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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!

6988 reviews in the archive.

Deering: Goodtime

Submitted by flowerofthewest on 1/21/2007

Where Purchased: Deering Banjo Company

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: 700 ($US)

Sound

This is an open back banjo. It is quite an amazing little banjo. No tone ring so the sound is not really loud, but loud enough for playing with friends and practicing alone.
The original set up is good enough for me. It sounds bright and plunky. For what it is and the price paid, the sound is great. I am very happy with it.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was purchased in April and sat in my friend's house until December when I visited and opened her up. The set up was spot on.
No changes made. Just tuned her up and gave her a good run.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I bought a Special Edition banjo (hence the higher price). Greg Deering make 8 special necks for the Goodtime - walnut inlays on the peghead and down the neck. It looks much fancier than the traditional Goodtime. i had the better tuners put on the banjo instead of the stock ones they put on. Also had the railroad spikes added. I quite like the look of the banjo. It's very different from the others I have.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Yes, the hardware should last. I had the upgraded hardware added to the banjo. The finish is good for the banjo that it is. I imagine the finish will wear easier than better banjos, but hey, it's a Goodtime!
I would not use it gigging; it's a bit too quiet for that.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I have not dealt with them yet. It is under warranty.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Because it's a Special Edition banjo, it has really cute wanut inlays down the neck and a custom floral walnut inlay on the peghead.
I think the hardware on it is fine for the banjo that it is.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

If you want a reliable little banjo that has been smartened up a it, Yes!
I love it!
Because it's a Special Edition, I doubt I could find another like it. I would write Greg Deering and ask him to make me another.

Overall Rating: 10

Chuck Lee: Chautauqua 12" Custom

Submitted by flowerofthewest on 4/1/2006

Where Purchased: England

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: 1000 (GBP) (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This is a fantastic open back banjo, perfect for clawhammer/frailing, which is my style. Right now, the set up is as I received it. I have felt I needed to change nothing. Sounds fantastic. Rich sound, yet bright for a banjo with a wooden tone ring.
I like everything about this banjo.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The set up was perfect. The shop that sent it to me checked everything and made sure the set up was spot on.
I might try a Moon bridge just to see the sound difference, but the strings are perfect for it.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This is the prettiest banjo I have ever seen. It's perfect for me. Not too gaudy, just enough inlay and very beautifully done.
Chuck didn't realize it when he made it, but he made this banjo just for me! I couldn't have made a better choice.
No flaws - perfect in every way.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The hardware seems very sturdy and reliable. Finish is flawless. Very dependable.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have only asked Chuck questions about the banjo before I bought it. He has been very helpful in answering all my questions.

Customer Service: 10

Components

This banjo is of maple with a 12" ply rim, 3 1/2" deep pot, wooden (actually no) tone ring.
I don't feel there is anything that needs to be upgraded on this banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I would definitely recommend Chuck's banjos to anyone. Obviously, it depends on what style you play and what sound you want, but Chuck is very good at listening to what you want out of a banjo and does his best with recommendations.
I love this banjo... in fact, I'm smitten! Favorite feature is the artwork.
This is my best banjo! I absolutely love the sound of it.

Overall Rating: 10

Griffin (James Bowen): Minerva

Submitted by flowerofthewest on 1/23/2006

Where Purchased: Custom order from luthier

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: £1495 (GBP) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This banjo is a custom open back banjo. Made of cherry wood with a white ladye tone ring and a Snuffy Smith bridge.. Bright sweet sound, just right for frailing.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

My banjo was set up beautifully. Action is perfect. You barely need to press the strings to get a good sound. I have not made any changes to the banjo.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

My banjo is very pretty. The Griffin logo is on the head with a full griffin animal below. There is quite a bit of mother of pearl inlay, but not too much to make it look gaudy. The name 'Beauty' is inlaid into the fretboard near the bottom. There is custom inlay on the neck, on the heel and the bottom of the pot.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The hardware is very very nice. It will last a long time and very sturdy.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

James Bowen is very helpful and his service is great. No one could ask for more. Warranty on my banjo is for life. (whose I'm not saying...)

Customer Service: 10

Components

White Ladye tone ring, the finish is perfect. The inlay flawless. I cannot say enough about the quality of this banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I would recommend any of James' banjos. I have seen quite a few and all of them are gorgeous. He goes out of his way to have a satisfied customer. Favorite feature is it's one of a kind. Made just for me. I love my banjo! and it better NOT get stolen!
I have not played too many other custom banjos, but by far this outranks any mass produced banjo I have played. I have a Gold Tone WL200 and as much as I like it, it doesn't compare to a handmade Griffin banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Griffin (James Bowen): Leveller

Submitted by flowerofthewest on 10/31/2005

Where Purchased: private seller

Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: 675 (GBP) (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I play clawhammer/frailing style banjo. This is an open back banjo made of walnut and has a brass tone ring. It has a rich sound and is so easy to play.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

James had recently seen the banjo and went over it with a fine tooth comb to make sure the set up was still in good order since he had made it 16 months ago. It is currently set up with medium strings and a Snuffy Smith bridge, neither of which I would change.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is made of walnut, has an ebony fingerboard, and a no knot tailpiece. The inlays are mother of pearl. The name Leveller has been added in mother of pearl on the board as well. This being James' entry level banjo, it has the Griffin head on the head stock and not the whole beast. Some of the inlays are dots instead of fancy patterns. Very pretty banjo!

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

James uses top quality hardware, so I trust this will last a long time. The finish is gorgeous. Made to very high specs.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

James is very helpful and a top notch banjo luthier. The banjo is guaranteed for life.

Customer Service: 10

Components

No weak or cheap parts on this baby. This is an entry-level banjo, but there's nothing about it that says entry-level, except that it has the brass tone ring instead of the more expensive tone rings around.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I felt I got a good deal. These banjos do not come up for sale very often. I am delighted to own a Griffin banjo.
If it were stolen, I would hunt high and low for it. To me it is irreplaceable. And if I could not find it, I would have James make me another!

Overall Rating: 10

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