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!
7162 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Amazon.com
I've always been partial to "For Dummies" books, and this book is no exception. I bought it and started reading it a couple months before actually acquiring a banjo. It was a fun read that made me do little else over the next several weeks besides research banjos and start making progress on the "honey-do-list" so that I could sweet talk my non-believing wife into letting me buy the inevitable 5-stringed abomination (or so she thought).
Perhaps I was just the perfect target audience for the book (thirty-something, interested in learning a new fun instrument, no background in anything banjo related (I mean none at all), and motivated). But I found the book to be easy to read, easy to understand, and great to use as a reference for beginning banjo. There's a tear-out card inside the front cover of the book that includes common roll patterns and chords. There's also a helpful CD that accompanies the text.
I read bits and pieces of this book almost daily. No seriously, I do, because I'm still a novice player, and there are always tips that I can learn from this book.
It does not really take you to the next level of playing, but then again, intermediate players don't buy "for Dummies" books.
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: thebanjohut
Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: 229 ($US)
The sound is good. Until I listened to higher end banjos at a local acoustic store, I had no idea that it didn't sound great. It lacks a tone ring (which is part of the reason it is so cheap). It is a little tinny and my 5th string buzzed at first, but the repair shop put a higher nut on the 5th string when they installed a geared tuner for me.
Sound Rating: 7
It was mailed to me in a hard case, and it arrived undamaged. The coordinating rod was loose which might have happened in the shipping... Not knowing anything at the time, I hand tightened the turnbuckle on the coordinating rod, which in turn set the action way too high (but I didn't know it then). The head was nicely tightened, and the bridge was set correctly. It is a very easy banjo to make setup changes to, however for a beginner (whom this banjo targets), the changes might be difficult. I only found out about my ridiculously high string action when I went to take it to get a geared 5th string tuner, and the repairman was like shocked by the action. Slides and hammer ons are infinitely easier now.
Setup Rating: 7
For the money, it's a sharp banjo. The flange looks a little cheap. It's a nice rich mahogany color throughout. The fingerboard and neck are nice. It looks plain, non pretentious; business casual in the musical sense.
Appearance Rating: 9
This is a tough one. It's not meant to be a professional series banjo. It's a great beginner banjo. It has a flimsy coordinating rod, but the pot seems solid enough. The tuners are external gear, and not the fanciest, but they do the trick. The newer models all have a geared 5th tuner. Mine did not, but I think that's the only difference. Comes with a Remo Weatherking head. If you take proper care of the instrument, it should last a good many years of practice. I am more than satisfied with the anticipated reliability for the price paid on the instrument.
Reliability Rating: 8
Very easy to deal with, very knowledgeable, very friendly, very helpful.
Customer Service: 10
The weakest link was the friction peg on the 5th string. I got it fixed and added a 7th fret spike at the same time. I'm very happy with the results. The neck is nice and straight. It holds its tuning on all five strings pretty well. Again, there is no tone ring, and that makes it significantly lighter to hold. It probably contributes to its more tinny sound.
Components Rating: 8
I gave this thing a 10 overall rating. Why? Because I don't see how one could spend less than $300 and have a nicer brand new instrument. I looked around at all the other instruments in that price range and none of them impressed me as much as this one before I bought it, and after having played it for almost a year, my opinion is reaffirmed. I would highly recommend this instrument to anyone who wants to play banjo but isn't sure that they are going to like it... in other words, those people who are a little wary of dropping down big dollars on an instrument they've never tried to play before, and for whom banjo playing might be a one month passing fad. It's cheap, it gets the job done, and is good enough to keep you happy until you're willing to put about 10 times that much money down on a professional banjo.
Overall Rating: 10
'2008 Granada' 14 min
'Good Wednesday Morning' 5 hrs
'Sullivan Festival?' 6 hrs
'Kentucky Waltz' 9 hrs