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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!

6773 reviews in the archive.

Software: Band In A Box

Submitted by kmwaters on 1/25/2014

Where Purchased:

Overall Comments

Phenomenal program to have a virtual band playing right along with you. Plethora of tools to select instruments, playing style, tempo, repeats - you name it.

Comes with a comprehensive manual, which can be overwhelming with a powerful program like this. But PG Music is there toll free and they are extremely responsive and helpful. They will also email you anything you need including things you may have purchased and misplaced. Great program and great company.

Overall Rating: 10

Capos: Ultimate Banjo Capo

Submitted by kmwaters on 1/8/2014

Where Purchased: Elderly Instruments

Overall Comments

Gotta say this little jewel is awesome - all brass hand made from Dave Elliott out there in OR. Works great and looks great. Easy on and off, and stays in place. Sound is excellent.

WARNING:  Better keep an eye on availability however. Elliott Capos website has no capo under about 130 bucks and this little ultimate is not on the site. Just these pricey chrome jobs. So Elderly Instruments and maybe other retailers have the last of the dying breed. I have a little G7 capo that I bought a few years back and now G7 is not showing that on their website either. Capo conspiracy.

Overall Rating: 10

Straps: Handmade Straps

Submitted by kmwaters on 12/13/2013

Where Purchased: Handmade Straps

Overall Comments

Outstanding workmanship and rapid service. These folks are terrific. I spent a few extra bucks to get one that is  2.5 inches wide. The leather straps that go to the banjo are excellent, the stitching is first class, and the Chicago screws are high quality silver in color. I would recomment this strap to anyone who is looking for an alternative to leather. Plenty of colors and patterns to choosed from too. I think it is simply handmadestraps.com.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Steve Davis Compensated Beech Bridge

Submitted by kmwaters on 11/19/2013

Where Purchased: Steve Davis

Overall Comments

Well I had used Steve's maple compensated for quite some time, and then heard he started making the same bridge out of beech wood. I bought one and found it to be outstanding. Not terrible different but a little brighter to my ears than the maple.  I put it on a Deering Tenbrooks Legacy (mahogany neck) with a Kruger ring. Head tension at A. The banjo came alive. Mahogany of course by nature wants to sound somewhat mellow. Steve made the bridge in a .656 with Crowe spacing. Not sure but I think the legacy was about 3/4 and seemed like it was up around the ceiling. Even with the .656 the 2 pennies are comfortably sliding under the first string at fret 12. I highly recommend this bridge to anyone who wants good compensation and maybe a little brighter sound from their banjo. 

Overall Rating: 10

Homespun Video: Pete Wernick Putting It All Into Practice

Submitted by kmwaters on 11/2/2013

Where Purchased: Homespun or drbanjo.com

Overall Comments

Pete Wernick's DVD entitled "Putting It All Into Practice" is a must for your instructional library if you are an intermediate or beginner/intermediate and want to grow and climb the learning curve.  This DVD opens up your mind and shows you various shapes with the left hand that moves all over the neck, changing shapes, transitioning to other chords, and establishing chord progressions.  And all the while he makes use of different roll and picking patterns with the right to make it even more imaginative.  He uses a few different songs to illustrate these new maneuvers and lays it out in a very easy to understand manner.  I like Pete's delivery as it is very thorough and seems to follow an excellent and coherent order. The split screen is clear and close up with great clarity for viewing both right and left hand at the same time. There is no jumping around from topic to topic which I have found from other instructors from time to time. I have to give Pete high marks for this one, as I have all of his DVD's.  But I think this could be his best for (me at least).

Overall Rating: 10

Cases (Hard, Flight): Price Case

Submitted by kmwaters on 10/19/2013

Where Purchased: Bill Adams BHO

Overall Comments

Excellent product excellent transaction with Bill.  Very happy all the way around.

Overall Rating: 10

Eddie Collins: Blazing Backups For Bluegrass Banjo

Submitted by kmwaters on 9/23/2013

Where Purchased: EddieCollins.biz

Overall Comments

Eddie provides backup tablature for 10 classic bluegrass songs along with tips on picking and fingering to play these at the optimum level.  CD included.  And priced very reasonably.  I don't think he even wants extra money for postage!!  Great job Eddie.  I like this one as much as the Smokin' Licks.  Both great learning tools.

