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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!

7075 reviews in the archive.

Armrests: Nechville Comfort Bevel Armrest

Submitted by Mitch Finley on 5/10/2013

Where Purchased: Nechville

Overall Comments

The price tab on this little item isn't low, but by golly if you can come up with the dough this is, in my opinion, the most comfortable, easiest-to-install armrest available anywhere. . .

Overall Rating: 10

Zepp Country Music

Submitted by Mitch Finley on 2/9/2010

Overall Comments

Without going into the details, I recently had a transaction with Zepp Country Music, in Wendell, NC ( that has made me one of their biggest and most enthusiastic fans. I highly recommend Zepp and his business to any and all. Give their website a look, and keep 'em in mind when you're looking for a new or used banjo, etc. You'll love the service you get, and that's the truth...

Overall Rating: 10

Capos: Ultimate Banjo Capo

Submitted by Mitch Finley on 7/28/2009

Where Purchased: Dave Elliott (

Overall Comments

Ordinarily I would say that calling a capo "ultimate" is over the top. Not in this case, however. Dave Elliott, of Oregon, makes this capo, and it is the most easy-to-use banjo capo I've ever seen. In use it's easily adjustable to minimize or even eliminate forcing the strings out of tune. You can store it over the nut, around a bracket hook, on the peg head, or in a pocket. Other store-it-over-the-nut capos I've seen become a problem to use above the fourth fret, but this one is open on one side and easily goes on any fret up or down the neck. Available from Dave ( or from Janet Davis.

Overall Rating: 10

Picks: Blue Chip Thumb Pick

Submitted by Mitch Finley on 2/13/2009

Where Purchased:

Overall Comments

This is the most astonishingly high quality thumb pick I've ever seen. It consists of "an extremely expensive, highly proprietary composite material" (to quote the website) attached to "a custom laser cut stainless steel band" that fits around the thumb. I had my doubts at first, as any similarly designed thumb pick I've ever tried was uncomfortable, and the metal part would sometimes catch on the 5th string. Not so the Blue Chip thumb pick. To my surprise the stainless steel band stays snug on the thumb without pinching or being too tight as some plastic thumb picks can be.

The Blue Chip thumb pick comes in two sizes, Medium and Large, and two styles, one comparable to other thumb picks, the other made to J.D. Crowe's specs. The "blade" that strikes the string is permanently polished and slick, cannot be scuffed or scratched, never offers any resistance, and makes no string noise. It's the most amazing thing. The only down side is the price: $40. But if you can afford it I believe you'll be very happy with this thumb pick's comfort and performance. The Blue Chip Thumb Pick raises the bar way above other thumb picks.

Overall Rating: 10

Williams: Grangeville

Submitted by Mitch Finley on 12/21/2008

Where Purchased: Williams Custom Banjos

Year Purchased: October 2008
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter


I play Scruggs and melodic styles, and the sound is unbeatable. It's a mahogany instrument with a Cox maple rim--bright but not twangy; very full and rich sound. The best-sounding non-pre-war banjo I've ever heard...better, I think, than any of the other banjos that claim to reproduce the pre-war sound.

Sound Rating: 10


Will Williams had gotten it back from the pro he had loaned it to for about a year (Gary Davis), and Will checked it all out before passing it on to me. The overall setup was perfect, except the bridge needed to be moved just slightly toward the tailpiece.

Setup Rating: 10


It's a very attractive mahogany neck-and-resonator banjo. The finger board is rosewood with hearts-and-flowers mother-of-pearl inlays. Will sprays on 30-some coats of the final finish. Gary Davis had put a few small scratches on the resonator, and a sizable 1/16" indentation in the back of the peg head, near the top. Can't imagine what caused it, but whatever the cause it must have been a really solid whack... Still, the wood wasn't broken, and neither was the's just a little round indentation....kinda odd, but it does provide a unique identifying mark.

Appearance Rating: 9


All the nickle plated hardware is from Prucha and is first rate. Gary Davis had evidently played it a fair amount wearing a sleeveless shirt, because the arm rest was tarnished some. I used Simichrome polishing cream on it, however, and now it looks like new. The tuners are Keith standard, which is the best. The whole instrument is rock solid and completely dependable.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Will Williams has a one-man operation, and he stands behind every instrument he puts together. I had a 2005 Grangeville, with a Hatfield ring, and when I bought it new from Greg Boyd, in Missoula, tiny hairline cracks had developed in the finish of the resonator. Will gladly provided a brand new resonator.

Customer Service: 10


All the components are first rate, but the Burlile tone ring is the part that makes this banjo special. Enough has been said about Burlile rings in the BH Forum that I won't go into it here. This banjo has a wonderful, wonderful sound.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I would definitely recommend any Williams banjo to anyone wanting an above the top of the line resonator banjo. No assembly line banjo company can make a banjo as good as this one. I quickly add that my travel/alternate banjo is a Deering Goodtime Special, and when I want a to use a lighter, less expensive instrument, it fills the bill in a superior fashion. Will is no longer making the Grangeville model, by the way, but the Custom model that is quite similar is bound to be just as good.

