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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!

7075 reviews in the archive.

Bridges: David Cunningham bridges

Submitted by pickalot on 12/19/2013

Where Purchased: dcbanjoworks.com

Overall Comments

There are a lot of really good bridge makers and bridges out there today.  I have tried many of them.  I will go even further to say I have never received a bad bridge from anyone.  In fact, most improved the banjos I was playing at the time, at least changed my sound to something I was happy with.

With that said I must tell you that after trying( and now refusing to remove it from my banjo) a David Cunningham bridge I cannot imagine ever trying another bridge.  My newest banjo is a style 4 copy with a Hatfield custom neck, Cox rim and hardware, Tenn. 20 ring, Steve Gill resonator.........all mahogany.  Great banjo with a great sound from day one.  The bridges I have tried have been great but none gave me the note separation, clarity, perfect amount of decay,  tone, voice and volume that David's bridges have....a total package in every catagory.  (Maybe maple is not the best choice for all banjos....hummmmm)

 I received a Zebra wood bridge and a special walnut bridge in the mail Monday (Dec. 16, 2013).  I put the Zebra bridge on and in 10 minutes I had an awesomely different banjo........and was very, very pleased.  It could have stopped right there and I would have been a happy picker....but then I tried the walnut bridge - no way that bridge is coming off my banjo! 

I don't make a dime on these bridges but if you realize how important the bridge is on a banjo you should give David a shout, either here on the Hangout through his classified ad for his bridges........or go directly to his web site at www.dcbanjoworks.com  I'm ordering another one today for my other banjo!   David's workmanship is excellent!...and he is a super nice and friendly guy...

Yes, I am a little bit excited about this bridge!

Pickalot

Overall Rating: 10

Picks: Old 97

Submitted by pickalot on 5/10/2013

Where Purchased: Directly from Judy Townsend, the maker.

Overall Comments

I have been playing since 1973 and have probably played every brand of pick and their various sizes and gauges that has been made and available during these past 40 years. I even made my own for a while.

Today I received a pair of OLD 97 picks from Judy Townsend, the maker. I had been seeing her ads here on the Hangout and on ebay so I decided to add her picks to my collection. Big surprise! When I put them on and made my simple personal adjustments I could not believe the comfort, sound and playability! I tried them out at very busy time of my day and it took a solid hour for me to get back to work. I played with them again for 2 hours this evening and if it was not for being called to supper I would have probably played most of the night!

The OLD 97s have a flat face and grab the string better, which means less dropped notes and mistakes & a fuller sound. That was very evident right away.

Melodics are much cleaner and far easier with the OLD 97s than with the normal picks that have a radiused face.

Looking forward to band practice this week-end. The other guys will no doubt comment about the new sound. Maybe it is not so much about the tone ring after all....... as it is about the picks.....hummmmmmmm? Earl would have loved these picks!

The OLD 97 picks are just what I have been needing. The workmanship is AAA+++++++ and the sound is unbelieveable. They are so comfortable that I forget I have them on. Now my cuticles will have a chance to heal.

All my other picks are going to the bone yard and are permanently retired. I will order another set tomorrow for back ups. My search is over.

On my personal scale of 1 to 100 Judy gets 1000! She is a great lady to work with. Everyone needs to try a set of her picks. They should be $50.00 a set............not $10.00!
I am one happy banjo player!
Pickalot

Overall Rating: 10

Rims: Randall Wyatt Beech Rim

Submitted by pickalot on 1/21/2013

Where Purchased: Randall Wyatt

Overall Comments

I bought my rim directly from Randall and also had him turn it for a Tennessee 20 tone ring and Prucha flange and drill the coordinator holes. What I received was an absolutely beautiful rim and job expertly done fitting the parts! Randall is a super great guy to work with and insists on sending a bill when he ships your order to make sure you are happy with his rim and work BEFORE you pay. Let me tell you....I could not wait to pay him after I saw the rim! I will post another review when I get my neck built and the banjo is all together. It is going to be a CANNON!
I also have a Wyatt bridge coming!!......and will also give a REVIEW on it.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Tim Purcell Banjo Bridge

