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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!

7071 reviews in the archive.

Cases (Hard, Flight): Colorado Case Cover

Submitted by RTWhite on 2/18/2015

Where Purchased: Online

Overall Comments

I've had two Colorado Case Company case covers made.  The first case cover was a nice dark green cover that was fitted for my Superior hard case (with my Hatfield banjo).

After I got a new Hoffee carbon fiber case, I contacted Colorado Case Company to have another case cover made. I learned from my first order and had a number of new things added. The first case cover was great, but the second one was even better.

I had to trace out the outline for my first cover, but they had the template for my Hoffee.

I had a pocket, two small pockets, an ID cover, reflective tape, backpack straps and my name on it. 

They worked with me to have my order customized.

The only downside was they were a little backup with orders, but when you see the results you'll understand why so many people are having Colorado case covers made.

 

Overall Rating: 10

Picks: Blue Chip Thumb Pick

Submitted by RTWhite on 10/7/2014

Where Purchased: Online

Overall Comments

When I first got my banjo I did some research into finger and thumb picks. I purchased a large Blue Chip thump pick and loved it.  It was comfortable and felt solid on my thumb. Any short-coming had more to do with my thumb and playing and not the pick.

I switched to the J,D, Crowe model recently, with the hope that the shorter pick with help me avoid "mis-picking" or striking the wrong strings.  I don't do it often, but I do it enough to frustrate me, especially because I understand it has more to do with my technique than the tools I'm using.

Still, I've found that while I liked the regular Blue Chip thumb pick, I like the new J.D. Crowe model even more.  It's given me a little more room to work with.

I bought my first Blue Chip thumb pick online, got a second "back up" from their booth at the 2014 Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, and got my latest "J.D." model online.  They're great folks to work with.  My order arrived in no time.  At the booth they threw in a pick pouch for the flat picks I got for my mom and girlfriend.

Overall Rating: 10

Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival

Submitted by RTWhite on 10/7/2014

Overall Comments

The 2014 Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival was my first music festival.

I bought the early bird full festival/camping ticket but, not being a camper, I found a place to stay down the street. As I got to the festival the first night (open only to campers) I was intimidated.  It was bigger than I had expected. It had rained the day before so it was a little soggy too.

The weather was PERFECT.  I know they can't control the weather, but I really lucked out with the mild temps, sunshine and breeze (and lack of rain).

In no time, I found that the folks were just great. The booths, the concessions, the artists and volunteers all made me want to come back again in 2015.

The first day I tried to plan my entire day out, see every band, attend every banjo event, etc.  I quickly learned how exhausting lugging around a 12 lb banjo up and down the hill would be.  Once I relaxed and say the bands I really wanted to see, attended the banjo/slow picking events I really wanted to attend.... I was able to settle in, spend my funny money and enjoy it all.

The volunteers and workers and Grey Fox staff were top-notch.  They answered my questions and gave advice.

The booths and food was great.  I could get a deli sandwich or crepe or Thai.  I could hydrate with water or grab a Gatorade or a Diet Coke.

The artists were wonderful too. I had not expected them to be so "down to earth" but I still keep in touch with a few of the pro banjo players. I really liked the bands, and the variety gave me a taste of main-stream bluegrass and some of the fringe.

I attended the banjo workshops and the slow jams (I'm a new picker) and people were so inviting and accepting over all different skill levels.

 

 

There are only TWO things I would do to improve (in my mind) Grey Fox.  First, I would start the parking in the Car Corral at the bottom of the hill instead of the top.  But having everyone drive to the top of the hill, they're needlessly messing up the rest of the field (which makes it hard for sports cards on slippery/muddy grass). It also punished the early birds who have to walk up and down the hill (but no ticks on me!).  Maybe there's a reason they do it they way they do, but I think starting the parking at the base of the hill will preserve the grass a little longer.

 

Second.... I should have won that Grey Fox custom Stelling banjo!!!!  OK.... maybe it's just a dream, but I had a really good feeling I was going to win it!

Overall Rating: 10

Ira Gitlin

Submitted by RTWhite on 5/23/2014

Overall Comments

I considered starting the banjo in late 2013 (after some research, I decided the five-string bluegrass style is what I was looking for). While my Hatfield was being built I tried to get some exposure to the bluegrass world in the Washington, D.C., area. As the completion date of my banjo neared I realized I needed to find a teacher. A quick google search yielded "Ira Gitlin" but, not trusting everything I find on the internet, I continued to search; I still had some time to make a decision.

Event after event, I would corner banjo players in D.C. and ask them if they had any recommendations for instructors, and each time I was directed to Ira Gitlin.

Having done my due diligence, I contacted Ira and set up my first lesson, a Tuesday following the Friday I picked up my banjo from Arthur Hatfield.

To say I was new to the banjo was an understatement. I had read Bill Evans' "Banjo for Dummies" and Earl Scruggs book. I watched Steve Martin's "Bring Me the Banjo." I had practiced roll patterns on my Jack Hatfield banjo board for months. And, finally, I had frequented the Banjo Hangout. I did my research, but putting pick to string, well, that would be a new sensation.

