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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!

7077 reviews in the archive.

Backyard Music  Fireside (Kit) Banjo Reviews

Submitted by wkeeton (see all reviews from this person) on 4/25/2018

Where Purchased: Backyard Music

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: $143 ship & armrest ($US)

Sound

As a total newbie to banjo, it sounds quite nice to me. I'm a hobbiest and not a performer so quiet is good.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

I built this from the kit. so setup only required placing the bridge.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I love the looks and my aesthetic additions. If I had it to do over, however, I would have used a darker and glossier finish than the recommended matte natural Watco oil. The paint job on the rim was already done, and not the best. Overall, though, it looks pretty good.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Tuners work well without any slipping and hold a tune really well. The bridge looks and functions fine. The action is just fine for me. The nut works well, but is not attractive. :)

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Shipping was quick, and it was well packaged. I did not need to contact customer service apart from sending them a pic of my build.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The design is ingenious. There were minor flaws in the wood components here and there, but nothing to get overly concerned about. It's a kit afterall. There were no flaws I couldn't live with.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Overall I am very pleased. My first foray into banjo was a used Rover open back, which was old, well used and did not sound good, and was virtually impossible to tune. 

I am no judge of banjos, as I am an old guitar player and tune and play a banjo pretty much as if it were a guitar. I"m kinda old to start over. But I love this thing. Even more than the Jameson I bought. If I had done this build first, I wouldn't have even bothered with the store bought Jameson. I play only for glee and to keep myself off the streets in retirement. This project does bring me lots of glee.

I'll try to post a picture of my build with this review. If I have any advice to give on the building, proceed slowly and double check all alignment before going to bed and leaving the glue to dry. The problems in the build were all my own fault for getting impatient and not checking and double checking before I called it good.

I named this banjo my CATerwauler.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by penswift (see all reviews from this person) on 5/19/2017

Where Purchased: Backyard Music

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 115 + S/H historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Pleasant sound. Somewhat mellow. Have played using gDGBD and gCGCD tuning.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Purchased as a kit. Watched an internet video prior to build. End result was good string height and sound. My rating below (of 10) is from my own set up when assembling the kit. No parts needed adjusting.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I used the recommended Danish Oil on the wood. My banjo neck has two tones to it... which gives it an interesting look. I stained the white banjo head with a mixture of tea, coffee, water and white glue, followed later by Danish Oil... then a coating of puzzle glue... the glue was mainly to protect a gryphon image I added to the head.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I have not had this banjo long; however, it appears to be quite sturdy and durable.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Have communicated with Backyard Music two times. Once was to get a few questions answered, the other time was to tell them how pleased I was with their kit. They replied before end of next day both times ... and came across as pleasant and trustworthy both times.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The wooden neck is a real standout... great design. I liked it so much that I couldn't get myself to drill fret marker holes in it... so I ventured to try adhesive markers... which ended up looking good and seem durable... so far. It is no secret that the banjo head rim is a thick cardboard material... but it appears to be quite rugged and there is no stress on it from the instrument. (Rating of 10 is for components as expected in the kit . . . the parts all meet or exceed expectations).

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

You can look at these kits on the internet and listen to them too. If you want a nice instrument that you can customize a bit and have a bit of fun making... this is a great kit. At this point in time an image of mine is used as my profile picture. Note that I added brackets on my own, they are not part of the kit... nor are metal wings that I added to the head. The brackets are cosmetic only.... they are not in the least bit necessary. 

