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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!

6986 reviews in the archive.

Richie Dotson

Submitted by Smelly Old Gibby on 5/22/2014

Overall Comments

I have used Richie Dotson as my primary luthier for a few years.  Over the course of that time he has completed many full set-ups on my banjos, as well as building necks for PW conversion projects.  I know that when I give a project to Richie, it will be done right.  His set-ups sound great, his repairs are nearly invisible once completed, and his new builds of necks look and feel like true prewar neck… 


The necks that I have had done by Richie use true prewar specs, hand-cut Inlays and hand-turned prewar style pips.  He has always done an excellent job of matching the neck and resonator, and the fit and finish are great.  In addition, I have also had one of Richie’s non-prewar necks with a radiuses fingerboard and stainless frets — this was quite nice also.

Richie has a great reputation in the bluegrass community, and is “the Man” in the central Virginia area.  His repair, setup and conversion work is contracted by music stores, vintage instrument dealers, pro pickers, and closet pickers.


I can honestly say that in all the jobs that Richie has done for me, he has never set unrealistic expectations to “get the job.”  I feel that his expectations are set well on the cost and time-line of the projects.  The set-ups he has done for me are usually done while I wait (which is a luxury because I live in central Virginia), but when on-demand service is not possible I do not feel that his turn-around is extraordinarily long.  It is true that full restorations, neck builds, and complex  fixes may take a couple of months.  However, I find this to be pretty standard when having custom build and restoration work done.


I say the above, not to negate a previous posters comments.  We all have our own experiences and we all have a right to good service and top quality work.  The only reason I mention the experiences of the prior post to to illustrate that my experience was the complete opposite.


Personally, I think Richie’s work is some of the best in the business.  And, I think he is a good guy to boot.  I do a lot of business with him, and every time I get something back I am happy.  I, like every other consumer, have lots of options… but I go back to Richie because I find his work to be great, his prices very competitive, and his turn-around to be adequate.

I would not have any reservations about recommending Richie Dotson to anyone who is looking to convert, restore… or, just get the best sound out of their banjo 


I also take banjo lessons from Richie, so I get to see a lot of the work that comes though his shop.  I have seen him do good looking work on mandolins, guitars, dulcimers…etc, too.  However, I have never used him personally for those instruments.


If you have any  specific questions on my experience with my builds and Richie’s work… feel free to PM me.  I would be happy to help you in anyway possible.




Overall Rating: 10

Richie Dotson

Submitted by Smelly Old Gibby on 2/15/2014

Overall Comments

I would highly recommend Richie Dotson to any aspiring banjo player, and any seasoned banjo player that is trying to expand the breadth and depth of his/her playing.  Richie has a lot of experience teaching students and understand the various playing styles (Scruggs, Single String, Keith style...etc).  He also teaches Clawhammer, but that is not a style I have been interested in trying.

Richie's teaching style (for me) is a combination of tabs, music listening, videos and theory.  He breaks complicated pieces into parts that are easy to understand.  He has a good way of pushing me to continue to grow as a player, but I don't feel pushed or rushed.  Richie lumps related songs/skills together, so I can learn multiple songs at once.

Theory is a topic where I usually glaze over.  But, Richie explains things in a way that I can understand them.  And, when I don't... he explains it in different ways until is "clicks."  He's theory is not so much that it feels like learning for learning sake... everything he teaches always feel relative and useful to the task at hand.

I know that Richie changes his teaching style to fit his students.  If you are a person that can get tab, he can show the the songs in a note-for-note learning style.  And, probably get your tab reading up to par as well through explanation.  If theory is tough for you (like it is for me), Richie will take the time to make you comfortable and will not confuse you with tons of non-essential information.  He's just a great teacher that wants he students to live us to their potential and reach their own personal goals.

When I first started learning banjo... I took lessons from a nice man who knew a little.  He showed me what he knew , but at the time I did not have a wealth of teachers with the experience necessary to keep adding new skills and styles to my playing.  Then I swithed to a teacher who was awesome, but the drive was 1.5 hours each way and the drive became a grind.  In many cases, banjo students have a hard time finding someone who is good and close.  If you live anywhere close to Richmond (or Tidewater)... Richie is both very good and very close.

I really appreciate all of the things he has done for my picking.  I give him a 9 only because I don't like absolute statements.. The day I say, "Richie Dotson is the best", someone on BHO will write me saying, "No, Joe Blow is the best..."  So, I choose not to get into stuff like that.  But,  Richie has been very good and I consider him a great teacher, luthier, and friend. 



Overall Rating: 9

Mutes: Mike's Banjo Mute

Submitted by Smelly Old Gibby on 4/6/2012

Where Purchased: Mike Stidd

Overall Comments

I was not sure what to expect with Mike's mute. I read all the reviews, and I have had a Gold Tone mute for about 2 years. Frankly, I was not unhappy with the Gold Tone - it did the job okay. My only concern was the fact that I have re-glued the fuzzy interior a few times, as it came loose from the brass casing every few months. But, like most banjo "tinkerers" I wanted to see if there was something better on the market.

The Mike's Mute had lots of good reviews, but it also costs twice as much at the Gold Tone. However, a $34 investment in something that will save a marriage, and keep a sleeping newborn sleeping seemed reasonable to try. Besides you have a 7-day money back guarantee if I didn't like it. But, with a the radiused neck on one of my banjos, I felt like I needed to talk to someone - and Mike was there to take my call and give advice(Thanks).

Today, I got the mute, and tried it. I really liked it. It was nice a quiet. But was it quieter than the traditional Gold Tone? I went back and forth, and swore Mike's had the better and quieter sound. But, then I thought I was biased... I mean. I have a mute already that technically functions with the Gold Tone. Was I just trying to make myself feel better about spending the money?

So, I had my PREGNANT wife sit across the room with her eyes closed. I played one mute than the other. She picked your mute and said it was quieter and less "nasal" sounding to the Gold Tone. Then she said, "I think I could even watch TV while you play with that one..."

I am sold. And EVEN MORE...My PREGNANT wife is sold.

I ordered a 2nd mute today for my flat bridged banjos. I liked it THAT much.

Overall Rating: 10

Other: Nechville Comfort Bevel Armrest

Submitted by Smelly Old Gibby on 11/22/2010

Where Purchased: Nechville

Overall Comments

beautiful. I was a little concerned at first, because the front edge of the armrest touches the head slightly. However, I played all evening without sacrificing any tone or volume. In fact, the lip looks functional to holding it on with the mounting system (which is super easy).

This armrest is very comfortable. It's really nice to pick without any pain in the forearm. I would buy this product again - no question.

Overall Rating: 9

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