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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.

Bridges: Bart Veerman Dark Star

Submitted by lucas73b on 11/21/2019

Where Purchased: From Bart,

Overall Comments

I purchased the Dark Star bridge for my open back banjo with the intention to use it for playing both in clawhammer and up-picking style.

When the bridge arrived I was pleasantly surprised by its looks: it is almost black with a light topping, the careful finishing shows fine craftsmanship.

On my banjo, the Dark Star sounds bright, yet with a full, rich tone. But what struck me in particular is that, up and down the neck and from string to string, the bridge produces such a very well balanced tone. Together with the string spacing, which Bart customized for me, this makes the bridge feel highly comfortable in playing. It became my favorite at once!

Bart is a pleasant person to communicate with, and will help you out quickly if you have questions or anything should occur with your order. I own several bridges made by Bart and highly recommend his products.


Overall Rating: 10

Heads: John Balcch Hide Head

Submitted by lucas73b on 10/27/2016

Where Purchased: John Balch

Overall Comments

 A couple of months ago I purchased a 4-star, pre-mounted goat skin head from John Balch.  
When I ordered the head, John promptly replied to my e-mail and he mounted and shipped the head within about a week.
The head that John sent me looked very pretty and expertly mounted. Installing it on my banjo was very easy: exactly the same as putting on a mylar head.

Now that the head has more or less settled in, it exceeds by far my expectations:
The banjo produces the sweet, mellow tone I hoped for. Moreover, much better than before, the banjo now sounds well balanced over the whole tonal range: whether you play the low notes or high upon the neck, it just sounds great.
I could not be happier, and warmly recommend John's products.


Overall Rating: 10

Drum Dials: Drum Dial

Submitted by lucas73b on 10/24/2014

Where Purchased: Muziekcentrum Oostendorp

Overall Comments

The DrumDial is a fine precision tool, well made and easy to use. With the help of the DD it took me only little time to tune the heads of both of my banjos and they sound better than they ever did before. Also, I found the instruction video on DrumDial's website very useful.

Overall Rating: 9

Bridges: Bart Veerman Mystery Wood Bridge

Submitted by lucas73b on 4/27/2014

Where Purchased: directly from Bart

Overall Comments

For my 5-string clawhammer banjo I ordered from Bart a 2-legged bridge made from solid mystery wood. The bridge had to be customized to match the radiussed fretboard of the banjo. I am very happy with the bridge Bart made for me: it looks pretty and well made, and it gave the banjo a warmer yet brighter sound with more volume.

Bart is a very friendly and highly professional person to deal with - after I sent him an e-mail he immediately contacted me back to confirm the order and to double check on some of the details. Also, I learned a lot about bridges from Bart's website

Overall Rating: 10

Gold Tone: Maple Mountain MM-150

Submitted by lucas73b on 9/18/2006

Where Purchased: Palm Guitars

Year Purchased: 2004
Price Paid: 795 (euro) historic exchange rates / currency converter


The banjo comes with a WL tonering and fiberskin head. The sound is bright and melodious throughout the whole range up and down the neck. Perfect for that clean, crisp roll. Not loud enough for disturbing my neighbours when practising. I use it for frailing and other old-time styles.

Sound Rating: 9


The banjo was set up reasonably well, but needed a bit finetuning: The action was set very low. I raised it a little, the coordinator rods make adjustment easy; I also slackening the head tension a bit thereby deepening the sound. Points of concern were that he heel cut leaves only little room for tightening the head (not a problem yet), also I had to remedy a buzz the 3rd and 4th strings had on the 1st fret.

Setup Rating: 5


The banjo looks pretty: very simple, not very fancy inlays, just as I like it. The finishing is flawless, the neck feels smooth.

Appearance Rating: 8


The banjo looks solid and reliable, after 2 years of playing no wear off of finishing, not much fret wear. The tuners look fragile and have a bit of free motion, but they do the job.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

Have not dealt with them.

Customer Service: not rated


The tonering has an irregularity which just looks a bit slopppy but does not seem to affect the sound. Otherwise all components are fine.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

I love the sound of this banjo and I like its simple, basic looks. If I were to replace it I would choose something similar, but not necessarily the same.

Overall Rating: 7

Framus: N/A

Submitted by lucas73b on 9/23/2004

Where Purchased: Dirk Witte, Amsterdam

Year Purchased: 1973
Price Paid: () historic exchange rates / currency converter


This is an open back model with arch top tone ring. I use it mainly for frailing. It is loud enough for playing in a band. The low notes lack some sustain, otherwise it sounds good. After some experimenting I kept the original bridge and tailpiece.

Sound Rating: 7


It was set up well. The action can easily be finetuned by adjusting the neck at the turn of one screw. In combination with the smooth fingerboard this provides good playability.

Setup Rating: 9


The banjo is well finished without flaws and looks pretty. It has a rosewood fingerboard with cloud inlays and chrome plated parts covering the hooks.

Appearance Rating: 8


This is a very reliable, sturdy instrument. I carried it around a lot and does not show any wear.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Have not had to deal with them.

Customer Service: not rated


It came with friction tuners that did not stick. I had these upgraded by mounting geared planetary tuners. I also added a sliding, 5th string capo. All other components, including the head, are still original.

Components Rating: 6

Overall Comments

As far as I know this (German) brand does not make banjos anymore. If you come upon a used one it is well worth considering: It is a very reliable instrument with a perfect neck, and reasonably good sound. Mind that it is terribly heavy. I feel attached to it after having it around so long.

Overall Rating: 8

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