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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!

6942 reviews in the archive.

Moore, Stephen, Keplinger G.T.: JOHN DUFFEY'S BLUEGRASS LIFE

Submitted by Kevin B on 7/22/2019

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

Wonderful book.  Many interviews of the people who knew John.  Good information on the Bluegrass music industry and its' inner workings.  Excellent material on the formative years of New Grass.  I could not put this one down.   This has a good mix of material on John's public and private life.

Overall Rating: 9

John Boulding

Submitted by Kevin B on 3/21/2019

Overall Comments

John just did a refret with stainless steel frets on my Gibson style 3 and I couldn't be happier.  His attention to detail is amazing.  John went above and beyond correcting other issues he found.  After he was done and the banjo was back together it sounded better than it has in a while.  If you need work done on a fretted instrument I encourage you to see John.  Being located in Mt. Airy NC is a plus if you are dropping your instrument off or picking it up.  The town is a great experience (Mt. Airy is the town Andy Griffith's Mayberry is based on).

Overall Rating: 10

JT's Pix Snark Adapter: JT's Pix Snark Adapter

Submitted by Kevin B on 2/4/2016

Where Purchased: Banjo Teacher.Com

Overall Comments

This device is the best.  So simple and effective.  I would never leave a tuner on the head stock of my RB3.  Having this on the pot is perfect.  It makes the Snark SN8 readings fast and accurate too.  I regret that I waited so long to switch to this.  I will never be without a JT Snark adapter again.

Overall Rating: 10

Banjo Teacher.Com

Submitted by Kevin B on 2/4/2016

Overall Comments

Ordered the Snark SN8 and JT's Pix Tuner Bracket combo from Banjo Teacher.com.  I couldn't be happier.  Fast service, competitive price.  I would shop here in a heart beat.

Overall Rating: 10

Richard Graf: Banjo Essays

Submitted by Kevin B on 7/16/2013

Where Purchased: Amazon.com

Overall Comments

This is a inspirational book where a banjo player equates banjo lessons learned to life applications. It would benefit anyone even non-banjo players. The book's lessons are eye openers to simple truths all around us. Good read.

Overall Rating: 10

Arthur Hatfield

Submitted by Kevin B on 1/3/2012

Overall Comments

Mr. Hatfield did a heel recut, a nut adjustment, and overall setup on my RB3 and I couldn't be happier with the results. He worked painstakingly to get the banjo exactly to my personal preferences. When he was done the instrument played easy and the tone was greatly enhanced.

Overall Rating: 10

Dick Spottswood: Banjo on the Mountain, Wade Mainer's First 100 Years

Submitted by Kevin B on 3/21/2011

Where Purchased: amazon

Overall Comments

A wonderful banjoist biography is, “Banjo on the Mountain: Wade Mainer's First Hundred Years.” It is written by Dick Spottswood, a bluegrass historian, author and bluegrass radio personality. The book is very well written. It has an exceptional and interesting format and layout. Many archival photos and documents are included.

As a Scruggs picker I didn’t know much about the two finger banjo style. This work documents that precursor to the bluegrass style. Of great interest to me was that Mr. Mainer could play three finger but continued the two finger style because his brother, J.E. Mainer, a fiddler, thought it (two finger) was better for the dance music they played.
Another great part about the book is the insight it gives into early country, string band, bluegrass radio. It brings an era to life most of us never knew. There is a lot of good info about other players Wade knew too.

I highly recommend that every banjo player gives this book a read. It expands our knowledge about the history of our instrument and gives us the biography of a colorful and key banjoist.
amazon.com/Banjo-Mountain-Main...604734981

Overall Rating: 10

Other: Gold Tone Clip-on Tuner

Submitted by Kevin B on 3/22/2010

Where Purchased: Gold Tone

Overall Comments

This clipon tuner from Gold Tone has a one button operation making it very easy to use. It has a large easy to read display. You can select a setting for different instruments or use it in chromatic mode. The chromatic mode is useful when tuning your banjo to alternate tunings. The tuner is fast and accurate.

I especially like the small size of the tuner body and clamp. I don't like clamping any tuner on the peghead of my instruments. I have used the CCT effectively in a flange hole clamped onto the resonator wall and even on a resonator thumb screw. It worked great in every position and the swivel mount lets you turn the display toward you in the best position for the location.

I highly recommend this product.

Overall Rating: 10

Capos: Paige capo original black

Submitted by Kevin B on 7/26/2008

Where Purchased: FQMS

Overall Comments

For as long as I can remember I have used a standard Shubb capo. Lately I thought I would try a Paige. Picked one up at FQMS for $16.95. It works real good. I like the fact it can stay on my Gibson and get me from Ab to B. I will just throw the Shubb in my pocket if I need to capo at the 5th fret. The Paige is smaller, lighter and less obstrusive. I still like the Shubb. It is needed for my other banjos because of their neck profiles. I think the Paige is a super bargain for a very effective capo. I think the larger model will work with banjos that have greater neck proportions. I got the black Paige as Murrell said they discontinued the nickle one. Mine is the smaller size for domestic neck profiles.

