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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

6840 reviews in the archive.

Tone Rings: Blaylock

Submitted by bluegrassbanjopicker (see all reviews from this person) on 5/18/2019

Where Purchased: Bob Rodgers

Overall Comments

The Blaylock 20-hole tone ring is the best possible “dream” ring for a prewar conversion, or for one who wants to put a high quality tone ring in their import, rather than suffer with the much-inferior factory-installed tone ring. 

Bill Blaylock and his son make possibly the VERY best tone rings available, and when I installed mine, it was hard to fathom or accurately describe the incredibly rich and loud tone and volume. I could immediately tell that the ring  was not just any halfway-good ring; it is in all respects a professional ring that will not drop out in volume or leave you wanting more, because that is just plain IMPOSSIBLE with any ring from Blaylock. I challenge any skeptics to name another ring which instantly gives amazing raw power, without having to do setup after setup after setup....!

 The Blaylock is NOT one of the “fussy” rings which refuse to ring until just before the banjo owner throws up their hands in dismay. 

If you have been looking a LONG time for “the” tone ring for your special banjo, try a Blaylock! You don’t need to spend more than half the price of a used RK-35 on a Dannick! 

Investing $500 for the Blaylock ring will not leave you wondering “why didn’t I buy the Dannick on the basis that my favorite banjo player has one installed on his?”

There is only so much that bell bronze tone rings can offer, and you’ll get hundreds of dissenting opinions. But in my mind, a contest between a Blaylock and any other ring is no contest. I used to believe that only the $600+ rings could be any good. Not any more. 

The precision with which Bill machines the ring is second to none. His work speaks for itself. And as for a “bad” Blaylock tone ring; sorry, you will NEVER find one! 

Countless owners of prewar Gibson conversions can testify to the power of the one Ruling Ring.

I can proudly say, along with many other happy Blaylock customers, that Bill Blaylock truly is the “Lord of the Rings!”

 

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Ebony topped mystery wood, A weight

Submitted by therearegoats (see all reviews from this person) on 5/6/2019

Where Purchased: BanjoBridge.com

Overall Comments

I have a Bart Reiter 12" Round Peak banjo that I've always loved but felt was a little quiet, owing in part to the fact that I don't wear fake nails or picks. I wrote Bart asking which of his bridges he would recommend to preserve the warm tone while giving it a bit more pop and he suggested this one. It's exactly as advertised. The rich character of the sound is preserved while helping me to punch through a bit more. Thanks again, Bart. 

Overall Rating: 10

Mike's Banjo Mute: Mike's Banjo Mute

Submitted by putasockinit (see all reviews from this person) on 4/27/2019

Where Purchased: On-line from Mike

Overall Comments

I've been stuffing the head of my open-back with a pair of socks, and supplementing with clothes pins clipped onto the bridge, but my wife and occasionally my ears were still objecting to practice.

Ordered a Mike's mute.   At first I didn't like it - the tone was different enough (most of the "twang" eliminated) that it threw my brain off.   But after about two days of playing with the mute on - I love it, and my wife LOVES it.  

Huge sound reduction, but clear notes.   Really fast on and off.   I can play while my wife is in the next room, with the door open, and she doesn't mind a bit.  It really is as good as all the reviews say in terms of quieting the banjo.

If you get one of these, just give it a couple of days to get used to the quieter tone and softer, less-twangy sound before thinking about returning it.   My guess is that you'll keep it.   Great practice aid, worth every penny.

Overall Rating: 10

Tools: SpikeTyke drill jig for installing 5th string spikes

Submitted by petecook (see all reviews from this person) on 4/15/2019

Where Purchased: banjo-tabs.com

Overall Comments

I had never installed spikes on a banjo so I was a bit scared to do it myself, after all I did not want to ruin my banjo. But since there is no luthier for banjos nearby I had to do it myself.

Luckily, here in Banjo Hangout I found information about the SpikeTyke tool. The set includes the jig, two drills of different diameter (black for ebony fretboard, blue for all other woods) and 8 spikes. Hans Holzherr even gave me 4 more spikes. Detailed instructions are also provided, and the website even has a very good video about the installation. The spikes are shortened so you do not have to drill too deep, and the head is also flattened.

The order is made via PayPal and the set costs 30 CHF. I think the price is fair, finally you can equip several banjos with the spikes. The delivery lasted only two days because Hans lives here in Switzerland. Shipping overseas will probably take longer.

