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Banjos that sound similar to Gibson Granadas?

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Nov 15, 2019 - 11:08:45 AM
29 posts since 2/23/2019

I had the opportunity to stop at Gruhn’s a couple weeks ago and they had a 1925 and 1930 TB-Granada that (to me) both sounded amazing. I have about 9 months of banjo playing experience under my belt and starting to build an ear for what I like and don’t like, and, well, I really like the Granada sound. I stopped at Steve Huber’s shop as well and he had a VRB-G which sounded very similar.

I’m curious if Stelling, Frank Neat, Nechville, and other well known professional brands have similar models that try to imitate the Granada sound? Thanks

Nov 15, 2019 - 11:11:28 AM
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csacwp

USA

2446 posts since 1/15/2014

In all honesty I think any Mastertone-style banjo can get that sound. In a blind test nobody can tell the difference between a Granada, RB-3, etc., and while the wood type does influence the tone, the head tension and bridge have far more of an effect.

Nov 15, 2019 - 11:34:07 AM

1952 posts since 12/31/2005

OF the three you mention, only Neat routinely builds Gibson builds. Stellings are unique (and you may love that sound too). Same with Nechville. Great, but different from traditional Gibson sound. Another builder you may wish to consider is Tim Davis in the Charlotte area. Eric Sullivan's vintage line is awesome as well. I believe he is in transition from Louisville to South Alabam where he is building his new shop, so I doubt he is building right now. He may have something though. The Earl Scruggs models are essentially Granadas with nickel plating instead of gold. If you can hear the difference between nickel and gold you are in rare company.

Nov 15, 2019 - 1:30:32 PM
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591 posts since 5/19/2018

Most people would want to run John Cohen out on rail for saying what he just said, but I have to agree with him.

If you take any number of well set up Gibson Mastertone banjos and stick them in the hands of a competent player, the difference in tone and sound between the banjos can only be discerned by very few people.

I have played Granada’s that sounded and played terrible and ones that sounded great. I’ve played 1970s RB 250s that played and sounded fantastic.

90% of the sound is the player. 9.9999% is the instrument and the set up.

That .0001% is reserved for people like Earl, ect. They made the sound and no instrument or set up is going to make you or anyone sound like them.

Nov 15, 2019 - 1:34:47 PM

424 posts since 8/14/2018

Warren Yates is another builder making very nice Gibson copies.

Nov 15, 2019 - 1:43:38 PM
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rcc56

USA

2339 posts since 2/20/2016

Several makers build Granada style banjos, but not Nechville or Stelling. Some of them make instruments that may aguably be much better than modern era Gibsons.

Look for banjos with maple neck and resonator, Mastertone styling, and Mastertone style tone rings.

I don't know how discerning your ear is, but you might find it difficult to find a modern banjo that to you sounds similar to one built before WWII.  Or, you might not be able to hear a difference at all.  Or, you might think that a well built modern banjo sounds better.

The 1925 Granada you looked at is not much more expensive than a new Huber Granada style banjo. You could make an offer to Gruhn-- most of their prices are negotiable.

Edited by - rcc56 on 11/15/2019 13:45:53

Nov 15, 2019 - 2:01:15 PM
Players Union Member

KCJones

USA

554 posts since 8/30/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Alvin Conder

Most people would want to run John Cohen out on rail for saying what he just said, but I have to agree with him.

If you take any number of well set up Gibson Mastertone banjos and stick them in the hands of a competent player, the difference in tone and sound between the banjos can only be discerned by very few people.

I have played Granada’s that sounded and played terrible and ones that sounded great. I’ve played 1970s RB 250s that played and sounded fantastic.

90% of the sound is the player. 9.9999% is the instrument and the set up.

That .0001% is reserved for people like Earl, ect. They made the sound and no instrument or set up is going to make you or anyone sound like them.


