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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!

6871 reviews in the archive.

Carver: Tackhead Minstrel Banjo

Submitted by putasockinit on 11/7/2019

Where Purchased:

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 225 ($US)


This banjo produces a much richer, thumpier, more mellow sound than my Goodtime. I really like it, and my wife really likes the sound of it in the house (win-win).

Sound Rating: 9


The only set up I had to do was set the bridge at the recommended scale distance, and then tension the strings up the way I wanted (open F). I had some trouble with the first string because it kept popping over the top of the tuning peg as it got tight, when I realized what was happening I just kept some downward finger tension on the string so it wound itself around the peg at the bottom.

Setup Rating: 9


The banjo is like a museum piece, very basic but authentic-looking old time oil (non varnished) finish on the wood, the tacks are even and smooth, not banged up, and the skin is trimmed evenly beneath the tacks. This is supposed to look old and very basic, but it does so in an elegant way.

The only thing I would change would be brass screws where the neck is joined to the tension rod (underneath), instead of steel.

Appearance Rating: 9


The smooth maple friction tuning pegs are surprisingly easy to use, and hold very solid. My wife is always complaining about her fiddle pegs, and I thought it would be an issue after using only geared tuners, but no problem.

I wonder how long the leather string-holder will hold up, but it would be simple to replace if it ever gives out.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Very prompt and friendly. Brian even threw in an extra goat skin because I was worried about humidity issues versus synthetic.

Customer Service: 10


Just the neck screws, and only because they don't look as "authentic" as brass would

Everything else is great, there's nothing to upgrade, it's so simple.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

If you haven't tried one of these old style fretless minstrel banjos, try it, and I would highly recommend Carver Banjos.   Really a different playing experience, loads of fun and a beautiful sound.   Brian says in one of his videos that even if you have only played fretted banjos, you won't have much trouble because the muscle memory is there.   He's right, I was really surprised how quickly I could play the tunes I know on the Carver.

Overall Rating: 9

Mike's Banjo Mute: Mike's Banjo Mute

Submitted by putasockinit on 4/27/2019

Where Purchased: On-line from Mike

Overall Comments

I've been stuffing the head of my open-back with a pair of socks, and supplementing with clothes pins clipped onto the bridge, but my wife and occasionally my ears were still objecting to practice.

Ordered a Mike's mute.   At first I didn't like it - the tone was different enough (most of the "twang" eliminated) that it threw my brain off.   But after about two days of playing with the mute on - I love it, and my wife LOVES it.  

Huge sound reduction, but clear notes.   Really fast on and off.   I can play while my wife is in the next room, with the door open, and she doesn't mind a bit.  It really is as good as all the reviews say in terms of quieting the banjo.

If you get one of these, just give it a couple of days to get used to the quieter tone and softer, less-twangy sound before thinking about returning it.   My guess is that you'll keep it.   Great practice aid, worth every penny.

Overall Rating: 10

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