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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!

6975 reviews in the archive.

Don Bryant - Thurman NC

Submitted by Bk2olKY (see all reviews from this person) on 9/18/2020

Overall Comments

I had the great pleasure of meeting Don recently, when he did some work on one of my Banjos. Don was really great to work with and is a true gentleman. All of his work is outstanding and he even took time to show me around his shop and discuss all things banjo-related. It's surreal to be in a place like that and get to play various prewars. And his prices are very reasonable as well. If you need a banjo neck or any other work call Don!! You will be happy you did!!

Overall Rating: 10

John Boulding

Submitted by jeffdp (see all reviews from this person) on 7/29/2020

Overall Comments

Well, it didn't take me long to want a mandolin upgrade and with my wife's help i found a used Eastman 515 online. I got a great price on it, but it had some headstock damage and finish issues (gouges, wear, etc.).  I took it to John and after a good look we decided on a new bridge and tailpiece in addition to the other work.  Picked it up a little over a week ago and man it is shining like a new penny!  John did a brilliant job on the repairs and new set up, this 515 sounds awesome! I can't thank him enough.  If you have any repair or set up work on any instrument, I highly recommend John Boulding.  The work is outstanding and the price is more than fair.

Overall Rating: 10

John Boulding

Submitted by bova01 (see all reviews from this person) on 7/18/2020

Overall Comments

I had John do some fret dressing work and replace the metal tone ring in my KK-11 with a wood one. (He also helped me sell the old rim!) The wood needed to be stained to match the colors of my banjo....and he nailed it! My banjo has new life and is 3 lbs lighter! It looks, sounds and plays awesome! The turn around time was amazing! John is a terrific person (and musician) too. He did an incredible job and I highly recommend him.

Thanks John!

Overall Rating: 10

Bart Veerman

Submitted by kevin P (see all reviews from this person) on 7/17/2020

Overall Comments

I just spend some time today with Bart. He was and is very helpful. I would highly recommended both him and his bridges. Thank you Bart

Overall Rating: 10

Don Bryant - Thurman NC

Submitted by RBC-1 (see all reviews from this person) on 6/26/2020

Overall Comments

I had my old prewar Gibson banjo which had been taken apart years ago when I thought I needed a tone ring and restoration.    Even then, the friends I had in Greensboro at a luthiers shop there convinced me not to start cutting on an old Gibson.    It had sat for many years just in the case, still in pieces.   I had talked to a couple of banjo luthiers regarding putting it back together and just this week discovered Don Bryant.    Upon talking to Don I realized his expertise and patience in dealing with my apprehension and expectations concerning this old banjo, and I became very comfortable with trusting his craftsmanship.   

We scheduled a time and when I arrived he went right to work.   I was amazed at his knowledge of these prewar Gibsons, especially the specs. and characteristics that were required to reassemble my banjo.   The end result was actually a work of art, we both were astounded at the beauty and sound that once again rang from a long neglected musical phenomenon and piece of bluegrass history.

He was meticulous and diligent as he slowly, with great care,  put the pieces together to transform this relic back to its original state.  Long ago I was very active in bluegrass circles and I have watched many luthiers at their work.   Don Bryant has to be ranked at the top of his peers in creating and restoring these treasures of music history.   I can't thank him enough for permitting me to bring him my prewar Gibson banjo and making it once again, a beautiful creation.

RBBlue

Overall Rating: 10

Don Bryant - Thurman NC

Submitted by UNCdad (see all reviews from this person) on 6/20/2020

Overall Comments

When you need a great luthier, a master builder of state of the art necks, set up and replacing frets, look no farther! Don Bryant in Thurmon, NC is the best I have ever seen! He is reasonably priced and just a fine, honest man. I highly recommend Don for all your banjo needs!

Overall Rating: 10

John Boulding

Submitted by jeffdp (see all reviews from this person) on 6/17/2020

Overall Comments

I am new to the BHO, but a longtime banjo fan.  During this COVID lockdown i finally dragged out my GIbson Mastertone after years of non-use and also got the mandolin bug and invested in a starter F-model Loar.  John Boulding was recommended to me for a tune up on the banjo and a pro-set up for the mandolin.  I cannot say enough good things about what John did for me.  He gave a tune-up to the Gibson, and pointed out some things i may need to have worked on later, took an average sounding mandolin and put on a new bridge, strings, and gave it a proper set-up. I can't believe the improvement in the sound.  He gave me great advice on looking for an upgraded mandolin, answered many questions on instrument care, and provided some contacts for meeting other bluegrass musicians in my area.  His work was outstanding and he definitely charged a fair price.   I would highly recommend him to anyone who has instrument repair or service needs, or any music needs in general.

