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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!

6991 reviews in the archive.

Picks: Butterfly Picks

Submitted by captbanjo on 5/4/2015

Where Purchased: Internet

Overall Comments

I ordered and got the Butterfly picks yesterday. I ordered the gold-colored thumb pick with two finger picks, all coated with the plastic finish to take some sizzle off of the metal picks. I did not buy these for five string, but for my Irish tenor (I play fingerstyle) and guitar. I use Sammy Shelor's and a Blue Chip thumb pick for five.

First thing: I did not and don't think I will adapt to the thumb pick. Just too many years of holding my wrist in a slight arch and don't feel like it's worth messing with trying to flatten it out to get closer to the strings. So I stayed with the Blue Chip for thumb. The design is unique (see link below) and I was worried the picks would not remain in place on my fingers but they do.

That said, the finger picks are comfortable, appear to be high quality and offer a smooth, rounded tone that sounds great on my Deering tenor Calico banjo! I had been using a Perfect Touch on my index and a Hoffmeyer on my middle. They did a good job but for Irish, I was looking for a darker tone. These deliver and in the early running, I'm inclined to believe I'll switch to them.

On guitar, they sound great and feel great as well! Playing Blackbird (the Beatles one) on my Goodall concert guitar, the notes were full, round and lacking any brittleness or too much sizzle. I have to think the baked on coating is partly attributable for this. But the portion of the pick that meets the string is rounded. This must affect the tone but has the advantage of allowing the string to easily slide off the pick, increasing speed. The volume is excellent, for both guitar and banjo.

I checked them out on my five string. They were probably a little too dark for my taste and you lose some 'bluegrass snap', but I'm thinking some non-coated ones would work better in this regard. As I said, I don't plan to switch picks for five but for anybody who is inclined to try, you might like them.

These are well-made picks. In addition, when I contacted the maker, Kevin, with some questions he was prompt and when I ordered, they were shipped right out. He also has some YouTube videos for sizing and tips. Worth a try if you're thinking of going in this direction.

Here's the site:

Overall Rating: 10

Pickups: EMG ACB Banjo Pickup

Submitted by captbanjo on 2/24/2015

Where Purchased: IBMA, Raleigh, NC

Overall Comments

I bought this pickup while I was at IBMA and heard the banjo player Tim Weed using one. I was impressed with the roundness and full tone so I broke out the wallet and bought one from the creator of the pickup. Glad I did!

I was apprehensive about installing it as my name does not rhyme with luthier. So it sat for over a year. When I finally got up the gumption to install it, I found it to be amazingly simple to do: it only takes a few screw turns to clamp the pickup onto the coordinator rods and screw the volume control onto a small metal plate backing on the outside of the banjo. A few tweaks, and then plug and play! If I can do it, anyone me on this!

The banjo I put it in is not a five string; it's a Deering Calico Irish tenor. What it gives me is a full and clear sound. Not entirely acoustic sounding, but close. The big thing is, by mixing as much mic as I can into my Bose system, I can get an authentic and (drum roll please!) feedback-free sound.

I will likely buy another one from Musician's Friend (I was surprised to see the wide ranging marketing distribution done by EMG - you can actually buy one of these at Walmart online!!) to place in my five string banjo.

Another cool thing is, you can simply unscrew the volume control if you want to play at a jam or a session and look 100% acoustic. But it's not necessary, it is unobtrusive.

Two videos for it:


Overall Rating: 9

Picks: Harley's Thimble Finger Picks

Submitted by captbanjo on 7/19/2013

Where Purchased: From maker: Harley

Overall Comments

Two segments to this rating. This first is the quality: the picks are very poorly finished, with rough edges all around. They require significant filing to smooth out. The sizes vary a lot. I bought two small, two medium and two large. The mediums fit, more or less. If you click on the photo he has for his classified ad here, you'll see how rough the edges are. Mine came even worse. Even though I saw that, I liked the idea and I always like to give a 'brother hangouter' some cash.

Here's the second part: customer service. After about ten days I sent an email inquiring as to the order status. When twelve days passed without a word from him I sent this email exactly as written:

Hi. About two weeks back I ordered some picks from you but have not received them?

Wayne Morrison

I will refrain from any disparaging comments; you can read it yourself and see what you think of his response by email (by the way, there was never an earlier email as he states):


It hasn't even been two weeks since you ordered (July 7) the picks. However, like I already advised you, your order has been shipped. I suggest you give the mailman some time to get them to you.

Not my idea of how you respond to a civil question from a customer, let alone a 'brother hangouter'. He won't get any more of my money.

Overall Rating: 2

Tailpieces: Fults 1934 Talipiece

Submitted by captbanjo on 1/19/2013

Where Purchased: Fults website

Overall Comments

I originally purchased a Blue Ridge tailpiece from Bob Fults but that darkened my banjo too much and there was some slight muting. I ended up getting a 34 Parallel with an XYZ mount.

I had a luthier install the Blue Ridge but when the 34 came, knowing how it was set up, I clamped it on in minutes. This give my banjo a dark, round and full tone. There is a little less crack and snap and more of a....well...'dark' tone to it. My banjo is an Old Wood recovered banjo that Jimmy Cox did the metal parts for and Robin Smith made the neck.

I've had it on for several weeks and the tone is really nice to my ear. If you know Tony Trischka's Deering banjo tone, mine is extremely close to that sound. An added bonus is the way the banjo seems to stay in tune much better and much longer than before. I had not expected that to happen.

In summary, I did have to give up a little snap and pop but ended up with a tone more of a type I have been pursuing for a few years. Very happy!

Overall Rating: 9

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