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Apr 7, 2021 - 7:59:25 AM

darryl k.


721 posts since 1/12/2006

Hi all. I have owned a bunch on banjos in the past. 2 Omes, a Nechville, a Deering, Bart Reiter, 2 Cedar Mountain, an Ode, a pre war Gibson etc.
Wooden tone rings, no tone rings, bell bronze tonerings etc.
Why do I say this? Not to brag, but the perfect banjo is still out there somewhere. Where?
I play mostly old time or folkie 2 and 3 finger styles with only a thumb pick. Not interested in bluegrass. Usually solo, so I don't need a jam killer.
Probably, but not necessarily, has the following:
A resonator
Clear bell like sound, but mellow, warm.
Or maybe I just have the common buy, sell affliction.

Apr 7, 2021 - 8:22:36 AM



1488 posts since 8/30/2012

What about a Deering John Hartford?

Apr 7, 2021 - 9:10:52 AM

Jesse C


103 posts since 2/15/2009

Bishline, Danny Barnes model?

Apr 7, 2021 - 9:58:13 AM

2640 posts since 10/13/2011

Well, it does sound like you do have the common buy/sell affliction.

You didn't specify what type of prewar Gibson you had, or which Nechville model. Anyway, assuming you don't want to try another Gibson or Nechville, +1 on the Deering John Hartford. The Bishline Danny Barnes is a terrific banjo, but the Hartfords I've tried per my memory are the mellower of the two.

YMMV. Good luck with the banjo hunt!

Apr 7, 2021 - 10:27:11 AM



972 posts since 11/26/2012

Well Darryl, you sound very much like me. Let me know when you figure it out. Right now I'm using an Ome Tupelo as my daily player...but always looking.

Apr 7, 2021 - 10:48:39 AM

Alex Z


4226 posts since 12/7/2006
Online Now

"the perfect banjo is still out there somewhere."

Of the many and varied banjos you have owned, what are the things on each that you deem less than perfect and so want to fix?

What are the things that you deemed perfect on a particular banjo?

"I liked the mellowness of the ___________ but it didn't have a clear bell like sound as did the _______, which was too bright"

Then, someone else will be able to understand better what you're looking for.

Apr 7, 2021 - 10:59:28 AM
like this

13902 posts since 10/30/2008

Just for scientific reasons, try out an old Gibson RB 00, 1, 2, 10 or 11 or Recording King M6 rim with the flat head tone tune (instead of a tone ring). Even a post war RB 100 with full 11" diameter tone tube (looks like a flat head, as above).

With the right set up, these lighter weight Gibsons are very well rounded instruments for any kind of playing.  They will all be much "drier" than a full weight Mastertone type banjo.

Of the Mastertones, have you tried a 1925 or 1926 ball bearing?   These are clear and bell like, but "quieter" and "mellower" than the later Mastertones.  Good all purpose banjos.

Edited by - The Old Timer on 04/07/2021 11:01:20

Apr 7, 2021 - 12:20:33 PM
likes this

4108 posts since 10/13/2005

I remember way back when it seemed like you were changing top end banjos every few months. Tone and playability are always what I look for in a banjo more so than other factors. I see so many great banjos floating by in the classifieds that I'd like to try but with the banjos I have I realize that I am by a substantial margin the limiting factor in cranking out great banjo sound. Not much opportunity to get my hands and ears onto even some of the ones you listed so I live with what I have pretty satisfactorily and in your case I wish you some kind of resolution for your banjo angst. banjered

Apr 7, 2021 - 3:15:49 PM



22329 posts since 7/6/2005

1925-26 Gibson Ball-Bearing.

Apr 7, 2021 - 4:03:48 PM

Banjo Lefty


2194 posts since 6/19/2014

No fingerpicks? Thumbpick only? Playing old time and folkie music, solo? Have you considered a nylon string instrument? I have one made by Patrick "Doc" Huff from some fine African tone woods. No resonator, but it has an internal wooden tone ring that doubles as a resonator -- it's hollow and has holes in it. The sound is full and warm, almost singing in a way, completely unlike the dull plunk of so many nylon string open backs. There's a link to his site from here; you should check him out.

Apr 7, 2021 - 5:18:09 PM

1796 posts since 4/10/2005

If if you are looking for lightweight but a "bell-like" tone, I'm thinking you're gonna get "bell-like" from a metal tone ring of some lightweight kind rather than tone coming from wood alone. Posters above are mentioning "tone tubes," no idea what that term means. But I'm thinking one of the resonator models with a rolled brass hoop ring aka brass rod, rather than a full heavy flathead ring.   This was the original tone setup for resonator banjos (along with the setup that is just the wood rim), and Earl Scruggs played bluegrass 3-finger on one, an old Style 11, before acquiring a banjo with a flathead ring.  But the pre-Sruggs style pickers in styles we now call "oldtime 2-finger" or "oldtime 3-finger" often played them.

Resonator banjos with rolled-brass rings rather than heavy flatheads are getting increased attention the last few years, including from oldtime 2-finger/3-finger players. I believe Brad Leftwich plays oldtime 3-finger or 2-finger on a modern Kel Kroydon by American Made Banjo that is a reproduction of one of the old Style 11 resonator models. I have an AMB KK Style 2 reproduction in walnut with a brass hoop ring and love it.

Other makers who offer a resonator model with a brass hoop ring include Yates, I think they've put out a couple of cool models.  Also Stelling (that would be a custom order, with the lightweight Stelling "Foggy Mountain" ring). The Heartland banjos made by the late Robin Smith included a couple of wonderful resonator banjos with a brass hoop ring. The Gibson "RB" model offered in the 2000s also had this configuration (not to be confused with the "RB Deluxe," which had a heavy flathead ring). I'm sure I'm leaving out some makes/models, but there are a few.

Edited by - ceemonster on 04/07/2021 17:26:37

Apr 7, 2021 - 7:58:03 PM
Players Union Member

Lew H


2625 posts since 3/10/2008

Try a vintage Vega tubaphone, or a recent banjo with a tubaphone tone ring, or one with a Bacon and Day style silver belle tone ring.

Apr 7, 2021 - 10:18:06 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)


24638 posts since 6/25/2005

Early—pre 1925–B&D Silver Bell. Not as heavy as you’d think. Another Possibility is a late 20s/early 30s Washburn with the “donut” tone ring. You might find a 5-striinger, but more likely need to put a neck on a shell from a tenor.

Apr 8, 2021 - 3:21:44 AM
Players Union Member



13956 posts since 8/30/2006

6.75 pounds for the banjo neck and rim and hardware. Shape is everything. A pipe cap resonator is no innovation, just a frequency clipper to get to the back rows.
A tone ring that works integrally with the grain run of the type of rim used.
The knock note of the Granadillo is very high, thus the use of a rim cap on mediocre rims does not always help.

I would look at what your bass and treble needs are and select a rim wood and type of construction that will help you.
A Pecan rim would look and sound fantastic, Hickory is the poor man's Pecan, same genus.

My laboratory is the bluegrass jam and concert production. We never have a problem mixing even "woodies."
Of those mentioned , I have heard them at the jam, pre-war gold Granadas with too slinky action do not a pleasure produce, and they player spends time compensating for weight of bronze.

You want something that vintages and gets better with time. Buying a used banjo is a good thing, making a new one is fun.
Look outside the box, there's a box?

Apr 8, 2021 - 9:40:57 AM

darryl k.


721 posts since 1/12/2006

Thank you all. A plethora of wisdom. I was going to make an offer this morning on the Bishline Danny Barns listed here. But ##$%% it's gone now. Plenty to think about.

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