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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!

6715 reviews in the archive.

Jack Hatfield: Old-Time Gospel Banjo Solos

Submitted by MoTomCat on 3/15/2009

Where Purchased: Amazon.com

Overall Comments

First, even though the title suggests "old-time" rather than Bluegrass, the songs are tabbed for Scruggs style 3-finger picking. Naturally chords are also given, so a guitar or other rhythm instrument would have no problem playing along. I really like this book and the CD that accompanies it. A few of the songs are beginner versions, but most are rated as "beginner/intermediate" with a "intermediate/advanced" up-the-neck break included. Lyrics are also included.

Out of 3 gospel banjo books I purchased at the same time, this is my favorite by far. Much better breaks than the others, but not too fancy for gospel, IMO. Very nice.

There are 31 songs in the book and on the CD, and nearly every one is a popular song I've heard played at jams or by bluegrass gospel groups. If you are wanting to learn several good gospel tunes in Scruggs style, this is a very good book.

Overall Rating: 9

Dennis Caplinger: Gospel Banjo

Submitted by MoTomCat on 3/15/2009

Where Purchased: Amazon.com

Overall Comments

This is a very interesting book. No CD is included, but it's really not needed. There are 15 popular gospel songs tabbed out in Scruggs style banjo, with chords shown. What I really like about this book is that all songs are given in two keys, both played in open G tuning. No capo is used except for spiking the 5th string, and this makes for some very interesting arrangements. By learning the songs in the key of G, then in either C or D, you could cover about any key a singer might prefer by using a capo on the first few frets. I don't like capoing up very far, (and prefer not to use a capo at all), so I really like these arrangements. I think they will help me learn how to play other songs in some different keys without a capo.

The songs are mostly late beginner to early intermediate level IMO. There are no up-the-neck breaks included, and not too many tough licks. But, I don't think most gospel tunes need to be full of fancy licks anyway, so these arrangements suit me fine. The arrangments sound very good and there are some nice licks, so I don't want to give the impression that the songs are overly simple, they aren't. I can see where some of them would work very well as backup to singing without a banjo break too.

The songs in this book can be found in other gospel banjo books, but the arrangements being done in both G and either C or D makes this book a good choice for learning versatility in some popular gospel songs. I am very glad I purchased it and believe most would enjoy it.

Tom

Overall Rating: 8

Alan Munde: Favorite Gospel Tunes for Banjo

Submitted by MoTomCat on 3/15/2009

Where Purchased: Amazon.com

Overall Comments

Book and CD with 17 gospel songs tabbed out for banjo. One song is done in two different keys, but most are in a single key. No lyrics are included.

I hesitated reviewing this book as I have mixed feelings about it and the CD. Some of the songs are fine, sound good and the melody is easy to distinguish, but others are not to my liking. On some songs, they are mainly done with 3-finger chords, maybe 1 or 2 chords per measure, and a few connecting notes between the chords. They sound overly simplified to me and it's a little difficult to hear the melody on a few songs. If the CD had accompaniment where you could hear how those 3-finger chords should sound in the song, it might help. Others sound quite good though, so I wouldn't discount the whole book because of the few songs.

On amazon.com, you can view a few pages of this book before purchase, and I'd recommend doing that. I purchased 3 gospel banjo books at the same time and prefer the other 2 over this one. Alan Munde is a great banjo player, and I expected all of the arrangements to be exceptional, but some of them left me disappointed. Just my opinion.

Tom

Overall Rating: 4

Geoff Hohwald: Banjo Songs

Submitted by MoTomCat on 2/17/2009

Where Purchased: Hennessy Music, Columbia, MO

Overall Comments

I have found this book VERY helpful. There are about 30 popular bluegrass and bluegrass-style songs in it, and I really like it having several great sounding breaks tabbed out to each song. On some songs, I kind of picked and chose parts of multiple breaks and came up with my own. Very nice for something like that.

I don't think it is beginner material, but from late beginner level well up into intermediate and above, I think there is a lot to be gained from it. The accompanying (2) CDs have all the breaks at varying speeds, and are very easy to follow and build speed with. By playing along with the tracks, it can help with timing, emphasis, and the subtle nuances in the music as well. I can see value in it if you are trying to learn by ear too. Listen to the CDs, try to pick it out, and you can check the tab to see how you're doing or if you get stuck on some parts. If you'd like to check out the book, here's a link to it on the CVLS site:

http://www.cvls.com/products/BS.html

In an email, Goeff even pointed out how several measures in several songs could be used as backup for these songs and others. The ONLY thing I would change in this book is to make it larger and put more songs in it! It is that good, IMHO.