 

Not a banjo, but this video illustrates your point perfectly. It's about the player, not the instrument.

https://youtu.be/600ykNF3md4

Edited by - KCJones on 11/15/2019 14:02:00

Nov 15, 2019 - 2:44:16 PM

462 posts since 2/21/2005

I strongly agree with csacwp. There is no such thing as a Granada sound or an RB 75 sound. While blind tests have been conducted on Strad violins and expensive French wines with startling results, (ie experts failed to discern the differences), banjo players discount this method and the only reason I can ascribe to this is that banjo players revel in their mythology and don’t want scientific inquiry to muck things up. Blind tests may not be perfect, but what other tool can be used to separate fact from fiction? Until there is some validation to claims that have been made continually over the years, I remain unconvinced that Granadas sound different from other Mastertones, that gold plating makes a difference, that RB 3s sound different from RB75s, and that there is a prewar sound. Head tension, choice of bridge, general constructional features i.e. how well all parts fit together as well as the player him/herself are the real determinants of banjo sound.

Nov 15, 2019 - 3:43:40 PM

12340 posts since 10/30/2008

A Gibson Earl Scruggs model is quite similar to a modern Granada.

When you get into comparing OLD Granadas, it's harder to say. An OLDER banjo with a Gibson style tone ring and and OLD wood rim, with a maple neck, should sound at least in the ballpark. Sonny Osborne stated that he felt the combination of old gold plate and old maple wood gave his Granada something "special" that really spoke to him, and never let him down. Others scoff at any potential contribution of microns of gold plating.

I think you've already gotten a good list of "modern" Granadas that might come close. Don't forget modern GIBSON Granadas either.

Sonny Osborne "The Chief" model makes Sonny happy about approaching the sound he likes.

I will suggest that it doesn't take a huge amount of experience to hear the difference between a maple necked banjo and a mahogany necked banjo, of the same style and vintage. There IS a difference.

I also agree that 90% of why JD Crowe doesn't sound like Sonny Osborne or Earl Scruggs, is due to the player, not the banjo.

Have fun shopping! Only YOU can decide what YOU like.

Don't ignore the Kel Kroydon (American Banjo Co.) Granada-like model. They turn up every now and then, used, at lower prices than Hubers.

Nov 15, 2019 - 4:41:21 PM

29 posts since 2/23/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Alvin Conder


90% of the sound is the player. 9.9999% is the instrument and the set up.


I've heard that before so maybe I should ask: why do different makers make different models if the setup can be changed to sound like one another of similar quality and wood types e.g. Huber's VRB series? Or for that matter if all Gibsons can be setup to sound like the Granadas that I tried in at Gruhn's should I just find the best reputable Gibson deal and take it to a professional to setup as a Granada sound? 

Nov 15, 2019 - 5:34:36 PM
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rcc56

USA

2339 posts since 2/20/2016

I'm going to suggest that if a banjo doesn't sound pretty good to you to start with, changing the setup wtill might not satisfy you.

You might be better off finding a banjo that already sounds good to you, and has a neck that is comfortable to you. Then, you can start playing with the setup and find out what else the banjo can do. Then you might like it even better, or you might end up returning to the original setup.

After many years of working on instruments, I have found that each instrument has its own voice. While a good setup can pull the "best" out of an instrument, and may be able to color an instrument's voice a bit, you can't change the general nature of the instruments. Two instruments of the same model, and made the same day by the same people, are going to sound different from each other.

Nov 15, 2019 - 5:46:36 PM

29 posts since 2/23/2019

quote:
Originally posted by rcc56

I'm going to suggest that if a banjo doesn't sound pretty good to you to start with, changing the setup wtill might not satisfy you.


If that’s the case then I feel a bit better about my search for something that sounds good to me. For instance I tried mahogany and curly maple banjos whole in Nashville and I felt like curly maple sounded better to me. Robin Smith was the one who told me that setup can pretty much take care of any sound I want, but I just don’t see how the Stelling Staghorn I tried will ever sound like the VRB-G (or TB-G for that matter). 

