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Hohner Banjo Breakthrough

Posted by banjopogo on Thursday, September 17, 2009

Overall, when I bought my Hohner HTB Travel Banjo (see avatar for pic), I was happy with what I got for the purchase price of about $185 about 3 years ago.  Definitely a mellow sounding banjo, and I've been using it every week for about 5 songs at gigs, sandwiched between the fiddle and guitar sections.

It sounded good enough that it motivated a local guitar player to buy the same model banjo, and learn clawhammer.

BUT the tuners were a pain from the came equipped with the horrible cheap tuners nearly every entry level Asian instrument was cursed with for the last 40 or so years- sloppy, sloppy, sloppy... and ugly too.

Usually by the end of the 5 songs at the gigs, the banjo had gone out of tune, and rather than waste more time tuning, I'd just stick it in the gig bag, and get out the guitar.

Well, I saw these clones of Waverly tuners made by Wilkinson at  My banjo student has a Goldtone AND another banjo afflicted with the same awful tuners, so I suggested we get 2 sets of six, and split them 3 ways, 2 sets of four for them, and 1 set for my HTB.

And that's what we did. I just finished putting them on, and so far, I'm overwhelmed at the difference... the banjo was mellow but muddy before, but now it's found a clarity in it's voice that's really beautiful, and, of course, it stays in TUNE!!!

The wife was sleeping, so I just went out tested it in the car... which is not ideal, but still it was so inspiring I think I played for about an hour. It has a really nice throaty sound on the G string (actually the A string since i tune it up to D or A) that I think will be very inspiring.  I even tuned to A, which I've tended to neglect since the banjo didn't do well there either tuning-wise or tone wise.  Now it sounds much better, and I think I'll be getting back into that tuning again in a big way.

The big pain was the installation- the Wilkinson tuners' screwholes don't match the stock tuners holes.  But at least I didn't have to do major enlarging of the holes like I do when I put sealed tuners on a guitar that has had the cheapos.  The bezels or rings that came with the Wilkinsons were ever so slightly larger, and would have required a small amount of reaming, so I just reused the stock ones, they fit fine.

I may get so much into banjo that I'll do what I've considered for a while, and get a full sized version of the same Hohner banjo... and I'd get more of the Wilkinson tuners and slap them on right away.

Later:  Now that I've gotten to play it in more normal acoustics, the difference in sound isn't as overwhelming as I though, but it IS definitely a clearer sound.  Oddly, maybe just a tad softer.  I used it at a gig and it sounded good, but felt more of a need to mic it than usual.  It's like before it put out a kind of muddy cloud of sound, now everything's more focused but just not as much of it.  It seems easier to play though.


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