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Nov 26, 2020 - 10:02:07 AM
7 posts since 11/25/2020

Hi everyone, this is my first post here.
I have been trying to educate myself about open back banjo. I’ve listened to many audio samples so I am starting to hear all the different tones from all the different builds. I am looking for a quality open back and am considering Pisgah, Rieter, and the list is growing. There is a Pisgah Possum 12” w/25” scale and a Rieter 11” w/26” scale in the classifieds. Both are the same price. Can anyone give me advice about the scale length difference and the pot size. I am a seasoned guitar player and I want to learn claw hammer style banjo.

Thanks so much
Joseph

Nov 26, 2020 - 10:26:30 AM
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1213 posts since 8/7/2017

The nice (and frustrating) thing about banjos is that you can adjust them to play and sound mostly the way you want them to sound. Other than changing strings, a guitar, far as I know, only changes tone/sound with ageing of the wood. So, picking a guitar is possibly more critical than picking out a banjo.

Listen to recordings if you can. But be warned: the banjo you get (via mail order) may sound Nothing like what you heard online. This happened to me. But, after an intense 2 months of educating myself (via reading BHO posts on banjo setup and the effects of different setups), I have "made" the one I now love via altering the setup. Along the way, I was seriously tempted to put it up for sale at the local stringed instrument store (I got it mail order). It had sounded atrocious on arrival. Have faith that you will be able to replicate the sound you heard :-)

You will likely acquire several banjos in your musical journey. I have 4 now (Stelling, Carver, Cedar Mountain, kit-built fretless mountain banjo). I like all of them. They each sound different.

So, don't sweat the 1st buy too much, is what I'm trying to say. It's helpful if you have a banjo luthier nearby to help you, but not required at all. BHO has all the expertise you will need, in my experience.
-----------------
Welcome to the world of clawhammer :-) I love it.

Nov 26, 2020 - 10:59:34 AM
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3970 posts since 10/13/2005

In the open back banjo world those two banjos are the beginning and end of the spectrum, going from a wooden tone ring (the rim is the tone ring) to a metal Whyte Laydie tone ring. You certainly can modify the sound with set up as suggested but they are different enough that I seriously doubt you could ever make them sound the same. WLs are bright, loud. Some of the best and worst sounding banjos I've heard have been WLs. The Reiter will be heavier and the 11" head does create a sharper, distinct sound. The 12" wood tone Pisgah will be lighter and more toward the softer, mellower end of the scale, but still plenty loud if you want to lay into it. Heads, strings and bridges can really make a difference with both banjos. Buy them both and let your ears and hands decide. Either one you can easily resale for what you pay. Very few banjo players stay with their first banjo. Time and experience changes preferences but you can't find out what those preferences are without jumping into it. It's a journey, enjoy each step of the way. banjered

Nov 26, 2020 - 2:42:36 PM
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5904 posts since 3/11/2006

@Joseph P

Obviously hearing someone play clawhammer is what made you want to learn it. Who was he/she, or they?

There is a good amount of variation within the parameters of clawhammer banjo, and zeroing in on whoever your inspiration was and the type of instrument they play, their personal style, and their approach to the banjo may provide guidance in your choice of instruments.

Nov 27, 2020 - 1:34:33 PM
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Paul R

Canada

13671 posts since 1/28/2010

Keep in mind that the room you're in will affect the sound. So will the occasion. The banjo will sound different depending upon the musicians you're playing with or if you're playing solo.

Edited by - Paul R on 11/27/2020 13:36:13

Nov 27, 2020 - 3:19:51 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13295 posts since 8/30/2006

Welcome to the hangout

I like OME.
Look at Jon Whitney here
Rickard

I find dedicated artists work around the lack of great equipment while forming the new music
Then our job is to perform and build




Edited by - Helix on 11/27/2020 15:21:44

Nov 27, 2020 - 3:45:30 PM

7 posts since 11/25/2020

quote:
Originally posted by R.D. Lunceford

@Joseph P

Obviously hearing someone play clawhammer is what made you want to learn it. Who was he/she, or they?

There is a good amount of variation within the parameters of clawhammer banjo, and zeroing in on whoever your inspiration was and the type of instrument they play, their personal style, and their approach to the banjo may provide guidance in your choice of instruments.


I had a friend that I used to play with years ago that played folk banjo and I loved his playing but he mainly did finger picking. Someone that really woke me up to the banjo was the guy from Great Lakes Swimmers, Erik Arnesen on the track "Your Rocky Spine".

Nov 27, 2020 - 5:53:03 PM
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5904 posts since 3/11/2006

Can't tell a whole ton from the video of the group you referenced and I only listened to the one song.

