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!
7071 reviews in the archive.
Executive summary: Long wait, nice guy, impeccable service, work done right the first time.
About 4-5 months ago, I called Billy at B&D Guitar repair to ask about having a zero fret put in my Gibson Mastertone. He said he was with a customer, and asked if could call me back when he got done. That showed consideration, which impressed me right away. He soon called back, and spent quite a bit of time talking to me about the zero fret, asking my why I wanted it, and talking about alternatives. He asked me what style of music I play, what strings I use, and so forth. Then he warned me that his waiting list was long ("you're going to hate the wait"), but I already had a good feeling about him and decided to join the waiting list.
Billy has an interesting way of handling the waiting list. He gives you a date on a Sunday in the future and asks you to call him on that day with your work-order number. When he talks with you, you will talk about about the work to be done, and arrange a day to bring in your instrument.
When I brought the banjo to him, Billy examined it, and asked what I wanted done. He asked me to play it for him, which I did, badly (nerves--I'm no public performer). We then talked about the work to be done. I told him I know nothing about banjos, being a beginning player, so I wanted to take advantage of his expertise. I asked him to set it up right. He told me that the action was high by several thousands of an inch at such-and-such fret ("... a thousanths is as good a mile," he said), so I asked him to make it right. He also told me that the head was much too loose. I agreed to having him adjust the head, too. He warned me that heads can tear, and if that happened, I'd be springing for a new head, too. He gave me an estimate for the work, and I left my machine in his hands.
One week later, I went to his shop to pick up the banjo. He told me that something just wasn't right when he was doing the neck reset; he ended up taking the neck off, and found that a screw had stripped the hole where a torsion rod attaches to the neck. He had drilled out the hole, glued in a piece of drumstick, and then put it all back together. He installed the zero-fret, set the neck right, leveled the frets, tightened the drum, and done some work on the bridge.
He put me in a room with the banjo and told me to "beat it up" until I knew whether it was right or not, and then let him know. From the first note I played, it was an amazing transformation. The banjo's tone, which before was kind of muddy, was now crisp and clear. Barr cords that hurt my fingers before were easy, pull-offs were easier, and the instrument was just _pleasant_ to play compared to before. I didn't really know anything was wrong with it until Billy made it right; now I don't know how I could stand to play it before. The transformation was amazing.
I'll be glad to use Billy's services again. The amount of time and attention he put into making sure that the banjo was set up right _for me_, and that I liked the results, made me feel like the only banjo player in the world. I believe he gives the same attention to anyone, whether they are a beginner or a top performer.
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: http://www.mikesbanjomute.com/
Mike's Banjo Mute has excellent fit and finish. It's made out of polished brass and aluminum, and tough nylon screws. It goes on and off easily, although not quite as easily as the Gold Tone mute. It mutes better than the Gold Tone mute, though.
The customer service is great. I had trouble with it slipping off; Mike answered my email quickly with a suggestion to rough up the bottom of the brass plate lengthwise with some 80 grit sandpaper. That took only a minute and worked perfectly.
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: http://www.jtspix.com
The Snark Adapter is one of the best, least expensive gadgets I've bought for my banjo.
It came with no instructions, but it didn't need any. I snapped the Snark onto the adapter in about 20 seconds, and the adapter onto the banjo's bracket hooks in just seconds. It's a solid fit, but also fast and easy to take off and put back on (I tried a few different spots).
Snark tuners come with a warning that the rubber pad can damage the finish; because of that, I was always taking mine off. And forgetting where I put it. With the Snark Adapter, the tuner can stay attached to the drum where it's always handy and can't be misplaced.
When the adapter is hooked on both sides, you can't get at any buttons on the back of the Snark, but the adapter comes off so easily that it doesn't matter.
Overall Rating: 10
'Long Black Veil' 3 hrs
'NAA......' 3 hrs