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Goodtime Americana or Custom Made?

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May 27, 2020 - 5:48:30 PM
9 posts since 5/27/2020

Hello,

I'm deciding on a purchase intent to be a lifelong banjo. I'm new to the banjo but know what sound I like. I had settled on the Goodtime Americana until I realized that there are a couple independent craftsmen that make banjos in the same price range. Should I go for the Americana or try a custom?

If I go custom: I have my eye on one place so far, but I appreciate any recommendations on where to get a custom banjo made, too. If anyone knows any Black Owned banjo making companies, especially, please let me know.

I like a 12 inch open back with a warm sound. Another example of a banjo I like is the Gibson Rb250 with nylgut strings, or the Deering Vega Little Wonder 12", or the Old Tyme Wonder in 12"

May 27, 2020 - 7:00:35 PM

rcc56

USA

2863 posts since 2/20/2016

I certainly wouldn't consider a Goodtime to be a lifelong banjo.

The Goodtime line is based on a very low budget design that is cheap to manufacture. When they first came out, the price was much lower and they were probably worth the cost. Since then, the price has nearly doubled, and better new banjos can be found for the same amount of money. The continued popularity of the line is largely due to aggressive marketing and some cosmetic improvements in the upper end of the line that do not necessarily justify the higher prices of the dolled-up models.

I don't know of any independent craftsmen that are making banjos for $599, but there are some that are making instruments of much better quality for a few hundred dollars more.

There are some imported banjos that are competitive in price with the Goodtime's that are much higher quality instruments.

I do not know of any people of African descent involved in building string instruments in the US.  There may be some in other countries.

Edited by - rcc56 on 05/27/2020 19:08:41

May 27, 2020 - 7:48:10 PM

9 posts since 5/27/2020

Hi @rcc56

I had heard that the price got raised on the Americana but, lord, I didn't know it had doubled and may not even be worth it.

Could you name some of the imported alternatives that are better but in the same range? Is it stuff like the Stagg brand that seems really popular in Russia?

The craftsman I spoke with has an option around $650 to get a custom.

May 27, 2020 - 8:11:08 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

12688 posts since 8/30/2006

My internediates are $777
Pro models start at $1000

The factories make piles of specification instruments


May 27, 2020 - 8:46:59 PM

9 posts since 5/27/2020

Thanks for sharing @Helix

~

Does anyone reading know if the Gold Tone CC Carlin 12" beats the Goodtime Americana in longevity? Or is that also overpriced for the quality? That one doesn't sound exactly as good as the Americana in the videos I've seen, but if it's actually better in person I'll go for that.

May 27, 2020 - 9:48:31 PM
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rcc56

USA

2863 posts since 2/20/2016

To be accurate, the Goodtime banjos did not double in price immediately-- it took quite a few years.

I have not seen a Gold Tone in awhile, but the construction is of significantly higher grade than the Goodtime. The Gold Tone has a separate hardwood fingerboard and a thing called a truss rod in the neck, both of which I consider essential components of good, reliable construction. It also has what is called a tone ring, which is a metal hoop which sits atop the rim, which is generally considered to be favorable for good tone and projection.

Another import worthy of consideration is the Recording King RK-25. Although it does not have a tone ring, it still has a higher level of construction than the Goodtime. It does have a hardwood fingerboard and a truss rod.

Helix [Larry Hill] has been making banjos for quite a while. His style is all his own. You might want to put him on your list.
Also, Zach Hoyt [also a member here] makes good banjos at affordable prices. I have seen his work, and he is competent.

The Stagg banjos appear to be low grade instruments.

May 27, 2020 - 9:53:04 PM
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54867 posts since 12/14/2005

I was at the Luthiers' Invitational in BURNSVILLE NC in 2019.

Every banjo there was JEWELRY with strings.

You might want to contact some of them, see what they can offer in a custom job.

https://www.mountainacoustics.com/

And I have a HELIX banjo body, for which I made a neck.

It's a standard size, but, he does VERY  GOOD  work for the price, so just tell him what you want, in a 12 inch size,  and he'll take care of you.

May 28, 2020 - 6:32:28 AM
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Ziradog

USA

45 posts since 10/23/2016

None of these are black owned, but all are semi-local to you. I would also suggest you take a look at Elderly Instruments, Gryphin Strings, Bernouzios, etc. & just get a better feel for what is out there. For roughly the price of an Americana, (which is not the $599 Goodtime), a lot of the semi-production builders have instruments you might like - Bart Reiter, Kevin Enoch, etc.