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by guitarsophist (see all reviews from this person) on 4/20/2017

Where Purchased: Backyard Music (Online)

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 129 ($US)

Sound

This banjo is unique. It has a wooden disk for a soundboard. It plays like a banjo, but sounds a bit like a quiet dulcimer. It is not loud, but that is part of the charm. I would say that it is not for jams or performance, but for personal practice and noodling. I am a guitar player who recently took up banjo. I have learned a lot from playing it. You could probably play this at 3:00 am without waking anybody up, but it still has a satisfying sound.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

I bought this as a no mess, apartment friendly kit. That means you put the parts together, but they are already finished. The design is quite innnovative. It is a neck-through design, with a mahogany neck and a composite resonator. Mine has a plywood top, but you can get solid tops. I ended up putting extra coats of polyurethane on the disk, mostly because I used too much glue and created a bit of a mess, so I had to refinish a bit. Then, after everything had dried a couple of days, I strung it up and moved the bridge around until the intonation was right. It is easy to get it set up.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

It is basic. Mahogany neck. Spruce plywood top. Frets are quite good. Brass nails for side markers. The holes are all pre-drilled. You could decorate the top however you wanted.

Appearance Rating: 7

Reliability

The hardware is basic, but quite serviceable. Guitar style tuners. The fifth string goes through the slot of a brass screw as a sort of bridge. Very clever.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

David Cross was quite helpful throughout the ordering process. Real human beings there.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I think the neck design is brilliant. It serves as neck, tailpiece, and support for the resonator. It is very efficient, solid use of materials.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I play this almost every day.  The small resonator makes it a bit difficult to keep in the right position on your lap, but it comes with some screw eyelets for a strap.  It is so light that I found that a pair of sturdy shoelaces tied together was enough of a strap to solve this problem.  I also have a Goodtime Americana for when I want to be louder and play for people, but the Fireside banjo is just the thing for practicing, especially if you are just noodling around and exploring while you are watching Netflix or something.  It's fun.

If you buy a kit, it is worth looking at the YouTube videos that are available.  The current kit has evolved a bit, but they are still helpful.  If I had looked at those first, I would have used half as much glue and save myself a bit of trouble.  The kits are very cool though.  Even if you just stick thing together, you end up bonding with the instrument more and you are more likely to keep playing it.  

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by mr roper (see all reviews from this person) on 1/25/2017

Where Purchased: Manufacturer

Year Purchased:
Price Paid: 109.00 ($US)

Sound

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Customer Service: 8

Components

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

The other reviews have covered everything. I just want to mention that its a zero fret design so except for the bridge placement there's no real setup.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by rekicpojnab (see all reviews from this person) on 10/29/2015

Where Purchased: Backyard Music

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 109.00 ($US)

Sound

I enjoy the soft mello sound of these Banjos. I play in a style I learned in NC many years ago, and pick melody sometimes. Play for myself and sometimes the church.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

By following the instructions and not getting in a hurry, a well set up insturment is possible. Becouse I set it up and I DO get in a hurry the set up could be better.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Did not do any fancy work on either instrument. The first one I was under time restrants and needed to finish a nice playable instrument. The second is mine and I like music, it will take more than a pretty instrument to improve my playing.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Don't know but expect many years of enjoyment from mine. The materials look and feel strong and durable.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Ordered first one in Tn, and recieved it in 3 days, ordered the second one for delivery to Ok, and it arrived in 3 days. Both were shipped in heavy cardboard boxes. will make a carrier out of it.

Customer Service: 10

Components

These kits went together easly and look very nice when finished. One I stained all the wood with Cherry stain, verry nice. The other I sprayed vith polyurethane, on stain just the spray.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I bought my first Fireside Banjo Kit as a gift.  I ordered a Left Handed Fireside Kit for a friend at church.  After putting it together and tuning it, I really liked the sound and feel.  She was very happy to get her banjo. She had tried to play a right handed one and it didn't work.  I bought one for my self and look forward to many hours of music.  I also have 2 other Banjos, a Masterbuilt, I have had for about 30, years, and a Goldtune which is about 4 years old.  Also, I build and play cigar box instruments, I love music.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Neil Allen (see all reviews from this person) on 1/30/2015

Where Purchased: http://www.backyardmusic.com/

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: $109 plus shipping historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Sound Rating: not rated

Setup

Setup Rating: not rated

Appearance

Appearance Rating: not rated

Reliability

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

Clearly, the most important thing in learning or maintaining musical skills is: practice, practice and more practice. For that reason, I like to have a banjo around whenever I might have a few minutes to spare and I don't like going without my daily practice. The problem is, who wants to leave their precious instrument lying around in the back of their car or truck, or leave it in the office, or take it with them on holiday or anywhere where it might get a bit knocked about? I was looking for something inexpensive, lightweight and robust to expand my opportunities for practicing. This is why I decided to buy one of these.

