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Buying advice for $1600ish budget.

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Jun 12, 2019 - 8:38:18 PM
5 posts since 3/6/2010

Hello everyone. I’m looking for some advice. I’ve been learning clawhammer over the last year but my banjo is not living up to the cause. It’s a $150 Lida that I purchased back in 2010. I’ve done everything I can to make it playable and have decided it’s time for a new banjo. I have roughly $1600 to spend and could spend about $500 more if need be. Given the number of awesome banjos under $1000 on the classifieds I was wandering if it would be better to buy one banjo near the top of my budget or to buy two for less. I feel that I neglect the songs in different tunings because I don’t like changing tuning constantly. Any advice would be awesome because I’m about to pull the trigger soon!

Also, I’ve been lurking on here since 2010 and I’m pretty sure this is my first post.

Jun 12, 2019 - 9:06:42 PM
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plars

USA

187 posts since 11/26/2007

I would say you are best off buying the nicest banjo you can inside your budget. I have gone through many but never regretted the money spent on a quality one. If you go with two ‘cheaper’ banjos, you’ll be in a position where you are looking to upgrade again sooner than later. Retuning is good for you!

Jun 12, 2019 - 9:11:54 PM

80 posts since 11/27/2017

I think this is a great option for your budget:

banjohangout.org/classified/75336

I have the identical basic instrument (mine is more "19th-ct" kitted out, with violin-style Peghead tuners and Nylgut strings), and I love it. The neck is gorgeous, and the whole black look is classy and understated. With a skin head and steel strings, the one for sale should sound very old-timey.

Jun 12, 2019 - 9:18:25 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22107 posts since 6/25/2005

Agree with plars.... In 1969, having a real job and having saved a bit, I parted with a couple of instrument I didn’t want and a chunk of cash to purchase a $450 banjo. That’s the equivalent of $3,073 today. It was a stretch, but I loved the banjo. Today, in spite of having several top flight banjos, I have found none I like as well. Get a banjo you love, and spend as best you can on it. If nothing strikes you, get a good used one that wii hold value, and wait for the one that ends all questions.  In other words, I would not stretch my budget for even a fine banjo if that banjo did not sound like the best you’ve heard and/or played. 

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 06/12/2019 21:33:11

Jun 12, 2019 - 10:59:53 PM

Mooooo

USA

7038 posts since 8/20/2016

Buy the best banjo that you can afford that you have played yourself. Go out and play as many as possible. You are the only one who knows what feels good and sounds good to you. When you play songs, play in groups according to tuning so you don't have to tune every song, only when you exhaust all the songs you want to play in one tuning...then go on to another tuning. Practice getting in tune faster.

Jun 13, 2019 - 1:21:34 AM
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3153 posts since 7/12/2006

if killer sound is what you want,get one with a good tone ring/ pot assembly. Dont worry about fancy cosmetics ,fancy inlays on the neck etc. a plain neck with dot inlays will do until you can afford to have a fancier neck built for it at some other time.

Jun 13, 2019 - 2:57:12 AM

13 posts since 4/8/2019

quote:
Originally posted by plars

I would say you are best off buying the nicest banjo you can inside your budget. I have gone through many but never regretted the money spent on a quality one. If you go with two ‘cheaper’ banjos, you’ll be in a position where you are looking to upgrade again sooner than later. Retuning is good for you!


"Retuning is good for you!"

I remember my grandmother telling me to "eat your greens they're good for you."

Well perhaps they were but I never found the experience pleasurable

Jun 13, 2019 - 5:23:43 AM
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3637 posts since 10/13/2005

Depends upon your musical direction. If your focus/goal is playing just fiddle tunes in a jam, I'd say just one really good banjo and learn to tune. If it is also learning and singing songs and you want a banjo with a lower pitch /softer sound, then two banjos might work better. If you are going to singing circles where the key changes with every song, buy a tenor and learn to play the same song in many keys. banjered

Jun 13, 2019 - 5:31:18 AM

1781 posts since 12/31/2005

Primary concern should be sound. Clawhammer banjos come in many configurations. There is 12" (very popular today) vs. 11" head, which makes a difference. Then there is the variety of tone rings that really have an effect (wood, rolled hoop, Whyte Lady, Tubaphone, cast). Steve Martin's Deering (same model as used by Mark Johnson) is a world away from many of the old time variety out today. Some prefer a deeper tone.  Ralph Stanley could have played anything he wanted and liked clawhammering on his archtop resonator models.

Sustain is something that really varies by the banjo.  Sustain is great for some styles and it creates a cacophony for others who are playing very fast.

