Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

389
Banjo Lovers Online


Banjo Reviews

Review Categories

Most Recent

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!

6905 reviews in the archive.

Don Bryant Luthier Reviews

Submitted by greenbriar (see all reviews from this person) on 12/10/2017

Overall Comments

I highly recommend Don and his work. His work is flawless. His 37 years experience and commitment to detail and customer satisfaction is as good as his work. I understand that Sammy Shelor is using and endorsing Don Bryant. That is understandable now that I have mine.  Neck and fingerboard "feel" is a big deal to me. Many profiles seem narrow and slim. I have had several banjos that would have never been sold if the neck had been easier to play. Don allows 1/8" on the outside of the 1st and 4th strings. His string placing is perfect.  I had a Sumi mandolin, it was clear that he a master luthier. Don's attention to detail is equal. The fingerboard is crazy perfect. Hand cut inlays, the fit of the neck to the pot, is amazing. All of the aspects and  details are appreciated when I pick it up. It is a beautiful creation and the fit and feel is mighty fine. We are fortunate to have so many luthiers. The decision of who to hire to make a neck or to do work for you can be tough. Communication with Don is excellent. He backs his work up. He is a very good picker and has refined his talent to an amazing degree. Perfect is a strong word, but it is accurate in this case.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by alivefive (see all reviews from this person) on 2/22/2017

Overall Comments

Just got back from a visit at Don Bryant's banjo shop...very pleased with his work!   I needed a couple of things for two prewars that I have and Don fixed me right up.  Don is a careful, deliberate fellow and he had the extra punch I was looking for in my banjos in no time at all...while I was there he allowed me to look at some of his banjo collection and admire some of his fine inlay and neck work...Don makes some extremely good looking, high quality necks!  I'd say his detail and inlay work is second to none....He can do it all, converting old tenor banjos to 5 string, cutting a pot and adding a tone ring or whatever you need, Don's the man!  I highly recommend!  

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Banjo Saint (see all reviews from this person) on 1/22/2017

Overall Comments

I have had several very positive experiences with a fellow member of the hangout and thought that I should share the good news.  Don Bryant is a luthier here on the hangout and well known to many.  He spent the good part of a day at his shop with me in residence working on several banjos.  He put complete banjos together from parts, installed parts, fit parts, compared alternative parts in banjos to determine their effect on tone, set up banjos, adjusted banjo setup, etc.  As we ran out of time, he later refinished a rim, assembled and set up a complete banjo, sent me sound files once it was complete and shipped it to me.

Throughout the process his thoughtfulness, insight and customer service was exemplary.  He walked through each project, chatted about alternative approaches and options, and helped me choose the best course of action.  The work was done efficiently and effectively and Don was willing to answer whatever questions I had during the process of completing the work.  His pricing is also very reasonable.

The proof is in the results.  The banjos that Don repaired, assembled and or adjusted were far better for his work.  He was able to coax better tone out of each banjo. 

Lastly, time spent with Don was both educational and enjoyable as he is sharing and quite a fine fellow.  I would highly recommend him for your next project.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by J Lilly (see all reviews from this person) on 9/30/2016

Overall Comments

I just picked up my 1926 RB-1  from Don Bryant. When I got this banjo it was badly refinished, had wrong fingerboard,and some later hardware. Don put on a brazilian board with old style binding and frets. He duplicated "THE GIBSON" perfectly and supplied period correct metal parts. The neck and resonator were finished by Ken Hooper [ of HOOPER GUITARS ].They got a perfect match to the original finish on the rim, and even made it look old. This banjo now looks and sounds terrific. I had to pry it from Don's hands to bring it back to VA. This old man was very pleased and would highly recommend this team for any project.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by greenbriar (see all reviews from this person) on 8/4/2016

Overall Comments

All our communication was on line, Don was very quick to respond. He does excellent work, he was ready to send it back in record time. His rates are very good! 5 stars.

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by beetlebug (see all reviews from this person) on 5/21/2016

Overall Comments

Don just worked on two banjos for me and did a wonderful job. The pyramid tone ring on my TB2 was too tight and so he had the rim cut and then did an overall setup of the banjo. It sounds awesome now with that nice low growl. He also installed a used neck that I had onto my 1929 TB1 pot assembly. He had to cut the neck to fit the pot and did a setup on the banjo. It is setup great now and is a great sounding banjo. Don is wonderful to work with and is very timely. It was a pleasure doing business with him. 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by llsaari (see all reviews from this person) on 3/21/2016

Overall Comments

I recently had Don Bryant make a banjo for me using a Mullin's curly maple neck and Gill curly maple resonator. Don provided a pre-war Gibson rim along with one of his skirtless banjo rings.  Don refitted the neck to the rim and performed some fret work on the neck as well.  He oversaw the whole operation including binding application, finishing, and final set-up of the instrument.

