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Feb 26, 2020 - 6:55:26 PM
6 posts since 2/26/2020

So I'm looking to get back into playing banjo after years of not playing.
I am looking at a Morgan Monroe MNB-1 or a Gold Tone BG-150F. I learned on my Dad's Deering Golden Era, beautiful looking and sounding banjo...out of my price range.
Which of these would you recommend and are there others I should consider? Also, what does the Deering have that the lower end ones don't, that makes it cost 10 times as much?

Feb 26, 2020 - 7:32:13 PM
likes this

2049 posts since 5/2/2012

Both banjos have a rolled brass tone ring, with the MM ($520 or so) coming in quite a bit less price-wise. A Recording King RK-20 Songster is in that same price range and would be another option.

If you're going to drop the money (around $750) for a GT BG-150F, you are getting close to the price of a RK30 or a GT OB150, both of which have a "real" tone ring and would serve you well to the beginner level and beyond.

Edited by - thisoldman on 02/26/2020 19:45:53

Feb 26, 2020 - 8:17:38 PM
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36 posts since 1/26/2020

I have an older (2003 ish) BG250F which is not the same as they make them now. It’s more similar to the new 150F. It has the bracket and shoe construction. It’s among the heaviest banjos out there at 14 lbs, and it’s pretty oversized overall and has a very clubby neck. It does have a full weight regular tone ring in it.  I have not been able to get the tone or playability out of it that I want, and I ordered a Bishline Cimarron last week. I don’t know if Gold Tones have gotten better since, I have to believe they have. Another obvious choice is the Deering Goodtime 2 or Goodtime Special. I see you’re near Detroit, as am I. A trip to Elderly in Lansing would allow you to put your hands on a lot of different banjos, including lots of Deerings. The Golden Era is going to be more reminiscent of the prewar style in appearance and sound vs the Sierra, Maple Blossom, and Calico which are traditional Deering. I’d also recommend looking at Gold Stars. You can find a GF85 for under $1000.

Deerings are superbly constructed, American made, and have built an incredible reputation for quality. I'd like to own a Maple Blossom for looks alone. That chocolate stained wood is incredible. Most Deerings have a very specific sound to them, that is uniquely Deering.

Edited by - jgbrady13 on 02/26/2020 20:23:13

Feb 26, 2020 - 10:58:35 PM

Mad Max

USA

6 posts since 2/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by thisoldman

Both banjos have a rolled brass tone ring, with the MM ($520 or so) coming in quite a bit less price-wise. A Recording King RK-20 Songster is in that same price range and would be another option.

If you're going to drop the money (around $750) for a GT BG-150F, you are getting close to the price of a RK30 or a GT OB150, both of which have a "real" tone ring and would serve you well to the beginner level and beyond.


Theres a used MM MNB-1W on Reverb for $430 with case and free shipping. There's a Gold Tone BG-150F on Guitar Center's website with a case, $530 shipped. I can't find any Recording King RK-20 Songsters that include a case. Is the Gold Tone $100 better than the MM? My budget is around $500.

Feb 27, 2020 - 5:28:51 AM

474 posts since 9/21/2018

You might check the Gold Tone B-Stock list. Usually lots of good deals to be had. I'd say most pickers will caution you against overly "affordable" banjos because you are likely to outgrow it and want to upgrade far sooner than you may think.

Here is the link to the B-Stock list. These are just factory blemished instruments. Usually small nicks and scratches.

goldtonemusicgroup.com/b-stock/

Feb 27, 2020 - 6:07:45 AM

2049 posts since 5/2/2012

First, I meant RK35 (nor RK30).
Two disclaimers. I have not played either banjo. And I am a Gold Tone fan.
Is the GT worth $100 more than the MM? Without having had either one in hand, I would defer to the specs. The MM has a 3 ply (not a multi-ply) rim, which could be a point in its favor. But without looking at the quality of the components (metal bits, tuners) if would be difficult to determine if it was worth more. The difference in street price new would "suggest" that the GT has better/more expensive components. BTW the "W" designation on the MM tells you it is wider at the nut than their standard version.
Go to the "More" tab on the left side of the page, then go to "Reviews". There is one review of the MM and 3 on the GT. Those may help you decide.

Feb 27, 2020 - 10:24:05 AM

Mad Max

USA

6 posts since 2/26/2020

There's a Washout B-17 Americana on Reverb for $595 shipped. It says it has a bell brass tone ring in it. That's a step up from the tone rings in the Morgan Monroe and the Gold Tone BG-150F, right?

