As stated in the topic, I am looking into purchasing a banjo for the first time. I have already done research into the types of banjos out there and have settled on the Irish tenor - I'm a fan of the sound and play style, as well as the mandolin tuning and the more compact size - my main issue comes down to pricing.
I play other instruments at a decent level, so I am, at the least, familiar with the run around of beginner instruments vs proper investments. I am not in a financial place right now to get a top of the line instrument, ignoring the nuances required for playing a high level instrument, but I know that it'd be silly to try an learn on an instrument that doesn't have the musical capacity to train a decent skill level by which I'll feel more comfortable investing in a higher quality banjo.
My primary goal - by far - is to learn the instrument.
As mentioned previously, I play other instruments - it's just that they are all woodwinds (clarinet and saxophone families) - and as such, please take in mind that my primary experience with string instruments is playing in the wind section of an orchestra, jealous of one of the double bass players grabbed a quick snack during a break, and some vague memories of being a 7 year old, upset that the guitar made their fingertips hurt. I want to be able to add vox support without taking away the volume that comes with the wind instruments (especially the saxophones), so string seemed the direction to go, and the Irish tuning 4-string has the sound I'm looking for. But again, even though I can be considered strong musician as far as my woodwinds, I am an utter novice when it comes to anything with a fret board, so I'm really looking at the beginner's side of things.
I am not concerned with the quality of the first purchase beyond that of making sure it is not so poorly made that it hinders what I can learn from it. Unless there is just that one incredible banjo out there that works for a complete novice up to low tier gig performance that fits a self-aware small budget, I really am just trying to get a piece that can play the notes in tune and won't completely fall apart while I learn it. I'm not quite trying to find the most bang for the buck as far as the standard ideals of longevity and tone quality are concerned, but as far as 'this will allow you to figure out how to make sounds on something similar' goes, yes.
This method of just-shy-of-garbage instrument for base level learning to actually-useful-for-stuff instrument worked quite well for me in broaching the saxophone family with the alto sax after playing clarinets for some time, and, in my experience, instruments advertised as 'starter instruments' have never really been particularly great for anything other than adding to the price tag by calling it a 'starter instrument', but I am not at all familiar with the banjo market dynamics, nor am I locked in my expectations for how I should learn this instrument (I am merely using my past experiences), so please feel more than free to adjust my preconceptions on either.
Basically, I am currently looking for an Irish tenor banjo that will be just good enough to let me learn how to play the instrument properly, then later investing in one that would be far more reasonable for social play and occasional gigs. Any advice would be Greatly appreciated.
I'd go with any number of the cheaper vintage tenors on the Marketplace, or even a mandolin-banjo if you dont mind the stigma.
If I understand you correctly, you are looking for something inexpensive, playable, and durable. This, of course, begs the question: What do you consider inexpensive? Deering and Gold Tone both offer good choices. If I understand correctly the difference between a standard tenor and an Irish tenor banjo is the tuning, so any tenor banjo can be an Irish tenor banjo. You also need to decide if you want an open back or resonator banjo. Irish tenor banjos come in both styles. I'm not a tenor banjo player. I play the 5-string and encountered similar decisions in buying one. (I now have three.)
I have a very nice VEGA style N, which I bought with the intention of converting to 5-string.
But it is TOO NICE to do that to, as I have several other 5-strings.
So I am going to put it up on the Marketplace, and my advice would be to buy it from me.
$350 plus shipping.
Edited by - mike gregory on 06/01/2020 10:35:06
It would be handy if the OP would give an indication of their location. the answer for the USA may be different for the UK, Ireland or Belarus.
if in the US I think Mikes Vega could not be bettered !
Good point GrahamHawker, I'm located in the US.
I did see the mandolin-banjo when first looking at different strings, I liked it but felt it was too soprano for my taste as far as playing music, though I am faintly amused and curious as to what the stigma is.