The instrument is gorgeous.  The finish (actually performed by Don's colleague, Ken Hooper) is flawless.  It is a thing of immense beauty.  More importantly, the sound is fabulous.  I had the opportunity to extensively play the Bryant skirtless banjo along with my Huber and Hatfield with some friends over the weekend.  All three banjos sounded really good, but the Bryant was the clear favorite - a testament to the product that Don has created.  

Don is as professional a business person as one will find; however, he also remains very personable.  He thoroughly communicated all of the details of construction (including photos), cost, changes, etc., and was flexible in meeting my desires.  In the end, there were no surprises regarding the delivery, cost, or quality of the instrument.  Don was great in suggesting changes that he thought would be a better choice (e.g., a sunburst finish).

I could not more highly recommend Don as a luthier and as a responsible, responsive business person.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by David Wadsworth (see all reviews from this person) on 1/23/2016

Overall Comments

The neck Don made for my SSStewart TB-11 style banjo looks like it came out of the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo in the 1930s.  It looks, feels and plays great.  It is always a pleasure to deal with Don, an elite luthier and a great person.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by CarolinaPicker (see all reviews from this person) on 11/24/2015

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by CarolinaPicker (see all reviews from this person) on 11/24/2015

Overall Comments

 I have a RK35 that had a 11/16" bridge and I changed it out to a 5/8" bridge. After the bridge change out the action had to be readjusted due to the lower bridge. I tweeked the coordinator rods but I could tell pretty quick that I was going to need someone with more experience than mine. I gave Don a call and sent him the banjo. He adjusted the action and made several minor adjustments. Got the banjo back yesterday. The action is perfect and it sounds and plays great. Don does quality work at a fair price.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by sdpicker (see all reviews from this person) on 10/25/2015

Overall Comments

I bought a 1927 TB-4 that needed a 5-string neck.  Don helped me put together a killer pre-war parts banjo a few years back, so I knew exactly who to talk to.  He gave me frequent updates and photos showing the progress of the new neck.  He had the neck ready when he said it would be.  And it is a beauty of a neck!  The shape and finish feel great in my hand.  The inlays are flawless.  The binding on the neck matches the resonator perfectly, which is no easy task.  He even put a matching pre-war button on the 5th string tuner.  To top it off, he selected a bridge and set it up so that it sounds better than I thought possible for an arch top.  I consider myself very fortunate to live within driving distance of Don Bryant.  If you need a new neck, I highly recommend contacting Don.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by MadisonBanjo (see all reviews from this person) on 7/14/2015

Overall Comments

I contacted Don on the recommendation of a friend and other BHO reviews.  I made contact by phone and he promply returned my calls.  Since I live two hours away, we schedule a time for my to be at his shop and bring two Gibson banjos in for repair and setup.  He was very flexible.  He listened to what I wanted and made appropriate suggestions.  I thought I was going to leave one of the banjos for extended work but it turned out to not be necessary (saving me another trip).  The results were topnotch!

Don has my highest recommendation!     

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by fastpickn (see all reviews from this person) on 4/12/2015

Overall Comments

I hooked up with Don after posting for a recommendation for Luthier near Boone, NC.  

The family and I rode out to Stone Mountain from our Boone spring break vacation to check out some waterfalls and, "ahem", it just so happens Don is right down the street... :)

We got to Don's shop and the kids got to run his dog around the yard while my wife and I got to hear what my banjo is supposed to sound like.  Don's fried Chris Dockery was there and they both took turns playing the crap out of my Hatfield.  Only being ~ a year into my banjo journey, I was in awe.  

After playing a few tunes, and although overall pretty happy with the setup, Don gave the banjo a good once over.  Turned out the head just needed to be tightened a bit up by the arm rest.  Simple little thing that really brightened it up and is exactly what I was looking for.  

We spent about ~30-40 min chatting about banjo's & jamming, etc.  He even gave me one of his bands, Beyond the Blue, CD's.  Don's knowledge was evident and it was great to talk to someone else in person with such passion for the instrument and bluegrass.  When I tried to pay him for his time and the head adjustment he refused my money.  Luckily he allowed me to pay for his CD.  