Feb 27, 2020 - 12:04:34 PM

2049 posts since 5/2/2012

This particular banjo (the Washburn b-17) has some things going for it. First of all, it gets good reviews here on the HO. Second, it is listed as in very good condition, and the seller is up front about any dings on it (nothing that would impact playability). Third, it has a "real" tone ring in it, which makes it more desireable than either the MM or GT listed in the first post. Fourth, the same banjo is on Ebay, and the seller has 100% positive feedback. Fifth, the asking price is about half of new street price. And this is a minor point, but the seller is open to a resonable  offer.  Of the three, I'm thinking that the Washburn could be the best deal. A banjo you could play for a long time before you thought about moving up.

Edited by - thisoldman on 02/27/2020 12:09:21

Feb 27, 2020 - 3:48:21 PM

bluenote23

Canada

1072 posts since 12/4/2012

I have a couple of really nice banjos. The other day, I tried out a used BG150 for a beginner friend. It was okay. I think that having a rolled ring can be a positive thing. It makes the banjo fairly light (something over 8 lbs. A tone ring banjo is more like 11-13 lbs which is a lot of weight). It sounded pretty good, good enough for any beginner or intermediate player. You can have confidence that the reason you sound so bad is not the banjo! 

The banjo I played was well set up and it was easy to play. I have a Robin Smith neck on one of my banjos and I didn't skip a beat when I picked up the BG150 so the neck felt fine.

The only disadvantage is that it might not be loud enough to compete with tone ring banjos in a jam.

Edited by - bluenote23 on 02/27/2020 15:53:27

Feb 27, 2020 - 3:56:07 PM

Mad Max

USA

6 posts since 2/26/2020

quote:
Originally posted by bluenote23

The only disadvantage is that it might not be loud enough to compete with tone ring banjos in a jam.


If I were to "jam" with people, I know my Dad would let me borrow the Deering.

Feb 27, 2020 - 4:05:04 PM

Mad Max

USA

6 posts since 2/26/2020

I know I'm in the rare position of starting out on a very high quality instrument and having to step down.

Mar 5, 2020 - 1:20:12 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

12359 posts since 8/30/2006

Mad Max I see a used GT 150-f for 639. Used is a gamble if you have no recourse.

The Morgan is a shoe and plate with one rim rod, I don't know about the truss rod, i suspect a one way. I see no "flange."
It has standard Gibson 24 hook spacing. They might try reforming their customer service work.

The Gold Tone is also a shoe and plate with two rim rods, double-acting truss rod. Great people

Using a shoe and plate allows assembly line banjos to be made with an openback type heel cut instead of the traditional Gibson cut.

I use the tube and plate type rim to make openbacks with no holes in the rim, it's my favorite type of wood voicing rim.

I work with Gold Tone and Recording King both for parts. I jam frequently with all brands and models. I hear their voices. I play my own banjos at the jams.

The RK20 is another shoe and plate that competes and sells out. Great people .

All 3 banjos have standard 14" bluegrass resonators. GT and RK both have on shore jobs for domestic workers.

For comparison and no sales message. As a custom provider, I have a Bamboo bluegrass rig with magnetic resonator now in the classified. I have a deep warranty and great customer service here in the USA. 7 lbs. with the rez. Another 7 pounder has a Grapefruit rim for a slight premium, both have mag rez.  One has Gold Tone hardware, one uses RK.  Same tone rings and RENN heads by weatherking.    Parts and hardware are important. 

The tone rings in question are all "rolled brass" which means flatbar rolled instead of drop fitting a round rod. The great and often misunderstood advantage of flat bar is the 90 degree corner that shoots down into the rim, with both the back and bottom of the tone ring contacting the rim snugly. These are spec rings, so I'm not privy to which formula brass is used. I roll my own rings . They compete equally at the jam.  I eat Gibsons and Deerings and Stellings for lunch, oops. 

 I'll be glad to help you privately off forum. Take a look at my and other smaller builders offerings in the classified ads.

If someone is selling used, be sure to ask why. I had a customer buy a used Gold Tone neck and drop ship it to me, but the seller neglected to mention they were probably selling because it had fallen over off the stand. The cracks are tiny at the nut and 5th string. Totally back in use with simple repair. Let the buyer beware. Don't let someone sell you something they "want" you to have, or a builder who wants to build you what they want to build. There are custom blingers, but inlays don't make much sound that I know of. 

Free trade and sailor's rights. Good luck.

Edited by - Helix on 03/05/2020 01:30:57

Mar 5, 2020 - 12:02:11 PM

Mad Max

USA

6 posts since 2/26/2020

Unfortunately the banjo will have to wait a while. The wife and I had some unexpected house repairs come up and that's where the banjo money went. Thank you all for your great advice and suggestions.

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