Pisgah Banjos (Outside Asheville, wide range, nice web site with sound samples)
Cedar Mountain Banjos (Mills River, N.C)
Carolina Banjo CO./Ryan Navey (Midland, N.C)
Quail Creek Banjo (Charlotte, N.C.)
Queen City Banjo (Charlotte, N.C)

Lots more too if you dig.

May 28, 2020 - 7:11:52 AM
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Clawdan

USA

3427 posts since 3/12/2006

In all fairness as the goodtime rose in price they made some changes to its construction to make it a higher quality banjo than when first offered. (Though that was a great value at the time and quite well made - a jump in quality for entry level instruments). The Americana is a much better instrument than the original goodtimes and with a 3 ply maple pot, a nice neck it is as good as anything on the market today. Worth the price? Up to you, but there are not many decent banjos out there for around $600 which is what the Americana sells for today (according to a quick google search). What I don't care for is the 26 1/4 scale length and the peghead shape and guitar tuners. Most OT banjo builders today have gone to the 25 1/2" scale which, depending on bridge position in the pot - gives a warmer sound and slightly easier fingering. It is, however, US made if that is a consideration for you.

The CC Carlin is a great instrument as well and when it first came out was an incredible value as well. It is a comparable instrument but the metal parts particularly are a bit less quality to keep the price down - also foreign made though US set up. Bob Carlin also occasionally has one or two for sale that he has set up personally so that could make it a better instrument overall.

"Custom" banjos new are going to set you back at least a grand (more likely about $1500), but for a lifelong instrument are usually well worth it and there are a lot of choices. Feel free to contact me off list if you would like to know more. We can talk! (Lessons also available now by Skype).

Best in your search.

Play Nice,
Dan Clawdan Levenson
Author of Clawhammer Banjo From Scratch and 13 other Mel Bay Publications
www.Clawdan.com

Consider Live Webcam Lessons Today!
 

May 28, 2020 - 7:36:58 AM

conic

England

786 posts since 2/15/2014

Im not sure I understand, is there something different with a banjo made at "Black Owned banjo making companies"?

May 28, 2020 - 8:00:55 AM
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purevl

USA

62 posts since 2/15/2014

quote:
Originally posted by LokiNefer

If anyone knows any Black Owned banjo making companies, especially, please let me know.
 


Hello, and welcome to the hangout! You should check with Dena Lee of Story Gourd Workshop: https://www.facebook.com/storygourd 
I've never seen her post a regular (non-gourd) banjo, but it's possible that she has and I just missed it. She might have other leads for you and if nothing else she is a nice lady. You could also try asking the organizers of the The Thang, (search for affrolachian on-time music gathering) they know as much about the African American folk music community as anyone and might know a banjo builder.

May 28, 2020 - 8:29:33 AM
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mjt0229

USA

347 posts since 4/20/2015

quote:
Originally posted by conic

Im not sure I understand, is there something different with a banjo made at "Black Owned banjo making companies"?


We are all free to support whomever we like. I choose where I spend my money based on lots of factors, and choosing to support artisans or craftspeople from historically underrepresented or oppressed populations makes a lot of sense to me.

May 28, 2020 - 9:00:20 AM
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Players Union Member

deadwud

USA

145 posts since 4/14/2020

quote:
Originally posted by mjt0229
quote:
Originally posted by conic

Im not sure I understand, is there something different with a banjo made at "Black Owned banjo making companies"?


We are all free to support whomever we like. I choose where I spend my money based on lots of factors, and choosing to support artisans or craftspeople from historically underrepresented or oppressed populations makes a lot of sense to me.


 

Or in this case, people whose ancestors invented the instrument.

Edited by - deadwud on 05/28/2020 09:00:38

May 28, 2020 - 9:33:32 AM
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hoodoo

Canada

707 posts since 10/6/2017

Between the two, go for a custom banjo. Ultimately, you will be much prouder of your main 'axe' so to speak.

May 28, 2020 - 9:38:20 AM
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3132 posts since 5/29/2011

If the craftsman you spoke with can sell a custom instrument for $650 then it is worth considering. I can't build one for that price.