I was thinking a resonator banjo seems more conducive to a small audience-level band environment, making sure the sound gets projected forward and not lost behind the rest of the ensemble. Since that's the intended environment, it makes sense to me that I would begin learning on one, but I'm not fully aware how playing techniques change when moving between open and resonator, so if the difference isn't terribly significant, then I suppose it doesn't matter much for this particular purpose; a resonator being preferred if only to be used to the shape if anything.
I am quite aware of the fact that far, far more often than not, you really get what you pay for when it comes to instruments, but I'm on a student budget, and the money for this is coming from setting aside any excess of the portion of my paycheck that does not go into savings. So I know that though my ideal cost may be comically small, I am under a rather strict cap to try to get what I want out of the purchase (hence my priorities). I'm hoping to swing below 300 USD, under 250 if I'm able, though if there is absolutely nothing out there that can hold together for the time it takes for me to get comfortable with the instrument and fill up the savings for a proper instrument, I'll hold off for a bit longer.
Edited by - Ozzark on 06/01/2020 11:49:36
to be quite honest, you will never buy an instrument of decent quality at your given price point unless you luck into some kind of spectacular deal ! You are looking at mostly far eastern made "bottlecap" banjos that will never satisfy your criteria whereas, something like the Vega that Mike has already has a proven track record as a great banjo with a great pedigree, it will serve you well to learn and, a simple tone hoop could be added at a later date fairly cheaply and.... you own a real Boston built Vega ! whats not to like ? Reading what your requirements are I do not think you would enjoy owning/playing a cheap bottlecap banjo ! just my thoughts.
I have a NON-Vega resonator, which I can cobble on to it for an additional $25, but you might want to try it without, since the Vega could, and probably DID play in bands with saxophones and trumpets, back in the days before amplifiers.
Hard to tell if this banjo has one, or not.
In the second picture, looks like one does, other doesn't.
I love old vegas, all of them ! Mike if it were not for that big blue wobbly thing between our continents I would buy that baby in a heartbeat !
Ozzark Oz I think Mike Gregory has a good offer
I volunteer at an acoustic music showcase. someone has donated a vintage 17 fret Oscar Schmidt with a hardshell case. It has a detachable resonator
We are asking a donation of $200
The donor asked that a young enthusiast or player get this Banjo and you sound like a candidate
This Banjo was played by a lady named Vernetta
It is in fine used condition
Edited by - Helix on 06/01/2020 15:49:20
Vernetta, you foxy old broad!
You undercut my price AND include a case that would cost over $100 new.
Ozzark, if you have to, BORROW $200 and grab it!
I own a banjo with a HELIX pot, and consider him a personal friend and a dang good judge of things banjo.
If he says it's good, it's good.
Yep, I agree. I don't know the model, but that 4-string could be ideal for the OP. And looks like it includes a nice HSC as well!
Edited by - Fire-n-Rain on 06/01/2020 16:10:41
Oh Wow! Thank you all SO much for helping me get started! I absolutely can swing $200 @Helix, I'll pm you!
Believe it or not, I'd rather see a photo of you grinning over Vernetta's banjo, than see your money on my table.
And as soon as you can, post a sound file.
Thank you for your kind words, Mike. When you are in Phoenix, we'll book you a gig at Fiddler's Dream which you have now helped continue to exist.
thursday nights open stage continues on zoom.com, we've had 16 people do a one song rotation, zoom is perfect for open stage. We have room for 150, please join us. Email me and i'll send the information to get on at 6:30 Thursday nights. I'll put a thread up about it.
Edited by - Helix on 06/02/2020 14:23:18
I mailed the Vernetta today
Thanks to everyone, this
Edited by - Helix on 06/08/2020 11:30:56
'Good Thursday Morning' 49 min
'Banjitar I built' 3 hrs
'Alder banjo for sale' 4 hrs
'Two accounts' 4 hrs
'Iida 240 peghead decal' 5 hrs
'Resonator lip repair' 5 hrs
'Stewmac binding guide' 6 hrs