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Feb 26, 2021 - 10:58:25 PM
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PHIL-

USA

49 posts since 2/26/2021

Got the banjo 1/31/21, wanted an entry level banjo. Its been an amazing experience so far learning the clawhammer style, I've made good progress and its very exciting.

But, the washburn b9 is a piece of crap. Been around musical instruments for almost 20 years, and this thing for $300 bucks new is robbery.

I'm grateful that it got me started, but already dying to upgrade. Thinking about going with a deering artisan open back.

Anyone had any experiences with the deering artisan or the shocking poor quality of the washburn b9?

(The reason i went with the washburn, was because it wasnt the cheapest, but in my opinion its a terrible value) in other words, i wanted a higher quality entry level instrument. Im learning quick.

Feb 27, 2021 - 12:25:09 AM

1719 posts since 2/4/2013

The Washburn B9 is just another cheap aluminium rimmed bottlecap. Washburn don't make them. They are just rebadged by the factory with whatever name is required on the headstock. Washburn do ask for a better tailpiece which is the type that is always strung incorrectly by the factory. So it is cheap but it looks overpriced. New prices have gone up though. It wasn't long ago that a price around $200 for this type of banjo was a bit much.

I can't comment of the Artisan Goodtime although i still don't like the idea of not having a truss rod.

Feb 27, 2021 - 4:09:07 AM

583 posts since 3/9/2013

The list of better banjos could go on quite awhile. The Goodtimes are nice banjos but the prices they are asking nowadays seem like they are not a great value anymore. Both Gold Tone and Recording King offer decent priced Asian built instruments. About 1000 used can probably get you a North American built forever instrument. Check out the Deering Old Tyme wonder. Very expensive new. I got one like new sitting here if interested in talking.

Feb 27, 2021 - 5:09:08 AM

jacot23

USA

186 posts since 12/13/2012

What's your budget? For around $1K you could get either a Stone Banjo or a Zach Hoyt banjo. Either of those makers blow Deering out of the water.

stonebanjo.com/

hoytbanjos.com/banjos/

Feb 27, 2021 - 5:12:47 AM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14049 posts since 8/30/2006

Hi, welcome to the hangout. You will discover you have specs. You don't know what they are yet, but now you've got an idea and you're working on it. You know what you don't want.

I have an intermediate I build @ $777 with full features. Other custom builders can compete here.

Factory banjos always have that apologia, tastes just like chicken or whatever.

Both Recording King and Gold Tone have on-shore shops and jobs, it's an international partnership IF we can get the f'ing parts in some stupid trade war.
But both have high quality hardware and you can buy banjo parts from them.

Other importers are more mysterious, I question the recourse one might have in returns or breakage. Washburn who?

Let's say Deering has/had some interesting ideas, they make banjos to suit themselves, they use the same round holes in their shoe and plate designs with flat hooks all the way up the price points.

I have your Washburn in my shop, it was gifted to me with a broken neck and the 3rd piece was missing, I had to make one.

Among the aluminum crowd, Washburn is a better casting, less slag and void. I do rim change outs, I get to see the inside of all these different ways of offering banjos . Let's say in in a joke: I get to see who don't wear no yes I do's.

I use the aluminum banjo to compare when customers visit. It shows high attack, lower sustain and high decay,

Wooden banjos tend to have more 'voice.' Look for high attack, high sustain and low decay, that's better music.

So I suggest you look for a used banjo here on the hangout, confer with me off forum, no sales implied.

Feb 27, 2021 - 5:35:18 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14049 posts since 8/30/2006

My point is the Washburn is a pretty good hardware set, double acting truss rod, good neck and frets, mine has planetary tuners.
You can consider a $275 rim changeout to a wooden rim of Maple, Cherry, Mahog or Walnut.
Set up is part of the price, still less than 1k and no frustration.


 

Feb 27, 2021 - 5:57:25 AM

4131 posts since 10/13/2005

Yeah, don't be overly quick and buy sideways for a not much better banjo. The above advices are good. Use the search engine "Q" to the left of this page and type in something like "beginning clawhammer banjo buy" and keep yourself busy for an evening. If you can, try to try out a few banjos before you buy. Neck profiles/comfort are important and can only be experienced directly. banjered

Feb 27, 2021 - 7:01:08 AM

2499 posts since 5/2/2012

OP asked about reviews of the Artisan, and there are some here on the HO, one for the openback and one for the Special

FWIW, I started playing banjo with a Gold Tone CC-OT, which sells for a bit over $500 new now. Nice entry level openback.  Played that for 3-4 years and never felt the need to move up.   Check out this banjo in the classifieds here.  Don't know the builder/seller, but you can check the reviews and even contact the builder (I'd ask if it had a truss rod myself, and ask if a taller 5/8" bridge would work if I was a clawhammer player).   