I couldn't identify the make of the banjo, but it looks to be an 11" with a Fiberskin head and a fairly normal scale length.
I'd think the Reiter you mentioned would be pretty similar. The banjo in the video has a mellow tone attributable to the head,
perhaps a rolled brass tone-ring, and no doubt EQing.

As most players will tell you though, you can get a banjo to sound just about any way you like through set-up. Pisgahs are good banjos too.
If you like it better than the Reiter, get it. Like I say, you can change the sound simply and inexpensively on either banjo.

Edited by - R.D. Lunceford on 11/27/2020 17:53:45

Nov 28, 2020 - 11:27:23 AM

7 posts since 11/25/2020

Thank you all for your input.. I really do appreciate all I can get.. I’ve been looking and learning a lot..

Here is another question. Since banjo and claw hammer is new to me and as most people say that I’m sure to move onto other banjo’s. What are some of the best bang for your buck, with serious quality in mind, for a newbie like me? I have been playing guitar for a long time and I have some truly high quality instruments so I really do want something that feels like its been crafted well.

Nov 28, 2020 - 2:27:08 PM
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261 posts since 4/10/2018

The acquisition project for a new or used banjo is fun but also somewhat exasperating. There are excellent options out there as your expanding list shows. No one mentioned two really good banjo makers: Kevin Enoch and Cedar Mountain banjos. Those combined with all the makers listed above should give you good choices. I have a Ricard semi fretless I love and a Lukas Pool open back that’s super. Note that you might have to wait for some makers to build one. And it can get expensive. As with used guitars, used banjos can be great but you have to know what you are getting. Repairs can be tricky. One other point: developing good tone takes a while and you might not match the tone of the players you admire for a while. But that’s what makes the banjo interesting!

Nov 29, 2020 - 10:34:14 AM

261 posts since 4/10/2018

Also: you might check out Quail Creek Banjos.

Nov 29, 2020 - 2:45:56 PM

5904 posts since 3/11/2006

@Joseph P

Reiters are a good bet... his prices have understandably increased in recent years, but they are excellent quality and could easily be lifetime banjos unless you get bitten by the collecting bug. Go to his website for models and pricing.
reiterbanjos.com/

There's a Reiter Galax in the classifieds for a good price but with a cosmetic issue.
You'll need to communicate with the seller.

I've yet to see or play one, but the numerous Zachary Hoyts in the classifieds might all be
worth a look.

I can't personally vouch for any of the above, but they're all in the $1000 range and look to be good banjos.

Nov 30, 2020 - 8:41:47 AM
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AndyW

UK

631 posts since 7/4/2017

Go second hand. Then when you later decide exactly what you want you can sell it for the same price.

It takes a good while to get the clawhammer right hand going properly, and as long as you don't go ultra cheap, almost any banjo will do for the initial learning stage.

For a guitarist already proficient at left hand embellishments (pulloffs/hammerons/slides etc) I can recommend Dan Levenson's 'Clawhammer Banjo From Scratch' book as an early learning tool as it's pretty right hand specific for the first two thirds. And here's some freebies.

Dan Levenson 1
banjohangout.org/lessons/video...sp?id=235
Dan Levenson 2
banjohangout.org/lessons/video...sp?id=247
Dan Levenson 3
banjohangout.org/lessons/video...sp?id=260
RSB Videos
rsb.pricklypearmusic.net/rsbvideos.html
RSB Site
rsb=pricklypearmusic.net/

Edited by - AndyW on 11/30/2020 08:44:00

Dec 1, 2020 - 8:28:08 AM

7 posts since 11/25/2020

Such a great amount of info coming from you all.... Thank you so much.
I have been reading and listening so much. One thing I know is I love the banjo. I love the music that it makes. I love the instrument, it’s a work of art. I keep going back and forth thinking I should just get a Deering Goodtime or maybe I should really go for it and get a Richard. If a Richard Maple Ridge would turn up used for a good price I think I would go for it..

Dec 1, 2020 - 6:28:54 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

24250 posts since 6/25/2005

 Gold Star has just introduced a reasonably-priced openback that I would take over a Goodtime any day. This banjo was not yet listed when this thread started.

https://shop.gryphonstrings.com/products/5-string-open-back-gold-star-banjo-ge1-prospector-old-time-banjo-new-58893

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 12/01/2020 18:32:34

Dec 7, 2020 - 8:11:03 AM

265 posts since 9/8/2010

My vote goes to the Pisgah. I bought a 12" Dobson a couple of years ago. The nice thing is you can remove the tone ring if you want that tubbier sound. So their are lots of tone options available. It cured my need to continue buying banjos (at least for the time being).