And that's where Ira came in. I knew I was bad, but Ira, being the great teacher he is, focused on the things I did right.  He would highlight positive instinctive actions I took, without ignoring what I did wrong. He asked me what I wanted out of the banjo. Did I want to play alone or with people? With people!  Well, great, Ira would teach me how to read the actions of other members of a band, and how to fit in, as a banjo player. Oh yeah, and Ira can really play (he's also great on guitar). You can tell he enjoys what he does.

But sometimes playing isn't enough.  Ira's also very smart. He knows a lot about a lot, and not in the annoying "I'm a know it all" way, but the kind of knowledge you want to sit down in pick (pun intended) someone's brain for. I think Ira has a mathematical approach to many things he does (that's just through my observation) so he gets past the magic of the banjo and hits the science of it. Being new to the bluegrass world, I had and still have a lot to learn, but Ira knows so much history and theory behind the music that I learn as much about the culture and past as I do about actually playing. I personally think that understanding is helpful when you really take on the instrument.  Sure it's metal and wood and bone.... but banjos also have a history, and they're part of a story.

So as folks did for me, if you're in the D.C. area and looking for a banjo instructor for any level of experience, I 100% recommend Ira Gitlin. I started my weekly lessons in February and I've gone once a week since.

Overall Rating: 10

Hatfield: Celebrity

Submitted by RTWhite on 2/10/2014

Where Purchased: Through Arthur Hatfield

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: $3375 ($US)

Sound

I absolutely love the sound of this banjo. it's perfect, clean and clear.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Not only was the set up perfect, but when I arrived to pick it up, Arthur took the time to go over it with me. It feels great, nice weight to it too. It's a beatufil instrument.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

If I could marry it, I would (but I can't, so I won't). The curly maple, the inlay, the rosewood fingerboard, the nickle plating... it's so pretty I don't want to get my finger prints on it... but I will.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This is great hardware. Arthur is the best and he uses the best. Two thumbs up.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have no idea how 10 is even appropriate for service here. Simply put, Arthur and Bev's service is a breath of fresh air. I flew two hours from D.C. to Nashville, and made the 1.5 hour drive up to pick up my banjo. I spent 30 minutes with Arthur going over the parts, having him pick a little, trying it out myself, etc. That trip is something I'll always remember. Arthur and Bev were so responsive long before I got there. Arthur's just great to talk to over the phone, but it was really great meeting him and having some time to talk. If you get a Hatfield banjo, make the effort to go down and talk to them, you won't regret it.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Arthur uses some of the best part and his workmenship is amazing.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

From the very first day I contacted Arthur, it has been an amazing process.  His parts and his workmenship speak for themselves.  I have never seen a more responsive and pleasant person, providing a service to me (by making me a banjo).  Arthur makes you feel like you're his number one customer, and he treats you like you are.  I called with questions now and then, and he was always willing to to take as much time as I needed.  Arthur had great advice and knew everything I had a question about.

The Hatfields take you back in time when you actually appreciated paying someone to do something very well.  The time and effort Arthur takes bleeds from the wood of his banjos.  You can't miss it.  A Hatfield banjo is a functioning work of art.  I asked Arthur to sign mine, and when I picked it up, I asking him to have the first go before I started picking.

Simply said, I love this banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Banjo mutes: Mike's Banjo Mute

Submitted by RTWhite on 2/10/2014

Where Purchased: Online

Overall Comments

I am just starting out on the banjo. 

When I picked up my Hatfield banjo, I stayed with family friends and starting picking that night and the next morning.  Unfortunately I didn't realize much of the house could hear my "work". As I told my dad I was going to go pick he said I might want to use my Mike's Banjo Mute.

I live in an apartment with relatively thin walls.  Out of consideration for my neighbors, I purchased my Mike's Banjo Mute well before my banjo was ready.  

Working with Mike to ensure I ordered the right mute was a joy.  Mike is responsive and gives great advice.

His mutes are well constructed, feel great, are easy to attach in no time, and are really just great products.

When I returned home the following week, I started to pick, but it was a little late in the night.  I attached the mute, and WOW, it really cute down the noise.  I mean, this thing is easy to use and REALLY works. It was worth the money and I know my neighbors will appreciate it (for awhile).  But the nice thing is, the mute doesn't really kill the sound of the banjo, just the noise level.

 

I highly recommend Mike's Banjo Mute to anyone.  It was money well spent and I know it will continue to give me options when playing in close quarters..

Overall Rating: 10

Other: Jack Hatfield Banjo Board

Submitted by RTWhite on 1/7/2014

Where Purchased: Online

Overall Comments

I'm new to the banjo picking world, and while my banjo was being built, wanted to practice some, anything! I found some recommendations for Jack Hatfield's banjo boards, and bought a cedar deluxe model. In only a few days the banjo board arrived and I started picking. The banjo board was certainly worth what I paid.

The board is set up like the head of a banjo but makes little to know sound.  While picking will feel like a banjo, you won't hear what the roll patterns sound like.

That's something my fellow train riders will appreciate one our way to work everyday.

Jack Hatfield's banjo board are pretty hardy too. Mine was the softer of the two wood options, but it's really holding up to the rough morning-commute treatment it gets.

Even after my banjo is ready, the banjo board will provide  great tool to practice roll patterns in settings when bringing a banjo or creating some of that sweet banjo noise isn't an option.

 

Overall Rating: 10

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