Overall Rating: 9

Omnibus Media: The Complete 5-String Banjo Player

Submitted by Kevin B on 6/10/2008

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

I just picked up the Tony Trischka "The Complete 5-String Banjo" Book, CD, and DVD. I got it because the ad promised "The History of the Banjo." I highly recommend it. Great book and CD, 1 hour of instruction on the DVD. While basically an instruction set, for me, the best part of all is the concert footage extra included on the DVD. Tony does a concert with his band and an excellent narrator where he plays a banjo evolution. He starts with a gourd banjo, followed by a minstrel banjo, then a turn of the century style open back and finally a bluegrass banjo. He chronicles the significance of the styles used on each instrument and finshes with contemporary arrangements of his own. Really a good experience for any style of five string player enthusiast. The book has an excellent bio synopsis on several of the key trand setting players of bluegrass banjo and samplings of their styles in tablature. A must read, listen and watch set.

Overall Rating: 9

Walter Carter: Gibson: 100 Years of an American Icon

Submitted by Kevin B on 2/10/2008

Where Purchased: eBay

Overall Comments

Gibson: 100 Years of An American Icon (1994), Walter Carter

I just finished reading this book. I highly recommend it. It is pure propaganda in places. Carter was Gibson’s in house historian and it was published by Gibson Publishing Company. It has excellent photos. Page 267 has a full page picture of a 1932 Granada under the article heading “The Vintage Backlash.” Pages 114 and 115 are devoted to Earl with the later being a full color, full page photo. There is great information about Gibson evolution over the years. A party line explanation about the rationale behind the move to Nashville, etc. is also included. I would highly recommend this text (out of print) to all Gibsonphiles. There was much more banjo stuff that I expected which was a pleasant surprise.

Overall Rating: 9

Shanachie Entertainment: Flatt & Scruggs TV Shows

Submitted by Kevin B on 12/30/2007

Where Purchased: Elderly Instruments

Overall Comments

For Christmas I got all four volumes. I will pick up any more they release (If there are more releases down the road). There is nothing like seeing Lester and Earl and the Foggy Mountain Boys. I like watching them work the mics. The song selection is great. Good gospel numbers and bluegrass srandards. There is some good guitar work by Earl Scruggs (A side of Earl some may not know about) Some great guest stars (7 year old Ricky Skaggs on vol. 3!!) Good comedy bits and enjoyable commericals. If you buy no other entertainment DVD's buy these. Typical late 50's early 60's film quality. Don't let that stop you. These are a can't miss hit. At the time Elderly had the best price at $15 each.

Overall Rating: 10

Seldom Scene: SCENEchronized

Submitted by Kevin B on 12/27/2007

Where Purchased: Amazon.com

Overall Comments

The first recording by the Scene since 2000's "Scene it all" From the opening track "Hometown Blues" SCENEchronized just rocks! Plenty of bluesy stuff. Good traditional tunes. Even a reprise of their earlier "Don't Bother With White Satin" (from Act III). The harmony on this CD seems even tighter than their last release and I really like the addition of Chris Eldridge to the band. Ben hasn't lost a thing on the banjo, he absoluetly has the ultimate touch and taste for any material he sets his picks to. This one was came out in August of '07. It is already nominated for Best Bluegrass Album Grammy 2008. The Scene rules!
http://www.seldomscene.com/

Overall Rating: 10

Janet David Setup DVD: 5 STring Banjo Set-Up & Maintenance

Submitted by Kevin B on 11/3/2007

Where Purchased: JDMC Online

Overall Comments

Good basic setup DVD. Nothing earth shattering but solid information covering choices that affect tone. Quite a bit of demonstration after changes are made. Thorough discussion on bridge placement and intonation.

Overall Rating: 9

Steve Huber: Killer Tone

Submitted by Kevin B on 10/28/2007

Where Purchased: Amazon.com

Overall Comments

If you don't know where to start on diassembly and setup of a Mastertone style banjo this video is a good place to start. I've been doing this for a long time and it was mostly review. The descriptions of how the components and materials go together to produce the tone was very good. I would recommend this DVD.

Overall Rating: 9

elderly Instruments

Submitted by Kevin B on 10/26/2007

Overall Comments

Great super fast service. I was able to get all four of the Flatt and Scruggs DVD's for a little over $60. In this case they beat Amazon by nearly $20 and the box was here in two days. Real happy with Elderly.