Dec 7, 2020 - 10:30:52 AM

7 posts since 11/25/2020

I am actually leaning toward a 12” Dobson 25.5” scale style banjo. That Pisgah is gone but it was an 11” white Laydie. Bill has a good recommendation with the Gold Star GE-1 but it is a 26” scale. I can get a 12” UTE brand new for $855. Seems like that is one of the best things going for a Colorado US built banjo, but it is 26 3/8” scale. I’m just trying to be patient and waiting for a good used quality banjo but I am picky and I’m running out of patience..

Dec 7, 2020 - 12:14:49 PM

8165 posts since 3/17/2005

If you're intent on an inexpensive, new banjo, the Goldstar that Bill linked looks like a heck of a value to me. Otherwise, take the same money and look at used banjos.

Dec 7, 2020 - 2:43:37 PM

38 posts since 11/28/2020

I have a similar history as you, guitar player with some high quality pieces.
I am still very new but I bought a GoldTone CCR100 plus to start with. It is a resonator and around $700. As I have been learning and reading, and researching I just ordered a custom Pisgah Wonder. The only thing is they are taking orders to start the build in October of 2021. I am willing to wait while I learn on what I have. So far I like my CCR

Dec 8, 2020 - 4:25:02 PM
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7 posts since 11/25/2020

So, It looks like I just bought my first banjo. After a lot of reading and researching and with much thanks to the BHO. I decided to go with this 12 year old Deering Oldtime that I found right here on the BHO. It only cost me $300 and I figure I need to practice a lot mostly for quite some time before I can even know what I’m looking for. By then this Covid thing should be over and I will be able to get out and about and sample a lot of different makers. Also I will be able to a least play some things on them..


Dec 9, 2020 - 6:18:13 AM

7 posts since 11/25/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Joseph P

So, It looks like I just bought my first banjo. After a lot of reading and researching and with much thanks to the BHO. I decided to go with this 12 year old Deering Oldtime that I found right here on the BHO. It only cost me $300 and I figure I need to practice a lot mostly for quite some time before I can even know what I’m looking for. By then this Covid thing should be over and I will be able to get out and about and sample a lot of different makers. Also I will be able to at least play something  on them..


Dec 17, 2020 - 5:53:33 PM

BelfastFiveString

Northern Ireland

197 posts since 7/22/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Joseph P

So, It looks like I just bought my first banjo. After a lot of reading and researching and with much thanks to the BHO. I decided to go with this 12 year old Deering Oldtime that I found right here on the BHO. It only cost me $300 and I figure I need to practice a lot mostly for quite some time before I can even know what I’m looking for. By then this Covid thing should be over and I will be able to get out and about and sample a lot of different makers. Also I will be able to a least play some things on them..


Good choice, reasnoble and reliable. Have fun playing around with it! I've had a knock off version of that, an Ozark 2109G, for some years. My best advice would be buy a set of heavy guage strings and tune the banjo down after using it for a few months. It will change the tone massively and you will need to tune down a step or step and half; this will give you some variety you might like in the first few months and might make it easier for you to sing with it.

Dec 20, 2020 - 7:12:03 AM
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265 posts since 9/8/2010

Well done. I started out on a Goodtime and liked it. I found it was vey "tunable" in terms of the different tones I could get out of it with setup changes. At the time, I liked the tubbier sound that I got using a fiberskin head, but now, on my Pisgah in prefer the brighter sound of the tone ring and renaissance head. I often use a small piece of open cell sponge set between the dowel stick (or coordinator rod, in your case) and the underside of the head. This knocks off some of the sustain without impacting the volume much. Don't be afraid to experiment with it. There is lots of good information about different setups here on BHO. Folks here will always willingly give you advice. The first thing I learned about was how to tension the head correctly. Minor changes in head tension have a significant impact on the tone.

Welcome to the joy and adventure of your banjo journey.

Dec 20, 2020 - 7:29:24 AM

648 posts since 2/15/2015

If you like a Reiter. Get one. But... I think stock is diminishing and from what I gather (& correct me if I'm wrong), Reiter is retiring

Dec 20, 2020 - 7:53:23 AM

159 posts since 4/1/2016

quote:
Originally posted by geoB

If you like a Reiter. Get one. But... I think stock is diminishing and from what I gather (& correct me if I'm wrong), Reiter is retiring


Just saw the other day that Bart has his business, including the shop building, for sale for around $20k. 

Dec 21, 2020 - 3:48:06 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13295 posts since 8/30/2006

Have you been practicing on guitar in Open G tuning?

Good choice, you can't lose with a used starter. You can learn to adjust the action and such so you won't get frustrated.

Nobody knows what's going to happen next year. A waiting list is something I don't do.

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