Overall Rating: 10

Nechville

Submitted by kamal (see all reviews from this person) on 6/16/2020

Overall Comments

I am happy to share my very positive experience buying a banjo from Nechville Musical Products!

I had been ogling Nechville's banjos for years, but never got a chance to actually play one.  I called Nechville to ask about a custom openback that they had in stock, and ended up having a couple of lengthy conversations with Brett Mularkey.  Brett was sincerely interested in learning about me and my particular banjo interests, and his honest and friendly advice was extremely valuable.

Brett's answers to my questions left me confident about buying from Nechville:

What if I just don't like it at all?  "Send it back, with no charge."

Would Nechville be willing to change out the neck for a different model?  "Yes.  And we could send you this banjo to play now while we build the new neck, and then exchange it later."

Change the armrest?  "Yes, of course."

I decided to go for it, and Brett and the folks at Nechville got my banjo packed up and shipped out the same day.  Once it arrived five days later, I was surprised to get a message from Brett, who had been tracking the package -- from his home, on the weekend -- just checking that it had arrived safely.

The banjo sounded and played great right off the bat -- truly a fine instrument.  I adjusted the truss rod to lower the string action to my liking, and mentioned so to Brett.  He suggested that I might like to try a shorter bridge to lower the action further, but he also asked "Do you like the tone now?"  Seemed a simple question -- yes, I did like the tone very much!  But after a good couple days of mulling on it, I responded that I might prefer a bit more bass and a bit less high-frequency response.

So Brett had the Nechville shop build me a slightly shorter yet heavier bridge.  What a difference!  Now, the tone is softer -- warm and mellow -- and balanced just right for my playing style.

Kudos and my thanks to Brett Mularkey and Nechville Musical Products!  I thought I was entirely happy with my very fine banjo when it arrived.  But they were not satisfied to just sell me a banjo that was very fine.  They were only satisfied once they'd provided me with a banjo that was perfect... for me.

 - Kamal Mostafa

Overall Rating: 10

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by sixish (see all reviews from this person) on 6/12/2020

Overall Comments

 

I had the opportunity to purchase a 2005 Gibson Blackjack a while back and while it sounded ok, it needed a fret job and some TLC beyond what I feel comfortable doing.  I again chose to work with Chris Cioffi as I had had such a good experience with his work on my Gold Star.  See my full detail review in this thread.

Chris performed his complete examination and optimization process on my new century GIbson.  He installed impeccable stainless frets, changed out lag bolts and reset the neck for best contact with the pot, along with a ton of other fine details.

Needless to say I am completely pleased with the results!

Chris really can bring out the best a banjo has to give!   Highly recommended.

Thank you for the great work, Chris!

Overall Rating: 10

John Boulding

Submitted by Dan Bieger (see all reviews from this person) on 6/7/2020

Overall Comments

I asked John to set up my 1929 tb3 Mastertone conversion suspecting that it needed more than a head or neck adjustment. John took it apart,adjusted the fit of the rim and tone ring and fixed everything else along the way. The work was done excellently, on time and for a fair price. I will be a repeat customer!

Overall Rating: 10

Don Bryant

Submitted by MadisonBanjo (see all reviews from this person) on 6/6/2020

Overall Comments

I just had Don perform a head change and overall set up of my Gibson RB-250.  The results were fantastic!  I highly recommended!

Overall Rating: 10

Randall Wyatt

Submitted by Mark Cox (see all reviews from this person) on 5/29/2020

Overall Comments

Randall Wyatt recently did some work on one my banjos for me. A 70's era Alvarez White Eagle arch top. I want to tell you that he did a very good job for me. In order to make sure the banjo was set up right,He took that banjo completely apart and put it back together correctly for me. He recut the heal plus installed a new nut,new bridge,new strings, tuned the head and also tuned the chamber. He also removed the old railroad spikes the previous owner had installed and installed new ones correctly. All for under $200.00. The banjo sounded good before i took it to him, now the banjo sounds GREAT. I was so pleased i dropped of my other banjo, a Recording King R-35 to him to have him set it up properly also. If any of you are in the Arkansas area and need good set up work for your banjo, i would recommend using Randall Wyatt. He is located in Searcy Arkansas. I am not affiliated with Randall in any way. Just a very satisfied customer. Im sure you will be also. Thanks Randall !