The kit arrived promptly, despite having to be shipped across the Atlantic. There was some initial confusion when I opened the package because the assembly instructions were marked "Basic Banjo Kit", which is the name of the A-scale instrument also sold by Backyard Music. Apparently, the instruction book is the same for both instruments. The kit came in a strong plastic bag, big enough for the assembled banjo, which I have kept for extra protection if I ever carry it in a gig bag and there is any likelihood of it getting wet.

Assembly was straightforward. How much time you want to put into this depends entirely on the degree of finish and decoration that you want to apply. I decided to stain the neck a "dark oak" colour. The pot was already painted black and was too dark to stain to the same shade, so I painted it with some wood primer paint, then followed that up with two coats of the same wood stain that I used on the neck. I painted the plywood head with three coats of an off-white satin paint of the kind you might use indoors on wood.

The neck of the banjo is completely devoid of fret markers. I got in touch with David Cross at Backyard Music about this and he recommended either putting brass nails in as side markers or inlaying pearl disks into the fretboard. I have also seen suggestions where people have marked the fretboard by making burn marks in the wood or by using a silver marker pen. I tried the marker pen, but was very unhappy with the result, so I sanded it off and decided to inlay some pearl dots. I thought I'd go into this process in detail for this review, to save anyone who is building one of these from having to research this again. Inlaid pearl fret markers add a lot to the aesthetics of the instrument and the process is much easier than I thought it would be. Bear in mind I am not a luthier, but this is what worked for me. To do this, you will need:

- mother-of-pearl dot inlay fretboard markers. These can be bought cheaply on Amazon, E-bay or elsewhere.
- pencil
- ruler or straight edge
- sticky-backed paper (Post-It notes, or similar)
- a spike of some sort
- drill
- a suitable drill bit, of the same size as the mother-of-pearl dots. The type of bit is very important! You need a bit designed to cut clean holes in wood, without leaving a ragged edge. The Forstner bit is ideal, but I was unable to find one small enough locally. I explained my requirements in a hardware store and bought an appropriate bit. Whatever you do, do not use a bit designed to drill metal, as this will cause unsightly damage to the edge of the hole.
- superglue
- tissue paper

Some sources advise putting the dot into the fretboard so that it sticks up slightly and then sanding it down. While I was prepared to do this, I found it wasn't necessary.

This is the procedure I followed:

1) Determine the position of the dots. There are various possibilities for where to place these, but I used what is now the standard positioning of frets 3, 5, 7, 10, 12 (2 dots), 15 and 17.

2) For each position, do the following:
   - mark the centre. Take a piece of sticky-back paper and stick it on to the space between two frets. Draw a diagonal pencil line from the end of one of the metal frets to the opposite end of the adjacent fret. Then draw another diagonal line on the other side so that the lines cross in the centre of the space between the two frets. Use the spike to punch a hole through the centre of the paper into the wood, to mark the position and serve as a guide for the drill. Remove the paper.
   - Drill carefully into the wood, stopping regularly, blowing out the sawdust and fitting the dot to see how much deeper you need to go. In six cases out of eight I was able to stop with the dot level with the surface of the fretboard, but in two cases I drilled a bit too deep. I just put a bit of sawdust back under the dot, to raise it up to the surface level.
   - Glue the dot. To do this, I put a line of superglue around the edge of the dot. This gets absorbed into the tiny gap between the dot and the hole, gluing it firmly into place. Wipe off the excess superglue with a piece of tissue paper, using a quick motion to avoid supergluing tissue paper to the fretboard.
   - The 12th fret is marked with two dots. To get the positions of each, use the above procedure, but draw each diagonal line from the halfway position of one fret to the end of the other, so you end up with "XX" on the space between the two frets.