May 28, 2020 - 8:01:24 PM
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9 posts since 5/27/2020

Hi All,

Thank you all so much for the suggestions and ideas! I contacted most of the places listed so far. I heard back from a few with some really positive ideas although none of them had what Im looking for in stock. A few more craftsmen got back to me and said that they could make something in a few months from now for around $750. It looks like the mid to high 700s are the asking price on average so far. Like Culloden said, it does seem super worth it to go for the $650 option. In any case, all of the makers i've gotten to talk with so far have told me they have a few months backlog on their work. So, it looks like if i do want to go custom I can spend the next few months saving some more money up to really get something special.

So here are some other updates as well. After speaking with a few people over at the Affrolachian On-Time Music Gathering as purevl suggested I was able to find 2 leads for black owned businesses selling banjos. First was the contact person for the org, she actually makes some herself. Another was an owner of Elderly! I felt really honored speaking with these two brilliant women. So far, i'm waiting on some options to come into stock at Elderly before i move forward with deciding what to do next.

While I'll be waiting a little longer than I hoped, I'm very excited for what comes out of this :D

May 28, 2020 - 8:08:37 PM
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1208 posts since 2/9/2007

If you're concerned about who and what your money is supporting, that should eliminate anything made by Deering from consideration (IMO!)-- The Deerings are nice folks, and do know how to make a good banjo, but AFAIK they are still active members of the "Church" of Scientology.

May 28, 2020 - 8:43:47 PM
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Players Union Member

deadwud

USA

145 posts since 4/14/2020

Good luck on your hunt, Andy. As soon as you have it, you'll want another one.

May 29, 2020 - 2:16:43 AM
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Jelle

Netherlands

223 posts since 5/28/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

If you're concerned about who and what your money is supporting, that should eliminate anything made by Deering from consideration (IMO!)-- The Deerings are nice folks, and do know how to make a good banjo, but AFAIK they are still active members of the "Church" of Scientology.


Dan, just curious but why is this a problem in your opinion? 

Edited by - Jelle on 05/29/2020 02:17:21

May 29, 2020 - 7:56:51 AM
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1208 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Jellodepello
quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

If you're concerned about who and what your money is supporting, that should eliminate anything made by Deering from consideration (IMO!)-- The Deerings are nice folks, and do know how to make a good banjo, but AFAIK they are still active members of the "Church" of Scientology.


Dan, just curious but why is this a problem in your opinion? 


Well... I like to think that I'm about as open-minded as anyone on the subject of religion.  The endless variety of ways we humans have found to express our spiritual quest deserves not just tolerance, but celebration.    Everything I have read and seen concerning Scientology, however, leads me to believe that it lacks any legitimate foundation in religious tradition, and is essentially a criminal enterprise.

May 29, 2020 - 9:06:21 AM
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Ziradog

USA

45 posts since 10/23/2016

quote:
Originally posted by LokiNefer

...So here are some other updates as well. After speaking with a few people over at the Affrolachian On-Time Music Gathering as purevl suggested I was able to find 2 leads for black owned businesses selling banjos. First was the contact person for the org, she actually makes some herself. Another was an owner of Elderly! I felt really honored speaking with these two brilliant women....


I would be curious to hear what you find, either here or in a private message.  Also, the last Americana at the local store I saw was priced around $1100, which played in to the suggestions I made.  It sounds like there are Americana versions available for much less.  I should have checked, that was my error.  Sorry.

May 29, 2020 - 9:35:17 AM
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Kimerer

USA

932 posts since 2/17/2006

Take the time to go to a store that has lots of banjos and play them. It really is best to make your decision by playing the banjos. The on-line specs are useful, but they do not tell the whole story about whether or not you will like a particular banjo. You have to hold them.

May 29, 2020 - 9:47:37 AM
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543 posts since 8/14/2018

quote:
Originally posted by Kimerer

Take the time to go to a store that has lots of banjos and play them.


Easier said than done.

May 29, 2020 - 10:23:52 AM
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3965 posts since 10/18/2007

Speaking of Elderly, I would trust them to find you a very good used instrument.

May 30, 2020 - 6:06:13 AM
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17 posts since 4/9/2019

Check out StoneBanjo Company... stonebanjo he has a custom in the classified for 888, but he will make whatever you need. I had him build a A-scale for me and love it.


Jun 5, 2020 - 4:17:52 AM

9 posts since 5/27/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Kimerer

Take the time to go to a store that has lots of banjos and play them. It really is best to make your decision by playing the banjos. The on-line specs are useful, but they do not tell the whole story about whether or not you will like a particular banjo. You have to hold them.

 


I'm sure. I love going to music stores but there were none in my area that I can go to 

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