Overall Rating: 10

John Boulding

Submitted by ILOVEBANJOSS (see all reviews from this person) on 4/30/2020

Overall Comments

John Boulding in my opinion is one of the Top best luthier's in this industry, I get all my fret work done from him, He just refretted one of my necks with EVO Gold Medium Low fret wire, it plays like butter! love the fret wire, what I like about John Boulding is he is a very honest man! and he treats your instrument are neck are whatever hes doing as it is his on his work is superb! he is a true craftsman with his trade hes also one heck of a banjo player as well, if you need any work done on your banjo you should check him out a lot of you already know what I am saying and have had your banjos worked on from him so you know, hes my number one go to guy Thanks John for the great work you do.

 

Overall Rating: 10

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by fireballeight (see all reviews from this person) on 1/27/2020

Overall Comments

A couple years ago, I discovered Chris and his craftsmanship when a good friend of mine had his 1927 TB-1 converted and set up by Chris. I had been keeping an eye on any luthier's work that impressed me (due to the fact that my old RB-100 was going to need some intensive repairs), and I was absolutely blown away by Chris's craftsmanship when I checked out my friend's TB-1. The frets were smooth, the neck shape was super-comfortable, the level of detail was eye-catching, and the sound coming from the banjo was incredible (from a brass hoop!!). I decided that Chris would be my luthier of choice, and to make a long story short, a week ago I just picked up the first banjo of mine that Chris laid his hands on. Chris turned my battered and scarred '29 Pyramid right around into a fantastic and beautiful banjo. The level of detail that brought me to Chris is as present as ever: he took the time to age the string nuts, chamfer holes, stabilize the resonator, seal worn spots on the rim, smooth sharp edges on the metal parts, fit everything to precise standards, and polish everything to a brand new shine. Plus, the banjo sounds better than I ever thought it would (despite the fact that everything is still "green"). I can't wait for everything to settle in, because I know it'll sound unbelievable! I'm so happy with the Pyramid that I'm entrusting Chris to work on a second banjo of mine, and I'll be saving up so that hopefully he can put his special touch on all of my banjos. I encourage any others looking for a meticulous, careful, and knowledgeable luthier to strongly consider Chris. He doesn't rush through the work, respects the history and character of each banjo, and makes sure every aspect of the banjo is near-perfect. It may take a little longer to get finished, but it's completely worth it! Thanks Chris!!

Overall Rating: 10

Don Bryant - Thurman NC

Submitted by dmorrow (see all reviews from this person) on 1/24/2020

Overall Comments

I have a 2003 Huber Lexington and I had not played it much the past three years.  So when I decided to start picking again, I decided it needed a fret job and a good set up.  At a friend's recommendation, I sent it to Don Bryant to have the work done.  Let me say this before I get into the the work he did.  Don is just one of the most pleasant people to work with you will ever find.  He does what he says he will do when he says he will do it.  It was just a pleasure to deal with him.  

Ok, I sent the banjo to Don and after inspecting it we agreed to 12 new frets, a new head and bridge, and of course strings.  I got the banjo back, and I could not believe it was the same instrument!  The intonation was perfect and the banjo looked almost new , but best of all, its volume, tone  and ring are better than I had ever heard from it.  This is absolutely the best set up I have ever had on this instrument.  The tone all the way up the neck is excellent with not a hint of a buzz, and the playability is superb.  It is now my favorite banjo again. He obviously is a master at coaxing the best out of a banjo. I highly recommend Don for any of your banjo luthier needs , you will not be disappointed!

Next Step: I have an early 50's TB 250 that Don is going to convert for me in down the road.  I am looking  forward to seeing what he does with that!

Overall Rating: 10

John Boulding

Submitted by Old Hickory (see all reviews from this person) on 12/22/2019

Overall Comments

I just got back my '70s RB250 neck that I sent to John to reprofile and also to patch and clean up a hack job done by a previous owner who had grossly over-cut the heel in converting the banjo from 2-piece flange to 1-piece. Of course, this work would require refinishing 

John did a great job. The neck now has a soft "V" profile above the 5th fret and feels noticeably smaller in the hand; less bulky. It's a joy to play.

