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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!

6661 reviews in the archive.

Bob Hill

Submitted by maybpickin (see all reviews from this person) on 10/4/2017

Overall Comments

I have been going to Bob for almost 2 years. He is the best banjo teacher I have had and that's been a few. He goes through things in detail and will record on my camera what items I need review on. He has great experience  with groups and jam. He will play guitar along with you to help with timing and getting you where you need to be. Too top that off he is an excellent Luthier. He has taken my 3 banjos and brought new life to all of them. Whether head adjustment, action adjustment or trying different bridges, he wil get the banjo to sound the way you want it to. I really can't say enough about how much he has assisted me.

Overall Rating: 10

Jeff Whittington

Submitted by JohnWaters (see all reviews from this person) on 9/26/2017

Overall Comments

Jeff is a great banjo player and is able to teach his skills effectively. He shows great insight into what the student needs. As a plus, one cannot help but like him.

Jeff has mastered drive, nuance, dynamics and technique. I profited greatly from my time with him and hope to again.

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Ridgestone John

Submitted by ridgestone (see all reviews from this person) on 7/14/2017

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 6

Bob Altschuler

Submitted by DrBillM (see all reviews from this person) on 1/29/2017

Overall Comments

Great teacher! Bob has worked with me for the 2015 and 2016 Pete Wernick Silver Bay Camps. Wouldn't go if he weren't there. He can teach to any level student and is both patient and supportive. Gives tons of teaching materials. Highly recommend!

Overall Rating: 10

Tony Trischka

Submitted by DrBillM (see all reviews from this person) on 1/29/2017

Overall Comments

In some ways, I feel stupid submitting a review for a world-class player and teacher,  but I noticed there were none on the Banjo Hang Out. So here goes. Tony played a small venue solo show on Friday night here in Rochester at Bernunzio's and then did a nearly 4 hour group lesson the following day. There were probably 15 players and Tony. He was engaging, approachable, and as might be expected, extraordinarily knowledgeable. He interspersed awe-inspiring demonstrations with drills, tab and tricks of the trade. Tony wove the history of bluegrass, of the banjo and his history as a player into the lesson so that there was a perfect combination of how to, when to, and why to do as he instructed. He offered his thoughts on things banjo and described and acknowledged the thoughts of many others as interesting counterpoints.  Every question asked by a student was complimented at the outset, answered if possible and then complimented again. He played and taught with joy and energy.   If you can't get excited about playing the banjo after watching and listening to Tony and getting a little dose of his magic, you are probably 3 days dead. He also brought doughnuts! 

Overall Rating: 10

John Boulding

Submitted by cjmssmd (see all reviews from this person) on 1/3/2017

Overall Comments

John is terrific and I can't imagine anyone going wrong with him. He really knows his stuff.  He listens to what I am trying to accomplish and then gives me just the right amount of new material each lesson. 

I was self-taught for about a year, reading tablature, and memorizing songs, but wanted to learn to play backup with a group. John introduced me to a new way of thinking about banjo music which was exactly what I needed.  He taught me chord progressions (up and down the neck, in any key, without a capo), basic licks, slides and rolls. He gave me good suggestions of recordings to practice playing along with. He got me in the practice of simply listening to what the banjo player is doing on recordings. 

Thanks fo John my playing has a new energy and excitement.

Overall Rating: 10

Rick Mckeon

Submitted by djm3801 (see all reviews from this person) on 12/4/2016

Overall Comments

I discovered Rick before I knew of his web site. I was surfing Amazon Prime and found his DVD and purchased it. I am glad I did. It is a fine starter in Banjo and a great way to learn. Subsequently discovered his web site and the content there. Needless to say, he is a person who has spent a lot of his personal time creating content for people to learn banjo. I am still learning but stumbled around with a few books without really getting a "hook" into banjo before buying the video and now using the information on his site.

In addition, he is fast to respond to e-mail. I sent him an e-mail with a question on a banjo and his response was fast and we had a very interesting chat about it. Could not be more helpful or friendly.

