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What’s the best way for me to get a long neck banjo? Buy or build?

Sep 21, 2021 - 8:31:45 AM
4 posts since 12/14/2018

I am looking to get back into the banjo and would love to get a long neck banjo as I think it will better suit my voice if I could ever get the courage to sing in front of people.

The way I see it I have two routes to acquire one cheaply (<$500). I have seen a few near me for sale. They are only 1960’s-70’s probably made in Japan. One is a “Kingston” the other is a Harmony I believe. Both show signs of wear but the sellers claim they play well. They also have cases. Around $350 is the average price for these.

The other option I might have would be to “build” one. I have a 2000something Recording King stashed under my bed that has a crack in the neck after it took a tumble. I have seen Gold Tone long neck replacements for around $300 on line. So I could essentially buy a neck and put it on the Recording King pot.  Doing so probably exceeds my skill set, so I would have to pay someone to assemble and set it up for me. 

What would you do in this situation? And advice is much appreciated.

Edited by - Dkr112786 on 09/21/2021 08:36:30

Sep 21, 2021 - 10:02:17 AM

583 posts since 2/6/2018

Sep 21, 2021 - 10:02:24 AM

179 posts since 12/21/2012

I would get some pics of the pot and neck and ask your local tech what he would charge. That could get pricey because they will not mount the same.

Guessing buying one outright would be better, but without seeing them I can't say.

Even though it's a bit more, it may be worthwhile just to spring for a Goldtone MM-150LN. Still under a grand and not full of "What ifs"

Good Luck! :^)

Edited by - Red Squirrel on 09/21/2021 10:07:46

Sep 21, 2021 - 10:11:37 AM

58286 posts since 12/14/2005

How important is APPEARANCE?
You HAVE a neck which has a heel which fits the pot PERFECTLY.
You've got the tuners.

MAKE a neck, saw off the heel at a slant, saw the underside of the neck at the same slant, and fasten them together.

Tee nuts can be hidden under the fingerboard.
Bolts can be countersunk.

Let's see if I can produce a picture.

Sep 21, 2021 - 10:28:04 AM

Foote

USA

519 posts since 3/25/2009

There's a long neck for sale now in the Ode section of the Marketplace.

Sep 21, 2021 - 10:43:57 AM
likes this

1533 posts since 4/13/2009

If you're more interested in a lower tuning for your voice than you are in a longer neck, you might just try Deering's Julia Belle strings. You can tune them down to an open E, which is what you'd get with a long neck banjo. I think you could even get down to open D.

Sep 21, 2021 - 10:53:54 AM

58286 posts since 12/14/2005

Seems to me that if you've got a fingerboard glued across the top, and a heel cap glued across the bottom, the inner surfaces all glued up, and the bolts in place, you might have a larger heel than most, but you'd have a dang strong bit of connectivity there.

And if you've got the time, and a few simple tools, making a neck is a very rewarding experience.

Alternatively: Make a neck with a new heel, grease up the bolts, put waxed paper on the side of the pot, mix up some epoxy putty, bolt the neck on, align it, allow it to dry, take it apart, and trim away the excess.

Heck, finish the neck black, nobody but you, me, and a hundred thirty thousand Outhangers will know you didn't pay somebody to hand-carve the heel to fit.


Sep 21, 2021 - 11:13:08 AM

173 posts since 3/25/2016

Another string option for low tuning(s) might be the John Hartford D-tuning set from John Pearse (available via Just Strings at https://www.juststrings.com/jps-1950.html).  Price seems not outrageous.  Mine have probably been on longer than I realize, as I have a sense that they did not last as long as some other string sets, but I do recall being pleased with tone, "tune-ability," and overall performance when newer.

Sep 21, 2021 - 11:43:09 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14612 posts since 8/30/2006

I just bought a blem longneck from our friends at Gold tone for $120
then I assembled an Osage Orange rim with hardware.
The neck had an open back heel cut and just fit up perfectly.

I liked my Datsun 510, and used it as a banjo mute. So buying banjos from that era can either be a struggle or you get a good vehicle to mess around with.

Personally, I just found so much more satisfaction from building my own even if from parts.
I've probably used a dozen longnecks from Gold Tone, Maple, very good quality.

To get some kick, I use spoons inside the rim, or magnet mount resonator as options in different music halls.

In the meantime, you can tune your banjo down to E and see how things work. 


Edited by - Helix on 09/21/2021 11:44:44

Sep 21, 2021 - 2:59:25 PM

2708 posts since 12/31/2005
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by deestexas

If you're more interested in a lower tuning for your voice than you are in a longer neck, you might just try Deering's Julia Belle strings. You can tune them down to an open E, which is what you'd get with a long neck banjo. I think you could even get down to open D.


You can also get the John Hartford D tuning set at Elderly    They do not require any nut or bridge modification.  They work fine for D or E. 