In addition to the SpikeTyke set you also need a drill, a hammer, a pair of needle nose pliers, a straw and a capo (Shubb goes very well, Paige is less suitable). With the SpykTyke set, I was not afraid to do the installation, the spikes are perfectly positioned by the jig and everything worked well thanks to the good instructions. If you want to or have to install the spikes yourself and prefer a safe way, I can highly recommend this tool.

Overall Rating: 10

Finger picks : ''Old 97 customs''

Submitted by JSLONE (see all reviews from this person) on 4/14/2019

Where Purchased: Judy Townsend

Overall Comments

I received a pair of ''Old 97 Custom'' finger picks a few days ago from Miss Judy

to give a try,and I have to say these are the best and most comfortable picks I have ever used. I can play for a couple hours with no problems.they are very easy to work with as in shaping to your fit.They really bring the sound out on my RB-250 and I even seem to have smoother rolls.I would advise anybody to give them a try......Jim Slone

Overall Rating: 10

"D" tuners: Mighty D Tuners

Submitted by klgera (see all reviews from this person) on 4/12/2019

Where Purchased: Direct (Mighty D Tuners)

Overall Comments

Amazing "D" tuners, always in tune and easy to use.  They are a bit tricky to install, but if you follow the directions, you can do it. They have the advantage of allowing you to use your regular tuners to fine tune or change tunings, maybe to Gm tuning, with out messing up the D tuners.  Infact, I recently changed strings, and when I got everything tuned back  to G, my D tuners were still in tune.  

They both turn counterclockwise, which is different then Keith tuners, but it only took me a short time to become used to the change.

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Replacement Tuner Buttons: Ron Barnes Tuner Buttons

Submitted by banjo-joe (see all reviews from this person) on 4/6/2019

Where Purchased: Ron Barnes

Overall Comments

I wanted to get a set of Tuner Buttons for my Step Sons banjo. He graduated from UNC Chappel Hill, N.C., so I contacted Mr. Barnes to make a set of the Gumdrop buttons with the UNC logo.  Ron made the buttons for me very quickly, and did a super fantastic job. They look great!  I would highly recommend Ron's custom made buttons, and I plan to get a set made for my banjo. Thanks Ron! good job!  Joe Hawks (banjo-joe) 

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Bart Veerman Bridge

Submitted by msigwing (see all reviews from this person) on 3/18/2019

Where Purchased: Ordered Directly from Bart Veerman

Overall Comments

Needing a bridge for my Gold Tone Cello banjo CEB-5 I contacted Bart via his online request form.  Bart was familiar with the specific dimensions of the instrument and shipped the new bridge one day after I made payment.  I own two other Veerman bridges and highly recommend them to anyone wanting to improve the sound of their banjo!

Overall Rating: 10

Banjo Bridges: Bart Veerman Banjo Bridges

Submitted by snoot (see all reviews from this person) on 3/11/2019

Where Purchased: Online from Bart

Overall Comments

Bart answered my initial email quickly and arrived in the UK less than a week after ordering.
The 'mystery wood' clawhammer bridge has an excellent tone and I soon got used to the raised 5th string on my mahogany Sierra openback.
There is more clarity and seems to be a bit more sparkle to the sound than I had with the stock bridge.
Highly recommended!

Overall Rating: 10

Necks: Zach Hoyt custom banjo neck

Submitted by Twangcat (see all reviews from this person) on 3/5/2019

Where Purchased: Directly from Zach Hoyt (https://hoytbanjos.com/parts/)

Overall Comments

I became interested in having a semi-fretless neck custom made to mate with a 12" pot and hardware from a second banjo I was not playing much.  I contacted Zach directly asking if he might be interested in pursuing this project and he was immediately on board.  The final outcome is 100% to my expectations.  

The neck dimensions on my Rickard are perfect for me and quite playable in my hands.  Thus I sent Zach those desired dimensions at the nut, 12th fret, and heal at the pot.  We traded a few email messages as I considered whether to have the fretless portion of the ebony fingerboard overlayed with either a brass plate or ebony.  Zach was quite willing to accommodate either choice despite never having built a semi-fretless neck.  Ebony overlay was my final decision and Zach's workmanship with respect to the transition zone between the 7th and 8th fret positions as well as the entire neck and fingerboard itself is excellent.

Aside from the actual workmanship involved in fabricating my special order, I want to emphasize Zach's exemplary customer service.  Owing to the fine details of the specific attributes I've mentioned above, this project required a lot of communication between Zach and myself.  We accomplished this via numerous email exchanges and one phone call early on.  Zach always replied promptly, looked at a variety of photos and video images of example necks I had found, and was unwavering in his acceptance of changes along the way to beginning the build.  He clearly communicated his timeline, started and completed the build exactly according to the position of my project in his work flow, and the finished neck, mated to the pot and hardware I sent him, arrived on schedule and well packed for shipping.