Don was awesome.  Super nice guy and I wouldn't hesitate one bit sending him any banjo to work on, regardless of the size of the job. 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by myfavefive (see all reviews from this person) on 12/29/2014

Overall Comments

I got an early 60s TB-100 conversion banjo that hadn't been played regularly for a long time and sent it to Don to do some fret work and reset the neck to make it more playable. This banjo has some very interesting history and I wanted to make sure the new work would be done at a high level of quality.  This banjo was owned originally by Tom McKinney and the conversion work was done by Rual Yarborough and Marion Kirk in the mid-70s. Don really came through in every way helping evaluate exactly what was needed and talking me through the choices so we were both on the same page.  We agreed on replacing 10 frets, leveling the fingerboard, fixing an old binding repair up the neck and doing a new heel cut to get the action and playability just right. I was going to be traveling out to NC to attend IBMA and used that trip as a chance to hook up and meet in person during the repairs.  We had a great time picking in Don's shop and I saw right away what a great luthier he was with all the other projects he had underway.  Just as importantly, he's the kind of guy you can really trust to do a job right, communicate all along the way, and deliver a finished product anyone would be proud to play. I wouldn't hesitate to have Don do any kind of repair, building, or set up work on any of my banjos and give him my highest recommendation.  

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by 36kk10 (see all reviews from this person) on 9/23/2014

Overall Comments

I just received my 1949 Gibson RB-150 that I bought from Don Bryant and that he built a great conversion neck for and I love it....  During the process of the neck building Don kept me updated with great pictures and was more than willing to answer questions over the phone as well.  The banjo was received exactly as Don described and was very well packaged for the trip from North Carolina to southern New Mexico.  I highly recommend Mr. Bryant and would definitely buy from him again.

Thanks for the great banjo and neck Don,

Kent Nelson

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by TCB (see all reviews from this person) on 5/4/2014

Overall Comments

I picked up a Rich and Taylor banjo in a trade a couple months ago (at a guitar show) - it sounded really good but I could tell it needed a good setup.  It needed more than a good setup though.

I took the banjo to Ronnie Hatley (Ron's Picking Parlor in Stanfield, NC) for a setup and Ronnie called me with some bad news - the prior owner of the banjo had cranked the truss rod to the point of breaking part of it and freezing.  

After some calls to local luthiers - none of whom wished to touch this with a 10 foot pole, we got in touch with Don Bryant.  Don asked to have a look at it and said he would attempt to fix it (this involved steaming off the fretboard, digging out the old rod, and lots of other work that I will probably never understand or attempt).

It took a while - but, what I got back completely exceeded my expectations.  It is evident from what I got that Don loves his craft.  He took the time to do the "little things" and and the neck feels and looks amazing.  His finish work is impeccable.  The setup on the banjo is equally impressive and I now have a banjo that I love playing.

I'm now fighting temptation to unload my other banjo (Deering Sierra), obtain a great pot assembly and get one of Don's HIGHLY regarded necks.

Thank you Don for your outstanding work!

 

- Corey

 

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by eMike (see all reviews from this person) on 2/19/2014

Overall Comments

I recently needed some repair work on a nice tiger maple 5-string neck.  Don has done  some great work for me in the past so I sent the neck to him.  He repaired a couple of dings on the heel cap, fixed an issue involving the 5th string peg hole, and dressed the ends of the frets.  As usual, his work was excellent, as was his turnaround time, and I felt like he didn't charge me enough.  I wanted to pay him more but he refused (true!).

Don does great work and is a real pleasure to do business with.  I highly recommend Don's luthier skills and work ethic.  He is very professional, loves what he does, and guarantees that you will be satisfied with whatever work you entrust to him.

 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by 5drive (see all reviews from this person) on 12/12/2013

Overall Comments

I gotta tell this! Just got one of Don's RB-75's with his new skirtless tone ring and I'll tell you it rocks in every way. Man this thing has all the volume,tone,clarity,sustain,and that old pre-war splat sound!!  What a great idea,no tone ring binding whether winter or summer! Also ,Don is a superb builder  in every way. Thanks Don for what you have accomplished in the banjo world!!    Jim

 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by TB2 (see all reviews from this person) on 11/7/2013

Overall Comments

About a year ago I found a 1926 block rim GIbson TB2 on Craigslist here in Los Angeles for an incredibly cheap price in very good original condition.  My wife is a banjo picker and I presented it to her as a birthday present with the promise I would have it converted to a 5-string.

After searching the archives and reviews here I contact Don Bryant about making a custom neck.  My wife isn't very big and I asked Don to make a slimmer profile "ladies neck" for her.

All I can tell you is that after a reasonable wait Don had me ship the banjo to him in North Carolina where he made an INCREDIBLE neck and did and AWESOME set up  on the old TB2. My wife just cant get over the QUALITY of the neck, the finish, the inlays (abalone), the COMFORT!

And most important of all- this banjo sounds AWESOME!  It's all the banjo she will ever need!  For those who think a tone hoop shoe bracket Gibson can't cut it, you should listen to one of these!

 

THANK YOU DON BRYANT!!!

