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Feb 20, 2019 - 10:48:11 AM
446 posts since 8/14/2015

I have a question about Cello Banjos, and I would like to talk to someone about it. However, I don’t know where to ask it.

So here goes: What size/type of picks does one use with them? One person said that he needed to use a 3 mm pick. I know that they have nylon strings; what bearing does that have on picks?

I hope this is the correct place, and I’m looking forward to some cello banjo talk.

Feb 20, 2019 - 10:58:26 AM

282 posts since 2/16/2014

I’ve heard Marcy Marxer play one. I’m sure you could also reach out to her.

Feb 20, 2019 - 1:00:57 PM

5291 posts since 3/6/2006

You should talk to Paul at banjoCrazy.com he is a cello banjo guru

Edited by - Laurence Diehl on 02/20/2019 13:01:30

Feb 20, 2019 - 2:32:36 PM

csacwp

USA

2148 posts since 1/15/2014

Historically they were played with bare finger tips.

Feb 20, 2019 - 5:51:14 PM

446 posts since 8/14/2015

Thanks, Laurence, I downloaded Banjo Crazy. It looks like it’ll be helpful.

Feb 20, 2019 - 6:16:07 PM

446 posts since 8/14/2015

John, the ones that I’ve been watching are using picks. Marcy Marxer is using one too.

But, of course, they could be using metal strings rather than nylons - I dunno.

Feb 20, 2019 - 6:26:55 PM

1580 posts since 9/13/2018

I’ve never had the opportunity to play a cello banjo. Actually I’ve never seen one. Fascinating instrument though!

Bruce

Feb 21, 2019 - 2:37:46 AM
like this

stanger

USA

7165 posts since 9/29/2004

With a 4-string cello banjo, a player's favorite flat pick would work just fine.

I play my 5-string cello either with fingerpicks or bare fingers; it depends on which works the best for a particular song.

I love playing the cello a lot, and I found, at least for me, the clawhammer style doesn't work too well on it. Strumming it produces a jumbled, growly tone that sounds muddled and disagreeable to me. 3-finger style works better, because it gives the low notes more definition and clarity.

They are their own banjo for sure. I have also found that a lot of the tunes that sound good on a regular 5-string can overload a cello with too many notes. So quite a few of the tunes I play have to be simplified, sometimes down to a very simple level of melody with as little rhythm as possible.

They also need to be played quite close to the bridge to keep their tones clear and free of some very harsh-sounding harmonics. I also had to learn how to lighten my normally heavy attack.

Once you learn how to handle one, their deep low tones are very powerful and addictive. There are some old tunes that are so good sounding and fit the instrument so well they become impossible for me to play them on a regular banjo now.

And as a second voice in a banjo duet, they are just amazing. Doubling the tune makes some tunes so good its a wonder, and on others, playing a low harmony is so tasty it can make a person's mouth water.

They aren't a banjo for everyone though. I bought mine from a fine player who could never get the touch they require and it was a big disappointment for him. But it made me happy right from the first, and when I learned how to get the best from it, I was happier still.

I tend to take it out and play it only for a stretch of time, then return to one of my regular banjos, because the cello does have limits a regular banjo doesn't have. By as a refreshing alternative, I find it hard to beat.

And they're a great banjo to take to a jam session! They are at their best in a group.
regards,
stanger

Feb 21, 2019 - 3:54:47 AM

malarz

USA

384 posts since 1/5/2007

Excellent review. Thank you.

Ken

Feb 21, 2019 - 6:53 AM

446 posts since 8/14/2015

Wow! Thanks a lot, Stanger. Your post was very helpful to me, and I was glad to read your positive words about your cello banjo.

I’ve ordered a four string Gold Tone, and I intend to battle Bach’s Cello Suites with it. I also play folk music and Irish tunes.

I play mostly with picks now and was just wondering what size/type to use on nylon strings. My fingernails are too old for clawhammer anymore. I use 2F/IL for that.

I’m really looking forward to receiving my CB. I’m just hoping I can handle it.

.

Feb 21, 2019 - 11:11:13 AM

stanger

USA

7165 posts since 9/29/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Picking Dick

Wow! Thanks a lot, Stanger. Your post was very helpful to me, and I was glad to read your positive words about your cello banjo.

I’ve ordered a four string Gold Tone, and I intend to battle Bach’s Cello Suites with it. I also play folk music and Irish tunes.

I play mostly with picks now and was just wondering what size/type to use on nylon strings. My fingernails are too old for clawhammer anymore. I use 2F/IL for that.

I’m really looking forward to receiving my CB. I’m just hoping I can handle it.

.


The neck on the Gold Star is wide but quite comfortable, and the scale isn't any longer than a regular 5-string or plectrum. I found the banjo sounded best to me when the head was cranked quite tight, tighter than I usually have a regular banjo's head.

The action was just fine when I got it, and I've never needed to tinker with the banjo to keep it good. The bridge is fine and somewhat larger than a regular bridge, but it has bigger slots than normal to accommodate the strings, so I recommend buying a spare. I didn't like the armrest's feel, and took it off. 

Other than a lot of string experimentation, that's all I have done to my cello. It was good when I first played it, and all that stuff was just fine-tuning to my preferences. The hard shell case that came with it is quite good, too, and I've never had any problems with either the banjo or the case.

The Gold Tone strings that came on my banjo were different than the new sets I bought later, and I didn't like either of those string sets as much as a set of high tension Savarez classical guitar strings I used later on.

