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Oct 19, 2021 - 4:00:06 PM
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Log

USA

93 posts since 7/28/2007

The topic pretty much says it. I searched in here for opinions on owning/playing the 5 string cello banjo and the last discussion was from 2013, so I think it's time for a refresher!

I'm considering buying one and I play clawhammer style. I'm lefty, so even if I can find one in my area I won't be able to test drive it.

A common comment is that brushes don't sound very clean on them, which is fine, that can be accounted for. Other commenters found different gauge strings to play/sound better on their model. That stands to reason and is personal preference anyway.

If any cello banjo owners have anything to add to those general comments I'd love to hear them. It's no small investment so I'd love to hear how others have enjoyed (or not enjoyed) their purchase.

Oct 19, 2021 - 7:08:16 PM
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rmcdow

USA

1035 posts since 11/8/2014
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I have a fretless CB-5, which I purchased after hearing Abigail Washburn play clawhammer on hers, with Bela Fleck at Huck Finn in 2015. Look in my media collection if you want to hear this performance. I replaced the strings that came with it with flat wound strings, which eliminated my main complaint, string noise. They are a great accompanying banjo to the regular tuned 5 string, and stand alone, as Paul Roberts can attest with his playing.

Oct 19, 2021 - 7:18:29 PM
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2740 posts since 12/31/2005
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They are fun. I had the Gold Tone CB-5. They pop up used here for around 800-900, which is a very fair price. I sold mine as part of a scaling down. Great for vocal accompaniment, or you can play some bass lines. It has a lot of sustain, which makes it challenging for playing fast. I played it mostly clawhammer or a modified with some up picking. Not really a bluegrass machine that you'll play fast rolls on.

Oct 20, 2021 - 3:25:46 AM
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KCJones

USA

1527 posts since 8/30/2012

I've got the 6 string 'lo-jo' version and used to own a 5 string version. I've bought and sold and rebought the 5 string more than once.

They're fun but, yes, if you play too fast or use a lot of brushes it can get muddy fast. The low tone is absolutely wonderful. I would stuff the pot with something to kill sustain a bit and also be diligent about keeping the head tight.

Like Brian mentions, I also use a modified playstyle that combines CH with 2 finger and it seems to work well. It's great for playing solo or in a band as long as the material fits. I think it works best with slower tunes. I don't really ever brush/rake on it, it's all individual notes. 

I really haven't found a place for it in regular sessions, and I don't find myself playing it often and have never played it on stage. I'd say that it is, at least partially, a novelty type instrument. That said, it's probably the most fun banjo I've ever played and it always gets a 'wow' when I show it off.

If you can find the 6 string lo-jo version, get that one. The extra low G (A) string is awesome.

Edited by - KCJones on 10/20/2021 03:26:33

Oct 21, 2021 - 4:11:08 AM

Log

USA

93 posts since 7/28/2007

quote:
Originally posted by rmcdow

I have a fretless CB-5, which I purchased after hearing Abigail Washburn play clawhammer on hers, with Bela Fleck at Huck Finn in 2015. Look in my media collection if you want to hear this performance. I replaced the strings that came with it with flat wound strings, which eliminated my main complaint, string noise. They are a great accompanying banjo to the regular tuned 5 string, and stand alone, as Paul Roberts can attest with his playing.


I saw a lefty fretless online several years ago but I'm not sure they make them anymore. Thanks for the feedback.

Oct 23, 2021 - 9:59:21 AM
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4146 posts since 12/3/2008

 

Coming from a background in multi-instrumental performing, my collaboration with Gold Tone began with the reintroduction of the cello banjo in 2008, after almost a century of instrument’s near-extinction. Playing banjo since the early ’60’s, I was taken completely by surprise by the sudden appearance of cello banjos, having had no idea that they ever existed. They (I have to 5-strings and a 4-string) have a far-reaching influence on my overall musical enthusiasm and creativity, something that has been echoed by many players who have obtained them through my Gold Tone dealership, banjocrazy.com

At one point I ordered a fretless to see what it could do for my own music and because customers were asking me opinion about them. I had high hopes of how cool it could be to slide around on this beast. I was disappointed. What I noticed, immediately, was the sustain - one of the main things that had drawn me to cello banjos - was missing. I had imagined being able to get sustaining sounds, like in Indian music, where I could seamlessly join a series of notes, utilizing the in-between micro-tones that frets interrupt. But without the frets the instrument lost its sustain - holding no appeal for me.

