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!
7160 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Cd Baby
It is hard to categorise this excellent album by Bob Shank – although the banjo predominates and is played in a combination of frailing and fingerstyle, there is a sense that the instrument is unrestricted to genre - which is what makes it a real treasure for anyone interested in the possibilities of the banjo as a soulful, melody instrument. Bob plays all instruments on the recording including hammered dulcimer, guitar, percussion and piano. The majority of the tunes are original (one of the exceptions being a snappy rendition of Joe Morley’s Dream Dance) and range from the Middle-Eastern moodiness of ‘Tunisian Radio’ complete with spiralling guitars and percussion to pretty, melodic pieces such as ‘Crossing Sandy’ and ‘CRS.’ In fact, this is an album of such variety and inventiveness, it rewards repeat listening and is well worth the ‘entry free.’ Highly recommended.
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: Ken Le Van
Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: 1900 ($US)
I wanted a banjo that would suit both bluegrass and OT and opted for an openback. The banjo has a bright, lively sound perfect for fingerpicking. It seems to really come into its own on ragtime tunes.
The tone ring is a 'U tube', Ken's own design and is somewhere between a tubaphone and bellbronze.
Sound Rating: 10
Ken asked me what kind of strings and action I wanted - he also included a set of different size handmade bridges with the banjo. I haven't needed to change anything.
Setup Rating: 10
It is a stunning banjo - it is made from curly maple with a striking tiger-stripe finish - the attention to detail shows. Ken ran with my idea of a train theme for the banjo and we swapped photos over many emails to come up with a design for the fingerboard which would include hobo symbols. Ken made the inlays from speckled Corian in order to give a 'chalkboard' look and we went for a hand-drawn quality - Ken is very willing to experiment! The contrasting binding is designed to look like railroad tracks - another neat detail. Ken also went to the trouble of designing and making me a wooden armrest as I have a nickel allergy.
Appearance Rating: 10
Yes it is a solidly made banjo with a great finish.
Reliability Rating: 10
Ken is the friendliest guy - he lives and breathes banjos and is very enthusiastic and open to ideas. He offers a bespoke service so he asks you what you want every step of the way and very helpfully sends you photos of different finishes and materials to help you make a choice and also sends you photos of work in progress.
Customer Service: 10
The banjo and all the components are hand-made and great quality.
Components Rating: 10
I would highly recommend Ken Le Van to anyone who wants to find a banjo to suit their own particular needs as he offers a bespoke design service. Also, anyone who has a particular interest in banjo building and design - you are not getting a banjo 'off the peg', you are embarking on a whole banjorama experience!
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: Eddie Collins website
Most beginner's books will teach you how to play lead breaks and you will probably come away knowing a handful of lead breaks but little idea how to play variations or how to accompany other musicians. Eddie Collins teaches you how to play lead and back-up right from the beginning. The accompanying cd's are excellent - every exercise is demonstrated and you can also play-along to the tracks, switching between lead and back-up. There is even an indepth section on playing the blues.
Carry onto the next book (Beyond the Basics of Bluegrass Banjo) and there are more great exercises on swapping licks to John Hardy and more blues licks...the exercises are fun to play (and learning should be fun after all!) I'd recommend getting the Basics book first because the exercises follow in a progression...the second book is aimed at an intermediate level.
Overall Rating: 10
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