Feb 27, 2021 - 7:10:57 AM

86 posts since 4/9/2019

Consider the Ibanez B300, lots of nice features, metal tone ring & good specs (google it), sub $500 new, great sound and playability IF SET UP PROPERLY! Chinese made to Ibanez Specs..

Feb 27, 2021 - 7:43:20 AM

56 posts since 2/18/2021

I currently have a Deering Goodtime Artisan tenor banjo. It’s good for what it is, but is overpriced, imo. I paid $749 new last year. It’s got some dents in the rim from the factory (not a huge deal to me), all but 4 frets had glue on them and had to be scraped off, and the flat j-hooks were not the greatest, so I switched them out for round hooks.

Knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn’t pay more than $500 new for one, and even that is pushing it, imo, as it’s pretty plain Jane. CNC routing/cutting has really made instrument building a much quicker task. I don’t see how they can justify such high prices, except that they’re located in CA which has a high cost of living, high cost of disability and workman’s comp taxes, etc. IOW, high overhead.

I paid 2x the amount ($1500) just the other day to Dan at TradBanjo.com for a 100 year old Paramount Style B with resonator, tone ring, inlay and marquetry work. It’s 100x the banjo that the Goodtime Artisan is. Definitely worth the $$ to break above that $1000 barrier for a quality instrument, imo.

Feb 27, 2021 - 11:31:15 AM

AndyW

UK

793 posts since 7/4/2017

To be honest almost anything half decent will be an upgrade from a tinny sounding bottlecap. Low end Deerings seem expensive to me for what you get, RK or Goldtone give more for the money. I'm UK so don't care about US made.

Or, since you know you are committed to banjo, step up to a cheaper end luthier made instrument.

Feb 27, 2021 - 12:34:18 PM

PHIL-

USA

49 posts since 2/26/2021

Stopped into samash today to do some "recon".

They had 3 resonators, the gold tone was fine but the strings were terrible. Didnt want to even try to attempt to tune it. So that was a bust.

The washburn had a heavy resonator but the frets were sharp on the sides and the action was pretty weird. For $1,000 bucks I'd say no.

Deering goodtime 2 was the best of those 3, but really wasn't blown away by the quality.

At least now i have a better understanding that although Deering does a good job marketing their products, they are not that great.

I'm going to save up some cash and try to be very patient (as patient as a beginner banjoist needs to be) so i can find something high quality.

Washburn b9 for now to continue learning and I'm gonna be on the lookout.

Feb 27, 2021 - 1:04:24 PM
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583 posts since 3/9/2013

I second the suggestion for Zachary Hoyt or any of the small builders.
I wouldn’t say Deering are not that great. They make fantastic instruments. The fit and action perfect on everyone I’ve tried and I’ve owned 2. Are they overpriced from the factory? Absolutely. But good banjos they are.

Feb 27, 2021 - 1:17:18 PM

56 posts since 2/18/2021

I’d say the Deering line from Sierra up are quality instruments.

My gripe is with what I got in the Goodtime Artisan for almost the same price that I sold my Gibson SG Standard in near mint condition was not comparable, even considering the used status of the SG.

And the Goodtime didn’t even come with a gig bag for $749. That was an extra $80.

Feb 27, 2021 - 1:38:03 PM

AndyW

UK

793 posts since 7/4/2017

Since you are keeping the banjo for now there are a few things that can be done to tame the sound a bit. Obviously this won't affect any playability issues.

You can stuff your banjo which may cut down on the tinniness.(Remove resonator, shove a pair of socks between coordinator rods and head and refit resonator). You could try a different bridge.(A cheap compensated bridge would add a touch of mass) For a bit more money you could change the head for a renaissance or a fiberskyn maybe. Don't know what tailpiece you have, but if it's adjustable you can play about with that.

Feb 27, 2021 - 1:46:49 PM
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11722 posts since 6/2/2008

Plenty of good players got their start on aluminum-rimmed bottlecaps like the B-9 or thin-rimmed banjos such as or similar to Epiphone MB-100 or Recording King Dirty Thirties. The main thing to look for, I believe, is an instrument assembled with hardware that won't fall apaprt and that's sufficiently adjustable to deliver easy playability and good intonation -- which these usually can be.

Because of ever-increasing prices for new instruments, beginner banjos of all types are much better values used. Yard sales and local Craigslist can be good sources for low-priced learner banjos.

