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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!

6864 reviews in the archive.

Pennington: long neck

Submitted by GW in Ohio on 12/29/2009

Where Purchased: Dan Pennington @ Minneapolis

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: 650.00 ($US)

Sound

Great deep, bass-y sounds from the 3 lowest frets. This banjo is specific for playing in the keys of E and F (and Gb) while still having all the notes available in the G-C-D chord shapes.

It sounds fantastic when played Scruggs style, with finger picks.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Brand new Goldtone OT-800 long neck
Classy engraved inlays
5 Star planetary 5th tuner
Gotoh guitar type tuners on the peg head
Maple block rim with a flat rolled brass tone ring
Elite Amber head
Single coordinator rod
All hooks, nuts, shoes, and tension hoop are new StewMac hardware

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This classy long neck with the engraved inlays up and down the neck and the guitar type tuners on the Gold Tone peg head is sure to draw compliments and provoke discussions.

The block rim is blond-ish and nicely finished.
All in all, a handsome looking instrument.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Dan puts his banjos together with all top quality components. The construction is rock solid. The banjo stays in tune no matter how many times I put a capo on or off.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Dan Pennington is great to deal with. He's responsive and helpful and ships banjos promptly.

Customer Service: 9

Components

The no-knot tailpiece, the brackets and most other metal parts are good quality Stew-Mac components. The neck is from a Gold Tone long neck and the block rim was finished by Dan.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I bought this banjo because I've always wanted a long-neck and because I already have a Pennington banjo and was familiar with the quality parts and workmanship Dan puts into his instruments.

Overall Rating: 9

Pennington: Openback with Deering Boston Neck

Submitted by GW in Ohio on 12/28/2009

Where Purchased: Dan Pennington @ Minneapolis

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: 750.00 ($US)

Sound

The sound is best described as bright but muted, and also plunky. I play it mainly Scruggs style, with finger picks. It's perfect for accompanying vocals because it doesn't overwhelm the vocals like a resonator bluegrass banjo.

Played clawhammer style, it delivers good volume, especially on the bass strings.

Either way, clawhammer or finger picking, this banjo holds its own in a jam.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The setup was perfect.....a Deering Boston neck on one of Dan's walnut block rims, with a Rickard White Ladye tone ring. The components are StewMac and they work well on this banjo, as does the Deering tuners.

After I purchased this banjo from Dan, I bought a resonator off a Deering Boston from him. Dan fixed up the resonator so it's held in place with magnets. It was an "experimental" procedure at the time, but it works well. I can pop the resonator on and off easily when I need more or less volume.

The only upgrade I've made to this banjo is to add capo spikes.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Great looking instrument. The walnut block rim is beautifully finished and goes well with the black Deering neck. The Deering Boston resonator also looks nice.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

This is perhaps the strongest feature of this banjo. It's put together seamlessly and is rock solid and very dependable. It's always in tune, and stays in tune, no matter how many times I put a capo on or off.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Dan is very responsive and easy to work with. He ships his instruments promptly and is very accommodating.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The whole thing is put together from quality components, from the tailpiece to the tuners...nothing cheap.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I highly recommend Dan Pennington banjos. He puts each one together with the best components, does meticulous work, and stands behind his work. This is the banjo I pick up over and over, because it's so reliable.

Overall Rating: 10

Gold Tone: White Ladye WL-250

Submitted by GW in Ohio on 5/9/2007

Where Purchased: Clodhoppers Music (Charleston, WVa)

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: 650 ($US)

Sound

I didn't like the sound; it was too muted. I tightened up all the head brackets and also tightened up the truss rod and that brightened up the sound quite a bit, but it's still not quite what I want.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

It was set up well, but I don't like the medium gauge strings that came on it. I hope when I change out to Martin light-gauge bluegrass strings I'll finally get the bright sound I'm looking for.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

The maple rim is beautiful. It has the cloud design on the fingerboard.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Tough, well-built banjo. Tuners work well.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Haven't dealt with them yet.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Other than the strings, everything is good. The banjo came with factory-installed capo spikes and a pickup for playing with an amp.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I'm giving it a 9 on the assumption that I'll eventually get the bright sound I want from it.

Yes, I'd recommend it for clawhammer playing, but not so much for finger picking and don't even try playing bluegrass with fingerpicks on it.

Overall Rating: 9

Deering: Goodtime Special

Submitted by GW in Ohio on 5/7/2007

Where Purchased: The Music Farm (eBay online store)

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: $489 historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I bought this banjo to do some bluegrass picking, but didn't want a heavy, expensive bluegrass banjo (e.g., a Gold Star). The sound is just fine; it's not the exquisite sound you get from a Gold Star or a Gibson, but it's a good bluegrass sound.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

The banjo was set up well, but the sound wasn't quite right. I tightened up the head all around and adjusted the tailpiece and now it sounds a whole lot better. The arm rest that came with it dug into my right arm while I was playing, so I took it off.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

I like the blond wood finish. It's a no-frills, unadorned instrument that suits me.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

This is where Deering banjos shine. They're made with quality materials, and they've very well constructed. It's a sturdy, well put together banjo. The guitar tuners work very well; the instrument stays in tune.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Never had to deal with the Deering folks.

Customer Service: 9

Components

I love the rock maple neck and the maple resonator, The steel tone ring gives it good punch. It's easy to take the resonator off and make adjustments (e.g., to the head tension, or the truss rod).

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

This is a perfect banjo for someone who wants to get into bluegrass but doesn't want to spend a whole lot of money. You get the most value for your money with a Deering, I think. It's also lighter (7 lbs.) than the more expensive bluegrass banjos with their heavy tone rings. That makes a difference when you've been wearing it around your neck for a while.
I expect to get a lot of years of good playing. I would recommend this banjo for anyone who wants a great intermediate bluegrass banjo.
The overall rating of 10 isn't because this is the best banjo you can buy. It's because for what this banjo sets out to be (i.e., a good intermediate banjo), it succeeds really well.

Overall Rating: 10

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