Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

1051
Banjo Lovers Online


May 17, 2021 - 7:22:16 PM
8 posts since 5/17/2021

Hi,

I want to start learning how to play the banjo. I'm only interested in clawhammer - especially Round Peak style.

The banjo artist that I enjoy listening to the most is Abigail Washburn. I love the tone of her banjo and would like a less expensive banjo that shares some features that helps give her banjo its distinctive sound.

I don't have the most nimble fingers in the world and something a bit wider at the nut would be helpful.

I am willing to spend around $400 or so, new or used.

Recommendations?

Thanks!

Edited by - jangles on 05/17/2021 19:23:41

May 17, 2021 - 8:25:17 PM

YellowSkyBlueSun

Virgin Islands (U.S.)

65 posts since 5/11/2021
Online Now

Abigail Washburn plays quite an array of banjos, is there a specific song or album that you enjoy the most?

May 18, 2021 - 2:18:23 AM

8 posts since 5/17/2021

City of Refuge would be an example that comes to mind.

 

I also really like what's going on in Don't Let it Being You Down, though from the video, it looks like Bela Fleck is dominating with his banjo. It sounds a bit bassey and appears to also be open back. I like that sound too.

https://youtu.be/acsybGtzeX4

Edited by - jangles on 05/18/2021 02:31:57

May 18, 2021 - 3:20:05 AM

290 posts since 4/14/2014

If your budget is $400, I'd be looking for a Gold Tone CC, one of the base Bob Carlin models. With a 12" pot and brass hoop, it's capable of good bass. What's more, it has a wider neck. If you're able to spend a couple hundred more, you'd have a lot more options.

May 18, 2021 - 3:45:45 AM

8 posts since 5/17/2021

I'm taking that is the average used price? It looks like they are going for $549 everywhere atm.

Watched a demo on YouTube and yeah, I like that sound.

May 18, 2021 - 4:59:34 AM

290 posts since 4/14/2014

Have you looked in the classifieds here? I recommend doing as much. It looks like the folks who run Gold Tone have some B stock for sale right now that's within your price range.

May 18, 2021 - 6:41:24 AM

YellowSkyBlueSun

Virgin Islands (U.S.)

65 posts since 5/11/2021
Online Now

In the linked video, the two banjos are fairly unique. Abigail Washburn is playing a fretless banjo with an 11" pot and nylon strings. This is a very different setup than what you'll typically find. Is the fretless nylon sound what you're looking for? You won't get that sound if you buy a typical banjo with a fretted neck and steel strings. Bela Fleck is playing a Gold Tone Cello Banjo, which has an 14" pot with heavy strings and is tuned much lower than a standard banjo. The only way to get that sound is to buy that banjo, which is typically found for around $900 used.

In City of Refuge, she plays an Ome Jubilee, which has a 12" pot that is 9/16" thick and has no tone hoop/ring. This produces a sound with more bass and a softer tone, as compared to a 11" pot with a tone hoop. She's also playing in a different tuning than standard G.

You have two options for a 12" banjo in your price range. A used Deering Goodtime Americana, or a used Gold Tone CC-Carlin12. The Americana has similar features to the Ome, a 3-ply maple rim with no tone hoop. The Gold Tone is a bit different, with a lower quality plywood rim and a brass tone hoop. The Deering is the better banjo, but the Gold Tone will be easier to find. 

Whatever you buy, I recommend buying it used. Do not buy from eBay.

Edited by - YellowSkyBlueSun on 05/18/2021 06:43:25

May 18, 2021 - 6:44:28 AM

94 posts since 2/18/2021

Guitar center has a used Gold Tone CC100 for $299 which would be a fine starter/intermediate instrument.  The RK-OT-25-BR on the marketplace is nicer, but also well above your $400 budget.
 

The other way to go is spend $200 now on an RK 'dirty thirties' model and save/watch for something better to come along used.

May 18, 2021 - 7:53:38 AM

8 posts since 5/17/2021

I appreciate the recommendations. A couple more questions.

1. I was hoping to find something with a scoop. It seems like that is common for round peak style?

2. Assuming I could afford a used fretless, what would be the difficulty increase over fretted? I'm a noob when it comes to playing stringed instruments. I was planning on self teaching to play through tab. I assume I'd need more classical instruction to go fretless?

May 18, 2021 - 8:30:47 AM

8 posts since 5/17/2021

quote:
Originally posted by jangles

I appreciate the recommendations. A couple more questions.

1. I was hoping to find something with a scoop. It seems like that is common for round peak style and the sound that I'm looking for?

2. Assuming I could afford a used fretless, what would be the difficulty increase over fretted? I'm a noob when it comes to playing stringed instruments. I was planning on self teaching to play through tab. I assume I'd need more classical instruction to go fretless?