Overall Rating: 10

Hardware: Washers

Submitted by kmwaters on 8/28/2013

Where Purchased: Banjo.com

Overall Comments

John sells these little white teflon washers for tuners. They are awesome and won't dry out like rubber or leather.

Overall Rating: 10

Metronomes: Planet Waves CTM Chordmaster

Submitted by kmwaters on 8/27/2013

Where Purchased: Online

Overall Comments

The chords are actually guitar chords graphics, but the tuner and metronome work great for banjo too. Backlight display, easy to use, and seems to be phasing out of the Planet Waves line. I found it deep discounted online. Just wish I had sound choices for the metronome which is a bit chirpy but that is getting picky.

Overall Rating: 8

Eddie Collins: Smokin' Bluegrass Banjo Licks

Submitted by kmwaters on 7/23/2013

Where Purchased: EddieCollins.biz

Overall Comments

Great book by Eddie with about 400 licks, good quality tab printouts, and a CD with Eddie himself playing the licks for you as you go. While no doubt every lick is not going to be brand new to you, this compilation could be the most complete anywhere. Also covers about 12 different chord progressions, a few songs, and a lot more. Excellent book, Eddie. Glad I bought it.

Overall Rating: 10

Arrandem Music Co.: Advanced Earl

Submitted by kmwaters on 7/23/2013

Where Purchased: Murphymethod.com

Overall Comments

Murphy's lessons on classic Scruggs tunes are excellent. There is this one entitled Advanced Earl, and then she added "More Advanced Earl" with a few more of Earl's best known favorites. I give her high marks for the job she did here, just as she does on all her instructional material. Nice work, Murphy.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Davis Beech Bridge

Submitted by kmwaters on 7/22/2013

Where Purchased: Steve Davis

Overall Comments

Steve's new beech bridge is an absolute winner. I recorded a few measures with my Snowball mic and Audacity so I could play them a number of times for an objective comparison. Three bridges were tested. They are all high end bridges - in the $35-$40 range I believe. While all 3 performed rather well, Steve's beech bridge scored the highest in crispness, clarity, and brightness. Must have something to do with that beech wood he landed not long ago. Great work Steve. This bridge rocks!!

Overall Rating: 10

Frank Eastes (Banjoy): The Banjo Book & Fingerboard Studies

Submitted by kmwaters on 7/12/2013

Where Purchased: Frank Eastes Website

Overall Comments

Frank is known here on BHO as Banjoy. I recently learned of Frank's website, and ended up acquiring his Banjo Book and accompanying book called Fingerboard Studies For The 5 String. Good stuff. Instructional material on chords and how to create them, theory, learning the fretboard, etc. is basically written with the same purpose. That purpose is to share knowledge on the banjo and how theory and chords relate to the instrument, and how the player implements the principles of theory as they develop their banjo skills. Certain publications impart this information in a manner that effectively transfers it to our brain. We understand the author. But not for everyone. Then another publication, covering the identical topic, will express things a little differently, and be more effective for a different reader or player.

Frank's treatment of theory chords fingerings and scales is not mired in so much detail as to confuse. But is very thorough at the same time. After you learn what is in Frank's books, you will be not only more knowledgeable, but more prepared to climb the learning curve and become a better banjoist.

Take a look at http://frankeastes.com/lessons.cfm. Enjoy. Well worth the modest cost associated with these books.

Overall Rating: 10

Marty Godbey: Crowe On The Banjo

Submitted by kmwaters on 4/16/2013

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

Great book by the late Marty Godbey who traveled far and wide to see all the great bluegrass of their days. Detailed insights into the life of J.D. Crowe, and the chronology of events including the various musicians and groups with which J.D. played over the years. Excellent.

Overall Rating: 10

Roger H. Siminoff: How to Set Up the Best Sounding Banjo

Submitted by kmwaters on 4/12/2013

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

Incredible book. More than you ever need to know, but great insights into this remarkable man in addition to a wealth of knowledge not just on setup but also how the banjo makes its sound, how picking a string is converted into sound waves, etc. It's a banjo course unto itself. I give it three thumbs up even though I only have two.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Big Foot Bridge

Submitted by kmwaters on 3/12/2013

Where Purchased: Don New

Overall Comments

I have to say it is one awesome bridge. I have a collection of bridges which are all respected brands from respected builders. My preference has been something that delivers the brightness that my banjo was made for - or should I say, not diminish the banjo's brightness.

