Posted by BoneDigger on Friday, January 14, 2011
I went to a music store in Austin to look at the Celtic/Tenor banjos just to have something "different" in my banjo collection. While there I found a mandola made by Gold Tone (just the basic one) and I had a blast just sitting there picking on it. I like the guitar-like sound (possibly even dulcimer-like) but with the same tuning and neck as a banjo. I went ahead and bought it and now I'm having a hard time putting it down!
I have since read the reviews and topic discussions here and some I agree with. The volume is certainly not very loud and it would be hard to play this in a group setting unless you had it plugged in. However, as a "sit in the living room and pick" instrument it certainly is a wonderful contrast to the banjo. My wife has often complained of how loud my banjo(s) is and I tried a mute which worked okay but although the mute works well, it does deaden the strings. The banjola is definitely different from playing a muted banjo. There are some very good videos on youtube for those that might want to see how it sounds.
Don't buy one of these if you want to play standard bluegrass tunes in a standard bluegrass format. The sustain on the banjola has a tendency to run notes together and it just simply does not have the proper tone for it. But, if you want to have some fun with the songs, slow them down. The banjola is a blast to play slower songs or to play bluegrass songs with a slightly "bluesy" feel to them. I have been working on "Ghost of Mississippi" by the Steeldrivers by using a slide and standard picking and it sounds really good. Another good one is "Highway of Pain" by the Seldom Scene.
I have found that plastic finger picks sound the best for my purposes, although metal ones are okay too. The bluechip thumb picks work very well. I would imagine that picking with fingers and no pick would also work well. Lastly, I have done some flatpicking on it "plectrum" style and it works well for that as well.
There is no way that the banjola would ever replace the bluegrass banjos in my collection, but for a fun change of pace and a good instrument for quietly practicing scales or slower songs, the banjola is a BLAST!
The Gold Tone banjola that I bought seems very well put together, the tuners work well enough, and the fit and finish are very good. They sell a higher end model that is more expensive and has pickups, but for my purpose the standard one works well. My wife certainly likes it!
Saturday, January 15, 2011 @1:58:54 AM
Sounds great Todd
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