It might be a good idea to test this procedure first, to get comfortable with it. You can do this on the wooden part that lies under the head and which will be invisible when the banjo is assembled.

The dark oak wood stain and pearl fret markers give an almost antique appearance to the instrument now that it is finished (see photos on my profile page).

The banjo has a beautiful "woody" tone and is fairly quiet; about the same volume as you would get from a small guitar or ukulele. But for my purposes of quiet practice when not at home, this lack of volume is a distinct advantage; I don't want the windows rattling when I just want to practice unobtrusively. It would work fine for solo playing in a quiet setting, but would not be loud enough for jamming with other instruments.

Another point to be aware of is that this instrument is a real featherweight. Mine weighs in at a mere 840 grams (less than 2 pounds). This is a big advantage for travelling.

The very high overall rating I have given this instrument should be seen in the context of its very low price and the specific niche that it occupies. It's not going to replace my GoldTone, which has a much richer and more powerful sound, but it does provide an opportunity for me to get some practice on a full-scale banjo in places where I might not want to take my usual instrument.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Devon Girl (see all reviews from this person) on 10/22/2014

Where Purchased: On-line from manufacturer

Year Purchased: Sept 14
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

It has a nice quiet warm and woody sound, perfect for clawhammer/old time playing.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

You do your own set up. The assembly instructions are easy, though the instructions for placing of the bridge were for the shorter necked version. I did a google search on how to place the bridge on a banjo and followed a YouTube video by Jamie Boss. You need to use an electronic tuner to get it spot on. The maker has also put some YouTube vids up, which are useful to follow.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

The kit was complete, with a few extra nails and screws. The neck is from sustainable Nicaraguan mahogany and the head is thin plywood with a rather nice grain. The rim is resin-impregnated cardboard tubing. There was a tiny dip in the fretboard next to one of the frets, but an extra layer of varnish filled it and it doesn't show now. I was impressed with the extra finishing which had been done, the fret ends were bevelled smooth, the rim pre-sanded and painted and the headstock finished with gentle curves. Not much sanding at all was needed, and I added a faux inlay effect to the head and as fretmarkers using wood grain effect paper, lightly glued in place and varnished. I added a wood grain paint finish to the rim, and I am very proud of my unique instrument.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

I am a new player, so it will be a while before I think of playing at gigs! The finish is down to my own efforts, but it would be easy to do more work on it if I wanted or needed to. There are no head adjustments to make, and the neck is all one piece right through to the tailpiece, so no adjustments needed there either. It is quite quiet and mellow, so in a noisy band it would need to be amplified. It is such a simple construction it's hard to see what could go wrong with it really, unless you've made a mess of putting it together.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Being on the other side of the pond, sorting out issues could be a bit difficult I suppose. Fortunately I haven't had any issues that I haven't been able to sort out myself. I sent some pictures of my finished banjo to David Cross, who made the kit, and got a nice friendly reply.

Customer Service: 8

Components

The whole thing is unique, and the simplicity of its design is genius. The pegs are of decent quality, all 5 being geared, and were easy to fit and function well. The 3 main components, head, rim and neck, were lovingly sanded and finished, the fret ends needed no further work and the grain on the head is lovely. The weakest point is in the instructions, but they are mostly adequate and the YouTube videos fill the gap nicely, and I recommend you use the aforementioned video for bridge placement. If I can do it anybody can!

