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Jan 17, 2022 - 10:50:03 AM

DWFII

USA

331 posts since 1/9/2022
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I have a Deering John Hartford. I have taken the resonator off of it and and am trying to learn clawhammer on it. Since getting this banjo, I have gleaned some interesting facts about it and banjos in general. A lot from this forum and links provided here. Thank you all.

I don't know how much this banjo weighs w/o the resonator, but from what I have seen on the various banjo sites a good openback might run anywhere from 5-7lbs. I have no way of determining weight or comparing at this moment, but the Hartford seems heavy...heavier than 7lbs. What would a fair estimate of the Hartford's weight be? 

I recently posted a question about 'frailing' scoops. Just yesterday I realized that the Hartford (this one at least) does have a scoop...duh! It isn't very deep and there is less string clearance over the scoop than over the head, but it is definitely there and with some work maybe even usable for me.

When I first began looking for a banjo to learn on, I was looking at the Deering Goodtime--it seemed like a fair balance of price and quality and tone.  Today, I saw a post about a year old Gold Tone CC-100+. So I went over to the Gold Tone site and perused the openbacks.  Again, a good balance between quality and price. Weight was around 6lbs.

So that made me wonder how the Gold tone and the Goodtime would compare with regard to build quality and sound?  Is there anyone here who has played or owned both who can speak to the relative quality of both?

The other question springs from the fact that I would like a softer, more personal, maybe more old-time sound than I am getting on the Hartford presently. I have thought about replacing the tailpiece on the Hartford to accommodate nylgut strings. I don't think it would be all that hard. That's one of the things that originally attracted me to both openback banjos and clawhammer style.

And that brings me full circle...I know the Hartford is a really high quality instrument. Probably more so than either the Goodtime or the CC-100+. If the weight difference is not too great, and I replace the tailpiece, and I leave the resonator off, can the Hartford  really and truly be a good clawhammer banjo? As good or better than a dedicated openback at half+/- the price?

Jan 17, 2022 - 10:53:10 AM
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Emiel

Austria

10113 posts since 1/22/2003

Every banjo can be good for clawhammer. (Also a Gibson Mastertone.)

Jan 17, 2022 - 11:19:50 AM
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414 posts since 6/15/2021

I think it mostly comes down to the sound you want. Many people play clawhammer on a resonator banjo. If you are playing in a group and want more volume so you can actually be heard, you want a tone ring and a resonator. Every banjo has a unique voice and it's a matter of finding one with the voice that tickles your fancy.

It's just that clawhammer is *usually* associated with Old Time music and the sound of an open back banjo.

My first banjo was an Ibanez B50 (the standard Chinese cheapy) and I took off the resonator and preferred the sound a lot. I ended up buying a banjo that was made from parts of two or three other banjos and the pot is from a Masterclone with a tone ring, but it is open back. I like its voice a lot.

As far as weight goes, you probably won't find anything lighter than a Goodtime except maybe a Gold Tone AC-1 which is mostly plastic (but still a decent banjo for $200).

I really like the sound of a Goodtime. It's maple. It doesn't have a tone ring. I has a nice plunk -- in fact, I think it has more plink than plunk and that's the sound I prefer. I've never played the CC-100, so I cannot comment on the differences between it and the Goodtime.


I realize that from Redmond, Oregon, the nearest shops are probably in Corvallis and Eugene... not just down the block. Heck, even in Seattle, there are only three or four stores with banjos. And on top of that, with global supply chain disruptions, nobody has a lot of instruments in stock.

So the advice to get out there are play everything you can get your hands on is a bit tough to actually do.

Also, listening to other people playing instruments on youtube isn't really good... playing it yourself is a totally different experience.


Finally, now that you've shared a bit about how the Deering John Hartford came to be in your care, I would be reluctant to modify it much (although taking off the resonator and swapping the tailpiece are easily reversible). I would also be reluctant to travel with it.


But, yes the Deering John Hartford can be an awesome clawhammer banjo. The question is whether it is YOUR notion of an awesome clawhammer banjo.

Jan 17, 2022 - 11:31:48 AM

4364 posts since 10/13/2005
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So much of what people want in a Clawhammer banjo is not better or worse but PREFERENCE. Me, I too prefer a lightweight banjo whereas others really want a banjo built like Fort Knox. Therefore a thinner rim, not so many hooks (12-14, not 24 etc.), a lighter tension hoop and if you prefer the sound, not even a metal tone ring which ups the banjo weight. I have an Enoch Tradesman set up this way but an even better way to go these days for a high quality lightweight banjo is with the Stone Banjo Company, and his banjos can be found here at this website. Because he is new and starting out, his banjos are underpriced compared to the competition by several hundred dollars, and, his work is impeccable. Best! banjered

Jan 17, 2022 - 11:35:20 AM

2723 posts since 11/25/2003

I don't have the figures on the relative weights of these banjos. The John Hartford has a wood tone ring - which should help lighten the "load". Are you comfortable with the weight of the Hartford ? It would make an outstanding banjo for clawhammer with or without the resonator. The Gold Tone and the Goodtime - while very good banjos are not in the same sphere as a John Hartford. If you should want to mod the Hartford for nygut you will also have to accomodate for the extra thickess and file out your nut slots a bit.