I used the 3rd string of the set as the banjo 1st string on down to the 6th string as the 4th, and used the 2nd string for the 5th on the banjo.

These strings really worked well for me. The tone of the banjo was sweeter, and the the string tension was just right. 

Eventually after wearing them out, I strung it with another high tension set of classical guitar strings by LaBella, and I like them too, though they make the sound a big less bright. When these strings wear out, I'll probably go back to the Savarez, maybe some extra-high tension strings.

The tuning is quite low, so the strings have to be pretty heavy to keep from being too slack and floppy. The banjo can sound muddy and dull with strings that are too light. The head needs a lot of string tension to drive it, and a tight head clarifies the tone and improves it a lot.

The Gold Tone strings all are silk and steel, if I recall correctly. I haven't looked at them for quite a while now. It was kind of a trick for me to find a set that would feel good and still drive that big 14" head well. I found that without the high tension, nylon strings couldn't drive the head enough. With them, the banjo is deep and thunderous.

regards,

stanger

Feb 21, 2019 - 2:08:48 PM

446 posts since 8/14/2015

Thanks again, Stanger, for even more info. I thought the Gold Tone’s strings were Aquilas or some kinda nylon, but, no problem, I’ll play what they send.

Everyone who has written stuff about their CBs has been very positive about them. I’m looking forward to getting mine. I hope it makes fewer mistakes than the rest of mine do.

Feb 21, 2019 - 4:13:26 PM

599 posts since 6/4/2015

Here's another one intrigued with cello banjo and seeking to design an electric version. 

I'm not sure that cello banjo has nylon strings of standard. I believe that steel is more usual - but please correct me if I'm wrong. Also many thanks to Laurence for his very useful link.

Veerstryngh Thynner

Feb 22, 2019 - 11:01:45 PM

stanger

USA

7165 posts since 9/29/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Picking Dick

Thanks again, Stanger, for even more info. I thought the Gold Tone’s strings were Aquilas or some kinda nylon, but, no problem, I’ll play what they send.

Everyone who has written stuff about their CBs has been very positive about them. I’m looking forward to getting mine. I hope it makes fewer mistakes than the rest of mine do.


I habitually experiment with strings on a new banjo, even though most of the time, I end up using my current favorite strings on them all. I messed with the strings on the cello the most, because I had no idea of what the banjo would sound like with different strings than the ones that came on it.

My preferences are only my own. I'm sure the Gold Tone strings are more likely to meet other folk's preferences, and Gold Tone has tested that.  Mine are sometimes a bit unusual. None of the different strings I tried made me unhappy with the banjo's tone at all. I only disliked a few qualities some of the string sets had that another didn't.

regards,

stanger

Feb 23, 2019 - 5:37:02 PM

446 posts since 8/14/2015

Hi again, Stanger, I don’t like to change strings and usually leave them on ‘til they hafta be changed. If I can recognize the tune that I’m tryin’ to play . . . I leave ‘em on.

I’ve about decided to play classical music on my new CB. I think it would be strange to play clawhammer on it even if I could. And I don’t play much rock/pop on my banjos. I have flutes for that. I like blues, but I don’t play it much. So it’s classical or folk songs.

I’ll be happy with that.

Feb 24, 2019 - 11:20:30 AM

599 posts since 6/4/2015

Dick,

You might also like to ask around on the 'Building & Repair' forum. Many terrific builders there who'll gladly be of help.

Veerstryngh Thynner

Feb 24, 2019 - 12:36:28 PM

446 posts since 8/14/2015

Veerstryngh Thynner, my goodness what kinda name is that?

Anyway, what kinda help did you mean? Help with what?

Feb 27, 2019 - 8:08:29 AM
likes this

446 posts since 8/14/2015

Well, I received my Cello Banjo yesterday, and, WOW! Is it heavy! It’s a bit of a struggle to carry around, especially in it’s case. It was out of tune, so I tuned it up but played only a little bit. I’ll bang away at it more today

Mar 3, 2019 - 5:02:10 AM

599 posts since 6/4/2015

Dick,

As to my handle, it's one I happen to have grown rather fond of, over the years! :-)

Furthermore, my impression is that your opening post was about best pick for cello banjo. Now, I think cello banjo has also been mentioned a couple of times in the 'Building & Repair' forum, if I'm not mistaken, so I figured that you might find some useful advice there. Some awesomely knowledgeable regulars in that section.

Just trying to be helpful.

Veerstryngh Thynner

PS: I have been looking at that Gold Tone cello banjo myself. And at the Gold Tone banjo bass as well. Both exorbitantly expensive, in my eyes, so raking that kind of money together may well take twenty years or so....

Edited by - Veerstryngh Thynner on 03/03/2019 05:20:14

Mar 3, 2019 - 5:29:40 AM

446 posts since 8/14/2015

Well, thanks for your offer of help, Veerstryngh, but the Cello Banjo is brand new.

It’s very large and heavy, but lots of fun to play once one gets usta its size.

I sent for three packs of strings from Gold Tone yesterday, but I still need a strap.

Mar 3, 2019 - 8:40:02 AM

mander

USA

3232 posts since 10/7/2007

Sigh. Another thing to covet. Will it ever end? :-)

Mar 3, 2019 - 10:08:27 AM

446 posts since 8/14/2015

No, mander, it probably never will. I’m 82, and I haven’t been able to get over it yet.

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