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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!

7080 reviews in the archive.

Deering Service

Submitted by DrBillM on 10/4/2018

Overall Comments

Not sure what category this should fit under. I purchased a 1997 Deering GDL from Banjo Warehouse (Geoff Hohwald) in Atlanta in the Spring of 2018. Great place by the way.  Check them out. Played it awhile and it developed a little buzz. Just couldn't solve it. Eventually the magicians at Bernunzio's here in Rochester said something was off. They contacted Deering who said send them a  few pictures. Mike at Deering didn't like what he saw and said send the banjo to them. They determined that the co-rod holes had been drilled off center and  thus didn't line up quite right with the tail piece. The previous owner was a well known recording artist so the banjo clearly worked just fine for a long time. They didn't care because it wasn't right. They took the GDL apart, plugged and then re-drilled it, and fixed the problem on  my 21 year old, at least two owner banjo. Then they cleaned  and polished it, set it up and sent it back to me no charge. That is customer service!

Overall Rating: 10

Deering Service

Submitted by DrBillM on 10/4/2018

Overall Comments

Not sure what category this should fit under. I purchased a 1997 Deering GDL from Banjo Warehouse (Geoff Hohwald) in Atlanta in the Spring of 2018. Great place by the way.  Check them out. Played it awhile and it developed a little buzz. Just couldn't solve it. Eventually the magicians at Bernunzio's here in Rochester said something was off. They contacted Deering who said send them a  few pictures. Mike at Deering didn't like what he saw and said send the banjo to them. They determined that the co-rod holes had been drilled off center and  thus didn't line up quite right with the tail piece. The previous owner was a well known recording artist so the banjo clearly worked just fine for a long time. They didn't care because it wasn't right. They took the GDL apart, plugged and then re-drilled it, and fixed the problem on  my 21 year old, at least two owner banjo. Then they cleaned  and polished it, set it up and sent it back to me no charge. That is customer service!

Overall Rating: 10

Geoff Hohwald

Submitted by DrBillM on 5/6/2018

Overall Comments

I went down to Atlanta for a family thing and decided to try a few banjos. I'll review that elsewhere but wanted to chime in on Geoff as a teacher. As a part of the sale, he gave me two instructional books and spent probably 1/2 hour with an impromptu back-up skills lesson that was clear and concise and very useful. I can't afford to fly down for lessons but will seriously consider one of his camps.

Overall Rating: 10

Geoff Hohwald's BanjoWarehouse

Submitted by DrBillM on 5/6/2018

Overall Comments

I was planning to head down to Atlanta for some family business and contacted Geoff Hohwald at Banjo Warehouse (geoff@cvls.com  404-218-8580 2947 East Point Street East Point Georgia 30344) to see what the fuss was all about. I asked if he was interested in a trade as I had a Deering Maple Blossom with some extra features. He said "Sure bring it down". He said to just call when I got into town and I did so. He then met me at the mothership of all vintage banjos. I was looking for a walnut banjo and sadly the one I had come to see had sold a day or 2 before. He then spent about an hour or more digging through his astonishing inventory of banjos and kept finding another one for me to try. I eventually chose a 1997  Deering GDL. It was a great banjo and with the trade, and after he had "sharpened his pencil a bit", we found a number that we could both live with. Then, Geoff proceeded to give me some of his great teaching materials and a quick lesson on backup skills that was elegant in its simplicity and truly useful. He demonstrated how you could play a pretty straight backup, then add a little augmentation and then some really cool stuff with very minor left-hand work. Whoa-how cool is that? I then got the banjo home and was starting the cleanup process which was really unnecessary and found that the banjo I had purchased had previously belonged to professional player and ground breaker Barry Waldrep. Anyway-I would highly recommend Geoff and Banjo Warehouse in Atlanta and will return there for any future banjo purchase.

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: First Quality Roasted maple

Submitted by DrBillM on 1/29/2017

Where Purchased: On line from First Quality

Overall Comments

Love it.10 $ fast ship and blows some $45 bridges away. Bought one-then went to Crowe spacing then bought one for every banjo. I have alot of extra bridges now!

Overall Rating: 10

Bob Altschuler

Submitted by DrBillM on 1/29/2017

Overall Comments

Great teacher! Bob has worked with me for the 2015 and 2016 Pete Wernick Silver Bay Camps. Wouldn't go if he weren't there. He can teach to any level student and is both patient and supportive. Gives tons of teaching materials. Highly recommend!