Overall Rating: 10

Gibson: RB-250

Submitted by Kevin B on 10/15/2007

Where Purchased: Real Guitars

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 2,000 ($US)

Sound

Good flathead sound. I didn't understand what everyone meant in describing a Gibson sound as "dry" until I got this banjo. Good projection, tone and volumn

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

I didn't like the 5/8" Grover bridge. Within a month I put a .656 Snuffey Smith bridge on it. The action is now more to my taste. The Presto tailpeice was at almost the maximum height. Now the bottom of it is about 1/32 off the tension hoop, the tension tabs are about 1/4" off the head. This seems much better tonally. I also switched to a .016 3rd string because it suits my attack better.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

I love the classic look of the reddish mahogony, retro type style 3 inlay and nickle plating. The ebony board is beautiful and one of the things that drew me to the RB 250. I consider ebony more durable than rosewood. The workmanship and detail is great!

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Everything seems solid and should last a lifetime with proper care.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Real Guitar has been great. Haven't needed to contact Gibson.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The RB 250 has the same pot assembly as the best Gibsons, (3 ply maple rim, quality hardware, selected woods), I like it all. I was slow to warm up to the Presto Tailpeice but have come to love the sound.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I think this is all the banjo I will ever need. I never thought I would be able to get a banjo of such high quality, beauty, and tone for a bargain like this. I would recommend the RB 250 without hesitation and I've been playing five string banjo since 1976.

Overall Rating: 9

First Quality Music Supply

Submitted by Kevin B on 10/14/2007

Overall Comments

I've dealt with FQMS since 1981. They have done repair and setup work on my banjo. I've bought many parts and an instrument from them. It really is "First Quality." I've never been disappointed with any aspect of this excellent company. Wonderful, helpful, friendly folks to deal with too.

Overall Rating: 10

Janet Davis Music

Submitted by Kevin B on 10/14/2007

Overall Comments

My dealings with JDMS have always been great. Good merchandise, fast shipping, courteous staff, fair prices. Big thumbs up!

Overall Rating: 10

Straps: Stokes Showcase Straps

Submitted by Kevin B on 10/8/2007

Where Purchased: First Quality Music Supply

Overall Comments

For the last dozen or so years I've been using Stokes Showcase Presentation banjo straps on my best heavy banjos. They are brown, solid latigo leather. They have a tooled basket weave pattern and attach to the brackets with Chicago screws. When I got my new Mastertone there was no debate a Showcase would be my strap. These sturdy, beautifuk straps have never let me down. They cost about $35 and are worth every penny.

Overall Rating: 10

Other: Price Straightline Tailpiece

Submitted by Kevin B on 10/8/2007

Where Purchased: First Quality Music Supply

Overall Comments

I have tried clamshells, Waverlys and Kershners on my flathead. None have the solidity, sustain and adjustability of the Straightline made by Dr. Gary Price. A solid, beautifully tooled bluegrass banjo tailpiece. They are currently out of production. I wish Dr. Price would make them again. There are none better as far as I'm concerned. There is an authorized Price copy imported by Goldtone but it is not the heavy piece the original was. Also, the plating on mine has held up better than the other plated parts by various vendors that are on the same banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Stewart MacDonald: Diamond Eagle

Submitted by Kevin B on 4/14/2007

Where Purchased: The Fret Factory

Year Purchased: 1981
Price Paid: 316 ($US)

Sound

It has a classic flathead sound. Good bottom end, Enough sustain. The intonation is accurate.-

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Since it was a kit I set it up myself. My current setup is Snuffy Smith 3/4" bridge, Price Straight Line tailpeice, Fivestar head. The head is fairly tight. Not much sag at the bridge. Just enough tension on the tailpiece to keep the bridge in place. Action 1/8 at 12th fret. I didn't like the Waverly tailpiece that it came with it seemed to vibrate too much and lead to overtones, a Kerschner helped some but the Price really helped.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

One peice mahogony neck, ebony fretboard and peghead overlay. Tasteful diamond inlays and a few leaves and petals on the peghead of my own arrangement. The finish is hand rubbed laquer that I applied myself.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

All of the metal parts in the kit are quality Stewart MacDonald nickle plated replacement parts. Ivoroid binding and keys. I did replace a badly tarnished tension hoop with another (after 20 years+)

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

You can't beat Stewart MacDonald. Their parts are quality stuff. It is a shame they discontinued the high end Diamond Eagle banjo kits.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Fivestar flathead tonering. Fivestar planetary keys and planetary fifth string tuner. As stated above I upgraded the tailpiece and tension hoop.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I love this banjo. It was a way for me to get a quallity working man's flathead for low bucks. Building it was a blast. I enjoyed doing the inlay, shaping, finishing, fretting and assembly. I'm proud to play something I built and have folks tell me it has a good sound. They are usually surprised when I tell them I built it. It's as good as most I've tried.

Overall Rating: 9

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