Overall Rating: 10

Geoff Hohwald: Banjo Primer (Revised)

Submitted by Mitch Finley on 11/22/2008

Where Purchased:

Overall Comments

I've been looking at and evaluating banjo instructional materials for a regional bluegrass association newsletter for several years, and this is the best inexpensive basic learning resource I've ever seen. Pegagogically, it's way ahead of the pack no matter what big name is on a particular basic learning resource. Geoff Hohwald's book/CD set does a better job of helping you learn 3-finger style pickin' on your own than any other resource I've come across, and I've seen a good many. The companion DVD, "Introduction to 5-String Banjo"--which must be purchased separately--is the most practical, helpful video resource I've ever seen, too. I wish these both had been available when I first started learning.

Overall Rating: 10

Other: BanjoMate Thinline Armrest

Submitted by Mitch Finley on 11/20/2008

Where Purchased:

Overall Comments

This is the ideal replacement for a Vega-style armrest, no matter how many bracket hooks a banjo has. More than a few regard the Vega-style armrest as uncomfortable and too high above the head. Any Deering Goodtime banjo, no matter which model, will benefit from this armrest. It's easy to install and reasonably priced.

Overall Rating: 10

Tuners: Deering Goodtime Sealed Tuners

Submitted by Mitch Finley on 6/3/2008

Where Purchased: Deering Banjo Co.

Overall Comments

In the spring of 2008 Deering began installing this new sealed guitar-style tuner on all banjos in its Goodtime line, in place of the open geared tuners used on Goodtime banjos since the model's inception in the early 1990s. Deering sold me a set of the new sealed tuners (manufacturer unknown to me) for retrofit purposes at a cost of $40 for a set of four plus $13 shipping + handling.
According to Deering, the old open Goodtime tuners had a gear ratio of 6:1 while the new tuners are 14:1--a significant upgrade.
Deering cautioned me about the advisability of doing this retrofit, but I persisted. The procedure required removing the old tuners, including a metal "collar" left behind in each 1/4" hole when the old tuner is removed. To get the "collar" out, I used a nail set and a hammer, from the back of the peghead, to tap each "collar" out far enough to grab it with a pliers from the front of the peghead and easily pull it out.
The next step required enlarging the 1/4" hole to 3/8"--which still left the hole too small to get the new tuner into it. Since the next drill bit in my set was obviously too large, I used the moving 3/8" drill bit to "ream" out each hole until it was large enough to accept the new tuner. There may be a better, easier way to do this, but being a rank amateur at this sort of thing, this is what I did. I also applied a tiny amount of silicone spray to the tuner shaft, which helped get each tuner a little farther into the hole--at least I think it did; maybe not.
Finally, when I had each tuner far enough in its hole that I could place the gasket/washer around the tuner from the front of the peghead, then get the nut started on the threads of the tuner coming through the front of its hole, by tightening each tuner's nut with a socket wrench I was able to pull each tuner all the way into its hole and flush with the back of the peghead. A 10 mm socket or wrench is the right size for doing this. If each new sealed tuner is carefully positioned, after installation there is only one tiny screw hole visible, from each old tuner, on the back of the peghead.
As I said, I'm a rank amateur at this kind of thing, so more experienced persons may find this procedure easier to do than I did. Still, the end result is highly satisfactory as far as I'm concerned. The new tuners make an excellent upgrade to any Goodtime banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Stands: Stage Mate Banjo & Guitar stand

Submitted by Mitch Finley on 4/25/2008

Where Purchased: :Manufacturer's website

Overall Comments

...this is an excellent stand, strong yet light and also small; very portable...also very stable and solid; plus, you can't beat the price...

Overall Rating: 9

Digital Tuners: Wittman Mini-Tuner

Submitted by Mitch Finley on 1/14/2008

Where Purchased: From Manufacturer

Overall Comments

This is the most convenient tuner I've ever used. It mounts, and remains, on a resonator banjo's flange (using pressure-sensitive tape) with the tuner's display facing the player. You turn it off and on with a little toggle switch on the tuner, and it's powered by a 9-volt battery that mounts inside the banjo's rim (again using pressure-sensitive tape). It's highly accurate, too. The only time when it may not work as well as you'd like is when you're near other instruments, in a jam, performing with a band, etc. No clipping a tuner on and off the peghead, etc. It's always right there. I love it. It also works with guitars, mounted just inside the sound hole. You can check it out at

Overall Rating: 10

Harold Streeter

Submitted by Mitch Finley on 12/13/2007

Overall Comments

The other reviewers have about said it all, but as one who has been learning from Harold for about five years now I will say this: If you're within driving distance of Harold Streeter, and you want to take banjo, guitar, or mandolin lessons from someone who is not only a master at playing these instruments but who knows how to really and truly help others learn, too, then you can't do better than Harold Streeter. Period.

Overall Rating: 10

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