A look at his web site will also reveal he is not a one trick pony but quite the Renaissance man. 

You cannot go wrong with his instruction. 


https://rickmckeon.com/

Dan M

 

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Casey Henry

Submitted by Gary S (see all reviews from this person) on 10/25/2016

Overall Comments

I've been learning from Casey Henry's recorded video lessons for about a year.  Mostly her "intermediate" arrangements, which are more fun to play than the simpler arrangements I'd been learning previously from tab.  I'm learning songs much faster than I used to and I leave the tabs and the music stand at home these days when I go to a jam.  Looking forward to continuing with the "Murphy Method". Thanks, Casey!  

Overall Rating: 10

Ryan Spearman

Submitted by cmooreruns (see all reviews from this person) on 10/17/2016

Overall Comments

playbetterbanjo.com.    I subscribed to Ryan Spearman's "all access" subscription about two months ago and have been extremely satisfied.  I'm a one year clawhammer player without a local instructor.  I have benefited from other instruction....books by Ken Pearlman, Wayne Erbsen, Pete Seeger, David Holt and a couple of workshops, but had found myself in a rut.  Playbetterbanjo.com allowed me to work on some remedial areas of weakness and pushed me to much better left hand skills.  The tabs and video instruction are very well done.  Ryan effectively uses the videos to clearly show left hand positions, an area that was holding me back.

He is also excellent about replying to email questions quickly, with detailed, personalized responses.  He is as close to having a local instructor as I will find.....maybe better.

Overall Rating: 10

Jeff Whittington

Submitted by sold1ode (see all reviews from this person) on 10/3/2016

Overall Comments

Just had a Skype lesson with Jeff Whittington and based on that, believe that Jeff is an excellent banjo teacher. He's upbeat, experienced, and patient. He started right off with four basic rolls and other techniques and then applied these techniques to songs. He didn't hesitate to stop me if I was not on track, and patiently guided me in the right direction. As one who taught for over 30 years, I know the difference between a real teacher, a person who successfully communicates whatever is being taught (or one who does not), and Jeff is in the former category: a fine teacher. I recommend Jeff's banjo teaching to students at any level. 

Overall Rating: 10

Jeff Whittington

Submitted by George van Vlaanderen (see all reviews from this person) on 9/30/2016

Overall Comments

Jeff is an accomplished player in the hard-driving bluegrass style of JD Crowe.  Even though I have only had one lesson from Jeff, he came across as knowledgeable and informative.  He provides a strong emphasis on tone and delivery (something you cannot get from reading tab) and is a strong believer in mastering fundamentals.  Jeff would be of help to a student at any level.

Overall Rating: 9

Brian Bauer

Submitted by DMcGraw0308 (see all reviews from this person) on 2/15/2016

Overall Comments

I needed something to fill in my retirement time.  I started clawhammer lessons with Brian eleven months ago (in mid March '15), as a beginner.  He has brought me through the various skills (hammer ons, pull offs, slides, etc.), and into drop thumb and double thumbing before Christmas.  Hour lessons with flexible schedules present new tunes and material, and seem to go by quickly.  If you are looking for a banjo teacher, I would definitely recommend him.​     

Mike McGraw  2/15/16

 

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Bob Hill

Submitted by marc12 (see all reviews from this person) on 1/24/2016

Overall Comments

I have been going to Bob for about 8 months total now and have learned so much. He is a awesome teacher, with over 30 years experience there is pretty much nothing he doesn't know or know how to play. He goes over everything step by step in his lessons and plays backup on guitar which is very helpful on timing. Not only does he teach how to play he also does setup and build, and he lets the student do it which is awesome. If you want to learn everything about banjo go to Bob. 