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I've never had or played any other banjo, and I've only been playing this one for a month, so I've got nothing to compare it with, but I love its mellow sound, I love its unique appearance, and I love its lightness.  It was easy to assemble, and I learned so much about banjos in the process, which can only be a good thing when you are a beginner.  Consequently I have forged a strong relationship with it, as I know it so well.  If I had bought a finished instrument I think I would still be a little nervous of it, and a little mystified by its construction.  It feels so much more mine, if you know what I mean.  I chose it because I had no way of knowing good from bad in a beginner banjo, and the reviews were so good about its sound.  I have not been disappointed.  It took me 3 days to decorate it, varnish it and assemble it, and it is worth taking the time to produce something you can be proud of.  If you are ordering from the UK, be warned that as well as the shipping costs you will have to pay customs duty, I had to pay about £26.  It's quite nerve racking trusting that the other reviews are as good as they say, but I have to say, I agree with them all!

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by banjotree (see all reviews from this person) on 1/5/2014

Where Purchased: backyardmusic.com

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 109 ($US)

Sound

I play clawhammer style. I special ordered the fretless version of this kit. It has a great sound, similar to a foxfire banjo that I've heard before, warm and sweet. It is not very loud, so I wouldn't recommend it for a jam session, but it is great for playing alone or with one or two other people.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

I put this banjo together myself from the kit. The assembly was very easy and the instructions were clear. The only thing I had to do that wasn't mentioned in the instructions was to widen the string slots on the nut.

Setup Rating: not rated

Appearance

I customized my banjo by painting a quilt square pattern on the plywood head. It is a beautiful banjo.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Because of the plywood head, there is not hardware on the head of the banjo (it is secured with wood glue). The tuners are good quality.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

David communicated with me through the whole ordering process and then followed up to ask for feedback. Very nice and quick to respond.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

I bought the kit for this banjo so I can take it on backpacking trips. It was easy to assemble and I was able to decorate the head before finishing it. It is beautiful, lightweight, and it sounds great. I have taken it backpacking twice now, it straps onto the back of my pack beautifully. I recommend this for those looking for a lightweight travel banjo that you can take anywhere. I am very pleased!

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by jvilenski (see all reviews from this person) on 8/18/2013

Where Purchased: Online from Backyard Music

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Surprisingly bright sound. Not tinny or cheap considering the cost and materials. Does it match my expensive instrument? Of course not, but that misses the point of this instrument. This is the kind of instrument that puts a smile on your face when you grab it to play outside.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Easy building - the youtube directions they posted helped a lot.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Nice fretboard. Fun to customize.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

I've had it for a year and have had no issues so far. Holding up well.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

For the cost, it can't be beat. I purchased it for times when I didn't want my main banjo to get smoky or dirty. I find that quite often I pull this instrument out also simply because it is lightweight and a pleasure to play. Two weeks after I purchased mine I purchased one for a friend. Well worth the $.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by nathans (see all reviews from this person) on 1/30/2013

Where Purchased: backyardmusic.com

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 109 ($US)

Sound

The backyard music banjo sounds like a banjo - It does not sound like a toy. It has a bright banjo sound, more tone fullness than you would expect from a wooden resonator. It does not magically sound like a prewar banjo, it is more like a mountain banjo in design, but it has a good sound and tone that is uniquely recognizable as banjo.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

You do your own setup, but it is automatic because of the design of the instrument. The nut is actually a zero nut - there is a string guide that passes the strings over the zero nut fret and the strings go all the way to the tail piece of the banjo which works just like the zero nut. It is simple genius. The action is low and fantastic and I prefer it to my "beginner banjo" I would say the action compares very favorably to my instructor's Deering Goodtime.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I had some fun with mine, I dyed the resonator disk purple with dye and the neck a red wine-color. The wood is nicely prepared and since this is a kit requires some finishing and sanding. I was a little impatient to play and did not sand as much as I should have. Something to improve on for the next one. The parts fit together very well and the wood seemed of excellent quality. I made my fret markers with a silver Sharpie marker.

Because it is a kit you can spend the time you like on it to make it look as nice as you want to.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

I believe this banjo would last a very long time if protected from the elements. The "cardboard" tube used for the pot is actually impregnated with some kind of resin - it may be phenolic tubing which adds to the strength and lengthens the life. I doubt it will wear out over the rest of my lifetime.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Quick to ship, verified my shipping preference. There were adequate and correct parts in my kit along with a few welcome spare screws and nails.

