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Custom Tenor Banjo Makers

Posted by sixwatergrog on Monday, August 22, 2011

There are several options for purchasing a tenor banjo. The most obvious route is going with a production model Gold Tone or Deering.  These companies both make decent, relatively inexpensive entry-level models.  Or you could try getting a vintage 1920’s Vega, Bacon & Day, Slingerland, Paramount or similar from a reputable dealer such as Vinnie MondelloBernunzioIntermountain Guitar and Banjo or Spruce Tree Music.  There are also at least two well known makers in Ireland –Clareen and Boyle – who specialize in tenor banjos.

However, I wanted to point out some North American banjo makers I’m aware of who either make or have made custom tenor banjos: Tommy George, Brooks Masten, Noel Booth and Jason Romero.
Tommy George makes fine, hand-crafted banjos in Somerville, Tennessee.  Everything is crafted by hand using rasp, file, lathe, bandsaw and sanders.  George Banjos offers over 50 years of building experience to create individual instruments that stand apart from the standard models produced by factories.  
Brooks Masten of Brooks Banjos in Portland, Oregon is dedicated to old-world craftsmanship. Although he specializes in openback 5-string banjos, Brooks can make custom tenor banjos with his signature vintage look.  His banjo shop is a one-man operation and each banjo gets the special attention it deserves.

Instrument builder Noel Booth of Old Fiddle Road Banjo Works designs and builds banjos made with a combination of traditional and unusual woods.  He works out of a small shop in Balsam, North Carolina and can make you an original tenor banjo using a combination of historical and contemporary design.

Jason Romero makes his hand-built, finely crafted J. Romero Banjos in Horsefly, British Columbia.  Jason's banjos are playable works of art -- ever changing and evolving with just enough innovation to provide a tasteful alternative.  As with all the builders mentioned here, custom tenor banjo orders are welcome.


J. Romero Tenor Banjo


There are many advantages to having a custom instrument made. For banjos, the cost is not much more, and sometimes less, than a mass produced or vintage model.  Your dream instrument can be tailored just for you, with the perfect combination of materials and specs.  Plus there's just the coolness factor of having your very own banjo which will bring you that much closer to playing and sounding your best.  Let me know if there are any other North American tenor banjo makers who should be on this list.

Oh, and if you get a custom banjo you will also eventually want a custom gig bag for it.  I recommend Colorado Case or Glenn Cronkhite gig bags.  Good luck!


This post originally appeared on the blog Six Water Grog.  Here is a link to that article.

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