Overall Rating: 10

Ira Gitlin

Submitted by Monster1971 (see all reviews from this person) on 12/29/2015

Overall Comments

This is repetitive as expected as with the other reviews of Ira. If I could describe Ira w/ one word it would be Dynamic.  It has been one year since I first started taking lessons w/ Ira and I feel pretty lucky. He offers two separate locations which is helpful (one in MD and one in VA) and I have been to both. He teaches the Wernick Method and every lesson he has both his Banjo and Guitar. When he pulls out that guitar and starts to sing, we actually jam together........or rather he is very patient and provides guidance and lessons while I am trying to jam with him, following the chords.  I cannot over emphasize how patient Ira is with me and my blank stares have to sometimes cause him concern but he doesn't let on. He walks me through each new lesson while being patient balancing both, allowing me to fail a few times, with providing guidance. He's pulled up songs trying to get me to understand or hear that certain lick that Earl or a Bluegrass Boy was playing. During the lesson he wants you to learn the music by listening rather than tablature. Because of this I feel I lean on tablature much less than at the beginning of my banjo journey. Most lessons build upon another and before I know it I am mixing up licks from songs, attempting to play breaks, and mixing rolls and chords. He sometimes launches into a Bluegrass history lesson to put perspective around a certain sound. I have to assume not many can do that. I walk away from each lesson with that feeling that I almost have it and with a little more  practice I can nail it. I have never felt uncomfortable by the tempo of his lesson. I am assuming, because of his years of experience he can sense how much to push during each lesson. At the end of each lesson he summarizes the lesson w/ a walkthrough that I record and can reference when home practicing. He has responded to my emails for additional understanding.

A little background:

After the teacher search in the MD/DC/VA area I did find Ira's listing but didn't take the leap at first due to the distance from my home. I first started this journey (w/ pretty much no music experience at all) by taking an initial 30 minute class w/ an instructor at Guitar Center, which she so politely told me that I didn't need pics to play Scrugg style. Feeling confused, I moved on to an instructor at a local music store closer to my house and w/ a Groupon took 4 (30 minute) lessons. This instructor was a good guy but something just didn't feel right. I don't know if it was the fact that his lesson consisted of flipping through a Banjo book or it was only a 30 minute lesson. It just felt so stiff and I always had this unsatisfied feeling once the lesson ended. Not knowing anything about teaching Banjo myself, I pretty much thought that it wasn't much different than just following along in a book.....I got the feeling that I could just get by on my own. I told myself I would give it one more try and decided to give in to the one hour drive (one way) and I called Ira and set up that first lesson.

Wow, I am sure glad Ira had openings. I still remember my first lesson. After the initial meet and greet and background basics, he grabs his guitar and asked, show me what you can play. After a blank stare wondering why he is holding a guitar I launch into my rolls and did a hatchet job of Cripple Creek. I don't mind the commute to Ira's lesson b/c I honestly feel that I get my money's worth.

My banjo journey started w/ me wanting to learn 10 songs. After 3 months I could get by w/ playing three songs and learning those other seven have now taken a backseat thanks to Ira. He has helped open my eyes to what it means to play the banjo. One day I will get around to learning to play those seven songs, in the meantime I will be learning to just play the banjo. Thanks Ira.

Overall Rating: 10

Mark 'Clawgrass' Johnson

Submitted by banjothrasher (see all reviews from this person) on 8/25/2015

Overall Comments

Had a lesson with Mark over Skype.  Amazing musician and a good teacher.  Highly recommended, even at a distance.

Overall Rating: 9

Skip King (eaglesisland)

Submitted by rbergesch (see all reviews from this person) on 8/7/2015

Overall Comments

I'm giving BHO member Skip King (eagleisland) the "9" rating number only because I might meet the "perfect" teacher sometime down the road.  But until then, Skip has been my best teacher to date...

Skip teaches Bluegrass Banjo several afternoons a weeks at Buckdancer's Choice music store in Portland, ME. I'm not sure of the exact extent of his schedule, because we were readily able to work out a time.  He is flexible in scheduling.  Snow, etc. schedule disruptions were accommodated one way or another.  I have been playing banjo for either five years or forty years, depending on how you count the 30+ years I didn't pick up the instrument at all; probably the truest assessment would be tend toward the five year (or less,) mark.

