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!
7107 reviews in the archive.
4 June 2012
I do not know where to start, after reading all the reviews/pedigree of Chris Cioffi, I cannot say much more than what has already been said. I wanted more out of my banjo! I could tell there was potential in it. I made some adjustments tinkered with it, and did get some improvement, but something was still missing. So I started here on BHO looking at all the luthier reviews, one name stood out, Chris Cioffi. So I contacted him we talked about an hour, when it was all said and done, I wanted him to work on my banjo. It just happened that I was going to Knoxville Tn. to see the Punch Brothers; so on my way back swing by Chris’s let him check out my banjo, a Recording King RK87. He had a lot of good things to say about the components of the RK’s, we went over the things he found that could be improved; we agreed on a course of action, and a quote of work to be done, talked about the poly finish being tricky to work around, and some other things. I decided to take it a little further than you might with an instrument that is barely a year old, I went with a stainless steel fret job; the frets on the banjo had already shown a LOT of wear I practice every day. I had put a Tony Pass Thin Skirt rim on it, so he did a neck set installed a bone nut, a new 5th string bone nut; a pre-war sculpted/turned style, ( looks Great ) hand fit the tone ring, the flange was excessively tight. He communicated with me through the whole time on the progress, found a couple things that were not discovered until he had taken the banjo apart, which I understand being a mechanical guy all my life.
So now for the results….. I drove back down to his shop to pick it up ( I live 5 hours away ) after some chat, I got to see my banjo after 6 weeks, it was done in about 3 ½ weeks, I could not get down there due to my work. First thing I noticed was the fret board was stunning, the polished stainless frets, polished finger board and pearl were incredible, looked like a different neck, the whole banjo kinda glowed, action was perfect not the same banjo. So I had Chris pick it for me so I could hear it, when playing an instrument you don’t quite hear what everyone else does. When he started playing I was looking for the patch cord to the amp…: ) some of the notes he dug into made me wince, I almost couldn’t stand in front of it, very clean, lots of punch when you wanted it, everywhere on the board. So after playing it for a couple minutes we went over the things he felt it lacked, it was nothing major they were problems that were inherent of my banjo. I believe Chris got everything that my particular instrument could produce, with the components I have. He is very personable, passionate about his work and loves the banjo. I believe his exposure to dozens of prewar banjos, contact with many professional players, and years of experience add to his gift, and ear for what is right. Take the time… to read all the reviews. There is a lot to be said about a properly set up instrument, he really brought out Greg Rich’s work behind the Recording King Banjos. I think you will agree that all of Chris’s reviews say the same thing, one great Banjo Luthier.
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: Mikes Web Site
After reading some good reviews of Mikes Mute here on www.banjohangout.org . Being a brand new student with absolutely no stringed instrument experience. I decided it would be prudent to purchase one for all my loved ones, (Ears)… Shipping was fast, instillation was fast, about 15 seconds, with picks on. I was impressed! I know anyone can say something is quiet, but I thought it would be cool to put some loose numbers to it. So this is some information I gathered, using a Recording King RK-87, freshly tuned with cryo strings. Placed a Fisher Scientific sound level meter ( at my playing level noise meter : ) @ 3 feet in front of me on a table; did several Open G strums, and simple forward rolls, in an average sized carpeted room. Here is what I gathered, all numbers rounded.
Open G strum w/o Mute 97db
Open G strum w/ Mikes 76db
Forward Roll w/o Mute 94db
Forward Roll w/ Mikes 69db
Greater distance will only make this better, impressive! Earplugs range between 22 and 38 db reduction in noise; I know I work on jet engines. Also mention that my instrument did not lose tonal quality, ring still there. My family will be indebted to you Mike, and never know it. Thank You for a well thought out product.
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: BanjoTeacher.com
As a new banjo student (at the age of 51 ) and no prior stringed instrument experience. I want to give some response to the BlueChip pick. Purchased the JD Large pick. As everyone has said expensive, but Wow! Put it on and almost forgot it was there after 5 min. Struggling with all the new things involved with learning the Banjo, the thumb pick has been like a big crawdad on my thumb, having to remove it often, no problems with the finger picks. As for size, I emailed BlueChip ask about size, since they just say Med & large, this is what they said, may be helpful for someone as a reference. Buy one! worth the money, anything to help a newbie. .
The sizing of the thumb picks is referring to the size of the band. The blade is a little bit smaller on the medium because the band is smaller. A large fits my thumb perfectly, I wrapped a string around my thumb at the base of the Nail, and it measures 2 5/8 inches. If you're string is shorter than that I would go with a medium. If you have any questions feel free to call, you can call me any day up to 8:00 PM Eastern time. 865-803-9442.
Overall Rating: 10
'ML-1 banjo neck' 1 hr
'Gold Tone Banjola' 2 hrs
'McKinney 1st Gen Capo' 2 hrs
'glue' 2 hrs