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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!

6863 reviews in the archive.

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by Rian Adams on 4/18/2012

Overall Comments

A very special thank you to Chris Cioffi

I own (and never plan to part with) a 98’ Gibson RB-3. My grandfather bought me the banjo new in 98 and I played it quite a bit over the years through college and graduate school. Needless to say it was showing a little wear, especially on the frets. All that time the banjo seemed to be missing “something” that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, no matter how much I tried to “tweak” it myself. So, like so many banjo players before me, I took the plunge and bought a Huber tone ring hoping that would help push it over the edge. It didn’t. The honest truth is there wasn’t a difference in the banjo after I bought the tone ring than before. I even let a friend of mine who of was a self-proclaimed “set-up genius” work on it. Everything I did and everything he did didn’t bring out the depth and roundness of tone that I knew was missing. Us banjo players are a weird bunch, we will fork out HUNDREDS on a tone ring but will fight tooth and nail to avoid sending the banjo to a professional set-up artist because it’s so “expensive.”

Well, after months of consideration, I sent by Gibson -3 to Chris to let him look over it and make some recommendations. When we talked Chris was a little backed up (which was a great sign to me) but was certainly willing to take on the project. From the beginning I got the feeling that Chris was a good ole’ boy who was trust worthy and extremely thorough. I felt like he would treat my banjo as if it were his, which was more than enough to persuade me to send it to him. When the banjo arrived at his place in TN Chris called me back, we went over all his recommendations and I said “do whatever she needs.” During the process we ran into a speed bump or two and Chris was quick to call me to make sure I approved of any changes before he made them.

I am a Military Chaplain and I told Chris I was planning on taking the banjo with me to Afghanistan. We did quite a bit to the banjo;
Replaced all the frets
New bone nut
New coordinator rods
Neck Set
Speed neck
Tone ring & flange fitting
Installed 5th string spikes
Speed Neck
Change worn out tuners
New tail piece (I bent the old one learning how NOT to set a banjo up)
New head
Total set-up

There is probably more stuff that I’m forgetting. All of this came with what I considered a reasonable price. Much cheaper than a boutique tone ring! Chris shipped the banjo back to me and when I opened it up I honestly thought he had sent me the wrong banjo. He, at no additional fee, had cleaned the whole thing and polished all the metal. The banjo looked BRAND new. But I was really dumfounded when I took it out of the case and played it. Not only did he bring out what I felt was “missing” but he added a new element in the banjo’s tone. It’s richer, more precise and twice as loud.

I took the banjo with me to Afghanistan and thankfully it was fortunate enough to survive (thankfully I did too…). Through the countless THOUSANDS of air miles and all the rocket blasts the banjo never needed ANY kind of adjustments. It’s been over two years since I got this banjo back from Chris and I haven’t even tightened the head and the frets show no signs of wear. From this point on Chris alone will do the work on my banjos. I did a video review on youtube about Chris’ work, it can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0R-SUxeZC0

Chris made a HUGE difference in my banjo and through it all I gained a friend. I think he has some kind of magic wand he uses on banjos; I just hope he keeps it under lock and key. If you’re like me and only the best will do then don’t hesitate to give Chris a call, he’s in the business of turning an ordinary banjo into a masterpiece that’s sure to be a family heirloom. My banjo has found a home for life, I hope to pass it on to my son one day thanks to Chris!

Overall Rating: 10

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