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Pre War Pyramid 9331-14 (see all reviews from this person) on 9/6/2013

Overall Comments

Well, I just got back my 1928 Gibson Style 2 banjo with a SUPERBLY crafted Don Bryant neck. This banjo has the half inch hollow tube and I wanted it to accent my 1929 Pyramid banjo. This banjo is a bit quieter for home practice and perfect for playing with 2 or 3 people. I also will use it when I play with some dulcimer groups who may have a guitar and bass but play many Carter Family songs. This banjo will be a sweet addition to that sound. The neck was made from mahogany and Don did his usual excellent job. I am really enjoying this little banjo with pure pre war sound and a little 4 cylinder engine under the hide. I have had necks made from both Bill Hayes from Maine and Don Bryant from NC. Both are excellent luthiers. This is my second neck from Don.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by myork1 (see all reviews from this person) on 8/25/2013

Overall Comments

Just got my NEW OLD BANJO...a 1927 TB1 converted to a 5 by Don Bryant. An Arnold Clayton PYRAMID TONE RING, custom inlays by Clifford Seales and a "work of art" speed neck by Don. This banjo is just amazing. I love it and love all the meticulous craftsmanship that went into it. Just can't say enough about Don and how much I appreciate the job he did on my "banjo-of-a-lifetime." I LOVE IT!

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by chadhump (see all reviews from this person) on 4/20/2013

Overall Comments

Last year (2012) when we lost so many our Bluegrass heroes I decided I wanted to build a banjo in honor of my favorite of them all, Earl Scruggs. I also wanted to build something a bit different and somewhat customized. I found a great deal on a pot assembly (Bill Stokes Old Wood rim, JLS#4 gold tone ring and all quality Gold Plated hardware). Once I had the pot assembly, I then had to search for a neck/resonator and the remaining parts. After much research here on BHO I was fortunate to find that Don Bryant was only about 1.5 hours from me. I contacted Don and met at his shop to discuss my project and what I'd want done. One of my goals was to keep the banjo as close to pre-war specs as possible and Don knows this in great detail. We all know Earl had many different necks on that original Granada over the years, but I decided on what most people remember his banjo to have - Hearts & Flowers inlay. Don literally has a virtual menu of options to choose from. After much discussion I decided to commission Don to build the neck. I went with Mahogany reso and neck with the V and Speed neck options. Again, I was interested in experimenting somewhat as well and Don had some sample necks to help me decide. As others have said, Don did an absolute wonderful job on this neck and reso and it is simply beautiful craftsmanship. I provided Don all the other parts I needed for the banjo and Don put everything together and set it up like I wanted. I've had the banjo a few weeks and it is starting to settle in nicely. The feel and playability of the neck is really just amazing.
I could probably type a lot more about this project, but the short answer is that Don is someone I 100% recommend for your banjo building needs. He was honest and I was absolutely under no obligation if I didn't like something. Thanks again to Don for the hard work and time you put into this project that produced a beautiful banjo that I'll enjoy for many years.

Thanks Don!

Chad

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by eMike (see all reviews from this person) on 12/9/2012

Overall Comments

After reading the very positive reviews here on the BHO relative to Mr. Don Bryant’s skills as a luthier, I decided to have him build a neck for my 54 TB-100 pot with a full-weight Stew-Mac flathead ring. He quoted me a very reasonable price and made it clear that I would be under no obligation to purchase the neck when it was finished unless I was completely satisfied with it. I decided on a Style 1 modified fiddle peghead using curly maple with a Brazilian fingerboard and Gull Wing Style 1 inlays. The peghead also has an inverted tulip inlay. The highly-flamed neck is “V” shaped to the 5th fret and Don perfectly matched the binding on the neck to the somewhat-yellowed crème binding on the resonator. The stain color also is a great match to the resonator .
This neck is absolutely beautiful and it is one of the best playing necks I have ever had. The workmanship is flawless and I am completely satisfied with it in every way. It intonates perfectly and is certainly a joy to play.
During the build process, Don kept me advised as to where he was in the process and also provided me pictures of the gradually emerging neck during the build. To say that I was thrilled with the build, fit, and finish of the neck to the banjo would be an understatement. The banjo sounded the best it has sounded since I have had it.
I also have a frankenpot with a full-weight Stew-Mac arch top tone ring in it. It had a TB-3 neck when I bought it as well as a 3-ply maple rim and one piece flange. I had wanted to see what the AT pot sounded like with a high-quality neck so I installed the Bryant neck to the AT pot and it fit perfectly. This thing doesn’t sound like an arch top. It definitely has more of a flathead sound that I have been enjoying immensely. A few normal adjustments to head tension, tailpiece setting, and trying different bridges really make a difference in this banjo.
As I said previously, Don built me a beautiful, high-quality neck that is very playable at a very competitive price. If you are looking for a period correct neck at a good price from a man who takes great pride in his workmanship, you should get in touch with Mr. Don Bryant of Thurmond, NC. He’s a member here on the BHO. In conclusion, I am one very satisfied customer and I highly recommend Don and his work.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by slowdeath (see all reviews from this person) on 6/14/2012