Jan 17, 2022 - 11:39:11 AM

4364 posts since 10/13/2005
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Jan 17, 2022 - 11:44:05 AM

4364 posts since 10/13/2005
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If you keep the excellent Hartford banjo, for a tailpiece compatible with Nylgut I really like the Fielding fan tailpiece. Apparently you can't get them at Elderly.com any more but I heard that Gold Tone is making a copycat version, I don't know the quality of them if that is true. No matter what you end up with, watch out for those slicing burrs on the tuners, nut, bridge, or tailpiece. banjered

Jan 17, 2022 - 11:48:36 AM

2306 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by DWFII

So that made me wonder how the Gold tone and the Goodtime would compare with regard to build quality and sound?

 

The Goodtime is often suggested as a good starter banjo. There are a lot of fans. I've never played one but I don't like the lack of a truss rod and it always seem to sound a bit over bright and perhaps, as someone described it on here, a bit dry sound. The rim looks a bit thick to me - good thinner rims are less bright.

The standard Goldtone CC-100 is a another decent starter banjo. It has a rolled brass tone ring but the rim is multiply. I have something very similar from the same factory Goldtone used to use. The sound is thinner than those with better rims but mine works fairly well now. The CC100+ is better specced. It has a three ply rim and rolled brass tone ring. This is where I'd be looking. Or a similar CB-100. But I'd also consider a Recording KIng OT25. Good rim, no tone ring and decent quality hardware. I have one of these. I also have one with a rolled brass tone ring (with a different name on the headstock) and the sound is a bit better.

Jan 17, 2022 - 11:57:53 AM
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4364 posts since 10/13/2005
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Neither an "expert" or a "master."

A guy was looking for enlightenment. He heard about a master in India on a mountain top. Finally he reaches him.

"Master, how can I become enlightened

You will be enlightened when you have good judgement.

How does one acquire good judgement?

From experience.

How does one acquire experience?

From BAD judgement."

'Nuff said. banjered

Jan 17, 2022 - 11:59:34 AM

4364 posts since 10/13/2005
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quote:
Originally posted by banjered

Neither an "expert" or a "master."

A guy was looking for enlightenment. He heard about a master in India on a mountain top. Finally he reaches him.

"Master, how can I become enlightened?"

"You will be enlightened when you have good judgement."

"How does one acquire good judgement?"

"From experience."

"How does one acquire experience?"

"From BAD judgement."

'Nuff said. banjered


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Jan 17, 2022 - 12:04:22 PM

DWFII

USA

331 posts since 1/9/2022
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Thanks to everyone for the replies...keep 'em coming. xD

Anything similar to the Fielding fan tailpiece?

OT: Is there a section of BHO dedicated to reviews?

Jan 17, 2022 - 12:04:48 PM
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1809 posts since 2/9/2007

You seem to me to be putting a whole train of carts in front of your horse. You have an excellent instrument. Just play it. Most of the questions you are asking have answers that are mainly dependent on individual taste and preference, and until you have some experience playing, you're not going to know what you want and what you don't.

Jan 17, 2022 - 12:09:24 PM

DWFII

USA

331 posts since 1/9/2022
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quote:
Originally posted by banjered

If you keep the excellent Hartford banjo, for a tailpiece compatible with Nylgut I really like the Fielding fan tailpiece. Apparently you can't get them at Elderly.com any more but I heard that Gold Tone is making a copycat version, I don't know the quality of them if that is true. No matter what you end up with, watch out for those slicing burrs on the tuners, nut, bridge, or tailpiece. banjered


The Balsam Hawktail looks similar. https://balsambanjoworks.com/product/hawktail-tailpiece/

??

Jan 17, 2022 - 12:13:13 PM

DWFII

USA

331 posts since 1/9/2022
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

You seem to me to be putting a whole train of carts in front of your horse. You have an excellent instrument. Just play it. Most of the questions you are asking have answers that are mainly dependent on individual taste and preference, and until you have some experience playing, you're not going to know what you want and what you don't.

I understand and appreciate the advice. And despite the impression you may be getting from all these questions, I plan to take it slow and easy. But I am a very curious sort and will run down rabbit holes willy-nilly. I don't mind storing useless (?) information in my brain for long periods of time. I really don't.

Edited by - DWFII on 01/17/2022 12:18:48

Jan 17, 2022 - 12:42:37 PM
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1809 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by DWFII
quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

You seem to me to be putting a whole train of carts in front of your horse. You have an excellent instrument. Just play it. Most of the questions you are asking have answers that are mainly dependent on individual taste and preference, and until you have some experience playing, you're not going to know what you want and what you don't.

I understand and appreciate the advice. And despite the impression you may be getting from all these questions, I plan to take it slow and easy. But I am a very curious sort and will run down rabbit holes willy-nilly. I don't mind storing useless (?) information in my brain for long periods of time. I really don't.

