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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!

7100 reviews in the archive.

Pete Seeger: How to play the 5-string Banjo

Submitted by stumpkicker on 6/3/2009

Where Purchased: Gift

Overall Comments

Even if you are strictly bluegrass or just interested in banjo history, this book is a must have

Overall Rating: 9

Flatt & Scruggs: The Complete Mercury Sessions

Submitted by stumpkicker on 2/18/2009

Where Purchased: Festival Vendor

Overall Comments

This is probably the most free wheeling of F&S recordings done between the time the were working for Bill and before Columbia's A&R men got a hold of them, There is a freshness and vitality to the playing. You can almost picture them finishing a take and smiling at each other saying WOW did we play that; including the Original FMB!! There should be 28 cuts on the CD.
Buy It. BUY IT!

Overall Rating: 10

Janet Davis: Splitting The Licks

Submitted by stumpkicker on 2/7/2009

Where Purchased: Elderly

Overall Comments

So you've memorized a dozen beginners songs and want to start developing you own breaks?This is the book for you. Actually it's 3 books in one. First Scruggs style, you learn to pick out the melody,incorporate it into rolls, and add licks. Janet takes you through several songs step by step. The 2nd part follows a similar procedure for melodic banjo and the third is advanced. Mixing the two styles as well as using more difficult licks & arrangements. All in all an excellent resource. Truth be told I bought the early editionn from Janet in 1980; smaller self published, xeroxed, stapled. And If you find one of those, even that would be an excellent resources. This book, along with Janet's Up The Neck and Backup Banjo books make an excellent guide to becoming a complete banjo player.

Overall Rating: 9

Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival

Submitted by stumpkicker on 2/4/2009

Overall Comments

Great Festival, though the audience has long outgrown the stage pavilion So if you don't put your chair there by early Friday, you'll either stand or not have a good view. Bring shade. Good mix of old & new music (mostly old) Great jamming . LOTS of rough camping space. Only real dissappointment no Sunday morning Gospel Sing.

Overall Rating: 8

Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival

Submitted by stumpkicker on 2/4/2009

Overall Comments

Though 20 years ago this was a great festival I wouldn't recommend it to all but the most die hard newgrass lovers. Yeah you get big names and the workshops were awesome, but you also get drum sets, & keyboards. Plus at prices near $150 a pop and the strong odor of marijuana that rise as the sun goes down, not very family friendly. Mostly it's bluegrasses version of Woodstock. If it has radically changed in the past 3 years (not according to a couple of friends who still go) I apologize.

Overall Rating: 5

Norwich (N.Y.)

Submitted by stumpkicker on 2/4/2009

Overall Comments

Good festival that started small and has been growing over the past 3 years. Mostly local/ regional talent but it has been expanding, Dan Paisely last year.
Great jamming, nice folks, in a county fair ground so go facilities and a nice small city to walk around if you desire. The only draw back is they need more vendors. I'll be there again this year.

Overall Rating: 8

Flatt & Scruggs: F& S at Carnegie Hall

Submitted by stumpkicker on 2/4/2009

Where Purchased: Elderly.com

Overall Comments

I agreed with everything Drew said above, but just as a side light it was Earl's wife, Louise, who came up with the idea of recording it and overcame a hesitant record company...THANKS LOUISE!!

Overall Rating: 10

Flatiron: Sweetgrass

Submitted by stumpkicker on 9/11/2003

Where Purchased: Ebay

Year Purchased: 2001
Price Paid: 1100 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Well balanced full sound, neither to tubby or crackly. Sounds equally good for all 3 finger styles but mediocre for drop thumb. (Which I occasionally do). I actually prefer it to several Mastertones and Deerings I have tried. (I never have tried a Stelling.)

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

2 months after I puechased it I took it to the Greyfox (Winterhawk) festival, which Geoff Stelling attends every year, and asked him to 'work his magic'. He looked it over and said 'I wouldn't change a thing'.!

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Beautiful tiger striped maple neck and resonator.
Flawless inlay work. It has often been mistaken for a Mastertone.
The only visible wear is on the arm rest. It has a few minor dings but visible only to close inspection.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

It is 15 years old and still looks and sounds good. Except for D-tuners, everything is original; even the head.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Customer Service: not rated

Components

My only complaint are the Keith tuners. When I play Flint Hill Special they seem to flatten the B and D notes after the first run thru. Once I reset them and start again they hold well.
Beware this is a HEAVY banjo! People who have tried it all all surprised
when they pick it up.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Geof Stelling asked me how much I payed. When I told him he said, 'It's worth at least twice that much.' Even my wife smiled. I saved up for
3 years hoping to buy myself an American made maple banjo. Hopefully
a Stelling/Deering/ Mastertone for my 50th birthday. I didn't save enough
and this was a 'settle for' banjo; now it's my pride & joy. Flatiron banjos and mandolins were made in Bozemann, Montana thru the mid 90's. Gibson bought them out and stopped making Flatiron banjo's but still make Flatiron mandolins. I bought it based on the fact that Elderly once sold them and gave them tumbs up in their catalogue.

Overall Rating: 9

Stewart MacDonald: 3R

Submitted by stumpkicker on 9/10/2003

Where Purchased: Catalogue

Year Purchased: 1979
Price Paid: 125 ($US)

Sound

This was my 2nd banjo. (see my Harmony review) I was just getting into bluegrass. Good sound that improved as it aged.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

The action was a little high so I used a 1/2 inch bridge and put the taile piece as far down as I could without touching and kept the head tight.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

It came with simple dot inlays which I replaced with stars. I also put a quarter moon with stars in the peghead. For the first year it had only a Tung oil finish. Then I got a wipe on varnish from Stew Mac (which they no longer sell) and it looks good

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Not fancy but no complaints.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Beautiful mahagony neck and resonator.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Stew Mac doesn't sell kits anymore, and around 1990 it sold for over $600, 5 times my price. It was the best bang for the banjo buck in existence. But if I could do it without help, anyone could. I sill have it, and keep it at work behind the disk drives in the computer room. I'm lucky enough to have lunch jams with other pickers.

Overall Rating: 8

Harmony: N/A

Submitted by stumpkicker on 9/10/2003

Where Purchased: Pawn Shop

Year Purchased: 1973
Price Paid: 100 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

It was a great starter banjo. At the time it fit well with the Seeger book it came with. It took it to my first festival in 76 at Athens Alabama. The locals, who had never seen one were impressed by the sound.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

I was an experienced guitarist and found the action quite good. Didn't change anything but strings for 5 years.

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

Neck ws painted mud brown, brown plastic resonator.

Appearance Rating: 4

Reliability

We palyed lots of Head Start classes/ church suppers, ets with never a problem.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

I still have it and its case. With a Fyberskin head I use it for my old timey/folk banjo. 30 years with only one head replacement, strings and a few bridges. I can't complain

Overall Rating: 7

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