to wait for a second hand one to pop around where I live.



Thanks all! smiley

Eric A - Posted - 03/28/2020:  13:10:27


Haven't seen any commentary regarding the ability to swap back and forth between resonator and open. I'm interested in this as well. My understanding (but don't quote me on it) is that the Deering Eagle II would qualify. Also there may be a Goodtime model that might qualify as well. Can any Deering Experts here confirm?



Janet?



Janet Deering



fwiw, I keep eyeing that Eagle II



 


Edited by - Eric A on 03/28/2020 13:13:55

Chris Meakin - Posted - 03/28/2020:  14:55:35


Deering Goodtime defintely not poor quality. Some players feel they are over priced, but the first time I picked one up it just sang to me - literally the first musical instrument I've ever owned.



If you have your heart set on the Eagle II OB, have listen under the Media tab to give you an idea of the sound.



deeringbanjos.com/collections/...ing-banjo



PS I have a Goodtime and a Sierra and I play both. The Sierra has a far superior sound to my ear, but the Goodtime is just as much fun to play - sometimes I just want to play a nice light instrument. I also like being able to swap rapidly between different tunings - my Goodtime is usually set at Open F. (Relative Open G tuned down a whole step), whereas the Sierra is set at Open G, Gm or Double C most of the time.



PPS Not sure I've made your decision any easier? 


Edited by - Chris Meakin on 03/28/2020 15:08:42

danyjr - Posted - 03/28/2020:  15:23:53


Can someone tell me how this Eagle II banjo is convertible? I can see a closed back and a resonator. Are these removable?

Chris Meakin - Posted - 03/28/2020:  16:07:37


quote:

Originally posted by danyjr

Can someone tell me how this Eagle II banjo is convertible? I can see a closed back and a resonator. Are these removable?






The first link I posted is for the Open Back. This is the resonator version, and yes it is removable, as demonstrated by Jens. You can play it without the resonator, but in my experience with the Sierra it is very uncomfortable.



youtube.com/watch?v=Ccp2rOQZjTw



I play both scruggs style and clawhammer on both my Sierra and Goodtime.

Eric A - Posted - 03/28/2020:  16:23:49


quote:

Originally posted by Chris Meakin

quote:

Originally posted by danyjr

Can someone tell me how this Eagle II banjo is convertible? I can see a closed back and a resonator. Are these removable?






The first link I posted is for the Open Back. This is the resonator version, and yes it is removable, as demonstrated by Jens. You can play it without the resonator, but in my experience with the Sierra it is very uncomfortable.



youtube.com/watch?v=Ccp2rOQZjTw



I play both scruggs style and clawhammer on both my Sierra and Goodtime.






I was thinking that with the shoe and bracket design, with a little work maybe the flange could be removed entirely if you want.   This is precisely the bit I'm a little fuzzy on, and would welcome some enlightenment.

Chris Meakin - Posted - 03/28/2020:  19:51:37


quote:

Originally posted by Eric A

quote:

Originally posted by Chris Meakin

quote:

Originally posted by danyjr

Can someone tell me how this Eagle II banjo is convertible? I can see a closed back and a resonator. Are these removable?






The first link I posted is for the Open Back. This is the resonator version, and yes it is removable, as demonstrated by Jens. You can play it without the resonator, but in my experience with the Sierra it is very uncomfortable.



youtube.com/watch?v=Ccp2rOQZjTw



I play both scruggs style and clawhammer on both my Sierra and Goodtime.






I was thinking that with the shoe and bracket design, with a little work maybe the flange could be removed entirely if you want.   This is precisely the bit I'm a little fuzzy on, and would welcome some enlightenment.






Alas, I'm not the best person to ask, having owned Italian motorbikes (if it's working, don't fiddle). In addition, what better reason to own two banjos?

LouZee Picker - Posted - 03/29/2020:  17:02:34


The Goodtime 2 resonator model can easily converted to a openback model by just removing the resonator then remove all the nuts off off the tension hooks and the flange comes off in 2 solid piece halfs then just reinstall the nuts back on the hooks & tighten to desired head tension.

Brian

Helix - Posted - 04/01/2020:  05:34:36


UK should be a gold mine for used banjos and parts.

Pete and Peggy Seeger went to pawn shops and got pre-war Tubaphone 4-strings and had them converted to longnecks.

For the first 90 days, I wouldn't want you to get frustrated by a low feature import from the USA. It will waste your guitar player time.

If you play in G tuning on guitar, then that transfers over to the 5-string easily, same chords.

Inform yourself, increase your need. You've already set off a feeding frenzy for certain enthusiasts.

I wouldn't buy a go-cart to travel across the country. Notice which builders use the same features up and down the price point.

Anybody can make a shoe and plate, ask how much they weigh. Go to a jam and see who is playing what. Listen to what they can do with them. Sooner or later you are going to want to LEAN on the banjo for the sound and volume you want. That's the tell.

Buy what your ears tell you. Make sure the banjo leans towards you when using a strap. Good luck



 

Eric A - Posted - 04/01/2020:  05:41:34


quote:

Originally posted by Helix



 Sooner or later you are going to want to LEAN on the banjo for the sound and volume you want. That's the tell.

 






Truer words were never spoke! yes

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