But the Bigfoot delivers a very unique sound to my ears. It is a sweetness, a mellowness, and yet a fullness that does not sacrifice any of the sound qualities your banjo was built to deliver. Hard to put into words. But I have tried bridges before that claimed to be "sweet" or "mellow", and I felt like I sacrificed some sound quality. Muffled may be the best word I could use to describe it. But Don's Bigfoot does not create a sense of muffled to me, just sweet, full, and mellow.

Overall Rating: 10

Jack Baker

Submitted by kmwaters on 2/13/2013

Overall Comments

I don't have the luxury of being geographically close to Jack, but if I were I don't think I would go anywhere else. This man is not only a musician and fine author of tablature, but a true dedicated professional. Fortunately I have become familiar with Jack through email communication and the study of his tabs in BHO. The real deal, as they say. I cannot imagine failing to climb the learning curve under his tutelage. And I know what treading water feels like even in the presence of so-called professional instruction.

Overall Rating: 10

Kazoos: Heartland Hummer

Submitted by kmwaters on 1/8/2013

Where Purchased: Elderly Instruments

Overall Comments

This finely crafted wooden kazoo is great. Good sound and so well made, with the ability to slide open the top and insert a new membrane if needed.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Bridge

Submitted by kmwaters on 9/17/2012

Where Purchased: BHO classifieds

Overall Comments

Steve Davis repaired a bridge that I butchered with some needle files and just want to let you all know that he does this work in addition to making new bridges. Outstanding craftsman. Don't throw that good bridge away just because it has a little damage. Contact Steve and go from there. My Snuffy is healthy again!!!

Overall Rating: 10

elderly Instruments

Submitted by kmwaters on 7/9/2012

Overall Comments

Minor error in filling my order. I emailed them from the website on a Sunday. By 9 Monday morning I had a reply from them that the correction was being made and the product was going out that day. These folks are on top of it. I give them a "10" in an age where responsiveness and good customer service is becoming endangered.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Steve Davis Continuous Foot Bridge

Submitted by kmwaters on 7/3/2012

Where Purchased: Steve Davis

Overall Comments

This newly designed bridge by Steve is outstanding. I am getting more clarity with some added sustain as well from this interesting bridge. And my banjo even seems easier to tune. Thanks to Steve for his continued perseverence in developing and making great bridges. I give this bridge a ten.

Overall Rating: 10

Ome: Juggernaut

Submitted by kmwaters on 6/30/2012

Where Purchased: Private Owner

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Excellent sound

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup good, action good, no changes.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Overall VG condition

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

All good finishes

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Silverspun Tone Ring, Rosewood neck

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Anyone shopping for a good bluegrass banjo must inlclude the Ome Juggernaut as a candidate. This banjo is everything one would want and then some. Ome is a great banjo maker.

Overall Rating: 10

Russell Sawler: J.D. Crowe Classic Solos

Submitted by kmwaters on 2/3/2012

Where Purchased: bluegrassoutlet.com

Overall Comments

Russel has written great tabs for both volumes of "The Bluegrass Album" recorded by Crowe back around the 80's with some of the all time great musicians. Those albums were some of the best and Russll has captured them in tab beautifully. A great value, and can be bought at the website listed above.

Overall Rating: 10

Band In A Box

Submitted by kmwaters on 2/3/2012

Overall Comments

BIAB is really good. I spent about 100 thru Janet Davis for the 2011 software that came with the so-called bluegrass pak. Then I spend a little more to get additional bluegrass tracks - they call them 11 and 33 I think. Anyhow, the people at PG Music are very supportive through their tech support toll free line, and the book with the software is very detailed. Newer software versions may vary slightly from the book however, which is where PG comes into play with support over the phone. It's a somewhat complicated program to get started but the fundamentals of using it can be quickly learned. PG website will also have updates for whatever version you buy so pay attention or ask them about that if you buy it. The additional tracks for bluegrass were worth the money. They are large downloads so be patient and get on high speed internet connection for these if you buy.

