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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Best Beginner Banjo for Irish Music?


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/375869

MichaelDavidsonJr - Posted - 06/23/2021:  07:33:23


Hello fellow banjo nuts!

I've never played banjo but I'm toying with the idea of getting a starter banjo (and a mandolin) for Irish music and seeing which one 'sticks'. Should I go 19-fret or 17-fret? I'm told 17-fret is best for the young ones! I'm in Dublin, Ireland and I can see from previous forums that Cussens has come up time and time again but my budget is pretty low (300 - 400 dollars/euros).

The Celt Banjo by McNeela Music is popping up in my search, it looks good and sounds great. Price point is just about right (on sale at the mo)

Does anyone know if they're the best option out there for what I'm looking for? Or is there something better?

GrahamHawker - Posted - 06/23/2021:  08:18:56


quote:

Originally posted by MichaelDavidsonJr



The Celt Banjo by McNeela Music is popping up in my search, it looks good and sounds great. Price point is just about right (on sale at the mo)

 






It's a typical Asain bottlecap (cheap alumium rim that looks like a gigantic bottlecap. I've seen the video on the McNeela site. It sounds thin and harsh to me as these type of banjos usually do. I once had a bottle cap. As a beginner it sounds OK for a while but the harshness soon becomes obvious and you start looking for another banjo.



Not that you have much choice  in your price range excpet perhaps in the secondhand market. It's either this type (it doesn't much matter what name is on the peghead they are almost always exactly the same banjo) , cheap basic wooden rims or composite rims. Some people recommend the composite rim banjos like this one although it's an openback:



thomann.de/ie/gold_tone_ac_4_o...banjo.htm



If I was going to get a cheap tenor I'd get this Recording King although again it's an open back.



thomann.de/ie/recording_king_r...banjo.htm

Culloden - Posted - 06/23/2021:  08:39:36


Seventeen fret or nineteen fret seems to be more a matter of preference than necessity. Modern 17 fret banjos are marketed as Irish tenors but there are many who play Irish music on a 19 fret banjo. The RK Dirty Thirties tenor banjo looks like a good candidate in your price range. Also check eBay for used banjos. Sometimes old ones can pop up for a good price, even in Europe.

MichaelDavidsonJr - Posted - 06/23/2021:  08:49:21


quote:

Originally posted by GrahamHawker

quote:

Originally posted by MichaelDavidsonJr



The Celt Banjo by McNeela Music is popping up in my search, it looks good and sounds great. Price point is just about right (on sale at the mo)

 






It's a typical Asain bottlecap (cheap alumium rim that looks like a gigantic bottlecap. I've seen the video on the McNeela site. It sounds thin and harsh to me as these type of banjos usually do. I once had a bottle cap. As a beginner it sounds OK for a while but the harshness soon becomes obvious and you start looking for another banjo.



Not that you have much choice  in your price range excpet perhaps in the secondhand market. It's either this type (it doesn't much matter what name is on the peghead they are almost always exactly the same banjo) , cheap basic wooden rims or composite rims. Some people recommend the composite rim banjos like this one although it's an openback:



thomann.de/ie/gold_tone_ac_4_o...banjo.htm



If I was going to get a cheap tenor I'd get this Recording King although again it's an open back.



thomann.de/ie/recording_king_r...banjo.htm






Thanks Graham. What's the difference with an open back banjo?

MichaelDavidsonJr - Posted - 06/23/2021:  08:54:57


quote:

Originally posted by Culloden

Seventeen fret or nineteen fret seems to be more a matter of preference than necessity. Modern 17 fret banjos are marketed as Irish tenors but there are many who play Irish music on a 19 fret banjo. The RK Dirty Thirties tenor banjo looks like a good candidate in your price range. Also check eBay for used banjos. Sometimes old ones can pop up for a good price, even in Europe.






Good to know and thanks for your reply! I like the idea of the 17-fret to be honest. It's looks a little more compact and easy to handle. Great idea re Ebay. Ref RK Dirty Thirties model, sounds nice and the price is good. Open back is kinda putting me off though.

GrahamHawker - Posted - 06/23/2021:  09:02:27


quote:

Originally posted by MichaelDavidsonJr

Thanks Graham. What's the difference with an open back banjo?