The execution of this project has enabled me to realize the goal of now having a semi-fretless banjo with a neck perfectly suited to my hands, as well as now putting back into commission a pot and hardware that had been sidelined largely because the original fully fretted neck was too narrow for my preference.  This would not have been possible as seamlessly and elegantly were it not for Zach's attention to details, willingness to take on a new challenge, craftsmanship, and dedication to communicating.  I would unquestionably commission Zach Hoyt again for any such project or a completed instrument and wish him great success as he continues developing his professional luthery career.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Bart Veerman Mystery Wood Bridge

Submitted by gratefulbiker (see all reviews from this person) on 3/3/2019

Where Purchased: Bart's Website banjobridge.com

Overall Comments

This review is for a 9/ 16" , A weight, three leg, ebony topped, mystery wood bridge with 46mm spacing. It is installed on a Gold Tone BC 350 with a Renaissance head and medium gauge steel strings.

First off, dealing with Bart was a pleasure. He responded to emails in a timely manner and answered all my questions regarding what bridge would work best with my banjo.

After choosing my desired specs and sending payment via the Paypal link on the site, Bart emailed saying the bridge was en-route and it arrived from Canada to central IL in less than a week. The bridge was packed in a bubble wrap envelope including a small insert with some basic bridge info, installation instructions, and specs.

The bridge itself is quite nice and the attention to detail is obvious. It is hand signed by Bart and is marked on the bottom of the feet for proper orientation. There are no rough edges anywhere and the string slots are flawless. 

I have tried two other bridges on this banjo; the stock ebony topped maple, and a Gary Sosebee ebony topped select maple, both in 44mm spacing. Bart's bridge is significantly smaller in size compared to the two previous ones, but there is absolutely no shortage of tone or volume. The banjo sounded pretty damn good with the other bridges, but now it just has more "pop" and the note separation is more distinct throughout the handful of tunings I use, even when capoed and spiked. I would describe the overall sound as full and balanced.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Bart to anyone looking for a bridge. Everything about the experience was top notch. A fantastic product backed up by great communication/ advice and timely shipping/ delivery. 10s across the board. 

Bart's website is also a great resource for banjo information in general; worth checking out even if you're not in the market for a bridge.

 

Overall Rating: 10

Banjo mutes: Mike's Banjo Mute

Submitted by pat w (see all reviews from this person) on 2/19/2019

Where Purchased: Mike's

Overall Comments

Recently bought a mike's 5 string banjo mute. It was delivered quickly. I really like it, almost as much as my wife! Its very quiet and has a cool dobro type resonance and sustain. I give it a "thumbs pick" up. Pat W.

Overall Rating: 9

Mike's Banjo Mute: mute

Submitted by howbah (see all reviews from this person) on 2/17/2019

Where Purchased: mikesbanjomute dot com

Overall Comments

My first thought after trying a Mike's mute:  "Wow, that's amazing!"

Instrument went from normal banjo volume to the volume of an unplugged solidbody electric guitar.

Simple to install, solid construction, should last forever.

All I could ask for, 10 out of 10.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Purcell Bridge

Submitted by Tony Mabe (see all reviews from this person) on 2/17/2019

Where Purchased: Tim Purcell

Overall Comments

I ordered a roasted red maple bridge from Tim for my Gibson RB-4. Very nice finish work.  It's the only bridge I've ever bought that was polished! I've tried four other more expensive "name- brand" maker bridges on it, all of which I've used for years,  and this one had the best tone. Very open,  smooth,  good sustain.  I've bought a few of Tim's bridges for setup customers,  and his quality just keeps getting better!

Overall Rating: 10

Sullivan Torified 3- ply maple rim: Sullivan Torified 3-ply maple rim

Submitted by Belltonebanjos (see all reviews from this person) on 2/12/2019

Where Purchased: Sullivan Banjo co.

Overall Comments

I purchased a Sullivan Torified 3- ply maple rim from Eric at Sullivan Banjos about 6- months ago and built a Style -3 Flat head banjo around it.It sounds more like Earls than any banjo Iv’e had. Listen to it on YouTube  Gene Elkins selling a banjo  Thanks Sincerely (Gene)belltonebanjos@ gmail.com.