That being said, I know of several famous musicians who play the fretless version, so it obviously works for them. Gold Tone seldom has the CEB-5 available in fretless, but they’ll remove the frets and install maple inserts. There’s a fretted lefty available as of this writing, which I can have altered to fretless. One can order directly from Gold Tone; however, their prices do not include shipping, nor do they reflect other possible discounts. 

Here's one of my recent composition on a (fretted) CEB-5.


Oct 28, 2021 - 10:27:12 PM
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6742 posts since 6/27/2009

The low sustained tone is as comforting as a cello bowed in a sweet classical piece. I ended up with minstrel nylgut strings and tune it somewhere in-between an octave below and regular banjo tuning. I also like to use my cello banjo as accompaniment with a regular banjo. I must say, I love my CB, as you can see by the attachments, and named it Collin after my orchestra teacher who made me learn cello when violin was my first choice.  


Edited by - JanetB on 10/28/2021 22:29:45

Oct 29, 2021 - 5:53:26 AM

Log

USA

93 posts since 7/28/2007

Thanks for posting those. I'm leaning towards getting one.

Oct 29, 2021 - 6:40:17 AM
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6 posts since 11/5/2019

quote:
Originally posted by rmcdow

I replaced the strings that came with it with flat wound strings, which eliminated my main complaint, string noise.


Putting a folded sock up by the neck behind the co-rod has helped me to manage string noise on my CEB-5 somewhat, but I would love to know what strings you used - sounds like a game-changer. Were you able to stay a full octave below standard tuning with them? ...do they allow slides?!

Edited by - FightingForItAll on 10/29/2021 06:43:57

Oct 29, 2021 - 3:02:58 PM
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rmcdow

USA

1035 posts since 11/8/2014
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quote:
Originally posted by FightingForItAll
quote:
Originally posted by rmcdow

I replaced the strings that came with it with flat wound strings, which eliminated my main complaint, string noise.


Putting a folded sock up by the neck behind the co-rod has helped me to manage string noise on my CEB-5 somewhat, but I would love to know what strings you used - sounds like a game-changer. Were you able to stay a full octave below standard tuning with them? ...do they allow slides?!


The strings I use are:

 .024w, .032w, .042w, .052w, .024w,  D'Addario flat-wound ECG25 XL Chrome lights.  D'Addiario has heavier strings of the same type, but I like the light ones.  You can get them from Just Strings, and will need to buy a single .024" to round out the set.  

They tune just like the strings provided with the CEB-5, a full octave below standard tuning, and slides work great without the sound of a jet engine taking off.

Nov 3, 2021 - 10:55:09 AM
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4734 posts since 2/24/2004

Be aware the 5 string cello banjos sometimes have opinions.  Mine did quite a bit of pouting until I found a 14" black velvet head for him. He was upset my Deering John Hartford & Goldtone MK_1 baritone both had black heads and looked nicer on stage.

The strings are heavy and have to be tied on--so if you are strong--no problem--if you have to hire someone to string your cello--it may become high maintainence :)

But everyone loves to hear Cello Banjo :) Such a fun banjo. 

Grateful for my Cello :)

maryzcox.com


 

Nov 3, 2021 - 3:48 PM

6 posts since 11/5/2019

quote:
Originally posted by rmcdow

The strings I use are:

 .024w, .032w, .042w, .052w, .024w,  D'Addario flat-wound ECG25 XL Chrome lights.  D'Addiario has heavier strings of the same type, but I like the light ones.  You can get them from Just Strings, and will need to buy a single .024" to round out the set.  

They tune just like the strings provided with the CEB-5, a full octave below standard tuning, and slides work great without the sound of a jet engine taking off.


Wow, thanks - ordering now!

How do you think moving 'up' one string to 16, 42w, 32w, 24w, 16 would work for cGCEG tuning on a 26" scale, for a DIY baritone? The ML-1's standard-wound steel set are 18w, 40w, 30w 22w 18w. What single for the 5th, if so - just any unwound 16?

"slides work great without the sound of a jet engine taking off."
Ugh, perfect description. -_-

Nov 3, 2021 - 8:06:02 PM
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rmcdow

USA

1035 posts since 11/8/2014
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by FightingForItAll
 

How do you think moving 'up' one string to 16, 42w, 32w, 24w, 16 would work for cGCEG tuning on a 26" scale, for a DIY baritone? The ML-1's standard-wound steel set are 18w, 40w, 30w 22w 18w. What single for the 5th, if so - just any unwound 16?


I'm not familiar enough with the ML-1 tuning to know how this would work.  If the string tensions are balanced, it could be worth a try.   A rough calculation shows the strings fairly balanced if the tunings are c4, G2, C3, E3, G3..

Edited by - rmcdow on 11/03/2021 20:11:27

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