Customer Service: 9

Components

This is a $100+ banjo kit. It is what it is. Use quality glue and use a recognized finish practice - either paint or stain to preserve the wood parts and call it done. The guitar-style tuners are a reasonable compromise and they work fine. The frets are a little sharp along the edge of the fretboard. I wish I had spent a little longer cleaning them up. My banjo instructor indicated he had seen worse fret ends on commercial guitars.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Clearly, being new to banjo, I have not sampled the number of banjos many players have, I may never have played a master tone but in my 40+ years I have enough experience to know good design when I see it and these banjos are brilliant. If you wanted to get more kids started in banjo today, this design would be the way to do it.

I wasn't sure if it was the satisfaction of making the banjo or the amazing tone that made this banjo so fun to play until I showed my banjo instructor and he thought it was great fun and sounded good too.

I got mine so I would annoy my kids less while practicing the same riffs over and over again. They still complain that this banjo is too loud. that might say more about my kids than it does about this banjo.

I am a new banjoist and I bought what I thought was an inexpensive banjo on Amazon to see if I liked banjo enough to really learn it. I wish I had bought a Backyard Music banjo instead.

The Backyard Music fireside banjo kit was fun to build and is fun to play and practice with. I'm sure I will build at least one more. I won't be afraid to take this banjo anywhere.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Steve Williams (see all reviews from this person) on 12/7/2012

Where Purchased: Backyard Music

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: 109.00 ($US)

Sound

I have assembled kit instruments in the past, and wanted a simple banjo that I can play around the house, take camping and on trips, etc. My Fireside is more than capable of doing what I want it to do, it has a warm quiet "woody" sound. Musical style is very eclectic...I use a flat pick and play tunes like a tenor and chord up the neck like a plectrum. Works for me.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

It was ready to be finished, assembled and played. No issues whatsoever.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I kept it simple in the spirit of the old mountain banjos...Danish Oil finish. The wood was great, and the head has some striking grain patterns that came out very nicely during finishing.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Solid as a rock, the tuners hold well, and since I built it I see no future problems that I couldn't take care of myself. I am by no means a primary banjo player, but I would have no fear of playing the Fireside through a hot mic if the situation called for it. It is stone reliable, and for me, delivers the goods.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have no doubt that Backyard Music would back their product 100%
I spoke personally with the owner when ordering my banjo, and that meant a lot to me..

Customer Service: 10

Components

I was well pleased with all of the components and their fit. No problems whatsoever.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I have a flat top Mill Creek kit mandolin that I assembled some years back, and now I have the banjo to go with it. Simple and solid, and made by my hands. Instruments like that are keepers.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by keydth (see all reviews from this person) on 8/1/2012

Where Purchased: Internet

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: 109 ($US)

Sound

Bought this as my first banjo, and don't have anything to compare it to. I just like it.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Assembled from kit. Not hard to put together

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Pretty basic. I gave it a finish of my own creation.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Seems very durable. works the same after 8 months as it did when I put it together.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Had a nice telephone call to discuss finishing techniques. Friendly, prompt and helpful.

Customer Service: 10

Components

No parts seem pricey, but all are functioning like new.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I built your basic 5 string about 7 months ago. Great sound, light and portable. Pretty tough too. It's been rained on, baked in the car, and knocked around on trips, but still delivers.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by freddfish (see all reviews from this person) on 4/10/2012

Where Purchased: www.backyardmusic.com

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: 100.00 ($US)

Sound

This banjo has a quiet and gentle tone to it, that is perfect for the slow clawhammer campfire picking I bought it for. it is suprisingly light, and very easy to play...and it WILL project a lot of sound when struck hard. No weak sister, this one...although I wouldn't try to play it in a noisy atmosphere like a big jam or an open mike. I plan to take this instrument on a long backpacking trip in Spain, and it's light weight was a determining factor. I think it will be perfect for that

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Not applicable, as this was a kit...but I followed the instructions to teh letter, and teh built-in setup was fine.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This is meant to be a very basic instrument with little ornamentation...in fact, the idea I gathered from the pix on the webpage is that the builder should decorate or paint it as he sees fit. Not being artistic myself, I plan to get a young friend of mine up near Toronto in Canada to decorate it...she will do a better job than I could.