Overall Rating: 10

John Boulding

Submitted by MoTomCat on 8/30/2008

Overall Comments

I had John level and refret a banjo neck for me. He completed the work in record time, doing a fantastic job, and even beveled the frets a little different like I had asked him to do. His charges were very reasonable and I am very happy with the work he did. I would not hesitate to have John work on any instrument that required attention.

Overall Rating: 10

John Boulding

Submitted by MoTomCat on 12/8/2007

Overall Comments

I am very impressed with John as a teacher, and with him teaching the lessons online, he is available to just about everyone. He takes the time to find out where the student is in his banjo learning journey, finds out where the student wants to go, and then starts helping them toward their goals. He asked me what I felt my shortcoming were on the banjo, and what I felt I needed to work on first, and then proceeded to help me in the areas I had identified as problem areas for me. So far, I have not seen any "canned" lessons, but rather ideas and concepts that will help me become a better banjo player and reach the goals I have for myself on the banjo. After taking some lessons from teachers who only gave out "canned" lessons, or those who didn't take time to learn where the student was or what the student wanted out of the lessons, I was very pleased that John took an interest in gearing the lessons toward me personally. I gave John a 10 rating, because I believe he deserves it.

Tom

Overall Rating: 10

Washburn: B15 Limited Edition

Submitted by MoTomCat on 11/17/2007

Where Purchased: Music 123

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This is a great beginner banjo for 3-finger (Scruggs) style bluegrass. It has a rich full sound and is very clear up and down the neck. I rated it an 8 because it's not really a professional sound, but it does sound very good for a beginner level, or a little above beginnere level, instrument. It is as loud as most banjos and sounds very good with a decent setup.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

The setup wasn't bad when I received it, but I did have to tweak it a little. The head was a little loose, and the action was a little high. Tightening the head and a very small adjustment to the coordinator rods brought it into very playable condition. Since I was new to the banjo when I purchased this one, I had an experienced player help me set it up. A KatEyz bridge was added, and a couple of tailpieces tried, but went back to the original tailpiece and it sounds fine. When I learned more about the banjo, I replaced the plastic string nut with a bone nut and this helped the sound too. The action is about 3/32" at the 12th fret and it plays great.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

I found no flaws in the fit or finish. The banjo was advertised as having a maple neck, but it looked like mahogany in the pictures and I believe it is mahogany. It has very nice wreath-style inlays in the rosewood fretboard and is a great looking banjo. Since this is a limited edition, only 144 made, there may not be many of them with these inlays, and it does make it a very pretty banjo.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

I see no problem with longevity of this banjo. It is built solid and the fit and finish are great. It is a typical import finish, some sort of polyurethane I believe, over nice stained wood and it seems very rugged. The banjo was on loan to my granddaughter for about 6 months and doesn't appear any worse for the wear after she returned it. I think it could be counted on to last a long time.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I have had no warranty claim or experience so can't rate this.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Even though the tone ring is an imported "bell brass" ring, it has a very good sound. When I purchased this as a beginner, I wasn't aware the bracket shoes are not considered the norm for better bluegrass banjos, but they don't seem to detract from the sound. No parts seem weak or cheap at all, except for the generic bridge that was on it. I was really impressed with the neck as compared to other Washburns I have seen and played. The neck is as smooth and playable as any I've seen, even high-dollar banjos, and has a great feel to it. The banjo came with Washburn's BC-82 case in a beige color, looks very nice.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Yes, I would recommend this banjo to anyone who wants to purchase in the ~$500 or less range. As I said, the neck is very playable and the banjo has a very good tone. If it was stolen, I doubt I could find another one to buy since it's a limited edtion, but I would consider replacing it if I could find one. In comparing it to some others:
Tyler Mountain - this banjo sounds every bit as good as the Tyler Mountain TM5-80 model;
Gibson RB-250 - after the Gibson was set up right, the Washburn doesn't sound quite as good, but that is to be expected;
Recording King RK-80 - The Washburn is not in the same class of the RK-80, so I would not expect it to sound as good. It is nearly as loud though, and does have a good sound.
I think the better Washburn banjos, B-15 and up, sometimes get a bad rap from those who don't like imports, but this banjo is solid and makes a great banjo for learning and well into intermediate playing.

Overall Rating: 8

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