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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Questions for Paramount owners

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guitarbanjoman - Posted - 04/14/2021:  14:47:18

I am thinking about purchasing a Paramount banjo... shhh, don't tell my wife!

This would be a plectrum banjo.

Can somebody please explain the difference between the various Paramount models with the alphabetical names, like type A, B, C, etc... ?

Do all these models have the same tone ring? Is the difference just in ornamentation?

I especially like the looks of the kind with the "double boiler" flange... do these sound like all the others? or better? or worse? Are they rare?

Which model would be considered "top of the line"...?



Edited by - guitarbanjoman on 04/14/2021 14:47:48

ocarina-man - Posted - 04/14/2021:  15:39:40

First, if you find a plectrum Paramount make sure the fret marker inlays correspond to every other banjo make. There were Paramounts that had a higher up marker that is actually on a different fret.

There is a nice thread comparing the different models on BHO. I will say that the Model C had a mahogany neck. It looked wonderful except when it snapped at the heel two different times. That wood was weak.

And speaking of weak - if the banjo you choose has original early Page tuners you may want to replace them. They were made from pot metal that ages poorly and cracks. I'm not sure sure about today, but years ago one could find cast zinc/brass replacement housings that were far superior. You can also find later Paramount Pages that are more substantial.

The basic banjos were pretty much the same, sound-wise. In my opinion Paramounts have the prettiest tone - very sweet and musical. But they aren't a powerful banjo. If your main objective is to play in horn bands (Dixieland, etc.) you may want consider a Vega or B&D instead of beating a Paramount to death.

guitarbanjoman - Posted - 04/14/2021:  16:01:39

Thanks for the quick reply, Ocarinaman!

Since I’ve already got two Vegas and a B & D I guess I will chance the volume issue... especially since I now own a nice little banjo microphone which I could use in case of dire necessity... but most of my gigs “now” (well, up until March 2020 anyway) are in a trio with a string bass and clt/sax so volume hasn’t been an issue lately.

But, yeah, I remember a few years back I had a New Years gig in which I had to sit beside a drummer who was so #$&* loud I could hardly hear myself beating my B & D to death!

stelldeergibber - Posted - 04/14/2021:  17:03:01

The idea was that the A was a basic model, as the letters progressed they got more expensive, F being pretty fancy. The neck and resonator wood also varied from model to model. The A model was all maple. A lot of the fanciness was just ornamentation though. So, of the regular letters, F was top of the line, although E is more rare today. There were also non-letter fancy models like the Aristocrat and Artist Supreme, which may be referred to as Super Paramounts. After the stock market crash of 1929, they seemed to all get a bit more basic and stripped down, and thirties models have that plastic resonator and peghead facing that seemed to dominate many banjos of the time.

majesty - Posted - 04/15/2021:  13:02:04

I have owned and sold many Paramounts over the past 35 years., I really like the good sounding ones. The "C" model is notorious for cracked or broken heels. The "E' model is beautiful, but with the White Holly neck, a bit sharp in tone. A good "A" has a beautiful tone, with a skin head. The "A" is maple, better sounding than  the "C" which is Mahogany. I have not tried an Aristocrat, or the deep flange model, as you mentioned. I have heard one, and it sounds really good. The Paramounts are not as cutting sound as the Vega's and B & D's, so they don't sound as loud to the ear. I have had many B & D's, and Vegas. That is my limit of experience with the Paramounts.

I have played with many 6 piece Dixieland bands, and banging the banjo does not help. The banjo is louder projecting out then we think. If you record your banjo, play it at a nice sounding volume, and record it while banging hard. It will not raise the volume the way a player would think. It just sounds awful. Enough for me.

Edited by - majesty on 04/15/2021 13:03:33

majesty - Posted - 04/16/2021:  06:01:15

P.S. To Banjoman:
My comments were in general, and in no way directed towards you. I have been wanting to meet you for some time, and hope we can meet at some point.

guitarbanjoman - Posted - 04/16/2021:  07:58:22

Thanks, Jim. I look forward to meeting you, too.