Great feedback on how you sound with a little accompaniment, and I find it to be a glorified metronome helping me with timing and consistency of speed throughout a song. It takes a little experimenting with each song to determine which "style" you want for a particular song, but you'll catch on to that as you learn BIAB. Scott Vestal played the banjo backup tracks in the added tracks for bluegrass and is excellent. I think that was tracks 33. I would buy it again. No buyer remorse. Not sure about promotional pricing anywhere but shopping around is always advisable, right? You may not do any better than Janet Davis, while her shipping rates continue to annoy me. Example: Let's say you buy three quality bridges and get up around $100. Their shipping rates are based solely on dollars so they would want around $15 or something like that. You know how bridges are mailed in their little plastic cases - 3 in a padded envelope probably costs them around $1.50 to get it out the door. Rip. But they are a good company other than that IMO. I like Elderly Instruments policy of free shipping for orders over $49. But I don't know if they sell BIAB. Check it out.

Overall Rating: 9

Jack Hatfield: Banjo Method (Books 1,2,3,4)

Submitted by kmwaters on 10/28/2011

Where Purchased: Hatfield Music

Overall Comments

Jack has put together the most comprehensive book on banjo backup that I know of. Vamping, fill in licks, rolls for backup, music theory, and more. Plus two play along CD's. I think I spent $40 with shipping included, making it one of the best values in the world of banjo. Over 200 pages of excellent material. Congratulations to Jack on this publication which I am sure will receive many accolades soon. Outstanding work, Jack.

Overall Rating: 10

Acoustic Vibes Music

Submitted by kmwaters on 9/28/2011

Overall Comments

Great store great people. If you are looking for a quality guitar or banjo, don't make a decision until you talk to these folks or visit live if you are in the Phoenix area. No junk here - just good stuff and professional attitude and treatment.

Overall Rating: 10

Tailpieces: Fults Blue Ridge Tailpiece

Submitted by kmwaters on 7/29/2011

Where Purchased: Fults Online

Overall Comments

Terrific engineering and manufacturing by Mr. Fults. Top shelf all the way. Pics online are not current however. Mine is a little different but outstanding and probably just an improved version by Bob. Those brass colored pieces are gone. I have Blue Ridge with XYZ mount and am glad I spent the money. XYZ lets you tweak a little more. I give it a 10+.

Overall Rating: 10

Gibson: Earl Scruggs Standard

Submitted by kmwaters on 7/24/2011

Where Purchased: Bizarre Guitar Phoenix

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: 2100 ($US)

Sound

Loud and Bright

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Changed bridge to Katz Eye and tailpiece to Fults Blue Ridge with xyz mount.

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

Hearts and Flowers inlays and maple all the way around - pretty.

Appearance Rating: not rated

Reliability

Everything is great - normal oxidation on the armrest of course starting to show a little.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Gibson has been unresponsive to my contacts - email and regular snail mail both. Don't understad, though I am not concerned. I have the warranty from the store and the store receipt if I ever need it.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

I felt the Presto tailpiece and the Gibson bridge did not do the banjo justice. Now with the Fults tailpiece and Katz Eye bridge it's top shelf.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

Price included trading in a Mastertone mahogany from around 1975. I love this banjo. Using G7 capo with a Reagan on the 5th string. Just don't want to drive spikes into my precious thing!! Very happy with Reagan 5th string capo, G7 works well, and Mike's banjo mute when needed. Also, the Katz Eye Prowler is a step up from the oem bridge.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: Kateyz

Submitted by kmwaters on 6/29/2011

Where Purchased: Janet Davis Music

Overall Comments

I put a Kateyz Prowler on my Gibson Scruggs and got better sound than the original equipment - just a generic Gibson lightweight that actually had a slant toward the frets. Just didn't deliver the way the Kateyz does.

Overall Rating: 10

Tailpieces: Fults Blue Ridge (Regular)

Submitted by kmwaters on 4/28/2011

Where Purchased: Fults

Overall Comments

The Blue Ridge with XYZ has been a great addition to my Scruggs Standard by Gibson. Bob was a great help in seeing that I did it right.

Overall Rating: 10

Mutes: Mike's Banjo Mute

Submitted by kmwaters on 4/12/2011

Where Purchased: http://www.mikesbanjomute.com/

Overall Comments

Masterful engineering and workmanship. It is a thing of beauty and works like a charm. Don't waste money on a cheap one. You will never regret getting one of Mike's mutes.

Overall Rating: 10

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