May 18, 2021 - 8:42:18 AM
likes this

94 posts since 2/18/2021

Search for 'scoop' on the forums and you'll find endless debate/discussion, but a scooped fingerboard seems to be a relatively recent innovation that makes it easier to play over the fingerboard. However, you can still play over the fingerboard without a scoop by raising the string action a bit (through neck angle and/or bridge height). Or just by doing it.

I play fiddle, mandolin and fretted banjo (beginner on banjo, decades on the others), so I can't really comment on fretless banjo. However, having learned to play violin/fiddle, I'd say starting with fretless will definitely make your learning experience more difficult. Too difficult? Depends on you.

Others may chime in and say otherwise, but I'd say you have enough to learn without adding the challenge of hitting the right pitch for every single note.

Edited by - Clutch Cargo on 05/18/2021 08:47:29

May 18, 2021 - 8:55:04 AM
like this

YellowSkyBlueSun

Virgin Islands (U.S.)

65 posts since 5/11/2021
Online Now

Fretless will be more difficult, especially as a new player using tablature because you won't know exactly where the frets are and you won't have frets to aid in proper intonation of the notes. But if you want to play fretless, you should get a fretless banjo.

"Scoops" are a modern aesthetic trend and aren't necessary for any style of playing. But if you like the way they look, by all means seek one out. Also, what you refer to as "round peak" is a good style, but you should understand that nowadays it's more of a modern thing that is slightly anachronistic in the way it's taught and performed. Don't be afraid to open yourself up to other traditional styles, rather than putting those strict limitations on yourself from the start.

May 18, 2021 - 9:29:35 AM

Mivo

Germany

78 posts since 9/13/2017

I second the advice to keep an open mind, especially if you have no first hand experience.

I started with banjos twice. The first time I thought I wanted to play bluegrass banjo and bought a resonator banjo with a flathead tone ring. I didn’t really enjoy the experience when I started to learn (heavy, loud, too shrill for me). The next time, a few years later, I was set on clawhammer and bought an open back banjo with a scoop. Turned out that I didn’t click with clawhammer (and didn’t use the scoop even when I played a little CH, because I preferred the tone over the head where it wasn’t too tubby).

Instead, and unexpectedly, I really liked OT two- und three-finger up-picking styles. Open back gives me the sound I want, and my next banjo will have the full 22 frets, 12" pot, and a 27” scale (I want mellow, but not tubby), no scoop. But I only know this because I had exposure to a small number of banjos and spent many hours with them. Will my style preferences change again? No idea! It’s a journey. But so far I learned that even though I thought I knew what I would enjoy and what I wanted, based on videos and recordings, actually spending time with banjos and playing myself revealed my actual preferences.

The other thing is that you need to align your expectations with your budget, or vice versa. You’re probably not going to get everything you want, plus the sound you’ve heard coming out of professional instruments, for $400. It’s going to be a compromise. Special features, like a scoop, extra wide neck, 12” pot, all of this increases the price because they are not standard when it comes to entry level banjos.

Edited by - Mivo on 05/18/2021 09:31:13

May 18, 2021 - 11:17:06 AM

PTOEguy

USA

139 posts since 10/14/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Clutch Cargo

Guitar center has a used Gold Tone CC100 for $299 which would be a fine starter/intermediate instrument.  The RK-OT-25-BR on the marketplace is nicer, but also well above your $400 budget.
 

The other way to go is spend $200 now on an RK 'dirty thirties' model and save/watch for something better to come along used.


The alternative to the Recording Kind Dirty Thirties model is the Gold Tone AC-1 which is also in the $200 range - which has a composite (AKA plastic)  rim.  I have the tenor version and it is lightweight, easy to play and sounds OK for what it is.  You can play this to pick up the basics of where you want to go musically and then buy your dream banjo once you've filled out the some of the details about what that dream is.   And then your trusty Gold Tone AC-1 or RK Dirty Thirties becomes your instrument for camping or other situations where you don't want to take your dream instrument. 

May 18, 2021 - 12:51:29 PM

665 posts since 11/21/2018

Frets will be much easier to learn on and develop your ear. It is also possible to remove frets later (a repair shop job) and have the fret slots filled. It would likely be easier to resell a fretted banjo later to move up to something better/more expensive or simply what you find you really wanted for a sound. (That can change a lot over time and in different playing/jamming situations.)

If you can, listen to as many youtube reviews or recorded versions of the banjos you can afford and eventually (considering the times), live and in person. It might sound completely different to your ears in a "real" room.   I love Abigail's sound on that track too but it may sound very different to you if you haven't heard it played live in front of you.

You can place thin strips of plastic tape on the fretless fingerboard where the frets would be. You would likely have to take your fretless to someone who could place them properly for you, with a tuner, etc., if you start with a fretless banjo.

There are many electric fretless bass guitars with line inlays (pearl or plastic) that are built into the fingerboard. Another common and cheap alternative is to use small sticky dots on the side of the fretboard (side dots) that are in addition to standard side dots. Just a thought.  Welcome to banjo world!  

