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Jun 20, 2021 - 9:38:34 AM

S854

USA

2 posts since 6/20/2021

Hello all... I stumbled across your site whilst researching the Tu-Ba Phone we recently inherited...

I should probably mention, the last time I attempted to create anything musical was many years ago... playing trumpet in my high school band... they say, if you pay attention in school you're bound to learn something... well, it's true... for example, I learned that I have no natural ability with regards to music...

However, we have a grand daughter who LOVES to learn anything new... she plays violin, guitar, trumpet (the very one I played 50 years ago!), clarinet, drums, piano etc...

So I'm wondering if we should invest cash in this Tu-Ba Phone to get it into playing condition... and if so, where would be a good place to send it? We have a local music shop here in Helena, MT... they "Buy, Sell and Repair" instruments... haven't contacted them yet, though...

Structurally, as far as I can tell, the bones are in very good shape... the only thing that "wiggles" on it are a couple of the J-hooks which hold the head-ring (what's the correct name?) tight.

I've looked on the internet and only have found 4-string variants of this .... banjo? mandolin? (what exactly is it?)

Thanks in advance for your assistance and knowledge ...

(Moderators: I may have inadvertently posted this in two separate threads... unsure of where it belonged... if so, please delete one topic and/or move this to the appropriate heading.)




 

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 06/20/2021 10:15:17

Jun 20, 2021 - 9:53:41 AM

2659 posts since 3/30/2008

This is a mandolin banjo, tuned like a mandolin. If everything is in good shape , a head & strings will be well worth the effort to get it playable. The model & serial # should be stamped on the dowel rod, (internal wood rod extending through the pot from the neck).

Jun 20, 2021 - 10:24:22 AM
like this

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

24835 posts since 6/25/2005

I’d take it down the road to Greg Boyd’s House of Fine Instruments in Missoula. I don’t think they do repair, but they’ll know who does. This long-time shop has a fine reputation, and deals mostly with acoustic fretted instruments. That’s what you want—not a general music store. Your Tubaphone is likely well worth restoration, but have an expert evaluate it.

https://gregboyd.com

Jun 20, 2021 - 11:35:07 AM

rcc56

USA

3623 posts since 2/20/2016

That is an upper line Vega style X mandolin-banjo, built circa 1922. Vega made at least mandolin-banjo models. Yours is the fanciest. Although Vega was perhaps the best banjo manufacturer of the period, these are not very valuable instruments, but they are interesting and were very well made.

Jun 20, 2021 - 12:12:08 PM

2659 posts since 3/30/2008

Elderly Instruments has a Style X for $2000, & Mandolin Cafe has another for $995. They may not get this amount , but I consider this a good chunk of $$.

Jun 20, 2021 - 12:17:58 PM

hbick2

USA

381 posts since 6/26/2004

That is a very nice instrument from around 1922-23. Here is a link to a catalog that pictures it:

https://acousticmusic.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Vega-1923-Banjo-Catalog.pdf

It is the Style X Banjo Mandolin. The engraving on yours is very nice. Assuming it is all there and undamaged, it should bring a good price.

Jun 20, 2021 - 1:10:35 PM

rcc56

USA

3623 posts since 2/20/2016

I think that the maximum such an instrument might bring on a very good day would not be very much more than 10 or 12 hundred dollars.  Plainer Vega mandolin banjos sell for closer to $500.  Your instrument is worth more, but not thousands more.

Certainly not a cheap instrument, but also not worth the $2500 and up that a nice Tubaphone 5 string banjo would bring, even though the quality of construction and workmanship is identical.  The reason for the disparity in prices is that 5 string banjos are far more popular than mandolin banjos.

It's a nice instrument, and a pretty instrument.  It might be nice to keep it in the family even if it ends up hanging on the wall.

Greg Boyd's is a good idea.  It's not too far away and they know how to service banjos well.

Edited by - rcc56 on 06/20/2021 13:24:45

Jun 20, 2021 - 2:19:31 PM

458 posts since 5/29/2015

mandolin, banjo mandolin and violin are tuned the same. Your granddaughter might enjoy it.

Jun 20, 2021 - 2:51:52 PM

10966 posts since 4/23/2004

That's Barney Google and "Spark Plug" on the head...probably copied from the cover of the sheet music. Would have been pretty cool if it had survived.

Jun 20, 2021 - 4:01:15 PM

8722 posts since 8/28/2013
Online Now

Most definitely a high quality banjo-mandolin, but as Bob Chuckrow notes, banjo-mandolins are not particularly popular instruments. If you grandaughter plays violin, she should be able to play this.

Some people string thse with only four strings instead of the usual eight to take some tension off the neck and quiet them down some. Most Vegas are pretty sturdy, though.

Barney Google was a popular newspaper comic strip about the time this was made. Spark Plug was a racehorse he owned, that ran the race in teh wrong direction. While the drawing here may have been based on the sheet music cover, it could have been based on the comic itself.

A few of the song lyrics: "Barney Google, with his goo-goo-googly eyes,
Barney Google had a wife three times his size..."

The rest goes on to tell the story of Sparkplug. Buster Keaton referenced this pathetic horse in the chariot race section of his 1923 film "Three Ages."

Jun 20, 2021 - 4:26:51 PM

3839 posts since 5/29/2011

If your granddaughter wants to learn play this then she would have little problem since the tuning is the same as a violin. If she takes up mandolin though, a regular mandolin might be easier to learn on. Banjo mandolins, even high quality ones like this, were usually not easy to play.
This would also make a good candidate for a five string neck if she is inclined to want to learn banjo. I can't tell from the pictures what size the rim is. Mandolin banjos often had smaller rims than standard five strings and could be used to create a "Lady's Banjo." Measure the rim across the top from inside the tension hoop.

Jun 20, 2021 - 4:52 PM

2659 posts since 3/30/2008

The mandolin banjo has a powerful & beautiful voice , & like the violin, takes some extended time to develop the touch & control to use it's dynamic range. A violin player could readily transfer their skills to an MB, ( BTW, they sound best as designed, as an 8 string, & have a weaker, curt, & more strident voice w/ 4 strings).

Jun 20, 2021 - 5:15:41 PM

S854

USA

2 posts since 6/20/2021

Thanks for all the quick responses guys... LOTS of information being shared... next time we head over towards Missoula we'll tote the Tu-Ba along...




Jun 20, 2021 - 7:54:33 PM

12236 posts since 1/15/2005

Probably a 10" rim which would mean it would probably be less desirable for someone wanting to convert it to a 5-string. As a mandolin banjo, the fact that it is a higher grade, would mean more $$, but the demand for the that instrument is not very great.

Jun 21, 2021 - 2:01 PM

ekvin

USA

88 posts since 3/22/2017

As an alternative, consider stringing it GCEA as a ukulele! You can go with 4 or 8 strings as you like.

Jun 21, 2021 - 2:26:35 PM

1761 posts since 1/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Culloden

If your granddaughter wants to learn play this then she would have little problem since the tuning is the same as a violin. If she takes up mandolin though, a regular mandolin might be easier to learn on. Banjo mandolins, even high quality ones like this, were usually not easy to play.
This would also make a good candidate for a five string neck if she is inclined to want to learn banjo. I can't tell from the pictures what size the rim is. Mandolin banjos often had smaller rims than standard five strings and could be used to create a "Lady's Banjo." Measure the rim across the top from inside the tension hoop.


The standard size for Vega mandolin banjos was 10 1/8", though I believe the catalogs say 10". There is some variation over the years.

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