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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!

7134 reviews in the archive.

Jay Moschella: Custom 12" steel-string

Submitted by Paul Draper on 3/22/2014

Where Purchased: From Jay Moschella, maker

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter


This banjo is perfect for Old-Time clawhammer playing. It is sufficiently loud, without being brash or tinny. Just barely striking the strings will be enough make it resonate. It has great sustain, but isn't so complex that the tones become confused. (I use a bit of foam rubber.) For some reason it is easy to make this banjo "cluck", especially when playing over the scoop. The neck is 1 3/8" at the nut, making it a very playable banjo.

Sound Rating: 10


The banjo set-up was spot on. The action is perfect for me and it took very little getting used to. The only change I made was to move the bridge back a tad for perfect intonation up the neck.

Setup Rating: 10


The beauty of this banjo is in its elegant simplicity. The neck is two-piece cherry, with ebony strip. It was constructed in such a way as to give it maximum strength. The pot is 3-ply cherry. The headstock and heel have a veneer of burl maple set on a thin layer of ebony. The fretboard and rim-cap are ebony. Jay put in two graceful pearl enlays, one at the 1st fret, the other over the scoop, which contrast nicely with the ebony fretboard. All aspects of this banjo are high quality. No corners were cut and nothing was left to chance.

Appearance Rating: 10


The hardware definitely seems like it will last. The finish is a beautiful matte, and it appears to be holding up very well. I depend on this banjo as my number 1 fretted banjo for Old-Time.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Jay Moschella treats his customers with respect and honesty. I was in constant communication with him during the building process, and he always responded to my many questions in a timely and complete fashion. He made me feel like I was part of the process. He went to lengths to explain the whys and wherefores of banjo building in general, and the building of this banjo in particular.

Customer Service: 10


All the components are very good. There is nothing weak or cheap on this banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I have known Jay for two years and this is the second banjo he has made for me (the first was a gourd banjo).  In all aspects of both banjos, I've never been disappointed.   I would recommend without reserve a Moschella banjo to any musician serious about playing the banjo.  These banjos deserve a player who is as dedicated as their maker.

Overall Rating: 10

Jay Moschella

Submitted by Paul Draper on 3/13/2014

Overall Comments

I own two banjos made by Jay Moschella, both of which I ordered directly from him.  The first is a fretless gourd banjo that Jay made for me two years ago.  The second is a steel-string 12" open-back banjo which I received from him two weeks ago.  Both banjos are exceedingly fine, both in looks and in sound.  Both banjos seem to be characteristic of Jay's work:  his attention to detail does not permit him to cut corners, and his work is guided by his aesthetic sense as well as his intimate knowledge of banjo construction.  While building both banjos Jay made me feel like I was part of the process by our continuous stream of emails back and forth, and by sending me photo updates as the construction progressed.  During the process I was full of questions, and Jay not only answered them in a very timely fashion but also went to lengths to explain why it was best to proceed in one way rather than in another.  Jay is very generous with his time -- he explained each step of the building process as he worked, and it made me get a glimpse into the complexities of banjo building.  When finished the banjos where carefully packaged up and shipped out.  The banjos were so well packed, it took a good 15 minutes to unwrap them!  In addition to having the banjos all set up and ready to play, Jay also sent along extra bridges for me to experiment with.

I would recommend without reserve a Moschella banjo to anyone who is serious about playing and is concerned about the sound quality and playability of custom built banjos.  Not only is Jay an excellent luthier, he is a good person when it comes to his relationship with his customers.  I would not hesitate to buy another of Jay's banjos -- I could see one of his minstrel banjos in my future...

Overall Rating: 10

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