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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!

7035 reviews in the archive.

Leon Ballard Custom Short Scale 12" Walnut Openback Review

View all reviews for Leon Ballard

Submitted by eleshiacatherine (see all reviews from this person) on 3/22/2017

Where Purchased: Direct from Leon Ballard

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 1515 (GBP) historic exchange rates / currency converter


The 12" walnut pot and neck deliver a warm, rich, full sound. Treble notes are bright and clear and base notes warm and deep. There is plenty of sustain and volume. This banjo sounds fantastic when used for both two-finger thumb-lead and clawhammer tunes.

Sound Rating: 10


The banjo had to be shipped from the UK to Australia so the bridge had been removed and packaged separately inside the case. It was easy to install the bridge as Leon had put marker tape on the head to show the correct placement. The action was perfect and I didn't have to make any changes. It would be very easy to loosen the acorn nut on the tail-piece bracket to raise or lower the neck if needed.

Setup Rating: 10


A truly beautiful banjo. The purple heart finger-board and veneer on the paddle shaped peg-head look stunning. The inlaid maple marker dots on the finger board are a nice contrast and the brass fittings, curvy scoop and moon bridge add to the beauty of the instrument. Leon has added a gold and black decorative band around the bottom of the pot and black tuning knobs which also enhance the appearance.

Appearance Rating: 10


All fittings appear to be excellent quality. The instrument feels strong and well made with quality finishes. I would say it will be a totally dependable banjo - it will be my #1 banjo.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

From my very first email inquiry, Leon has responded immediately and this has continued throughout the build and shipping process. All prospective build details were checked and confirmed with photos which included photos of the build as it progressed. Leon also posted a clip of the banjo in action on his website (it sounded terrific but is even better in the flesh).

Customer Service: 10


Everything about this banjo is quality so it is difficult to select any standout components.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

The thought  of ordering a custom build from someone on the other side of the globe was a bit daunting but Leon's excellent customer service made the whole process very easy .  He has been totally transparent, honest and reliable. I couldn't be happier with the result and would recommend his work without hesitation.

Leon also made a new neck for an old brass-bound 11" maple pot that I sent to the UK.  The new neck is a smaller twin to this one and is equally well made and well set up.  I love the little "new neck" banjo which has a beautiful tone (also featured on his website), but this 12" walnut pot Ballard  banjo, makes me smile every time I look at it.  It is a beautiful instrument  and I am happy to play it for hours at a time.

Overall Rating: 10

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