The recommendations everyone's given are good choices for a beginner. 

Edited by - northernbelle on 05/18/2021 12:59:53

May 18, 2021 - 5:29:03 PM

8 posts since 5/17/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Nic Pennsylvania

Have you looked in the classifieds here? I recommend doing as much. It looks like the folks who run Gold Tone have some B stock for sale right now that's within your price range.


I'm having trouble finding this Gold Tone B stock in the classifieds. Is there a special way to run the search to bring it up?

May 18, 2021 - 5:36:39 PM
likes this

290 posts since 4/14/2014

Go to the classifieds and scroll down. There, you will see the option to click on banjos by maker. Select "Gold Tone". The folks from Gold Tone have a few for sale.

May 18, 2021 - 6:12:32 PM

8 posts since 5/17/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Nic Pennsylvania

Go to the classifieds and scroll down. There, you will see the option to click on banjos by maker. Select "Gold Tone". The folks from Gold Tone have a few for sale.


Thank you.

May 19, 2021 - 12:14:19 AM

AndyW

UK

793 posts since 7/4/2017

I have drifted towards the 'roundpeak' style of playing over my 4 years of banjo and am pretty much at present concentrating on tunes in the Brad Leftwich 'Round Peak Style Clawhammer Banjo' book which is lmost a must buy if you stay on that path.

The actual make of banjo you get doesn't really matter that much as long as it is playable and doesn't sound too harsh or tinny (or whatever you don't like) to your ears. I would choose fretted to start as intonation on fretless will be difficult at first with no previous musical experience.

I would get a banjo with a scoop as if you end up playing pot on right hand thigh and not in lap then (if you are like me) your hand may naturally fall at the pot/neck junction or even slightly over the neck. You don't 'need' a scoop, but it's very handy in that it gives you that little bit of extra room to get your thumb 'into' the fifth string.

I would go with Dan Levenson's 'Clawhammer Banjo From Scratch' book for initial learning to ingrain basic motion/double thumb/drop thumb. I would also sign up to Tom Collins Patreon site. He's the only guy out there putting out fresh roundpeak style learning material constantly and his site already has a huge back catalogue of learning material some suitable for the absolute beginner.

The free stuff below might be helpful.

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 PDF
rsb.pricklypearmusic.net/

May 19, 2021 - 6:18:04 PM

8 posts since 5/17/2021

quote:
Originally posted by YellowSkyBlueSun

You have two options for a 12" banjo in your price range. A used Deering Goodtime Americana, or a used Gold Tone CC-Carlin12. The Americana has similar features to the Ome, a 3-ply maple rim with no tone hoop. The Gold Tone is a bit different, with a lower quality plywood rim and a brass tone hoop. The Deering is the better banjo, but the Gold Tone will be easier to find.

I just watched a YouTube video of the Americana being played and I really enjoyed its sounds. I realize now that what I'm really after is a banjo without a tone ring. The Americana is absolutely on my shortlist now!

Fwiw, I think this feature has more to do with the sound that I love than does playing over the neck, which is what I thought was the cause for the softer sound. 

Edited by - jangles on 05/19/2021 18:18:26

May 20, 2021 - 1:32:50 PM

94 posts since 2/18/2021

quote:
Originally posted by jangles
quote:
Originally posted by YellowSkyBlueSun

You have two options for a 12" banjo in your price range. A used Deering Goodtime Americana, or a used Gold Tone CC-Carlin12. The Americana has similar features to the Ome, a 3-ply maple rim with no tone hoop. The Gold Tone is a bit different, with a lower quality plywood rim and a brass tone hoop. The Deering is the better banjo, but the Gold Tone will be easier to find.

I just watched a YouTube video of the Americana being played and I really enjoyed its sounds. I realize now that what I'm really after is a banjo without a tone ring. The Americana is absolutely on my shortlist now!

Fwiw, I think this feature has more to do with the sound that I love than does playing over the neck, which is what I thought was the cause for the softer sound. 

 


I'm sure the Deering Americana would be a fine instrument to learn on, and considered it myself. I ended up not liking the idea of the integrated neck/fingerboard and lack of a truss rod. Also wanted something with a tone ring, and felt that the Gold Tone was better bang for the buck (not coincidentally, made in China). Do any of those things matter in any meaningful way? 
 

Who knows, I never had the opportunity to play them side by side and had to decide based on what was available at the time and my best understanding based on others' inputs. I did get a chance to play a standard Deering Goodtime after having had my CC Carlin for a while and was satisfied that I made the right choice for myself.

One other point: it's hard to compare banjos by watching separate YouTube videos. the sound is drastically  influenced by the microphone, mic position, preamp,  room acoustics, and the player. Unless you can find a video with someone playing both instruments for comparison, it would be hard to judge the real difference.

Edited by - Clutch Cargo on 05/20/2021 13:39:20

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.21875