Overall Rating: 10

Tony Trischka

Submitted by DrBillM on 1/29/2017

Overall Comments

In some ways, I feel stupid submitting a review for a world-class player and teacher,  but I noticed there were none on the Banjo Hang Out. So here goes. Tony played a small venue solo show on Friday night here in Rochester at Bernunzio's and then did a nearly 4 hour group lesson the following day. There were probably 15 players and Tony. He was engaging, approachable, and as might be expected, extraordinarily knowledgeable. He interspersed awe-inspiring demonstrations with drills, tab and tricks of the trade. Tony wove the history of bluegrass, of the banjo and his history as a player into the lesson so that there was a perfect combination of how to, when to, and why to do as he instructed. He offered his thoughts on things banjo and described and acknowledged the thoughts of many others as interesting counterpoints.  Every question asked by a student was complimented at the outset, answered if possible and then complimented again. He played and taught with joy and energy.   If you can't get excited about playing the banjo after watching and listening to Tony and getting a little dose of his magic, you are probably 3 days dead. He also brought doughnuts! 

Overall Rating: 10

Tone Rings: Custom Classic Wood Tone R

Submitted by DrBillM on 2/24/2016

Where Purchased: On- Line from Builder Harold Green

Overall Comments

Saw the ad on the BHO classifieds. Contacted Mr. Green via email and he explained the process and various options, including different types of woods and tone. I ended up replacing my Deering 2003 Maple Blossom No Hole flat top tone ring with a Grenadillo ring. Total elapsed time from when I sent my rim to him to reassembling the banjo was 10 days and that included a national holiday! The color match is phenomenal. The tone is amazing. I loved the sound of the banjo before I started the process and so I was anxious but I think both ends of the range improved. My banjo feels like an open back. It seems like "black magic" to get that kind of tone from a banjo so light. Including my shipping one way, cost was a little over 100 bucks. I sort of feel guilty like I stole something. Cannot recommend Mr. Green and Custom Classic Banjos highly enough. 

Overall Rating: 10

Banjo hanger: String Swing

Submitted by DrBillM on 10/7/2015

Where Purchased: Janet Davis Music

Overall Comments

Looks good. Works well. Simple install.

Overall Rating: 10

Capos: Planet Waves NS Trio Capo

Submitted by DrBillM on 10/7/2015

Where Purchased: Janet Davis Music

Overall Comments

Works well. Small and doesn't get in the way particularly if you leave the little screw thing on the top side of the neck. Wish it would tighten enough to stick on the peghead. Kind of a loose fit there on an old Goldstar and a more recent Deering. Maybe I'll modify slightly. Practically invisible tucked into the flange holes.

Overall Rating: 9

Zero Glide: Zero Glide

Submitted by DrBillM on 4/22/2015

Where Purchased: Grampa's Music St Augustine

Overall Comments

Had the Zero Glide installed on my Deering Maple Blossom @ Bernunzio's here in Rochester, New York. Great luthier with great prices! Really cleans up the tone. Everything was a little purer. They lowered the action a little at the same time so that kind of confounds the findings but in combination it's an unbelievable improvement. I probably won't to mess with my vintage Goldstar but any contemporary banjo I ever have is going to have a Zero Glide.

Overall Rating: 10

Strings: Straight Up Strings

Submitted by DrBillM on 4/15/2015

Where Purchased: Siminoff website

Overall Comments

Great. Cost 1.5 X the cheapest strings and plays amazing. I'm a sweater and no crud yet after 6 mos.They seem to be thinner than other strings of the same gauge. Play super smooth and it seems like less pickscrape noise. I'm a big fan of Bill Keith strings but these are better.

Overall Rating: 10

Armrests: armrest

Submitted by DrBillM on 8/18/2014

Where Purchased: Little Mountain Music

Overall Comments

I ordered two armrests, both in black walnut to go with my Goldstar G11 and Deering Maple Blossom. They took a little while to get here as they are made to order but they are beautiful. The mounting system is ingenious and easy to install. I was a little worried pulling off two hooks but I realized that there were two hooks in between the anchor hooks and so I really don't think there was much of a risk. I like the way they feel. I saw a reviewer somewhere who mentioned "warmth" and I think that captures it well. My nickel armrests were never really cold but these do hold body heat and feel super smooth and comfortable under your arm. I am still messing with the height above the rim but my first placement seems to have improved my attack and fluidity. If you have an engraved armrest and really like what it adds to the flash factor, don't go here but these armrests look clean and make the banjo seem more symmetrical. I think they highlight the inlay work. Love them.