Overall Comments

Don built me the best playing neck I have ever had for my '28 pyramid project. Craftsmanship is beautiful and his communication is really great. He made sure every detail was as I wanted it. Pricing is very fair and his setup work is spot on.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by knunn (see all reviews from this person) on 4/18/2012

Overall Comments

Well, it's been one week since i picked up my 1928 pyramid banjer from Don's shop. I couldn't be happier with the neck he built me. I got so many compliments of the neck at the Big Lick Bluegress Festival this past weekend. It looks and sounds even better than before. Don does great work and I highly recommend him. He's a fine gentleman to go along with a great luither. Thanks Don.

Kevin Nunn
Sharon, SC

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by 5drive (see all reviews from this person) on 4/18/2012

Overall Comments

I would like to say that a couple of close friends also just got necks completed that Don built and just like mine,they couldn't be happier! I would suggest you consider Don for your next project. Thanks,Jim

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Iderhobanjer23 (see all reviews from this person) on 4/9/2012

Overall Comments

It's been a great pleasure working with and getting to know Mr. Bryant. I had him cut down an oriole rim for a pyramid ring to put into a prewar parts banjo. Not only did everything turn out sounding great, but he's been extremely helpful and generous along the way. Wish dealing with everyone in the banjo world were like this this!

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by KRbanjo (see all reviews from this person) on 2/4/2012

Overall Comments

I have a Goldstar GF100W and had a different rim put in several years ago. Ended up not really liking the sound and didn't play it much. Considered selling it but wanted to make it original again before I did. Don took it apart, ring to rim fit wasn't quite right. Fixed that, dressed the frets, new strings and head. Took less than a week and would have been less that a day had not the rim needed to be put on the lathe.
Altogether sounds like a new banjo, couldn't be happier with it and have no plans to sell it now.
I am very happy to recommend Don for any services you may need. He was very accomodating, friendly, with reasonable rates, and he won't do anything you didn't ask for without checking with you first. No suprises.
I would gladly use Don's services again should I ever need them.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by slowdeath (see all reviews from this person) on 12/14/2011

Overall Comments

I shipped off an old prewar Gibson 00 rim, Kalamazoo resonator and a brass hoop and Don did the rest. Now I have a lightweight, PERFECTLY SET UP, fantastic sounding banjo that I just absolutely love. Don took care of every little detail, kept me informed all the way along with everything he was doing, and got it shipped back to me in an extremely timely manner. Pricing was way, way better than fair as well. Great value.

I immediately put in an order for a Style 2 neck that I know Don will knock out of the park.

Can't say enough about the overall experience and quality. Don is the best!

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by 5drive (see all reviews from this person) on 7/24/2011

Overall Comments

After getting to know Don a few years ago,I have to say the quality of his work is 100% great. He just built a neck for me and I love it!! As good as it gets!! I had played a few of his necks on other folks banjo and fell in love with them. He will build to your specs and wants to be sure you are satisfied Also,he is super great to deal with and can offer about any service you would need!! He kept me informed also with details of the project that would be hard to find anywhere else! He made sure it was exactly what I wanted! Thanks,
Jim Fraley

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by justryin2play (see all reviews from this person) on 7/12/2011

Overall Comments

Don recently performed a partial re-fret of my Bowtie(1-8). Not only did he replace the frets to perfectly match those on up the neck, he gently dressed the fingerboard to make it as near perfect as possible after 47 years of being noted. It is now is a joy to play after he freshened the ole girl up.
The best compliment in any repair is, that the repair be undetectable from original. He did it again with this one !
He continues to amaze me with his drive to achieve this with every repair/build I've ever seen of his. Get in touch with Don for your next repair/build, you'll not be disappointed !

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Pre War Pyramid 9331-14 (see all reviews from this person) on 5/25/2011

Overall Comments

WOW !!! WOW !!! WOW !!!

I JUST received my neck from Don Bryant for my 1929 Pre-War Gibson Pyramid Banjo. I was VERY, VERY particular about what I wanted done on this neck. I MUST SAY that everything I wanted was done EXACTLY as I wanted. Don did a SUPERB job for me and was wonderful to work with. Don is definitely a gentleman and one you can trust !!! Not only was the neck superb but the set-up was expertly done. I have been playing a long time and know a GREAT job when I see one. My APOLLO "D"TUNER & BILT-RITE BANJO CAPO demo video has some of my playing. While I am certainly no pro by a long shot, I am a decent weekend picker. Don Bryant is worth contacting if you need quality banjo work done.