The refinish is very well done. The refinish color had to go darker to hide the patch at the heel (which is totally invisible) and achieve a better blend overall because Gibson in this era put color in the lacquer -- which can result in dark lines between old and new finish. John executed a smooth transition to the back of the peghead, which retains more of its original color and keeps the serial number visible -- that was important to me.

This banjo was a mess when I got it and still needs some other work, but it sounds great, is a real Gibson (mostly) and is the only Gibson I'll ever own. So treating myself to John's great services -- at his very reasonable price -- is worth the investment to me to enjoy this banjo for however many years of playing lie ahead.

In case you can't tell,I heartily recommend John for whatever repair or service your instrument needs.

Overall Rating: 10

John Boulding

Submitted by Parker135 (see all reviews from this person) on 12/6/2019

Overall Comments

John recently refinished a Gibson RB-170 neck for me, and it's beautiful!  I can barely believe it's the same neck.  This included the correct black peghead color and placement of a new Gibson decal followed by clear.  I have no idea how many coats, but it's gorgeous. 

All along the way, John was very helpful and really wanted to do the job according to my wishes in terms of shading, etc.  He almost always answered my emails the same day I sent them or at least by the next day.  In terms of meeting his promised delivery date and his estimated cost (which I found very reasonable), he was spot-on.

This was the first time for me to work with John, and I would certainly do so again should the need arise.  Looking back at my thoughts of doing the job myself (and I love working on banjos and have built a mandolin, mountain dulcimer, banjo, banjolele, etc.), it's obvious I made the right decision to let a pro do this one.

Parker

Overall Rating: 10

John Boulding

Submitted by kylevbothell (see all reviews from this person) on 11/20/2019

Overall Comments

I sent in a vintage Fairbanks imperial to be repaired to Mr John Boulding and it turned out great! The original neck broke at the heal and it needed some fretboard repair also. I also asked for a scoop neck to be added. The whole process took some time but I learned that John is busy doing gigs as well as being a luthier so he keeps busy for sure. He did amazing honest work for a very fair price and I highly recommend him for Luthier work! I only wish I didn’t live on the opposite site of the USA so I could go watch him perform on stage too!

Overall Rating: 10

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by palc (see all reviews from this person) on 8/11/2019

Overall Comments

“Cioffi” brand banjo??  Yes!!

Chris Cioffi has done (2) projects for me (as detailed in previous reviews).    I decided I would like a “version” of a prewar banjo, so I discussed options with Chris.  

I learned that Chris had built (2) Chioffi brand banjos around 2009, and both happened to be coming on market for sale.   I was interested, because I was looking for good tone with some degree of prewar parts, and Chris had built two banjos that happened to satisfy what I wanted.  I got to play both of them at Chris’ shop and was blown away with his attention to detail and overall craftsmanship.  Of course they sounded great.

i ended up going with the Cioffi banjo with a 20s or 30s original original Gibson nickel plated raised head tone ring, probably out of a TB-3.  The rest of the parts are all new, with all built and assembled at Chris’ shop    Also included walnut resonator,maple neck , and hearts and flowers inlays.

The raised head has some pop as well as nice low end.   It is kind of a hybrid sound to me, and I love it.  Very happy with this purchase and continue to be amazed at the talent Chris has.  I feel proud and fortunate to have one of the few banjos out there that have “Cioffi “ inlayed on the peghead.

 

Overall Rating: 10

John Boulding

Submitted by jchipps_1 (see all reviews from this person) on 6/13/2019

Overall Comments

I recently sent my RK36 neck to John to do a full re-fret with EVO frets, and also a speed neck finish.

He did a great job, at a reasonable cost.

He contacted me when he received the neck, and also when the work was complete, providing me the return shipping info and tracking #.

The package arrived with the neck well packed and good condition.

He also contacted me a couple days later to ask if I'd gotten the neck re-installed,  and how i liked the feel of it etc.

It was a very smooth transaction from start to finish, and he completed the work in a timely manner.

I would highly recommend John for any Luthier work you might need. 

J. Chipps

Overall Rating: 9

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