Submitted by pickalot on 10/23/2012

Where Purchased: Tim Purcell

Overall Comments

Like most banjo players I am always searching for the best sound I can get, and as we all know........the best banjo in the world is a dud with the wrong bridge.
After hearing so much about Purcell bridges I decided to try a couple of them. I went to www.purcell-banjo-bridges.com and sent Tim an email asking for a call to talk bridges. He responded quickly. After some discussion he sent 3 bridges, all .656, standard spacing........a Piano #2, a Submerged Birch and a Red Maple. When they came in I immediately noticed the beautiful and consistant quality of his workmanship. I tried and liked all 3 but the Red Maple bridge brought out the balance and great sound quality that my banjo was capable of. The birch was a very close second and was also very, very good with the way my banjo is currently set up.
Long story short........the Red Maple Purcell Bridge not only gives me the best growling, stomach-buzzing sound I have ever had on my archtop, it also gives a great hand response for both right and left hand when playing. The following day our band had 2 jobs and I ended up playing about 7 hours total. I do not think I have ever played better........even my fellow band members noticed increased dynamics, volume and clarity.
I ordered another Red Maple Purcell bridge as a spare and have the Submerged Birch Bridge as a back-up,
Also. Tim is a great banjo player and you can hear his sound bites on his web site as he demonstrates his bridges. He is also very friendly and great to talk to on the phone. Besides that, he is my neighbor.......he only lives about 45 miles from me!

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Gary Sosebee "European Beech" Bridge

Submitted by pickalot on 2/15/2012

Where Purchased: Direct from Gary

Overall Comments

"Gary.......you have got to be the greatest bridge maker that's ever walked the earth! This beech bridge is unbelievable! I could go on and on about it, but I know you've got better things to do than read for the next 30 minutes........"

All I can say is that the Sosebee "submerged wood bridge" has been great on my archtop for the past (almost 2 years), so I was almost bewildered as to why I wanted to try something different.

I have a very strong right hand and would many times "over pick" trying to get more volume and would overplay my strings.......so I went to heavier strings. That helped give me the resistance I needed to get the volume up some, but I lost some of the sweet tone and the highs weren't as apparent. I eventually went back to light gauge and now play into a mike with our band.

But now I have this Sosebee 5/8", std. spacing, tone monster "beech" bridge!!........wow, what a bridge!!! Unlike the other bridge there's a slight resistance to the beech bridge that I really, really like and need. Every note on the fingerboard is full and dynamic....no dead or weak spots. I now have volume far beyond what I have ever experienced on my banjo. The growl is there. The highs and mids are all I could ever ask for. The tone I'm getting is awesome! I PLAY this bridge better. I picked for 3 hours as soon as it came in and did not want to quit. I can hardly wait for our next band practice.

How can any bridge be better than this beech bridge? My banjo is even staying in tune better!!....go figure!

I will probably order 3 more just like it pretty soon.....a spare for the archtop and 2 for my new flathead.

Tone rings, wood rims and good set-ups are all very important....but "the bridge" is the key to the best sound any banjo has to give.

My overall rating for this bridge is 1000!

SOSEBEE BEECH RULES!!!

Pickalot

Overall Rating: 10

Capos: Huber Capo

Submitted by pickalot on 12/13/2011

Where Purchased: Banjo Hangout

Overall Comments

Over the past 30 + years I guess I've used them all. There's something really different about the Huber. One thing is the sleeve........whatever rubber they use is exactly what it takes to put the strings down without distorting the notes, Also the saddle hugs up to the neck just right and the capo bar pulls straight down with no "choking" of the strings.

This capo is so light and fast to use that there is no way I could go back to the others I've tried and used over the years. It stays on the neck all the time, storing easily behind the nut. If you play in a band it's sometimes hard to change fast enough if you keep a capo in your pocket. The Huber capo is awesome!

Pickalot

Overall Rating: 10

Picks: Showcase 41 Fingerpicks

Submitted by pickalot on 7/19/2011

Where Purchased: First Quality Music Supply

Overall Comments

THE FOLLOWING MAY SOUND LIKE AN AD OR THAT I AM ON THE PAYROLL AT SHOWCASE, BUT THAT IS NOT THE SITUATION. I AM JUST TRULY EXCITED ABOUT A PRODUCT THAT I FINALLY GOT AROUND TO TRYING. IT SOLVED AN ONGOING PROBLEM FOR ME AND I WANT TO SHARE MY STORY.

I recently added a set of the Showcase 41"s to a First Quality order just to try them out. Although I've mainly used old Nationals for many years, I have always tried new picks as they became available, and have even made a few sets of my own. I guess you could say that if I had been totally satisfied with Nationals I would not have continued trying new picks.

Yesterday, July 18, 2011, I finally put the 41's on and with just a little personal adjustment that you would make with any new pick I began a practice session that lasted a solid 4 hours!

I could not believe the tone, comfort, beauty and playability of these picks! My banjo had never sounded so good........lots of "pop" up and down the neck, and I played as good as I can ever remember playing.......if not better.

Today I noticed that my fingers are NOT sore from wearing the picks for that long. I can't say that about other picks I have tried, especially Nationals.