Appearance Rating: not rated

Reliability

As long as I take minimal and usual care of this instrument, I am confident that it will serve me well for many years.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

They were great. There was a mismatched tuning peg in the materials bag, and they made good on it cheerfully and in a timely fashion. Good people.

Customer Service: 10

Components

One thing I thought was cool is that the neck runs all the way through the drum, and ends out the other end as a tailpiece. This eliminates the need for a truss rod, and works real well. The head itself is extremely lightweight wood, which also adds durability and character, as well as providing a canvas on which to decorate it.

Upgrades? No, not for a 100.00 kit instrument. If I wanted to, I guess I could upgrade teh tuners, but why bother? The stock tuners work just fine.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

A good instrument and a damn good deal, and it is exactly as they describe it. Would make a good starter for a new picker, a fine second banjo, and a good practice instrument for folks who don't live alone.... also a great travel banjo. Buy it.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by xixiant (see all reviews from this person) on 7/13/2011

Where Purchased: http://www.backyardmusic.com/

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: 109 ($US)

Sound

This has a bright, dulcimer-like sound. It's not shrill at all (as some bright skin head banjos can be). It's on the quiet side. It's very good for the back porch, practice, travel. I've read elsewhere that someone was playing it while riding in the car--you could definitely do that! I really like the sound, and you can't beat it for a $100 bucks.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

This is a kit, so there is some assembly. Overall time advertised on the site is 2 hours, minus drying time. I probably put in around 8--but before embarking on this little project, the most complicated wood project I'd done was a spice rack.

The instruction booklet is color, with five steps for putting the whole thing together. It's engagingly written, and the guy talks about making the banjo pretty, and parts you can customize. You read it over a few times and occasionally turn to your friend the internet, and it's fine. There are some bits that are missing (how to file down the frets), or never became clear (different arrangements for the tuning pegs), and some parts that could've used some expanding (applying finish/polyurethane).

Four things I did that weren't mentioned in the booklet: 1) file down the end of the frets, which were sharp 2) painted position markers, which also made applying polyurethane more of a pain in the neck 3) applied 6 coats of polyurethane to reeeeeally protect it 4) filed down the nut . And then, two additional tools (not listed on the website) you must have before embarking: drill (with a 1/16" bit) and one-two metal files (for the frets). I used one large, wide file to add make the end of the frets slant down, and one small round file for some of the harder-to-access frets and to take off sharp edges.

If you had more experience with this sort of thing, it would've been cake. If I got another one, I imagine it'd take closer to 4 hours now that I'm not figuring that stuff out. The layout of the the pieces was PERFECT--it could not have been simpler to assemble. And it's beautifully cut. I'm totally impressed at the precision with which it all goes together.

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

Beautiful. It's simple and lovely.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The tuning pegs are cheap, but as it's only my first week with it, I won't rate this.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Great customer service. I did call the company and they got back to me within 24 hours.

Customer Service: 9

Components

The neck is absolutely gorgeous. Ingenious solution for the tailpiece.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

With all of the ratings above--please do bear in mind that I'm rating a $100 banjo against other $100 banjos. It's not going to replace something you take to a gig. However, you can take take this guy camping and be very very happy, or loan it to a friend without worrying about whether they're going to sit on it by mistake. So, for that price range--this is the best I've seen, by far.

I LOVE the sound on this thing. It's quiet, fun to play, and it looks lovely--especially with the painted position markers. :) Putting it together was fun, and I'd do it again. If it was stolen, I'd replace it.

Overall Rating: 9

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