Sep 21, 2021 - 3:09:09 PM

2358 posts since 9/25/2006

Give Larry Hill a call. Nobody does better

Sep 21, 2021 - 4:00:25 PM

4 posts since 12/14/2018

quote:
Originally posted by deestexas

If you're more interested in a lower tuning for your voice than you are in a longer neck, you might just try Deering's Julia Belle strings. You can tune them down to an open E, which is what you'd get with a long neck banjo. I think you could even get down to open D.


I have not heard of these strings before but they sound like something worth picking up. Thanks for the tip!

Sep 21, 2021 - 7:41:03 PM

Fathand

Canada

11797 posts since 2/7/2008

You can play any banjo in the key of E or F. Or play in key of C or D and capo up.

Sep 21, 2021 - 8:37:38 PM

rcc56

USA

3754 posts since 2/20/2016

banjohangout.org/classified/66732

nfi . . .

Or . . . I routinely string a banjo just a little on the heavy side and tune low. GHS, D'Addario, and Curt Mangan all sell single loop end strings in just about any gauge you would possibly want to try.

The problem with long neck banjos is, well . . . they have very long necks. And they're kind of top heavy.
But if you've got long arms, have at it . . .

Edited by - rcc56 on 09/21/2021 20:43:30

Sep 21, 2021 - 8:58:19 PM

58286 posts since 12/14/2005

Ah, yes!
Like the Old Cop said to the Rookie in one of my FAVORITE LINES EVER from a cops & robbers book:
"Ya wanna get the right ANSWERS, ya gotta ask the right QUESTIONS."

Mr. 112786 mentioned two options to "GET a LONG -NECKED Banjo", which led many of us to suggest expensive and/or complicated ways to GET a long-necked banjo.

But, now that I understand that it's about acquiring a banjo that sounds good tuned to an open E, I am happy to see that all he needs to do is get a proper set of strings.
Far, FAR less complicated or expensive.

That's the great thing about the hangOut: Over a hundred and thirty THOUSAND spare brains, to contemplate your questions and offer solutions.

Sep 22, 2021 - 5:18:25 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14612 posts since 8/30/2006

Not to complicate or contradict.

I use light strings all the time. I've heard the Hartfords in concert with medium strings, and if you want to drive a big truck all the time, the heavier strangs might be the deed.

Sep 22, 2021 - 8:51:21 AM

11763 posts since 10/27/2006

The Hartford and Belle strings are the exact same gauge. They're almost as heavy as the Vega and Gibson Mediums from the 1960s. We tuned them to standard pitch then and I still do over 50 years later. 

Those strings do not turn a banjo into a long neck. Tuned down, they don't have the crisp sparkle of the long scale capo'd down. 

Back to the OP. Helix and Gold Tone offer reasonably priced new long necks. 1960s Harmony Res-O-Tones are usually the least expensive when you find them and the Bakelite pots don't sound bad properly set up—necks are pretty skinny, though. Christy used ODE aluminum pot with a neck best described as 'chunky'. Used ODE/Muse aluminum pot long necks appear in the Classifieds often—hard to go wrong there. Pete was famous for playing a converted Vega — those show up often with necks by various makers. Plenty of choices. 

Sep 23, 2021 - 2:00:21 AM

692 posts since 2/15/2015

 I kind of wanted a long neck for 20+ years but I have never purchased one. I have played a few.
From what I've noticed, the classified section of the  Hangout over the past four or five years has had some really nice long neck banjos listed. 

Edited by - geoB on 09/23/2021 02:02:30

Sep 24, 2021 - 1:22:43 PM

11763 posts since 10/27/2006

The cupboard is pretty bare over in the Classifieds at the moment.

There are a number of long necks on Reverb right now. The one I'm liking the most in the bang/buck category is this '60s Epiphone Campus.

Epiphone Campus

Someone has replaced the Elton pancakes with 2-band Waverly tuners from Stew Mac, a nice touch — they're offset so this was done years ago as the current version is centered. Original tailpiece has been replaced by a Presto repro — nothing wrong with that and tailpieces are inexpensive if one doesn't like it. Nice hard shell case is a major +++.

Otherwise, this is a Gibson RB-175 with a different headstock. This has the larger diameter 1/4" tone hoop making it a flat top. Don't buy it if shy because if you play it out, people just might want to chat you up about your banjo.

Other long necks on Reverb include an overpriced Wabash made by Christy, not Kay as the seller claims and the usual overpriced Bacons. I never trust sellers who don't know that the bridge is on backward like the Pilgrim.

Sep 26, 2021 - 8:36:49 PM

692 posts since 2/15/2015

You could solicit for a longneck on BH.

IMHO based on what I have seen in the past, stick with.a bit higher end such as OME or ODE.

The 50s and early 60s and into the 70s had many entry level instruments that didn't age well at all, despite the high prices being asked.

Sep 27, 2021 - 4:57:20 AM

692 posts since 2/15/2015

quote:
Originally posted by geoB

You could solicit for a longneck on BH.

IMHO based on what I have seen in the past, stick with a bit higher end such as OME or ODE.

The 50s and early 60s and into the 70s had many entry level instruments that didn't age well at all, despite the high prices being asked.


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