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!
6776 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: drumsandstuff.com
Even if you have a great banjo setup perfectly you may still need a way to eliminate unwanted overtones. There are lots of options available: everything from stuffing with a rag, foam between the dowel stick and head, duct tape, wall putty,etc., but there's another option that you should check out call DrumGum. Drummers also have to deal with overtones and there are several products on the market designed for this purpose. Most can be applied to a banjo head but DrumGum really stands out as the best choice. It's a gel-like material that has a naturally sticky surface that will adhere to all types of banjo heads, including the hide head I'm using on my Romero 12". It's solid and holds its shape. Each package comes with 3 strips that are designed to allow you to easily reposition them until you find the sweet spot. I ended up using two strips perpendicular to and behind the bridge. They're very sticky and will stay in place on the underside of the head and they can be easily removed in a snap. Unlike other similar products (including MoonGel) DrumGum will not leave any residue on your banjo head and they are much stickier.
How do they sound? AWESOME!!! When positioned in the right spot(s) they completely obliterate all the nasty dissonant overtones and bring out and accentuate your banjo's beautiful, resonant voice without any reduction in volume. Unlike the other methods I described, with DrumGum the banjo sounds alive and focused with a wide dynamic range. The low end is rich and powerful. For the first time I can really feel the rim vibrate when a low note is played on the 4th string. The mid tones are clear and focused and don't step on each other. The highs are clear and bell-like with oodles of creamy sustain. The banjo sings all the way up the neck.
As of this review, DrumGum sells for $9.95 but its positive affect on the sound of my banjo is priceless.
You can find them here: http://drumsandstuff.com/Products/Drum%20Dampeners.php. Or give Mark or Terri a call at 918-272-9877 and they'll be happy to assist.
Give them a try. You've got nothing to loose except the overtones! ;-)
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: http://www.mikesbanjomute.com
I needed a mute that would allow me to practice my banjo in my office over lunch without disturbing anyone. I have an office with a door but the soundproofing is minimal at best. This mute is wonderful and does exactly what I was hoping for. it quiets the instrument down significantly but still produces a musical tone that is great for practicing. It almost has a dulcimer kind of tone. Very pleasing and workable. The mute is very well machined and comes in a velvet pouch.
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: Directly from Aquila Corde
Mimmo was kind enough to send me a few of his new Nylgut Red series 4th strings to try. I had an opportunity to try one this weekend on my Romero and overall I like it. It took a few days to stop stretching, which is typical for Nylguts and very much expected. The feel of the Red series string is different from the plain white Nylguts. It is not as smooth, i.e. it has a bit of a texture to it. This adds a subtle brightness to the initial note attack sound, which I found pleasing. Sliding resulted in a bit more string noise then I’m used to but nothing I could not live with (and I’m really picky – no pun intended!). I love the sound of the wound 4ths but they do degrade rather quickly and I end up replacing them often. My guess is that the new Red series will last much longer and if they have a lifespan like the normal Nylguts then that would be fantastic. Time will tell. I need to play with them a bit more before I’m convinced that I will make the switch, but my first impression is quite favorable.
I've given this a rating of 9 because I need a bit more time before making a final decision.
Overall Rating: 9
Where Purchased: CD Baby
Thom Moore's debut CD "That Evening Sun" is a wonderful collection of Thom's original compositions that showcase his mastery of the 5 string banjo. Thom's style is all his own and it is wonderful! His tunes are elegant examples of original contemporary fingerstyle banjo with clear roots in Scruggs style and at the same time completely new and fresh. There are 16 tracks and each one is a gem. The accompanying instruments are a perfect compliment to Thom's playing and create a mood that is quiet and uncluttered.
If you're a fan of Tony Ellis you will love this CD as there is a common thread that runs through their music. Anyone who loves the 5 string banjo should have this CD in their collection. You can find it here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/thateveningsun
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: J. Romero Banjo Co.
Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: 5,300 ($US)
This banjo has a 12" Claro Walnut rim with an inner rosewood core (a first for Jason) and is topped with a stained goat skin head. I opted for the integral Honduran Rosewood tone ring and the instrument is strung with Classical Nylgut string. The sound is rich and full with a powerful low end, clear mids and crisp highs. This banjo has a wide dynamic range which accommodates the playing of sensitive, soft passages as well as hard driving pieces with ease. It has excellent volume and projection and is the loudest banjo I own.
Sound Rating: 10
The setup was perfect and exactly what I requested. The action is .125" at the 12" fret and is a joy to play. Even when tuned to double C I can really dig in without any buzzing.
Setup Rating: 10
This banjo is stunning. It incorporates a beautiful, customized tree of life inlay on the fingerboard which was inspired by S.S. Stewart. I worked with Jason and Pharis on the design concept and their execution of it exceeded my expectations. The inlay is fully engraved which adds a high level of sophistication and elegance. The peg head inlay design is also S.S. Steward inspired and works perfectly with the fingerboard inlay. The Claro Walnut one-piece neck has gorgeous character as does the Claro Walnut rim. The lightly aged brass hardware, gold tuners and EVO (gold) fret wire completes the look making this a true presentation grade banjo.
Appearance Rating: 10
Everything about this banjo epitomizes quality. Every detail is perfect. The tuners are gold Gotoh with ebony buttons and they are the smoothest I've ever experienced. It is a very well built instrument that I’m confident will last for many generations to come.
Reliability Rating: 10
The entire experience was great. Jason and Pharis were a pleasure to work with. I too am a luthier and I believe that I set the bar very high for this instrument. Jason and Pharis accommodated all of requests and offered several ideas and design suggestions that were terrific. It was nice to be on the receiving end of a build experience for a change!
Customer Service: 10
As stated above in the Reliability section, every single component on this instrument is stellar and in my opinion is an example of one of the finest banjos being made today. Jason's approach to building is innovative while being equally respectful of time honored traditions. The best mix of both. I opted for a custom built Cedar Creek 900 series case because of the special nature of this banjo. The standard bump style case that Jason includes is excellent and I am using two of them on other banjos I own.
Components Rating: 10
This banjo is a feast for the ears and eyes. It truly is a piece of musical sculpture. And it's not just a pretty face either. This is a serious player's instrument. The sound is rich and the feel of the neck is perfect. It sounds great all the way up the neck. This banjo sounds equally great for Clawhammer or old time finger picking styles. What an amazing instrument!
Overall Rating: 10
'Banjo Maintenance Tool Kit' 14 min
'Tractor day' 1 hr
'"Vintage" Gold Stars' 2 hrs
'Stravinsky Allegretto' 2 hrs