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Nov 27, 2021 - 8:42:03 AM
44 posts since 1/12/2015


I’m aware that this is somewhat of an odd question but I assume I’m not the only one who is or was in that or a similar situation:

I’ve been playing for a few years now. I have a Deering Goodtime with a few upgrades. I’m eyeing a stelling Red Fox, we all know that these aren’t cheap Banjos and it will be the most I ever paid on a musical instrument.

Assuming both Banjos are well setup, I'm practicing and doing what  it takes to improve and end goal is recording jam and performance.

Will getting the Stelling make me a better Banjo player or do you think it won’t make much difference?

Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks in advance!

Edited by - coolet5 on 11/27/2021 17:15:21

Nov 27, 2021 - 8:58:47 AM
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2031 posts since 11/3/2016

I'm sure it will enhance your willing to play more but I don't know of any immediate transposing of improved playing ability at this time from any banjo except from hyped banjo sales advertising .

Nov 27, 2021 - 9:03:32 AM

44 posts since 1/12/2015

That on its own can definitely make me better. I understand what you saying. Coming from bass world when I purchased my current well made Nash bass guitar, it did result in me wanting to play it more.

Thanks for your reply.

Nov 27, 2021 - 9:10:05 AM
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2665 posts since 5/2/2012

Couple of thoughts. My understanding is that Stellings have a unique tone, due to construction differences. As Bob says, having a really nice banjo will make it more likely to pick it up to play, and that additional practice will hopefully lead to improved playing.
My story. I won an ebay auction for a really nice (Wildwood Paragon) banjo awhile back. At the time I was playing 2ftl on a Gold Tone open back. I gave it to a good friend who is a outstanding BG picker to play for a few months. He played that banjo in church one Sunday and I was amazed at the tones he got out of it. After church he handed back to me and told me to just play it. So I switched over to Scruggs style picking. That eventually led me to Tony Ellis (who sometimes plays a Stelling) tunes, which is where my niche has been for the past few years. I don't play the Paragon as often as I used to (I have, gasp, other banjos), but when I do get it out of the case I am always pleasantly surprised about how easily it plays and how good that banjo can sound, even in my hands. My dream, someday, would be to play a Stelling and sound as good as Tony does.

Nov 27, 2021 - 9:21:38 AM
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1114 posts since 11/26/2012

Mechanically speaking, the Deering Goodtime banjo is a good enough banjo that it is not likely the limiting factor in your journey to becoming a better banjo player. However you may find, as some others have, that a different neck width or a radiused fretboard might improve your playing, and those kinds of modifications would almost certainly come by buying a new banjo and not by modifying your Deering.

Mentally speaking, I agree with others that having an amazing banjo might induce you to play more, and more consistently, which would make you a better banjo player.

Nov 27, 2021 - 9:26:15 AM
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300 posts since 3/9/2017

I got a better banjo earlier this year (although it was a lot less than any Stelling), and basically agree with most of the previous posts. What I will add is that it still makes my heart soar with joy when I play and hear its beautiful tone, so I would say go for it, you won't regret it.

Nov 27, 2021 - 9:26:20 AM
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132 posts since 11/9/2021

Aside from the psychological effect ( hey I paid $****.** for this thing , I'm dam well gonna play it good), at certain price points yes, the better instrument is worth the bucks. It is with fiddles at least. You can spend a grand on an old fiddle and it will sound good, but try a 10 grand bench made one from a real violin maker and wow, it will blow the mind. I don't know if that holds true for banjo's ( I suspect it does) but I believe in getting the very best instrument you can afford, especially if you're serious and have your sights on performing and recording. I learned guitar on a piece of crap Harmony, with a neck like a baseball bat and action like a suspension bridge. It did me no favors when learning.

Nov 27, 2021 - 9:27:08 AM
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7407 posts since 9/5/2006

it will give you a better sound ,but nothing replaces correct practice and pushing yourself.

Nov 27, 2021 - 9:33:49 AM

898 posts since 5/22/2021

Don't think of a better-quality instrument that makes "your playing better". Your playing will stay the same, you will learn new things, etc...

Think of a buying a better quality instrument as enhancing the tone and "sound" of your playing to your likes. Some folks might not like the sound of a 20000 dollar instrument compared to a 200 dollar one.

So, its not about your playing, its about the quality and the tone you like in a instrument.

Nov 27, 2021 - 9:47:23 AM
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301 posts since 7/29/2011

I am a beginner level player and recently upgraded from a Deering Goodtime to a Prucha Legend.
The Prucha doesn't make me any better. It does make me want to practice and learn more.
I don't regret spending the money for a professional level banjo because it's something I want to do.  I feel like a child using an adult tool but it motivates me to do better.

Edited by - Michigan Lefty on 11/27/2021 10:04:43

Nov 27, 2021 - 9:51:34 AM
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207 posts since 5/3/2004

IMHO it will make you a better player. I have upgraded three times and each time helped my playing. The reason is, for me, the new sound, new look, new feel motivated me for months to play more often and longer--to take more care and pay more attention. I noticed these improvements with each new purchase. My first serious upgrade was a Stelling.

My advice--if you can afford it go for it. I bet you won't be sorry.

Nov 27, 2021 - 10:31:52 AM

44 posts since 1/12/2015

Good answers. Does anyone here know about the string spacing of each of these Banjos? are they the same or different and if they are different how so?

Nov 27, 2021 - 10:55:38 AM
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3004 posts since 6/27/2013

A well made, well set up instrument can certainly make your playing easier, but the effect you're asking about is purely psychological. A step up to a really fine banjo is a  great shot in the arm, but the only thing that will ever improve your playing is diligent practice. There are plenty of people out there who own expensive banjos that can't play worth a hoot. There can be many reasons for that, but for many, they just don't put in the practice. Other than that, you should make the upgrade to a better banjo if you can. It will motivate you to keep improving and soon you'll be playing better as a result.

