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Beginner shopping advice...

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Apr 6, 2020 - 10:06:08 AM
4 posts since 4/6/2020

Looking to pickup the banjo during this "self isolation" time.

Before I ask, I know most of you will say I should get a Deering Goodtime to start but it's def out of my price range with a lack of work at the moment given our current situation, therefore I'm on a strict budget (Under $200)

So having said that, here are a few used used banjos that I'm looking at in my area, was wondering your thoughts:

Gretsch 1883 open back - $150

Washburn B9 with resonator - $165

Recording King Dirty 30s open back - $120

Any advice or other brands to keep an eye out for would be greatly appreciated!

Apr 6, 2020 - 10:16:08 AM

10742 posts since 2/12/2011

Save your money and get the Goodtime

Apr 6, 2020 - 10:20:15 AM

14752 posts since 12/2/2005

The Washburn is what's commonly referred to as a "bottlecap" banjo - there are hundreds of different brands using the same basic banjo. Depending on your local market conditions I'd say It's overpriced by as much as 50%.

I'm not familiar with the Gretsch. The Recording King is probably the best value of the bunch - presuming that it's in reasonably good, playable condition.

Apr 6, 2020 - 10:26:09 AM

hoodoo

Canada

692 posts since 10/6/2017

quote:
Originally posted by wariokart

Looking to pickup the banjo during this "self isolation" time.

Before I ask, I know most of you will say I should get a Deering Goodtime to start but it's def out of my price range with a lack of work at the moment given our current situation, therefore I'm on a strict budget (Under $200)

So having said that, here are a few used used banjos that I'm looking at in my area, was wondering your thoughts:

Gretsch 1883 open back - $150

Washburn B9 with resonator - $165

Recording King Dirty 30s open back - $120

Any advice or other brands to keep an eye out for would be greatly appreciated!


If the recording king is in good shape, its probably your best bet and as far as I can tell. they are decent to bang around with as a total beginner.

Apr 6, 2020 - 11:23:58 AM

bbking9

Mexico

7 posts since 2/13/2020

Check your messages/email

Apr 6, 2020 - 12:19:34 PM

4 posts since 4/6/2020

Gotcha. What do I look for to tell if it's in good shape aside from the obvious condition?

Also, I came cross this Goodtime. This one in particular is already SOLD but I haven't seen that headstock on their website. Know anything about it? Still good since it's a Deering I assume? Why is it so much cheaper?

banjobuyer.com/banjo/13277

 

Also, I've heard the major guitar brands' banjos aren't very good, but compared to those above how are Fender and Epiphone and the like if proced in the $100-120 range?

Edited by - wariokart on 04/06/2020 12:28:27

Apr 6, 2020 - 3:33:55 PM
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Banjo Lefty

Canada

1880 posts since 6/19/2014

This is a very common question, unfortunately. Banjos are not cheap instruments. Anything under $400 or so will be pretty poor quality, so it doesn't really matter what you buy. You will, for the $150 you are willing to spend, end up with a banjo-shaped object that will fight you every step of the way. It will be difficult to play, and impossible to tune, and it won't sound nearly good enough to motivate you to keep going. A year from now that piece of junk will be languishing in the back of a closet while you wonder idly why you never learned to play it properly.

Apr 6, 2020 - 3:43:44 PM

Mooooo

USA

7816 posts since 8/20/2016

I agree with Lefty. If you want an instrument you can learn on for $200, you should get a guitar.

Edited by - Mooooo on 04/06/2020 15:49:09

Apr 6, 2020 - 3:44:55 PM

14752 posts since 12/2/2005

quote:
Originally posted by wariokart

Gotcha. What do I look for to tell if it's in good shape aside from the obvious condition?

Also, I came cross this Goodtime. This one in particular is already SOLD but I haven't seen that headstock on their website. Know anything about it? Still good since it's a Deering I assume? Why is it so much cheaper?

banjobuyer.com/banjo/13277

 

Also, I've heard the major guitar brands' banjos aren't very good, but compared to those above how are Fender and Epiphone and the like if proced in the $100-120 range?


1) Check to make sure the neck is firmly attached to the pot; check to see if the action (the height of the strings at the 12 fret) is reasonably low; check to make certain there's no string buzzing (which is easier if the head is properly tensioned). Check basic fit and finish. If you have a friend who plays guitar who can come with you when you inspect the instrument, he/she could help with with the action part.

2) That's an earlier model Goodtime. Some folks call that headstock shape the "Gumby" shape due to its similarity to the head of a claymation cartoon character during the 1950s. They were discontinued maybe five or seven years ago in favor of something a little more classic (and, IMHO, a bit easier on the eye). Structurally, though there's no difference in the instrument and Gumby goodtimes are still fine learning instruments.

3) There's some truth to that, but it's not universal. Before getting out of the banjo business, Gibson made plenty of guitars and though there were some periods in which banjo quality (heck, ALL Gibson quality) suffered, Gibson banjos are still highly thought of.

But what needs to be understood is that no major guitar brand, other than Gibson, has made banjos domestically in the past 20 years or so. All of them are Asian imports and the vast majority of those were built to entry- to mid-level price points. That's not a diss on Asian banjos per se - the 1980s-era Japanese-built Goldstars maintain an excellent (and deserved) reputation for quality. Today, Goldstars are build in China but still very good. So is Gold Tone. Recording King (see below) is an American-owned company that does manufacturing in China but has solid quality control. Some very good banjos are, and have been, built in Asia.

But so has a lot of junk. There are only a few companies that produce banjos in Asia, and they sell to distributors. The same banjo, with a few cosmetic variations requested by the distributor, is sold under a wide variety of different brand names. They look different because of cosmetics and the logo on the headstock, but there's really little to no difference between them when you get right down to it. Fender does NOT build banjos. The contract them out to a jobber with some specific requests regarding appearance, put their logo on the headstock, and get away with charging a premium because of the Fender name. But a bottom of the line Fender is still a bottom of the line instrument. The quality control can be horrendous.

If I recall correctly, the Recording King you mentioned in your original post is actually a jobbed instrument; Recording King owns and operates the plant that makes their more expensive instruments. But Recording King also has very good quality control, so I personally think you're safer buying a jobbed instrument with that marque than just about any other.

Apr 6, 2020 - 7:02:11 PM
like this

4 posts since 4/6/2020

***UPDATE: I found a lady selling a used Deering Goodtime in my area and talked her down to $200. She just upgraded and was happy to help a beginner out. Even gave me some extra thumb picks and tuned it up for me.

Thank you all for your help!! Really appreciate it. So excited to get started :)

Apr 6, 2020 - 9:03:35 PM

Mooooo

USA

7816 posts since 8/20/2016

Congratulations, that banjo will get you started out just fine and then some. Start saving up now just in case banjo picking sticks so you can get a really nice one next year if you're still at it. Good luck and have fun.

Apr 6, 2020 - 9:22 PM
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4 posts since 4/6/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Mooooo

Congratulations, that banjo will get you started out just fine and then some. Start saving up now just in case banjo picking sticks so you can get a really nice one next year if you're still at it. Good luck and have fun.


Thanks Mike! Will do :)

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