Nov 15, 2019 - 6:26:25 PM
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1952 posts since 12/31/2005

You are starting to figure out what you like. Stellings have a unique sound, as do the standard series Deerings, Omes, etc.. They are designed differently than Gibson. But lots of people make banjos to Gibson specs. Do you like feeling that fourth string in your backbone? You'll start thinking about sustain/decay, whether you like more of a "ping" or a "crack," and all the other different nuances of timbre. Forget the label. It may be a Fender Concert Tone that ends up grabbing you. Just keep playing them. Robin Smith is, of course, correct. But don't take that to mean you can buy any banjo and it can be made to sound like any other banjo. Set up goes a long way, but the banjo should grab you and speak to you before you take it home. Don't just buy "the best Gibson you can afford" and expect that it will become something it isn't. The running around and looking is a lot of the fun. You're definitely talking to the right people and going to the right places. Enjoy the hunt.

Edited by - Brian Murphy on 11/15/2019 18:26:48

Nov 15, 2019 - 6:55:46 PM

229 posts since 10/23/2010

No two banjos (even of the same model) are gonna sound identical regardless of setup .... close maybe ... but not identical.

They all have their own unique sound and personalities depending on a multitude of variables.

As for Stellings and Nechvilles, they too have their own unique sound.

I'll add to what Bob rrc56 and Brian Murphy already said above.
If you try out a banjo and you're not happy with the sound, don't assume that you can magically turn it into a Granada, or something that you do like simply by setting it up differently after you buy it.

In other words, if you like the sound of a Huber VRB-G, (I do too by the way) get a Huber.
Don't get a Nechville or Stelling and try to make them sound like a Huber.

Good luck in your search

Edited by - jchipps_1 on 11/15/2019 19:02:30

Nov 15, 2019 - 8:02:43 PM
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591 posts since 5/19/2018

And this is the beauty of today’s banjo spectrum.

Unlike years ago, where one really only had one real option, a Gibson, and that being what ever model or year you happened to randomly run across, now we have options. Many, many options from Vintage instruments, the reissue Gibson’s and Instruments made from any of the fantastic builders that are out there right now.

I would say that if you are looking for a particular look, feel or sound, never before in history has it been so easy to track down and get just exactly what you want.

Play as many different instruments as you can get your hands on. When you find the right one, you will definitely without question know it. It will feel right. It will speak to you.

Have fun in the hunt and be prepared to be surprised.

Nov 16, 2019 - 10:30:12 AM

29 posts since 2/23/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Alvin Conder


Play as many different instruments as you can get your hands on. When you find the right one, you will definitely without question know it. It will feel right. It will speak to you.

Have fun in the hunt and be prepared to be surprised.


Great advice all. Thanks. I tried around 20 different higher end banjos while in Nashville and the 2 that resonated the most with me, that felt right to my ear, were the 1925 Granada and Huber’s VRB-G. 

Someone mentioned a shop in Atlanta area that has high end banjos, maybe I should stop by there next. Does anyone know of other shops close’ish to upstate SC? 

Nov 16, 2019 - 2:53:57 PM

2364 posts since 4/16/2003

Agree with Dick Bowden above.

If you want a banjo with "Gibson" on the peghead, get an Earl Scruggs Standard, gold-plated version, or an actual post-1988 Gibson Grananda.

For a "recreation" as good as it gets, get yourself a Huber Truetone, Granada-style or otherwise.

Also consider an Osborne Chief. They were fine, fine banjos (don't know if Sonny still sells them).

Nov 17, 2019 - 8:24:17 AM

12340 posts since 10/30/2008

If you're shopping, check out the Classifieds here for double E's Huber Lexington. Standard disclaimer, I have nothing to do with the sale, but that's a fine banjo at a "nice price". Very Granada like. Gold, engraved, maple. Mastertone-like design in the pot.