So what do you like? Whose sound would you most like to emulate? It doesn't do any good to have 50 people tell you that the BanjoCorp Turbo Model 5 is the best out there in that price range if that is not the sound you like.

Your budget will give you a lot of good options.

Edited by - Brian Murphy on 06/13/2019 05:35:19

Jun 13, 2019 - 5:57:03 AM
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51965 posts since 12/14/2005

quote:
Originally posted by stanleytone

if killer sound is what you want,get one with a good tone ring/ pot assembly. Don't worry about fancy cosmetics ,fancy inlays on the neck etc. a plain neck with dot inlays will do until you can afford to have a fancier neck built for it at some other time.


You can't HEAR inlay.

You can't HEAR gold plating.

You can't HEAR a hand-carved heel.

There is a belief, a delusion, called "Associative Magic".

IF I have a bat with Mickey Mantle's name on it, it WILL make me a more powerful hitter.

IF I use a club like the one with SAm Snead in the advert, I will improve my golf score.

IF I have the same make and model banjo as Johnny Butten, I will be able to play at lightning speed.

Don't fall for that.

Play as many different banjos as you can touch, before tossing your money down.

And heeeeere's Johnny, playing a Squared Eel banjo, which I  cobbled together out of scrap futon slats and mailing tape.

$75 plus S&H.

 

 

 

Jun 13, 2019 - 5:58:36 AM

172 posts since 8/13/2018

If it's me, I would look for a gently used Deering Sierra.
Boy, am I sold on that instrument.

Jun 13, 2019 - 6:14:14 AM

99 posts since 10/9/2017

I'm in the same boat more or less, and I've already set sail although I've yet to reach safe harbor. The one thing I would say is if at all possible, try before you buy. In my case, I've seen and heard lots of banjos on the web. I really like the look and sound of Chuck Lee's banjos. I was finally able to try out a couple and they fit me like a cheap suit. Couldn't get anything good out of them. And it's no fault of Mr. Lee - he builds beautiful banjos that don't fit my hand. It's a question of what particular combination of factors works for you; it's alchemy, and what looks right on paper might not work in the lab.

Jun 13, 2019 - 6:20:05 AM
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1781 posts since 12/31/2005

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory
quote:
Originally posted by stanleytone

if killer sound is what you want,get one with a good tone ring/ pot assembly. Don't worry about fancy cosmetics ,fancy inlays on the neck etc. a plain neck with dot inlays will do until you can afford to have a fancier neck built for it at some other time.


You can't HEAR inlay.

You can't HEAR gold plating.

You can't HEAR a hand-carved heel.

 


"People listen with their eyes."  -- Les Paul 

Mike, you would like the story of Les Paul's log   It makes exactly your point.

Jun 13, 2019 - 8:33:25 AM
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10513 posts since 2/12/2011

Hard to go wrong with Deering Sierra or the top shelf Goodtimes.

Jun 13, 2019 - 8:36:30 AM

400 posts since 5/19/2018

Buy the absolute best quality banjo that you can for the 1600 that you have.

As mentioned above, ignore things like inlays, gold plating ect. Just go for all out build and quality.

Normally I would say look for a solid high quality vintage instrument, but given the exceptional quality of instruments being made in the past 10 years, I would say hunt for what you want.

Years and years ago -1975-76 or so. I had $400 to spend on a new banjo to move up on to a better level. I found a beautiful White Laydie back when you could find thing like that. I have been through dozens and dozen of instruments since then, but that Whyte Laydie is still one of my Major players, due mainly to its sound and quality.

Figure the sound you want, find the instrument or builder, but go for the highest level of quality you can get. That being said, there are some good options right here in the classifieds.

Jun 13, 2019 - 9:00:56 AM

1163 posts since 2/10/2013

Buy carefully and buy used. You could save over $1000. Make sure the banjo you are considering is an excellent quality banjo and in good condition. Buy the best banjo you can afford, one that will last a lifetime.

Jun 13, 2019 - 9:19:10 AM

2496 posts since 2/16/2017

I'm not entirely clear on whether you want a resonator on the banjo you buy. 1600 will buy a whole lot of openback banjo. Something from Ken LeVan, Bart Reiter, Enoch, Pisgah, etc...Lots of options.

As others have said, I'd rather have one professional quality instrument vs two intermediate quality instruments.

Jun 13, 2019 - 10:25:25 AM

5 posts since 3/6/2010

Thank you for the sound advice. I recently made a trip down to the Deering shop in San Diego and that’s when I realized how terrible my current banjo is. Every one of the banjos I played was leaps and bounds better than what I currently have. There’s something about the sound of the 12” pot that I don’t really care for.