Overall Rating: 10

Midwest Banjo Camp

Submitted by DrBillM on 6/12/2014

Overall Comments

Just got back from the Midwest Banjo Camp. This was my first camp. Everyone was encouraging and  focused on helping newbies and experienced players alike grow and develop. The variety of class offerings was incredible. I wish some of the courses could have been repeated over the weekend as some choices were hard to make. The quality of instruction was spectacular and exactly what you would expect with world-class players and teachers. Although some classes were fairly large, instructors worked hard to provide individual attention.  If anything, faculty downplayed their own teaching materials, which were available for purchase. A particular compliment goes out to Bill Evans who I saw help a "camper in need". The faculty concerts were amazing and it looked like they were having a blast. The accommodations were great and of course the cost is a bargain. Highly recommended.

Overall Rating: 10

Gold Star: GF-11H Archtop

Submitted by DrBillM on 2/14/2014

Where Purchased: ebay

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I was iffy on an archtop but wanted mahogany. Love it! Plays like a flathead but with a little pop/ attitude. Not as bright as my Maple Blossom- smoother. I haven't begun to tap its potential but I'm struck with how easy it plays. Pull offs are effortless and full. Major changes in tone/sustain with small shifts to and from the bridge. Near the bridge it will poke your eye out and each string seems to say "next!"

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Came to me with older strings that played fine. Swapped them out and the sound rocketed. Snuffy Smith bridge and the original head. Low action and super fast neck. I have smallish hands and nothing is a stretch. May go from light to mediums to see what happens.

Settled on Siminoff Straight Up strings Lights. Great match!
Update: Bill Keith Lights are the way. Great low action. Snugged the head a touch and WOW. Tried a few other bridges and came back to the Snuffy

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Pretty- classic- just enough fancy to keep you smiling.Mahogany is rich and looks right. Finish is great for a 33 year old banjo. All the metal has an aged patina- nothing blinding but a nice shine. The binding/purfling(?) etc is yellowed to a beautiful ivory color. H & F Inlays look like they should- no mother of toilet seat here. Tight and smooth.Added a banjomate wood arm rest. Love that.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Made it this far! No concerns. A banjo that's broken in not broken down.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

No experience. I'll give them a gentleman's 8

Customer Service: 8

Components

Nothing I can see.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Great banjo- A keeper.  Work horse. Plays great and didn't break the bank- I'll take good care of it but I don't have to worry who plays it or where. A banjo people won't be shy about asking to play. I expect it will draw a crowd and I'll enjoy passing it around. What more can you ask for?

Overall Rating: 10

Picks: Pro Pik Fast Picks

Submitted by DrBillM on 2/14/2014

Where Purchased: elderly

Overall Comments

Got the pro-pik angled 3's in brass -  A lil wider blades and a whole lot louder. Wow what a difference. The angle really matches my attack so the blades are flat out square on the strings. Never go back!

Overall Rating: 10

Bridges: DONALD NEW SPILLWAY BANJO BRIDGE

Submitted by DrBillM on 12/5/2013

Where Purchased: Directly from Don

Overall Comments

I really like the bridge. I tried it on my Deering Maple Blossom and my Goldtone CCR 100. I felt like it brought out some nice bass tones on the Deering and took out some of the tinny sound and smoothed out the Goldtone. On the Goldtone in particular, it now rings forever. What Don said about improving cheaper banjos is definitely true. I think that if I  had found these bridges sooner, I might have waited on the Maple Blossom. Well maybe not .Definitely a nice step up from a standard factory bridge. I ordered them in the evening and got an email later that night that they would be going out within a day or two. From start to finish I think the whole process was five days.

Overall Rating: 9

Bridges: Big Foot Bridge

Submitted by DrBillM on 12/5/2013

Where Purchased: Directly from Don

Overall Comments

I rated another Don New bridge prior to this one. Silly me. This one is even better on my Goldtone CCR 100. I almost feel like I need to mute the banjo to not disturb the neighbors. My wife heard a difference from downstairs. It is cleaner and clearer and rings much farther down the neck. It did not do as much for my Deering Maple Blossom. I think what Don said about his bridges really improving cheaper banjos is absolutely true. Blisteringly fast shipping and reasonable prices. You hate to mess with something that works but I might go again.