Overall Rating
10

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Pre War Pyramid 9331-14 (see all reviews from this person) on 5/24/2011

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Groundsignal (see all reviews from this person) on 5/2/2011

Overall Comments

Don, worked on my RB100 replacing 7 frets ,putting in two new 5th string capo spikes, and adjusting the neck. It sounds great again and he also went the extra mile in working with the nut in rising the 4th and 3rd strings up. He also called me after a week from picking up the banjo to see how it was doing. This was the first time a Luther has ever called me to check on his work. I highly recommend Don to do your banjo work !!! Groundsignal

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by clawhammerjazz (see all reviews from this person) on 4/1/2011

Overall Comments

Recently, I took a Vega Pro II banjo that I recently acquired to Don Bryant of Thurmond, NC to see if he could improve the heel to pot fit. This was a banjo that had sat in someone's closet and had not been played in a long time. After Don evaluated the instrument, he said he believed the banjo could benefit from having the heel re-cut and refitted to the rim. Don then explained process involved and gave me his best and very reasonable estimate for the cost of the repair and when he would be done with it. When I returned to pick up the instrument (finished ahead of time, by the way), I was amazed at the transformation that had taken place in terms of volume, action, and tone. While playing the instrument in Don's shop to evaluate it (we enjoyably played a couple of tunes together), we discovered an additional issue in the banjo that needed to be addressed. Many clawhammer players prefer a higher action than I do, but because I use my entire fingerboard and require a lower action which Don had at my request provided, we discovered the D string was somehow managing as I down-picked to catch under the end of the 22nd fret. Don immediately responded by dressing all the fret ends on my banjo, and when that didn't correct the issue, he then pulled the offending fret, arched it slightly, and re-seated it, solving the problem. I offered to pay Don for his additional time and labor; I mean, after all, the banjo was old and had sat for a while, likely causing the issue, but Don was insistent in not charging more, saying that no banjo ever left his shop without being right. Well, the banjo continues to be right, plays right, and sounds great--something Don even called a week later to ascertain in the way of a follow-up. I am truly impressed with Don--with his knowledge, with his commitment to his work, and with the persistence he showed in addressing the issues on my banjo and satisfying his customer. Through the process of working with him, he not only has become my banjo repair person of choice but also a friend. I recommend him highly. --John Wenberg (Cjazz)

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by sdpicker (see all reviews from this person) on 2/23/2011

Overall Comments

I brought Don a "mutt" of a banjo. It consisted of a bunch of parts that I had cobbled together over the course of a year. Some of the parts didn't even fit correctly. I knew it had potential, but it was essentially unplayable when I gave it to him. Not only did he get everything fitted together and playable, he set it up so that it produces an incredible tone. I don't think I've ever had a banjo that sounded this good when played in A or B with the capo. The outcome exceeded my expectations. You can bet I will be taking all of my future luthier work to Don.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by loggerhead (see all reviews from this person) on 1/24/2011

Overall Comments

I would like to add my voice to the chorus of praise for Mr. Don Bryant. There are many other banjo builders and craftsmen who doubtless deserve their reputations, but after reading what other BHO members had said about Mr. Bryant, I felt he would be right for my project. Well, I am quite sure of that now, and definitely glad of my choice.

I had an old Deering Boston that I liked because of its lighter weight and indestructible rim, but I wanted to tone down its somewhat metallic acoustics. I acquired another Boston rim, added a Remo Renaissance head, Fults tailpiece, and new flange plates, and sent this assembly off to Mr. Bryant with the daunting task of making me a sweet sounding banjo. Because the Boston rim has non-standard spacing of the bracket-shoes and does not employ co-ordinator rods, there were already a number of issues for him to deal with besides just making the neck and fitting a resonator. To say that Mr. Bryant was meticulous in engineering this feat of banjo-building is a huge understatement. He patiently helped me work through issues of intonation through choice of woods and the thickness/tolerances of the neck and resonator. He corrected faults in the rim itself. He figured out how to adapt the resonator's attachment to the non-standard flange plates. The list could go on.

All this magic was superseded only by the fit and finish of the completed banjo. He started with a commercial neck blank and resonator, but the final contouring, binding, sanding, and finish were his work, and all superb. At his suggestion, the mahogany of the neck and resonator were left unstained. When lacquered, they just glowed. The binding is flawless, the fretboard perfect, and frets seamless along the edges of the neck. While there were some unavoidable delays along the way, the finished product was well worth the wait. Mr. Bryant is a true artisan.