So Skip really helped me along during the six months I've taken lessons from him; I had met him several times, and he had noticed a BHO post where I voiced a question about BG rhythm, and the result was getting started with a lesson using that as a starting point.  It was productive, so we kept scheduling more until the summer crunch came (on my end,) with a lot of out-of-town travel to mess up a steady lesson schedule.

Skip helped me with a lot more than the (first,) rhythm question we worked on.  What is most important, however,  is that he taught me in a way that worked for MY learning style; it was definitely not a one dimensional approach.  Tabs, playing along shifting leads to vamping back-up, sending TabEdit versions of pieces by email; whatever worked for me, Skip would incorporate it into the lesson structure.

However it worked, I learned quite a bit with Skip, and hope we can continue as the summer fun ends...

 

 

 

 

 

Overall Rating: 9

Devon Wells

Submitted by Jonny5 (see all reviews from this person) on 7/9/2015

Overall Comments

 

I recently sat down for a one hour lesson with Devon while he was travelling with his family he squeezed in some teaching time for me.

My request was for him to tab out a tune from a youtube video that had no banjo break (but needed one) just a guitar player covering the tune at break-neck speed.

Using just his phone Devon was able to improvise, both the A part and B part, along with the video without slowing it down and construct a tasteful banjo break true to the feel of the song and within the range of my abilities. He then made suggestion how to jazz it up as my abilities progress.

Devon had very little preparation time and moulded the lesson to my needs on the fly using excellent communication/listening skills.

Whenever I'm in a pinch I'll run to Devon for help.

Overall Rating: 10

Chris Coole

Submitted by pjxndvm (see all reviews from this person) on 5/4/2015

Overall Comments

I attended clawhammer camp where Chris was teaching in April 2015. He gave a few call and response songs, measure by measure. The songs were great to learn. However, the best part was his going over the basics of motion and timing and rhythm. He broke it down into basics that could be grasped by a beginner. He also went over how to figure out a song that you have heard and how to figure it out by ear. Overall a great teacher and great classes with Chris. I would recommend them highly. 

Overall Rating: 10

Adam Hurt

Submitted by David Moore (see all reviews from this person) on 5/3/2015

Overall Comments

I have taken two classes at workshops from Adam at Suwannee banjo camp.  The first time I knew the class would be way over my head but I do ascribe to the philosophy that sometimes you have to stretch beyond your grasp in order to grow.  Well, I was correct, the primary tune Adam taught was beyond me but now 2 years later I have it.  Yes I worked on learning but Adam with his precision and focused awareness of the student's playing made learning a pleasure. 

Adam breaks phrasing and fingering into small enough chunks and adds a bit of history of the origins of a particular movement or fingering to make class interesting.  But he doesn't get distracted with too much background and keeps the music and instruction moving so students can progress. He also is aware that sometimes learning from watching fingers one can't see what the instructor's fingers are actually doing. Adam takes great pains to show students what his fingering is.

If someone hears Adam perform, and you should any chance you can, don't be intimidated by his abilities.  Don't think " I can never learn to play that way".  You probably won't.  Few can play to his level but he will help anyone progress and improve if one is willing to work and practice of course.  The end result of taking a class from Adam is net improvement and satisfaction

Overall Rating: 10

Mark 'Clawgrass' Johnson

Submitted by David Moore (see all reviews from this person) on 5/3/2015

Overall Comments

I have not taken Skype lessons from Mark but I have sat with him in person and taken two classes from him at workshops.  If a banjo player either, Scruggs style or Clawhammer thinks that Mark's style can't help you improve he/she would be sadly mistaken.  The last class I took from Mark had all Clawhammer students and Mark made the point that he could help any CH player improve and he proved it.   He taught me to change my right hand picking just a little and I feel it took me to the next level.  I am cleaner picking and more efficient hence faster.

If you have the chance to work with Mark.  Do it.

 

Overall Rating: 10

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