Another consideration when trying on picks is the "size" of the pick. The 41's are just right for my fingers. Some picks are too big, too long, too heavy, ect., so I was very pleased when it was obvious that the 41's were just right.

I have always been aware that the picks are the all-important "link " (or connection) between the player and the strings. If you are going to play the banjo then you want the picks right, too, so that you can have the best sound possible from whatever banjo you play.

Bill Stokes is "World Class" in the banjo arena..... a dedicated pioneer (if there has ever been one!) pursuing the highest of quality! Bill has put in the time, done the research, got the metal right, got the design right......and has created newly made picks that, in my opinion, are equal to....or better than...... the pre-war Nationals I have used. The Showcase 1941 picks will maximize the potential of any player and any banjo out there, IMHO.

The "mystique" of the pre-war National fingerpick will always be with us, and I fully understand and agree with that. But gone is the day when a person has to pay $200 or more for a set on ebay when he can get the same....or better sound..... for $10.00 or less.

Showcase 41's are the only picks I will be using from now on. I don't think a better pick can be made.

Don Bruton (Pickalot) South Carolina

Overall Rating: 10

Capos: Bilt-Rite Capo

Submitted by pickalot on 4/4/2011

Where Purchased: Ebay

Overall Comments

As a banjo player since 1973....and one with a really good ear for tuning I have always been dissatisfied with just about every capo I ever tried, the only exception being Mike Smith's Kateyz brass capo.

I recently decided to try a BILT-RITE capo (see it in the BHO Classifieds). It came in today and after working with it for about an hour I absolutely fell in LOVE with it. I then picked hard for about 3 hours and experimented with it at A, B flat and B....switching back and forth, and also playing in G occasionally, just tweeking the 5th string......and it was incredible how my banjo stayed in tune. Only the most minor tweeking in open G was all that was necessary......and there wasn't much of that because I keep good strings on my banjo all the time. No other capo has ever produced results anywhere near this, with the exception of Mike's Kateyz when clamped directly on top of the fret.

If enough of these get out there it'll put a hurtin' on banjo jokes...at least concerning how banjos are always out of tune. It really has been the capo all along, at least in MHO. Most of us knew that the capo had to be the main problem other than weather change, old/dead strings and not knowing how to tune to start with.

Right now the capo is on a brass Kateyz frame, which has a round shaft. (All you have to do is remove the rubber sleeve and slide the BILT-RITE on). I may try it on a standard "B" Paige but so far I really like it on the small Kateyz frame.

One other characteristic that I really like is when you have the capo in the right position you then really tighten it down. Because of this you do not have to worry about it getting knocked out of position by your left hand. The capo works by pressing the strings directly on the fret, not down and from behind the fret, which stretches the strings out of tune, at least to some degree. Your left hand also has more working room because the frame is more centered in the fret and further back and more out of the way.

The use of this capo also causes the banjo to ring and sustain so much better than when using a standard capo with a rubber sleeve.

I think just about any player who uses a standard capo doubts that his banjo will really be in tune when they put it on. I guess that's why we all "check & tweek" when we use one. I find that with the BILT-RITE I can check and be amazed that it's actually in tune....but no tweeking. That's a confidence I like having.

I am not a dealer for this capo and make no money with this review, This capo will be on my banjo from now on. I can say my experience with Bill Adams has been great! He is very dedicated to the banjo, the BILT-RITE CAPO and the APOLLO TUNERS.....which I will be getting next. Bill is a "go-getter" and will work with you in whatever way you need...........and he is a darn good banjo player, to boot!

I cannot say enough good about this capo system. I am one who does not like a capo on the neck above the nut at the handstop when playing in G, so this one is perfect and stays in my pocket when it's not on the banjo.

Pickalot

Right now it is only available for flat fingerboards, but a radius model may be in the works.

UPDATE.......I have now been using the capo for one week and as far as I'm concerned it is the capo I will use from now on. I love putting it on and knowing I will be in tune with no tweeking with my tuners......and when I take it off I will go back to G with no tweeking usually. The BILT-RITE works! All I have to do is start off with my banjo in tune in "G" and maintain the G-tuning. When the capo is added it is always in tune......and it rings and sustains so much better when capoed now. I love it!
Check out this YouTube link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJRcsOwLGsQ
to see the BILT-RITE CAPO....and....the Apollo Tuners in action, and also, to enjoy Bill's great banjo playing!

UPDATE - Today is 7-19-2011. I am still using the Bilt-Rite capo and am still extremely happy with the way my banjo sustains and plays in tune. I now have it on a Paige "B" frame, as Bill sugggests. It is a great capo system! Being in tune all the time has spoiled me.

Overall Rating: 10

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