 


As ADHD as I am, I can dig it. My head is chock full of tenuously-connected trivia, and yes, sometimes a piece of it does come in very handy in the real world.

The hole you really want to dive down is LISTENING.  When you hear something that grabs you, listen to it until it wears a groove in your brain. Then you can start figuring out how to get your hands on your banjo to make that sound....

Jan 17, 2022 - 12:44:49 PM

2306 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by DWFII

OT: Is there a section of BHO dedicated to reviews?


Yes the reviews section.

https://www.banjohangout.org/reviews/

Jan 17, 2022 - 12:58:04 PM

DWFII

USA

331 posts since 1/9/2022
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by GrahamHawker
quote:
Originally posted by DWFII

OT: Is there a section of BHO dedicated to reviews?


Yes the reviews section.

https://www.banjohangout.org/reviews/


Thanks. i don't know why but I couldn't find it.

Jan 17, 2022 - 4:35:15 PM

DWFII

USA

331 posts since 1/9/2022
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by banjered

If you keep the excellent Hartford banjo, for a tailpiece compatible with Nylgut I really like the Fielding fan tailpiece. Apparently you can't get them at Elderly.com any more but I heard that Gold Tone is making a copycat version, I don't know the quality of them if that is true. No matter what you end up with, watch out for those slicing burrs on the tuners, nut, bridge, or tailpiece. banjered


Took my first face-to-face today. And talked it over with the instructor. He suggested that I try nylgut...to see which I like better.

So the question is if I replace the tailpiece with the Pisgah/Balsam Hawktail, I am looking at the Pisgah-Aquila Nylgut Frailing Banjo Strings.--the diameters are .22, .26, .31., .35, .22. This is so different from steel string diameters but am I correct in assuming that these are the strings for an open G tuning?

PS.despite the resrvations about 'my" Hartford, I am leaning hard towards making it my 'forever' banjo. Even the teacher was impressed by the sound.

Edited by - DWFII on 01/17/2022 16:37:55

Jan 17, 2022 - 4:47:58 PM

4364 posts since 10/13/2005
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Yes that is for standard G tuning but it is .022, .026 etc and the Pisgah Hawk Tailpiece will be fine. banjered

Jan 17, 2022 - 5:14:15 PM
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RioStat

USA

5766 posts since 10/12/2009

I'm just glad that I don't know the person who scooped a Deering Hartford.

Jan 17, 2022 - 5:20:02 PM
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6092 posts since 3/11/2006

quote:
Originally posted by RioStat

I'm just glad that I don't know the person who scooped a Deering Hartford.


Darned Right!

Jan 17, 2022 - 5:27:19 PM
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6092 posts since 3/11/2006

DFll:

I wish I had your Hartford.  If you'd like, I'll trade you the $40 pawn-shop Harmony I learned on!!!

Jan 17, 2022 - 5:56:50 PM

414 posts since 6/15/2021

quote:
Originally posted by DWFII

PS.despite the resrvations about 'my" Hartford, I am leaning hard towards making it my 'forever' banjo. Even the teacher was impressed by the sound.


I've never played one or heard one in person.  But knowing a bit about John Hartford, I am sure he would not allow his name to be put on a banjo unless it was truly awesome (as was he).

You can imagine something similar about a Gibson Earl Scruggs model.

 

Me?  I would not make any irreversible changes to a John Hartford.  While a nut can be replaced to go back to steel strings, I would be very VERY hesitant to modify the nut for nylon strings.

 

I'm not an expert or a master of much of anything.  

 

Were I you, which I'm not, I would keep the resonator off, get or make a nice strap so the hooks aren't digging into your thighs, and play the heck out of the John Hartford.  If you want to swap some plink for plunk, loosen the nuts on the hooks an eighth of a turn.  Maybe try different bridges -- a fairly inexpensive and fast mod.  Try a spillway dam style.  Or, heck... you probably have tools and interesting wood lying around.  Try making a bridge of softer wood and see what that does to your banjo's voice.

And if a Goodtime or something similar floats past, grab it try it.

Jan 17, 2022 - 5:59:12 PM

DWFII

USA

331 posts since 1/9/2022
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quote:
Originally posted by RioStat

I'm just glad that I don't know the person who scooped a Deering Hartford.


I can't say for sure  but the scoop in the fingerboard looks integral. The fingerboard goes from 5mm the length of the neck to 2mm in the scoop.

So, the initial indication is that it was Deering.

Jan 17, 2022 - 6:05:29 PM
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DWFII

USA

331 posts since 1/9/2022
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quote:
Originally posted by pianojuggler

Me?  I would not make any irreversible changes to a John Hartford.  While a nut can be replaced to go back to steel strings, I would be very VERY hesitant to modify the nut for nylon strings. 


Yeah, I asked my luthier about that too, He said it wasn't a big  deal to replace the nut with one better suited to nylgut. That way, I'd still have the original tail piece the original bridge and the original nut.

Jan 17, 2022 - 6:44:32 PM
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RioStat

USA

5766 posts since 10/12/2009

How's about posting a few pictures of this Hartford?

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