Overall Rating: 10

Picks: Little Maggie Picks

Submitted by DrBillM on 7/30/2013

Where Purchased: Direct

Overall Comments

I ordered them on Monday and was playing with them on Thursday. I got a set of Little Maggies, a set of ACN and Judy threw in a set of Old National 97's as a bonus. The 97's are mellow and sound great when playing chimes. The ACN are bright and scary loud and the Little Maggies are right in the middle. Super comfortable and as another reviewer noted, the bands fall between the cuticle and the first joint and so they take about 10 seconds to fit.They are solid and feel very stable so you can really go after it if you choose.They come in this cute little tube that will hold at least two and maybe three sets of picks and it packs a lot easier than a film canister. Love em!

Overall Rating: 10

Deering: Maple Blossom

Submitted by DrBillM on 6/8/2013

Where Purchased: EBay! Gambling man!

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I love Maple. Bluegrass is why I bought it and it doesn't disappoint. Rings like a bell even though it's the old tone ring. Bright and there is more potential than I can tap at this point. I'm a newbie but I haven't heard a sound I like better. Plenty loud with lights. Clear all the way up the neck. Didn't know what chimes sounded like till now.
Update: Don't know why but this 10 year old banjo seems to have settled a bit from when I got it and sounds even better. Maybe it had jet lag. Sustain forever when you want it and you can make it pop and stop too! I love the Deering ring but decided to go with a wood ring to reduce weight. Love that too. Nothing about the review changes.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Sent to me with minimal protection. Seller said his girlfriend packed it. Hard case with a mailing label.Currently has a Grover 5/8 bridge but have a Katzeye pegged sitting on my desk. Stutzman's here in Rochester set it up for me with their private label lights. Love it so far. Med-low action. Can't make it buzz.
Update: Grover bridge was good but the Katzeye is amazing. Then I found the First Quality Sullivan Roasted Maple-oh heavens!

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Maple Blossom has cute girl next door good good looks. Nothing flashy but it makes you smile. Maple is rich brown and looks like you could dip in and scoop out some hot fudge. After 10 years the finish is still perfect. Hardware is solid and looks like it will last longer than me. Had to clean it up a little when I first got it but the shine came back and now it sparkles.

Update-I put in a wood tone ring that matches the resonator and rim. Matching arm rest. Love the looks!

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Solid so far. Nothing looks like it is getting tired.

Update-Never had a problem-do not think I ever would

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

N/A. No experience. No warranty since I'm 2nd or more owner but I think Deering will take care of me at a reasonable price and will fix whatever I need. By reputation they are good so I'll toss out an 8
Update: I have since spoken with Deering and done a little business with them. As I suspected, they treated me like a favorite neighbor

Customer Service: 10

Components

Thinking about some RR spikes. May upgrade the bridge from my current pinch hitter one as noted above.

Update: Changed the bridge which was not original anyway. Put in spikes which worked really well and then I got a Shubb 5 string capo which I like even better.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I looked around and shopped hard to find a good deal. Took a chance on Ebay but I'd played a bunch of them and the seller had a good banjo pedigree so I went for it. It will be a while before I can afford/justify another one. Very happy so far. I will update over time.


Final Update 2/16/2018

I really loved this banjo and when it sells somebody will have a great banjo to love.

Overall Rating: 10

Gold Tone: CCRMH

Submitted by DrBillM on 4/25/2013

Where Purchased: Bernunzio's

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

Sound

It is a beginner banjo but according to those who are not beginners, it sounds great. It has tremendous sustain and a lot more pop than you'd expect from a lightweight. I suspect I got a particularly good one as I have played others elsewhere and not been as impressed. Sometimes you just get lucky!

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Bernunzio's set it up wonderfully. I didn't know what I wanted but they did and other than changing the strings to medium lights from mediums I haven't changed a thing.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I am not particularly excited about the blonde finish as I prefer the darker stains but it is starting to grow on me. It could not be more basic. The finish has no flaws that I can see.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Can't say because it just got it about six months ago but I've already worn the frosting off the head. I am a "sweater" and nothing has gotten cruddy yet.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I haven't had a need.

Customer Service: 10

Components

For the money, I can't think of anything.I twist it out of tune for fun and tune it again about once a week just for practice. My chromatic tuner says it's dead on every time before I start though.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I love it. I'm going to keep it. I will probably upgrade at some point but I keep hearing from those who would know to save my money for a major step up as anything less than three or four times the price won't be worth it. OK!

Overall Rating: 10

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