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!
7134 reviews in the archive.
I've been dealing with First Quality since the 70s, when I don't even think it was called First Quality. Bill was running it out of his house. I was upgrading an Alvarez and he was selling parts and he couldn't have been more helpful.
I haven't been back since he passed but I'm sure I could walk in and get the same great service and attitude that has always been part of this terrific family business.
Well, since I wrote that one of my band mates had a not so great experience with FQMS. He ordered strings and a tuner on the internet and didn't hear from them for a couple of weeks. When he called they said "Oh we had to back ordered that tuner" They never bothered to call or apologize for the delay. He told them to forget the order. I don't think that would have happened when Bill was a alive.
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: on-line
This is the best book I've seen for the beginner. It's laid out clearly and paced nicely with the each lesson building on the previous one. There are many good books out there but a lot of them either go too quickly - adding 2 or 3 new techniques with every tune - or spending way too much time covering the basics of timing, waiting until the last few pages to even cover the 3 finger roll. This book proceeds slowly which seems to suit almost all of my students, yet with each tune you learn a new technique. Very well thought out.
The only gripe I have about it is that after she introduces the 3-2 pull-off, she ignores it and goes back to the simpler pull-offs for several tunes. Personally I think that pull-off may be the most difficult technique for any beginner to master, so to not concentrate on it any more than she does is a mistake.
Overall Rating: 9
Where Purchased: Elderly Instruments-Used instruments
Year Purchased: 1990(?)
Price Paid: $900 (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter
The banjo is very heavy with a thick 1/4 flange like the old Baldwin Odes and has a similar tone, very chunky with strong bass. I tune the head (5 star) to D# making sure the tension is even. All the super loud banjos I've heard are very mid-rangey. Although this banjo would rate an 8 or so on the volume scale, the tone is much more balanced.
Sound Rating: 10
The neck is very true and similar to an electric
guitar and so the action can be set much lower
than most banjos. To compensate for the loss of
volume this creates, I've gone from a 5/8ths to an
11/16ths Snuffy Smith bridge. I would recommend one of these to anyone using the shorter bridge. Of all the "simple" things you can do to affect tone and volume, changing the bridge will make the most dramatic difference.
Setup Rating: 9
The Maple Blossom isn't terribly ornate, as
someone said to me, "It's kind of a plain jane for the money"
Appearance Rating: 7
The hardware seems to be of good quality although
the armrest is going to have to be replaced due to
corrosion. But it's the only banjo I own.
Reliability Rating: 9
Since I got it used, it had no warranty.
Customer Service: not rated
As I said, one of the best things about it is the
neck. I believe that was Greg Deerings specialty
when he was working for other banjo makers. It
came with a non adjustable Presto tail piece which
I replaced immediately with the Kirshner
Components Rating: 10
Basically, If you think banjos reached their peak
with the pre-war Mastertone then this would not be
the instrument for you. But I personally find that
Gibson sound, while very percussive and ideally
suited for hard driving straight ahead traditional bluegrass, to
be too clangy (like banging on pipes) for the music
that I like to play. Although it took me ten years to
find the sound I wanted, I no longer 'lust' after other
banjos. All in all, one great honkin' goose of a banjo
Overall Rating: 10
'Almost a banjo' 27 min
'Huber' 3 hrs
'Rickard Cyclone Tuners' 5 hrs