Overall Rating: 10

Banjo Bridges: Bart Veerman Banjo Bridges

Submitted by banjosam (see all reviews from this person) on 2/12/2019

Where Purchased: Directly from Bart Veerman

Overall Comments

These are two legged bridges made from "mystery wood", one with an ebony top and one with a bloodwood top. They are both very bright sounding, the bridge with the bloodwood top is a little muddy on the 3rd and 4th strings, and seems to lose a little punch above the 17th fret. The ebony topped one is very uniform in volume and tone across all strings. The ones I tested were about 1.5 gm each, but I was surprised by the good bass presence. The tone is very bright and note separation is very good. I have not tried them in a jam setting, and have only tried them on 2 of my banjos, both flatheads, but the one has a 14 piece tonering made similiar to the old Epiphone Recording banjos. They are a little too piercing to my ear, but I wear hearing aids and have substantial hearing loss in the left ear, so am unsure how to describe these since what I hear is altered by the hearing aid programming. The bridges are nicely made, and if you like a bright sound, I think you might like them.

Overall Rating: 8

Picks: blue chip jd thumb pick

Submitted by Moose_Roberts (see all reviews from this person) on 1/30/2019

Where Purchased: BanjoBenClark.com (birthday present)

Overall Comments

Like any new picker I have been dropping a few bucks here and there on various picks to find out what works best/ sounds best for me. I went through several, and bounced back and forth between the Dunlop and National picks. I liked the shape and position of the Dunlop, but the comfort of the National. The Blue Chip JD model seems to capture the features i liked form both of those, plus the adjustability for fit of the Dunlop silver nickel thumb picks I used until my instructor suggested I move to plastic picks. 

The sound is bright, it picks clean, smooth, and fast off of the string, the shape of the metal band is comfortable while holding tight without cutting off blood flow. It is a little hard to swallow $40 for a thumb pick (fortunately I can still get my mom to by ridiculous stuff for my birthday even at 37) but it seems well worth the price. I'm told the pick portion has some longevity as well. Find a friend that has one and try it out. 

Overall Rating: 10

Finger picks : Little Maggie finger picks

Submitted by rb4 (see all reviews from this person) on 1/29/2019

Where Purchased: From Judy Townsend

Overall Comments

I purchased a set of the little Maggie finger picks because I was wanting to try different picks. All I’ve really used are Dunlop’s and when looking I found Judy’s picks and many others that had a similar look and building materials but cost a lot more. I also wanted to give her my business because I have heard a lot of good stuff about both her little Maggie and old 97 picks. Plus I’d rather support an individual instead of a large company. The picks are beyond words. I chose the little Maggie picks because she started making them geared towards women in the beginning and eventually had to make the old 97 picks for men in bigger sizes. Although I am a man I have small hands and new that the little Maggie picks where gonna be the ticket for me. What’s neat is she will stamp an initial on one pick so you can tell the difference. I really like this because I use to use finger nail polish on one pick to tell the difference, this is a lot classier and I don’t have to borrow the nail polish from anyone. She also included a hand written note to me personally. Not some cookie cutter letter that she just signs but a hand written letter. What more can you ask for. 10 out of 10.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Bart Veerman Mystery Wood Bridge

Submitted by oldtimememory (see all reviews from this person) on 1/27/2019

Where Purchased: Banjobridge.com

Overall Comments

I sent Bart the order form from his website with a few questions -- his responses were quick and thorough, and a bridge was quickly on its way to me. It arrived within a week shipped from Canada. 

The bridge itself (an uncapped mystery wood 3-foot 5 string) is flawless, the custom slotting was perfect, and the height and spacing are spot on. Compared to a hard maple ebony cap, the mystery wood bridge sounds mellow and full, without any muddy overtones on the low end. It doesn't sacrifice clarity, but is free from the aggressively bright growl that some hardwood capped bridges tend toward, and without losing the belltones on the high strings -- the sound of this bridge on my fretless Reiter is exactly what I was looking for. 

I'm quite happy both with my interaction with Bart as well as with the bridge, and will look to him in the future when searching for a bridge to complement my banjos. Highly recommended. 

Overall Rating: 10

Banjo mutes: Mike's Banjo Mute

Submitted by nostresss8 (see all reviews from this person) on 1/25/2019

Where Purchased: Mikesbanjomute.com

Overall Comments

being rather new to the banjo, I didn't know what to expect. So here's my results. This Mikes banjo mute I purchased directly from his web site, when placed on the banjo bridge reduces the sound by a liltle over half, maybe 5/8 reduction. Also in my experience it did not change the tune of any string. I think it is worth the money and a better than average product. 

Overall Rating: 8

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