Nov 18, 2019 - 7:46:58 AM

65 posts since 9/1/2018

Check out Banjo Warehouse in Atlanta. Geoff has a couple of Granadas there now I think. That's where I got mine.

Nov 18, 2019 - 9:47:23 AM

1919 posts since 1/10/2004

Up to a point a Mastertone is a Mastertone is a Mastertone. Some have more of "it", some a little less. Setup helps focus the instrument in and out of the range of what you want to hear, within the limitations of whatever that particular instrument is capable of. Mahogany vs maple and other variables introduces some subtleties also, but they are just that - subtle. I would include most of the slavish Gibson clones in this. There is a sort of a "Gibson sound" and most Gibsons and Gibson copies easily achieve it to one degree or another. I might almost say Huber alone sort of has its own sound, but it is a type of Gibson sound that he is after with incredible attention to detail and setup. Huber is basically the modern Mastertone sound that I hear in many contemporary recordings.

Now, Stellings, Deerings, Nechvilles and a few other makes that are not strictly Gibson copies tend to have their own distinct variety and coloration to the resonator banjo sound, although there is still lots of variation within each of them. Generally speaking they do not sound exactly like Gibsons, whatever that means. Here's the thing - you might call BS, and you would be right. Either I or a more informed expert might listen to blind samples and say, well that sounds like a Stelling to me, or that sounds like an old mahogany Gibson. Maybe I would be right 60-70% of the time if I were lucky. This isn't wine tasting, and there are always too many variables and possibilities. All I'm talking about is a "tendency" toward a certain type of tone, or a certain enigmatic tonal quality that is very difficult to articulate, but over time you come to know it just the same.

So really, in the end, all that's worth doing is trying to find a quality banjo that you like the sound of, regardless of the looks, the materials or the make.

Nov 18, 2019 - 11:09:27 AM

O.D.

USA

3375 posts since 10/29/2003

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Bh5tq0O6lU

 The word on the street is that these banjos are very Granada like.

 Might be worth looking into.

 

Everett

Nov 18, 2019 - 1:37:18 PM

65 posts since 9/1/2018

People that are worried about planting their ring finger needs to watch Russ in the above youtube.

Nov 18, 2019 - 1:42:23 PM

1351 posts since 2/10/2013

I advise novices to have a good banjo player sample an instrument before they purchase it. That way the buyer can hear the banjo's potential.
And, they might realize that their playing skills should be improved to correct most of their problems.

Nov 18, 2019 - 2:23:53 PM

O.D.

USA

3375 posts since 10/29/2003

Reportedly wood from the same mill as Gibson

Nov 19, 2019 - 12:20:19 PM
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Alex Z

USA

3669 posts since 12/7/2006
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There are always the same four perspectives:

1.  I can't tell the difference between two banjos, and therefore no one can tell the difference between two banjos, and consequently there are no differences in sound between two banjos.

2.  Set up is everything, and can provide whatever sound you want.

3.  Each banjo has its own character sound, and you can change that only a little.

4.  The player creates the sound.

smiley

Nov 20, 2019 - 6:45:20 PM

29 posts since 2/23/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

There are always the same four perspectives:

1.  I can't tell the difference between two banjos, and therefore no one can tell the difference between two banjos, and consequently there are no differences in sound between two banjos.

2.  Set up is everything, and can provide whatever sound you want.

3.  Each banjo has its own character sound, and you can change that only a little.

4.  The player creates the sound.

smiley


Good write up of the different perspectives people have when comparing banjos. I've kind of been resistant to the people who say that any banjo can sound like any other banjo with the right set up (e.g. I don't see how any Stelling can be made to sound like a Granada). I think that when playing a song, the sound that the notes create will be dependent on the skill level of the player. I'm fairly certain that I heard differences of sound with banjos made with mahogany vs. maple, albeit subtle (but enough to desire a banjo with a certain wood composition). 

It seems that I'm gravitating the most to perspective #3. 

Anyway, I feel that I've read enough from everyone's responses to consider my OP answered. Thanks all. 

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