How does it sound? I think even Mr. Bryant was surprised at what he had done. With a somewhat heavier bridge this hot-rod Boston has plenty of volume and bark, but not as much of the edgy metal sound of its predecessor. To my ear, up the neck is about as sweet as I could ask for. I'm still a relative new-comer to playing, but sometimes when I am picking this banjo, I feel like it sings. Well done, Mr. Bryant.

I cannot say enough good things about the experience of working with Don Bryant. He takes the time to do it right. If you want a rush job with sloppy work, he is not your man. He will work with you as long as it takes to make what you are going to be happy with. He will check and double-check your specs. He will call you if there are choices to make or potential problems to consider. Before the final sanding and finish he will, if you wish, send you what he has done to be sure you are completely satisfied. I cannot count the number of times he said--either in email or personal calls--"I'm not finished until you're pleased with it."

If you are looking for someone who does fine and professional work, treats you with kindness and concern, and will do his utmost to produce exactly what you were hoping for, contact Don Bryant.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by myork1 (see all reviews from this person) on 9/26/2010

Overall Comments

Dr. Bryant, as I call him, just knows how to get the most out of a banjo. Period. I have taken my RB-250 to him when I thought it sounded great and he made it even better. And I have taken him banjos that were obviously not set-up right and he somehow manages to get right to the problem and pull the best sound out while making the banjo play better. Don't know how he does it, just glad I know him. I always love the price (usually trying to get him to let me pay him more for his work) and love seeing his pre-wars and custom necks and we even manage to get in a lil' pickin' too. Can't say enough about Don and his passion for his craft and for getting the most out of any banjo he puts his hands on. A master craftsman and a true friend to banjos and banjo-lovers everywhere. I highly recommend Don and his work.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by darrelbryant (see all reviews from this person) on 5/22/2010

Overall Comments

I bought a used Mastertone in 1976 with a badly worn neck which I used in a recording session in Detroit at Homestead Records in 1979. I loved the sound but found the fretboard too worn and the neck too thin for the banjo to be consistently dependable. Jack Williams from Wilkesboro replaced the neck in 1980. I had played Jack's necks for years and preferred them over anything else I had ever played. I was using another banjo built by Jack and outfitted with a Jackson pickup on all the shows I was doing with the Dixie Dawn band at the time. (over 100 shows a year for 20 years.) After the neck on the Mastertone was replaced I played the banjo a little at home but never used it on stage or recording. In the later 80's I got it out tuned it up and took it to a show to find that the fret spacing was off. Jack had built it in his later years and missed on the spacing. Jim Brooks from Ashe county replaced the fret board with a beautiful and accurate hearts and flowers pattern. I still didn't use the banjo much because it still didn't have the sound it had when I recorded with it in 1979 so back in the case it went. In the 90's I discovered a luthier who played banjo who's set ups I liked so it went back in the shop. When it came out I still wasn't impressed so back in the case. While looking for a banjo for a friend I discovered that banjo prices had soared since I had shopped. I decided to either get happy with the tone or get rid of it. During my search for the beginner banjo for my friend I played some of the banjos that had been through Don Bryant's shop and was very much impressed. I took the Mastertone to Thurmond, NC. In about a week it was ready and it is good. Don worked his majic and I just played my first show with the instrument in about 20 years. The banjo I first fell in love with is back. A pretty decoration piece just became a fine instrument again. Monday I'm taking Don my workhorse banjo that I've been playing while this one rested. As soon as I decide what I want in a lighter banjo for my old age Don will be building it and installing one of the fabulous Don Bryant necks. This is the supreme compliment to Don. After playing the Jack Williams necks on 3 different banjos for the last 40 years I am making the switch for one of Don's speed necks. I still love Jack's necks but I love Don's speed neck better. Pricing was reasonable and fair. Work was excellent and timely. The result exceeded all my hopes. I think I'm even playing a little better.
Thank you Don
Darrel Bryant (no relation)

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by justryin2play (see all reviews from this person) on 4/15/2010

Overall Comments

Don is truly gifted at making banjo necks, period ! He just completed a 5 string for my 1933 AT to replace the tenor neck (which I still have). The neck is a tasteful, yet unique in that the maple is heavily striped (a bonus), the stain matches the resonator perfectly. The peghead and inlay are an exact match to the tenor neck. The tuners were used from the tenor neck, and the fifth string tuner (post-war) has a button that he aged to match the other 4. Workmanship and fit is flawless. Neat thing is, during construction he would tell me about little minute details he was working on, that would never occur to a casual observer. Which reminds me, during the construction he was constantly giving me build updates via phone and email. I thought that was a nice touch, as it gave me a greater insight in the amount of labor involved in producing a banjo neck. Don is a delight to work with, and once you talk to him, you'll feel like you've known him for years. There's just no way it could have been an any better decision, than to have Don build this beautiful neck for me.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by ebowalker (see all reviews from this person) on 11/17/2009

Overall Comments

Don recently did some very delicate work on the neck of my '67 Baldwin Style D. The workmanship was superb. Beyond the repair work, he also re-setup the banjo and it is sounding better right now than it ever has.