I'm in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where are you?

Hardwulf - Posted - 04/19/2021:  06:52:53

I found this thread on The Session to be really helpful:

In general, the models went from A - F in adornments and wood types. ‘A’ was the lower end, and ‘F’ was the top of the line model. That thread shows pricing from a 1923 ad that reflects this.

A - $130

B - $150

C - $185

Leader - $200

D - $240

E - $290

F - $350

I have a Style B that I bought a few months back from Dan Shingler, and I love it. Sounds and plays amazingly.

Good luck!

Edited by - Hardwulf on 04/19/2021 06:53:25

guitarbanjoman - Posted - 04/20/2021:  05:43:28

There’s a type B for sale right now...

...but I am kind of hoping to find one with that wonderful double flange...

Jim mentioned “the Aristocrat”, was that the only model that offered that?

And was it made for both tenor and plectrum necks?


majesty - Posted - 04/20/2021:  09:00:37

Hi Will,
Actually I said I have never tried the Aristocrat OR the double flange one. I should have said the model with the Upper and Lower Resonator style. That top of the line Paramount is called " The Artist Supreme Model" which was priced at $450. I don't know how to upload a photo to this post, but I could email you a photo.

guitarbanjoman - Posted - 04/20/2021:  13:05:47

Ah! Sorry for the misunderstanding.

I just googled Paramount Artist Supreme Model and found a nice picture at 12fret... but it was a tenor and already sold...

CGDA - Posted - 04/26/2021:  14:05:12

I have a few Para tenors : one "Style 1", one"Style A", two "Style B, one "Style C", one "Leader", one "C Special". I also owned a nice gold plated plectrum, but I traded it for a Vega tenor because I could playing it only if "Chicago" tuned, that's wrong in my opinion. Many years ago, a friend left me play his top level SuperParamount just for an hour, during a gig. Unluckily that wondeful, beautiful and super-expensive instrument was not correctly set up, so it sounded a bit ugly. Undoubtedly, the Paramount's volume is less piercing than other brand's, like B&D, Leedy and others, but Para's playability, tone and volume are more than sufficient to play in a jazz band, without any kind of microphones and amplifiers. I can't find a big difference among my cheapest and the more expensive I own. They all fit the same tone-ring but the kind of wood is different. Definitely, it looks to me that the main differences in tone are due to a different setup (I mean kind and tension of the head, but also strings, bridge, tailpiece, neck). The kind of wood doesn't make a big difference (IMO). Anyway I love the unique look these old guys!

TenorFiend - Posted - 04/29/2021:  18:16:05

Oddly, Paramount plectrums have inlays located at frets 9 and 14, rather than 10 and 15.

The heavy machined brass Page tuners were actually earlier than the cast brittania “figure 8” style.


craig wood - Posted - 04/30/2021:  10:17:47

i owned a plectrum Aristocrat Special. Unbelievably beautiful. The tuners fell apart, but that was all.It also had the guitar fingerboard (inlays at 9 and 14) which was always a problem.
And the neck was angled down to accommodate a 5/8s bridge, as i remember.Built in mute as well.

wuzapicker - Posted - 05/21/2021:  12:20:55

Over the years I've owned quite a number of Paramount banjos in most Styles. I still own three. I have owned other banjo brands too but Lange's Paramount line remains my favorite. They are great banjos for just about any playing style. They are not the loudest banjos nor the most penetrating tone, but they can still hold their own in a jazz band.

Paramount banjo necks are especially subject to broken heels. The neck wood is about 3/16 thick where the dowel stick is glued in. They tend to break right there. That can be repaired, but it disaffects the value of the instrument.

Also, Paramount banjo rims that have been long stored in a particularly dry place are subject to splitting and delamination around the top where the tone ring supports were pressed into the wood rim. That will disaffect the tone until its repaired. That repair does not seem to affect resale value.


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