I’m going to keep searching and playing as many instruments as possible.

Right now the Bart Reiter banjos are looking very appealing for the price. But I’ll have to get my hands on one and see how they compare to the line of Deerings I tried out.

Jun 13, 2019 - 10:47:56 AM
Players Union Member

Helix1

USA

332 posts since 4/17/2019

You have specs, develop them further. I confer off forum even if you don’t buy through me
Notice how heavy some of these rigs are?
With the smaller builders you have to wait a little, but you get your specs
Otherwise, there are lots of used offerings
Ask what recourse you have with the seller, What warranty


 

Jun 13, 2019 - 11:01:16 AM
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Players Union Member

llrevis

USA

172 posts since 3/3/2010

Check out Ken LeVan’s website. He makes wonderful banjos that are within your budget and in my opinion are underpriced. You get more bang for your buck. I have Tubaphone conversion with a neck built by Ken. It the banjo I’ve ever had my hands on.

Jun 13, 2019 - 2:10:50 PM
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PaulRF

Australia

3023 posts since 2/1/2012

quote:
Originally posted by llrevis

Check out Ken LeVan’s website. He makes wonderful banjos that are within your budget and in my opinion are underpriced. You get more bang for your buck. I have Tubaphone conversion with a neck built by Ken. It the banjo I’ve ever had my hands on.


I have got to agree with Larry.  Ken puts a lot of expertise into his banjos and they do seem very underpriced as Larry stated for what you get. Ken will also customize the banjo to suit you as well.  His website: http://levanbanjos.com/levanbanjos.levandesign.com/New_Vintage.html

https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/336347

https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/339381

Edited by - PaulRF on 06/13/2019 14:14:19

Jun 13, 2019 - 2:23:57 PM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14266 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by shirizzle

Hello everyone. I’m looking for some advice. I’ve been learning clawhammer over the last year but my banjo is not living up to the cause. It’s a $150 Lida that I purchased back in 2010. I’ve done everything I can to make it playable and have decided it’s time for a new banjo. I have roughly $1600 to spend and could spend about $500 more if need be. Given the number of awesome banjos under $1000 on the classifieds I was wandering if it would be better to buy one banjo near the top of my budget or to buy two for less. I feel that I neglect the songs in different tunings because I don’t like changing tuning constantly. Any advice would be awesome because I’m about to pull the trigger soon!

Also, I’ve been lurking on here since 2010 and I’m pretty sure this is my first post.


Looks like you can day trip to Palo Alto to pick out a banjo at Gryphon Strings.  They have many Reiters to choose from, and that would most likely be a very good match for you.  They do have 60 5 strings listed, though...

Do check out their other offerings such as Bill Rickard's or Pisgah Banjo Works, too.

https://shop.gryphonstrings.com/products?taxonomy=Instruments&filter[instrument]=instruments/Banjo

Edited by - rudy on 06/13/2019 14:33:15

Jun 13, 2019 - 8:59:49 PM

rcc56

USA

2173 posts since 2/20/2016

Your budget is enough for an old Vega Senator, or a Tubaphone or Whyte Laydie conversion. Or possibly a Bacon ff Professional if you don't mind a few scratches.

If you can, try some of these fine older banjos. It may change your perspective.

Jun 13, 2019 - 9:00:12 PM
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5 posts since 3/6/2010

There are too many to choose from! I messaged Ken at Levanbanjos we will see what he has to say. I’ve also been lurking on the Helix site. There’s something intriguing about having an instrument built for me. My mind is open though. It’s a good 8 hour drive up to gryphon strings ...bur I’m seriously considering it.

Jun 13, 2019 - 9:30:50 PM

rcc56

USA

2173 posts since 2/20/2016

This is similar to my lifetime keeper banjo. They have it mis-identified as a '20's model. It is instead one of the last of the Fairbanks/Vega made Bacon Professionals. They had a winter sale price of $1695 on it, and I'll bet they will take that now.

http://www.bernunzio.com/product/bacon-ff-professional-24626

Jun 13, 2019 - 11:04:11 PM

PaulRF

Australia

3023 posts since 2/1/2012

quote:
Originally posted by shirizzle

There are too many to choose from! I messaged Ken at Levanbanjos we will see what he has to say. I’ve also been lurking on the Helix site. There’s something intriguing about having an instrument built for me. My mind is open though. It’s a good 8 hour drive up to gryphon strings ...bur I’m seriously considering it.


Just found this vid as well from someone with a New Vintage banjo.

 

 

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