For my Baldwin D, he: 1) repaired and replaced some binding; 2) re-set the neck to get rid of a buzz; 3) threw in a Snuffy Smith bridge.

The binding repair was the touchiest problem. But he matched the exact color and design of the original.

Besides being extraordinarily competent, he is a genuinely nice person. I highly recommend Don. Be sure and take him a couple of sacks of fresh-picked turnip greens when you stop by. You'll make a friend for life.

Ebo Walker, Ararat, NC

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by creekwater (see all reviews from this person) on 9/4/2009

Overall Comments

I've known Don for many years. He is a stand-up guy in every way. When you think of the word "integrity" Don fits the description of that word completely. He is the best at fixing anything wrong with a banjer better than anybody I've ever seen. He has more knowledge on pre-war Gibsons then you could take in a full day of discussion that subject. I highly recommend him for any and all banjer work. If you want it done right and done right the first time take it to Don, you will not be disapointed. And yep it's "banjer" here in old North Carolina, that's the way we say it, so that's the way we spell it.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by 1935tb-11 (see all reviews from this person) on 8/3/2009

Overall Comments

i thought i knew how to keep my banjo up and running at its peak performance but i was having trouble getting THAT sound back after
the old remo head split on me. i struggled with it for quite some time trying one thing then another. then i called don and set up a time to take it up to him. when i arrived i was greeted like we had knew each other all our lives and we went down to his work shop in the basement.
when i went in there were many old banjos lying on the floor with cases open and don said lets pick one, so we did, i got mine out and let him pick it and listen then i explained what i was and wasn't hearing in mine that i thought i ought to. he played it nd said well it ain't bad but lets try this. so he did a few things to it. and we played it some and it got better. so he wanted to try a couple of other things and it got real good.
before i left it was honkin like it used too. we done some trading and
i left so pleased and glad that my main player is back to sounding correct again. don knows his stuff and is a super builder also. he let me play a mack crowe version he built and i swear it sounded old as dirt just like an old pre war, and looked fantastic to boot.
don is a great guy to talk to and a great repair/ builder also.
so if you need someone that is in the north carolina area and knows
his stuff he would be the man to call.
i would highly reccommend him to anyone needing some work done or
if you have a banjo you just can't get right, take it up there , you won't be sorry .

thanks again don

terry martin aka (1935tb-11)

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by bluedawg (see all reviews from this person) on 6/5/2009

Overall Comments

I just met Don a couple of weeks ago and right away he seems like one of those people that even though you just met him you've known him all your life. I had a new build I was having trouble getting the neck to rim fit correct on and he straightened it right out for me. The action is alot better than what I'm used to with great clarity up the neck. One heckuva nice guy and very good to deal with and great prices to boot. I highly recommend him to anybody in the NC - VA area that needs any banjo work done, or any other area as far as that goes. Thanks again Don-- Bluedawg

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Richard Caudill (see all reviews from this person) on 1/20/2009

Overall Comments

Need a setup man/ information on a pre-war/ a new neck for your axe. Look no farther than Don Bryant, banjo man in every sense of the word.
His work is without a doubt one of, if not the best that I have seen. I have used him for setup on my Gibson RB-250 and it never sounded better, I count him as a friend as well and a very good man on the strings, just wish I could get the tone out of my banjo that he does.
Richard Caudill

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by banjo-joe (see all reviews from this person) on 1/19/2009

Overall Comments

Mr. Don Bryant, In Thurmond, North Carolina, as far as I am concerned, is the best in the banjer business. His caftsmanship in making new necks and overall banjo knowledge is probably the best that there is on the East Coast. He will make you a new or conversion neck to play exactly like you would want it to feel, or he considers his job is not done. Speed neck or stained finished lacquered neck. A Pre-war specialist and can answer any set-up question you might have encountered. Not only can he make necks, fix banjos, but is also one-fine-picker! Very easy and helpful to deal with. Joe Hawks (banjo-joe).

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by thumpic2003 (see all reviews from this person) on 1/18/2009

Overall Comments

Don has made a couple banjo necks for me, one for a 1934 style 1 and the other for a style 11. His workmanship is superior, He will make sure you are satisfied or you don't have to take the neck plus he is a great setup man. Ted Nixon- thumpic2003

Overall Rating: 10

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.125