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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!

7134 reviews in the archive.

Graves Mountain Music Festival

Submitted by rockyjo on 6/12/2015

Overall Comments

Really wonderful festival!  Great lineup in 2015, great venue (beautiful scenery, shade (!)), EXCELLENT food at Graves Mountain Lodge on the grounds)!  Camping if you want to camp.  Also, not too crowded.  Oddly, there is no other review yet for this festival, in its 23rd year in 2015.  Check it out at  Highly recommended!

Overall Rating: 10

Picks: Geipel Thumbpicks

Submitted by rockyjo on 1/14/2011

Where Purchased:

Overall Comments

Searching for the ultimate picks, including thumb pick, like we all do?

Here's one of the best, if not the best, one around: it's called a Geipel pick (a German guy's last name). It's designed for a zither, a hand-held harp-like instrument from Europe, and here's what's so great about it for us:

1. It's a metal pick but doesn't produce pick noise (yes, I know, that defies "conventional wisdom", oh well);
2. It comes in 9 different thumb sizes--no, I'm not kidding--still spending hours trying to mold, mash, shave those plastic two-sizes-fit-no-ones? Yup, 9 sizes...(if you've been searching a long time, breathe deeply, it's true). This helps make the next point...
3. It's comfortable--the top of the band spans the transition area of nail/cuticle/skin, so it doesn't jab your cuticle, ever;
4. It doesn't slip (and they fit right out of the box) (see point 2);
5. They're easy to play--the blade is needle-shaped so you might think that they take getting used to--Nope, what I found is going back to a traditional pick felt like using a shovel...more in the next point...
6. You play better...I know, strong statement. But I do play better with this thumbpick, partly because I'm not carrying that shovel blade around that apparently collides (I'll blame the other pick) with other strings from time to time, which I never heard until using this thumb pick, and partly because it's more "positive" meaning, your aim gets dead-on right away with a smaller striking area and then you're on your way to the next note--it causes the player to produce "cleaner" playing, which...
7. Produces a "cleaner" sound;
8. It produces as good or better tone than my other thumb picks--it's not "metallicky", I know, there goes that conventional wisdom again, nor bright. To my ear, I get a more consistent tone with my metalfingerpicks since I've got metal on 3 fingers, instead of a warmer or softer sound from a thumb pick that is plastic combined with metal fingerpicks;
8. They're metal so if they wear out, it's going to take a lot longer than plastic ones where, you know, you get to go through that re-shaping all over again (or did you actually want to spend that time playing your 'jo?);
9. Yup, they're reasonably priced--same ballpark as "regular" plastic and metal thumb picks. In other words, this is the pick to try before your frustration or dissatisfaction causes you spend $$ on an expensive thumb pick.
10. For the purists, they come in 2 metals for 2 slightly different sounds.

OK, the Negatives:
1. The little things are small (did I say that already?), and they're not those hideous (--oops!) multi-colors, etc., so they're easy to lose track of--if one falls off the table or a dropped one slides across the wood floor further than you could be days... Save yourself the re-order and buy more backups than you would for the traditional thumb picks. (See point #9.)

'Can't think of any other negatives.

By the way, you can only get them from a BHO member, Bart Veerman; he's importing them from Germany. If the link doesn't work, find him on BHO.

'Happy Picking!


Overall Rating: 10

Janet Davis: You Can Teach Yourself Banjo

Submitted by rockyjo on 8/18/2010

Where Purchased: gift

Overall Comments

Hello Everyone,

I'll add my experience on the Janet Davis book, "You Can Teach Yourself Banjo" which may create some controversy but so be it... I do NOT recommend this book and would highly suggest something else.

I was/am a beginner and it was the first book that I started working through. The book starts early on with the forward roll as "IMTIMTIM". I put a lot of hours into learning the roll this way, only to find out elsewhere that the "preferred" way for the forward roll is TIMTIMTI or TIMTIMTM.

The latter 2 ways create a different, and I'll say better, tone, because you are using a downstroke instead of an upstroke on the string where the approach differs. The thumb also is stronger and creates more "drive" than an upstroke.

So, having just gotten up to what I felt was good tempo with the JD approach to the forward roll, I am now trying to re-learn it. It is not fun to retrain your fingers to a new primary way to do a roll, automatically, when they already do almost the same thing automatically another way. It is not that I will never use the JD approach, or the fingering ability that I learned with it, just to find the right strings, etc., but it is not insignificant nor an insignificant amount of time or motivation to feel like you need to relearn a roll, or get your thumb to automatically do the forward roll the preferred way. I want my primary way of doing the forward roll the "preferred" way which produces better tone and more drive.

So, it's up to the player and what he/she wants to accomplish with playing the banjo. But for me, and for the amount of time invested, I want to learn the best or better approaches. I wish I would have known at the beginning to learn either of the second or third listed ways to do the forward roll.

Had I known ahead, I would not have chosen this book, or at least not as the only one. I now cross-reference with several books that are put out by professional players who each have made a living playing the banjo, Bill Evans, Pete Wernick, Earl Scruggs, Alan Munde, Tony Trischka. (Yup, none of them show the forward roll pattern the way that the Janet Davis book does.)


Overall Rating: 3

Tony Trischka and Pete Wernick: Masters of the 5-String Banjo

Submitted by rockyjo on 8/18/2010

Where Purchased: online

Overall Comments

I highly recommend this book and reiterate everything that the previous reviewer said.
There are many, many books and materials out there to spend your money on, as we all know. This book is a ONE OF A KIND! It is an outstanding reference for almost any question that a banjo player could have about playing and how the "greats" play the banjo.
It would have been good anyway if a journalist had written it, but with Trischka and Wernick interviewing other outstanding banjo players, they know the questions to ask, and it is all that much better.
Lots of other materials you'll go through and trade them off after you've grown out of them; this book is a keeper as long as you play the banjo.
Looking forward to the second volume.


Overall Rating: 10

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