Deering Goodtime is a well-made beginner instrument. Three-ply maple rim and a neck profile same as their professional banjos are probably the two best features. The hardware is probably a cut above the typical import. I agree new Goodtimes cost a lot for what you get. especially the Artisan series which at least comes closer to looking like its price. They're made in USA and Deering does what it can to manage costs. As I said above, these are better buys used, usually going for about 75% of the cost of a new one. Maybe less at a yard sale.

I totally agree that Gold Tone Cripple Creek CC-50 and 100 (and the "RP" models with resonator and planetary tuners) are very good learner instruments that go head-to-head with the Goodtime. Main differences: Goodtime has 3-ply rims vs Cripple Creek multi-ply. But Cripple Creek gives you a brass tone hoop and adjustable truss rod in the neck vs none in the Goodtime. Cripple Creek also has a true fingerboard, which Goodtime only gives you in the Artisan series. And the Goodtime "Special" gives you a steel tone ring that's sort of Mastertone shaped.

But once you're up to a new Artisan Special, you're $100 more than a Recording King RK-35 or 36 and $250 more than a Gold Tone OB-150. No contest. These three are also the banjos to be looking for used.

Good luck and have fun.

Feb 27, 2021 - 1:55:10 PM

11722 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by AndyW

Since you are keeping the banjo for now there are a few things that can be done to tame the sound a bit. Obviously this won't affect any playability issues.

You can stuff your banjo which may cut down on the tinniness.


Something that people have written about here on the Hangout is installing a quilting or embroidery hoop (or hoops) inside the rim, pushed to the top so wood contacts the underside of the head. The hoop is open-ended and wants to spring out, so friction holds it in place.

An inexpesive mod that apparently helps the tone.

Here's one discussion. 

Feb 27, 2021 - 2:26:48 PM

PHIL-

USA

49 posts since 2/26/2021

quote:
Originally posted by banjobrewer

I second the suggestion for Zachary Hoyt or any of the small builders.
I wouldn’t say Deering are not that great. They make fantastic instruments. The fit and action perfect on everyone I’ve tried and I’ve owned 2. Are they overpriced from the factory? Absolutely. But good banjos they are.


Thinking more, maybe i was a bit harsh. The goodtime was the best of what Samash had, but i dont understand why the head stock is jointed in place, rather than one piece with the neck. Is this standard on all banjos?

Feb 27, 2021 - 2:56:29 PM

583 posts since 3/9/2013

No. Just the lower end Goodtimes. They had a great idea with the Goodtimes line. A cheap banjo that is well fitted and American made. So they designed a neck without a separate finger board or truss rod. I would imagine the joint has some cost savings since the neck blank wouldn’t have to be so big. But I believe they priced themselves out of the market they were shooting for. The rest of the Deering line up is solid but expensive. But quality wise they stand up.

Feb 27, 2021 - 3:14:30 PM
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11722 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by PHIL-
The goodtime was the best of what Samash had, but i dont understand why the head stock is jointed in place, rather than one piece with the neck. Is this standard on all banjos?

A grafted peghead is probably standard on banjos at and below the RK-35/36, Gold Tone OB-150 and Gold Star GF-85. I would expect all low-end banjos to have grafted pegheads as well as built-up heels. It gets more necks out of less wood or thinner boards.

The main difference between everyone else's grafted peghead and the Goodtime is that only Deering uses a finger joint. Or uses it so openly rather than hiding it under opaque color.

The grafted pegheads on the RK, Gold Tone and Gold Star -- as well as other imports -- are done with straight diagonal cuts or "scarf joints." It's a longstanding practice in lutherie and actually results in a stronger peghead by eliminating grain runout at the bend -- a point of weakness in one-piece necks. It's my understanding that classical guitars have always been built this way. The joint is visible, but less jarring than the finger joint on the Goodtime. 

Feb 27, 2021 - 6:18:49 PM
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56 posts since 2/18/2021

Scarf joints are the biggest dead giveaways of Chibson Les Paul’s.

Feb 27, 2021 - 6:40:29 PM
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75 posts since 12/23/2016

I am kind of in the same place as the OP. Back in 2016 I suddenly had an urge to get a banjo. I knew almost nothing. I hadn't found the hangout, so I did a bit of research on YouTube and ended up with a Goodtime Americana that I got from Amazon for $489 in a bundle deal that included a nice Gator case and a stand. I still think that was a smoking deal. The banjo is easy to play. I liked the aesthetics because it reminded me of my maple neck Telecaster. I worked on learning clawhammer for about a year, then went back to guitar and it went under the bed for a while. In January I got it out again and I am really enjoying it. I am learning a lot.