Edited by - Omeboy on 11/27/2021 10:56:23

Nov 27, 2021 - 11:00:37 AM
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1124 posts since 1/26/2011

I agree with all the other posts, particularly the ones saying you will sound better. Well executed slides, hammer ons, and pull offs will sound significantly better, which means poorly executed ones will be obvious. That difference helps you to know what to practice, which enhances your ability over time.

Nov 27, 2021 - 11:18:02 AM

2665 posts since 5/2/2012

Michigan Lefty A child using an adult tool....I like that...been there.

Nov 27, 2021 - 11:24:52 AM
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1561 posts since 4/13/2009

As said before,

Nov 27, 2021 - 11:38:58 AM
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3917 posts since 2/20/2016

It has been my experience from 30+ years of teaching that upgrading from a student level instrument to a professional grade instrument will facilitate your abilities, sometimes greatly, sometimes moderately. I have also seen that it can expose your weaknesses, sometimes embarrassingly so, because a good instrument won't lie to you, and it won't cover anything up.

It is essential that any new acquisition be correctly set up and adjusted, even if it's a top grade instrument.

Nov 27, 2021 - 11:43:58 AM
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7 posts since 11/20/2021

I think Bob is right on the money. I always say to people that a professional quality instrument makes you want to play it more, which obviously helps you improve. Also, if you're really serious about getting better, having an instrument that reveals your shortcomings is only a positive in the grand journey of learning.

Nov 27, 2021 - 12:18:38 PM



3917 posts since 2/20/2016

I will add that if you've been playing for a few years and have the slightest idea that you've outgrown your Goodtime [which you probably have], by all means move up to a better instrument [as long as you can afford it]. It will be well worth it, even if it does expose a problem or two that you didn't know you had.

If at all possible, play the new instrument before you buy, and make sure that the neck will fit your hand.

Nov 27, 2021 - 12:34:51 PM
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12588 posts since 6/2/2008

A better instrument has more tonal range, more volume, more power, more headroom.  It responds better to every level of touch. You want to pick softly, it whispers melodically. You want to pick hard, it screams and then asks "Is that all you got?" It never gives out. Never gives up.

Just another way of saying what everyone else has said. Because the better instrument sounds better, it makes you sound better. That makes you want to play it more. The more you play, the better you get. The better instrument will always help you sound your best.

And here's the kicker: After the Stelling helps you get a whole lot better, you'll play the old Goodtime one day and be amazed at how good it sounds.

Nov 27, 2021 - 12:37:37 PM
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1661 posts since 5/19/2018

Good tools = Good work.

Yes, a better instrument will without question help you become a better player.

Reasons are all listed above. That being said, the number one factor is practice. Lots of practice. Having a good instrument is just a tool to make the work easier.

Nov 27, 2021 - 12:54:39 PM
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1168 posts since 4/12/2004

A good banjo won't make you a good player, but a really bad banjo can significantly affect your ability make honest judgments about your development as a player. I know this from my experience.

I started more the 50 years ago with a $40 pawn shop banjo that was made in Asia. I worked on Cripple Creek and Cumberland Gap for 6 months, and neither song sounded like what I heard on the records. It was very discouraging. Then, one day I went into a music store and I spied a nice looking Ode Model C on a music stand. After receiving permission from the proprietor to try out the Ode, I discovered that what I was playing did bear a significant resemblance to what I was hearing on my records. It was a real epiphany and I've never forgotten it.

My advice is to get the best instrument you can afford. A really good one will help provide inspiration.

Nov 27, 2021 - 1:05:32 PM

4199 posts since 10/18/2007

You can always sell your Stelling and get your money back. I've played my Red Fox for 20 years and love the dang thing.

Nov 27, 2021 - 2:00:06 PM

4501 posts since 12/6/2009

I’m going to say something a little different. Does it make you play better? Upgrades sometimes more than likely have better necks smother and sometimes quicker. Actions can sometimes be closer to the neck without buzzing and give better fretting ability. Tone is all important when trying to play phrases where you need a certain sound. Also certain tones give you incentives to play things or try things you may never try with a clunker banjo. Like everyone says ,sure if you’re a mediocre player and limited time plying it may not offer a whole lot ....but any expensive instrument I ever tried ....banjo....mandolin....guitar I was always found more comfortable to play. A better banjo should have a wider up the neck range of ease and cleaer sounds which lend to ease of playing phrasing high up.......there are many advantages to playing a better instrument.......I wouldn’t trade any new instrument with my first calf skin head banjo on a rainy playing back in the 60s took off when I bought a Gibson RB 100.....the songs started sounding like the recordings.....and I still today love the neck it had.

Nov 27, 2021 - 4:08:33 PM
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12588 posts since 6/2/2008

Also . . .

Many lower level instruments can actually hold you back, with high action, uneven frets and limited adjustability that renders them uncomfortable to play -- if not almost unplayable. If their fretboards aren't accurate, they'll never play in tune.

All that and the previous knocks on bad instruments being said, you're starting with a Goodtime, which many people think is the best beginner instrument. They have comfortable necks, with the same profile as Deering's higher end banjos; they're designed for easily playable low action; and they can be set up to sound pretty good. A Goodtime in good condition works with you, not against you.

The Stelling will be light years better, but you're starting in a good place.

Nov 27, 2021 - 4:13:22 PM

7407 posts since 9/5/2006

when i got to play the mack crowe 75 that mills has , i sounded like me on the 75,,not bad but like me,,,when jim played my style 11 conversion it sounded like jim my 11 ain't what the mack crowe is but,,,,,,,, its in the hands man

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