Open backs are generally quieter without the resonator to project the sound forward and are often mellower. Most of the Irish tenor players I've seen use resonator banjos especially in a jam where you're competing with a bunch of other musicians but I've seen solo players with open backs. Persoanlly i think that on cheaper banjos the resonator accentuates any harshness in the sound as well. I'm no expert on tenors for Irish music or other music.



Here's a open back player:



youtube.com/watch?v=V6cgPh2Ola0

thisoldman - Posted - 06/23/2021:  09:45:27


Having owned a banjo with an aluminum pot, I think you will find the sound of the Celt less than desireable. Kind of shrill and thin on that banjo at least. I listened to the music sample of the Gold Tone AC-4 (which has a "composite" pot) in the link above and find that much more pleasing to the ear. The RK has a maple rim/pot.  There are a couple of Ashbury (?) banjos (both had wood pots/rims on the ebay.ie site, but with shipping they are on the upper end or above your budget.  I'm thinking that either the GT or the RK would make good starter banjos.  



If you go to the "more" tab on the left side of the page, click on "reviews", then "banjos", you can find reviews of the GT (an AC-1) and RK banjos.  



A resonator will project the sound "outward", so you'll get more volume.  But the resonator and associated hardware adds cost to making the banjo.  

 


Edited by - thisoldman on 06/23/2021 09:57:29

G Edward Porgie - Posted - 06/23/2021:  13:09:42


You might get the best advice on this forum: Playing Advice: 4-String (Irish Trad Music & Related Styles)

MichaelDavidsonJr - Posted - 06/24/2021:  03:53:25


Thanks for that George - looks like plenty to get my teeth into!


Edited by - MichaelDavidsonJr on 06/24/2021 03:53:59

MichaelDavidsonJr - Posted - 06/24/2021:  03:55:47


quote:

Originally posted by thisoldman

Having owned a banjo with an aluminum pot, I think you will find the sound of the Celt less than desireable. Kind of shrill and thin on that banjo at least. I listened to the music sample of the Gold Tone AC-4 (which has a "composite" pot) in the link above and find that much more pleasing to the ear. The RK has a maple rim/pot.  There are a couple of Ashbury (?) banjos (both had wood pots/rims on the ebay.ie site, but with shipping they are on the upper end or above your budget.  I'm thinking that either the GT or the RK would make good starter banjos.  



If you go to the "more" tab on the left side of the page, click on "reviews", then "banjos", you can find reviews of the GT (an AC-1) and RK banjos.  



A resonator will project the sound "outward", so you'll get more volume.  But the resonator and associated hardware adds cost to making the banjo.  

 






Thanks for all that info. I do like the idea of a sound that will project and hold its own against other instruments but the open back might be easier on the neighbours!

Helix - Posted - 06/24/2021:  04:14:33


If you are playing in a situation where sane adults talk louder and louder as time goes by, then a resonator will help you project.



The aluminum banjos are still banjos. They can be set up to play nicely and they can project just fine, just not with at much tone as wooden rims. Duh.



For the neighbors, stuff the banjo with laundry.  Enjoy the ride.


Edited by - Helix on 06/24/2021 04:16:07



 

PTOEguy - Posted - 06/24/2021:  14:11:30


I have an AC-4 and you can get a resonator for it. When I asked Gold Tone what difference that made they said it makes the banjo about 20% louder.

I also have a Recording King dirty thirties tenor guitar (not banjo), and to me the Gold Tone feels a little more solid at that roughly $200 price point. The Recording King has had sharp fret ends and on some of the higher frets I know need some work for all the notes to sound (this is a recent development). The Gold Tone has been well set up and great to play from the beginning and much more stable.

Gerard_60 - Posted - 06/26/2021:  14:00:15


I'd suggest: if you can find: A short scale 4-string banjo. The neck of a regular tenor banjo is prettig long. Playing i.e. fast reels in 1st position on a common shaped tenor instrument is pretty hard for an untrained left hand.

maryzcox - Posted - 06/27/2021:  04:45:50


Bought that Goldtone 12 inch open back with the pretty Celtic inlay . It has a very nice tone & plenty of volume & it was very reasonable . )



maryzcox.com

guitarbanjoman - Posted - 06/27/2021:  08:26:47


My rule of thumb…. are you ever going to play this banjo in a band with a drummer?

If the answer is “yes” then a resonator is an excellent idea….

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