It's fine really. When I go on YouTube and listen to say a Pisgah Possum or an Enoch Tradesman, they sound better to me, though I don't think I need a scoop. I think somewhat heavier strings would be good, but Deering advises against them on the Goodtime line because of the lack of a truss rod. But I think I am going to stick with the Goodtime until I get a bit better. It is easy to play and it sounds pretty good. I think that I got lucky and even in my ignorance got a pretty decent starter banjo for a good price.

Feb 27, 2021 - 8:08:11 PM

PHIL-

USA

49 posts since 2/26/2021

quote:
Originally posted by guitarsophist

I am kind of in the same place as the OP. Back in 2016 I suddenly had an urge to get a banjo. I knew almost nothing. I hadn't found the hangout, so I did a bit of research on YouTube and ended up with a Goodtime Americana that I got from Amazon for $489 in a bundle deal that included a nice Gator case and a stand. I still think that was a smoking deal. The banjo is easy to play. I liked the aesthetics because it reminded me of my maple neck Telecaster. I worked on learning clawhammer for about a year, then went back to guitar and it went under the bed for a while. In January I got it out again and I am really enjoying it. I am learning a lot.

It's fine really. When I go on YouTube and listen to say a Pisgah Possum or an Enoch Tradesman, they sound better to me, though I don't think I need a scoop. I think somewhat heavier strings would be good, but Deering advises against them on the Goodtime line because of the lack of a truss rod. But I think I am going to stick with the Goodtime until I get a bit better. It is easy to play and it sounds pretty good. I think that I got lucky and even in my ignorance got a pretty decent starter banjo for a good price.


Man i wish id have gotten a goodtime. Ive been a drummer for almost 20 years, my brothers and I own a studio (Notlit Studios) here in Philadelphia. We have been going through sweetwater for gear and thier banjo selection is pretty thin.

For me, its pretty bad going from having Roland v-drums or my pearl masters acoustic kit with all top of the line dw 9000s hardware to playing a chinese washburn. 3 plus weeks into playing and learning im just over having this piece of junk washburn.

In my opinion, instrument quality is very important. Just wish that was in my mind when i hastily pulled the trigger on financing a $300 instrument from sweetwater for $12 a month. 

Feb 27, 2021 - 8:33:12 PM

75 posts since 12/23/2016

PHIL- Ah, you're a drummer. Yeah, quality is important, but it sounds like the Washburn is more than a banjo-shaped object. You learned some stuff from fooling with it. Music is a journey, and some instruments are just waystations on the path. You probably wouldn't perform with it, but it taught you something about the weird wonderfulness of banjos and made you want something better. That is not nothing. It is what it is. You can still learn from it.

I spent much of the day trying to find banjo tab for "The Erie Canal" (Low bridge, everybody down) because my 1-year-old grandson likes that song. No luck with tab, but I found sheet music. I don't read music well, but here I was trying to sight read for banjo in open G. It was a rabbit hole adventure. Banjo is really cool for rethinking musical ruts and learning new stuff.

I've almost got "The Erie Canal." I just have to forget the sheet music and play it.

Feb 27, 2021 - 9:19:58 PM

PHIL-

USA

49 posts since 2/26/2021

I think grandpa jones was probably my biggest teacher. I've been listening to his music on repeat for 2 years. Its a funny thing, its bliss. Never experienced a musician that could bring it all together so deeply. His music, emotionally can go from one end to the other. There are songs that make me smile from ear to ear and there is songs that make me reflect deeply.

Few reasons i started playing, one is that i was wasting about 8 hours a day playing video games. Thought to myself, well if i can do this, why the heck can't i learn another instrument? Wish I'd done it sooner.

Another big reason, is being in school for engineering i wanted to get into learning mode. My apprenticeship started back up on 2/16 so by then i was already 2 weeks into playing banjo and learning. I feel like my brain was ready for learning. I want straight A's, and was honestly bummed i got a 98 on my final last semester. Only 98, man i should of gotten 100. I could of died.

I've been bothering my brothers and every other musician about this clawhammer style for 2 plus years. Noone seems to care, so im gonna make em care wit this loud a$$ banjo! ??

Feb 27, 2021 - 9:40:11 PM
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75 posts since 12/23/2016

PHIL- Don't get too hung up on grades. Learning and grades don't always align. Just do the best you can. You are ready to learn. That is the most important thing. Grades are important in a way, but don't sweat 98 out of 100. I'm a professor. I know.

As far as making your brothers and your friends care about clawhammer, your banjo isn't going to make a difference. This is something you are doing for yourself. They will come along, or not. Good instruments are nice, but a lot of the most important music in the world was created on primitive homemade stuff. Don't worry if the music you love isn't popular and don't be ashamed of your instrument.

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