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Jun 28, 2022 - 10:17:51 PM
7 posts since 6/28/2022

Hello all!

I'm new here so please excuse my noobiness. I used to play guitar when I was younger and would upgrade parts on it when I was able to. I used to upgrade to gold hardware because I liked the look of it. I'm curious, can you do that for the banjo? If so, what are good stores to go to for that on the cheap, and how easy is it to upgrade a banjo with parts like that?

Thank you

Jun 29, 2022 - 3:48:52 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15742 posts since 8/30/2006

Hi, Welcome to the hangout. Gold Hardware is easy to find for banjos. It will be more expensive because you need the whole set of hardware.
Look around at www.goldtone.com.  If you call them, speak with Dave or Mandy Rogers.

I buy two sets at a time, usually.  

I also use golden spoons inside my banjos.  There are different grades of gold plating, like Japanese, Chinese.  Mine are plated stainless steel.  You will see gold plated pot metal.

Get a little super magnet and check various parts for how magnetic they are.  Nickel is slightly magnetic with brass underneath, you'll see the difference with the magnet.

What kind of banjo do you have now?

Gold parts and "on the cheap" are not always synonymous.

Show us one of your guitars.

Good luck, good journey


Edited by - Helix on 06/29/2022 03:51:14

Jun 29, 2022 - 4:57:42 AM
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KCJones

USA

1761 posts since 8/30/2012

Banjos are unlike other instruments, in that they're a bolted assembly of parts rather than multiple pieces of wood glued together. You can swap out basically every part of a banjo, from the bridge, tailpiece, or tuners all the way to the rim, neck, and tone ring. Because of their design, they're the most upgradeable string instrument out there and a big part of the banjo hobby is tinkering with your banjo setup.

As an example, if you look at the Marketplace Classifieds, you'll see many banjos that have been "hot-rodded" with various parts.

Edited by - KCJones on 06/29/2022 04:59:08

Jun 29, 2022 - 5:45:41 AM
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2848 posts since 5/2/2012

In addition to looks, banjo parts are often upgraded to improve their functionality. Like a higher quality tailpiece. Or to change the sound (like a new bridge or head). How easy is it to do? If you're handy, not too difficult at all. Swapping out a 5th string tuner would probably be the hardest task. Check out places like StewMac, Elderly Instruments and Smakula Fretted Instruments.

Jun 29, 2022 - 10:15:46 AM
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13457 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Braillynn

...what are good stores to go to for that on the cheap, and how easy is it to upgrade a banjo with parts like that?


Welcome to the Hangout.

Cheap upgrades are not likely to be good. Gold upgrades, good or not, are not likely to be cheap.

Three good sources were listed above. Another to look at is SullivanBanjo.com. For the cheapest, try eBay. Good source for generic Chinese-made parts. But you get what you pay for.

What type of banjo do you own that you're looking to upgrade? If it's anything above an Asian-made beginner's-level instrument, then metal parts that are truly upgrades over what you have are not going to be cheap. And gold will up the price. Gold hooks, nuts and tailpieces might be somewhat reasonable in price (there's a $12 "gold" clamshell style tailpiece on eBay that's perfectly serviceable). Gold tension hoops and flanges (if your banjo has a flange) are going to be expensive. 

One piece of advice: If you decide to replace your nickel or chrome hooks and nuts with gold, be sure to order them together from the same seller. Otherwise you might end up with parts threaded differently.

Good luck and have fun.

Jun 29, 2022 - 6:26:50 PM

7 posts since 6/28/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Helix

Hi, Welcome to the hangout. Gold Hardware is easy to find for banjos. It will be more expensive because you need the whole set of hardware.
Look around at www.goldtone.com.  If you call them, speak with Dave or Mandy Rogers.

I buy two sets at a time, usually.  

I also use golden spoons inside my banjos.  There are different grades of gold plating, like Japanese, Chinese.  Mine are plated stainless steel.  You will see gold plated pot metal.

Get a little super magnet and check various parts for how magnetic they are.  Nickel is slightly magnetic with brass underneath, you'll see the difference with the magnet.

What kind of banjo do you have now?

Gold parts and "on the cheap" are not always synonymous.

Show us one of your guitars.

Good luck, good journey


What do the spoons do for the banjo? I don't actually have a banjo yet. I'm ordering one with my next paycheck. I plan on getting the Gold Tone AC-01. This is a custom made tenor guitar that I enjoy playing on from time to time. 

Jun 29, 2022 - 6:32:05 PM

7 posts since 6/28/2022

I'd love to show you a picture of my guitar but I can't figure out how to do it on here...

Jun 29, 2022 - 6:37:34 PM

79 posts since 1/7/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Braillynn

I'd love to show you a picture of my guitar but I can't figure out how to do it on here...


After uploading, you need to click the image to attach it to a post.. this site is weird.

Here's the photo

Jun 30, 2022 - 3:09:54 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15742 posts since 8/30/2006

See? have fun with us.

Jun 30, 2022 - 6:32:59 AM

2848 posts since 5/2/2012

On your guitar, it looks like you replaced the 4 tuning machines, bridge and tailpiece.

The AC-1 is a relative inexpensive starter banjo. Good choice for a beginner. Looks like replacing the guitar style tuners, the 5th string tuner, and the tailpiece can be done fairly inexpensively. Caution -- you can get quality or cheap, but probably not both. A gold plated tension hoop is likely going to be pricey, and sourcing cheap gold plated j-hooks and nuts might be problematic. Realize that j/tension hooks come in flat or round configurations. You could easily spend as much as you paid for the AC-1 as you will pay for the gold plated parts.

Would you be willing to consider brass parts instead of gold plated? Would probably be much more affordable. Looks like an interesting project, and you will learn a lot while replacing the parts.

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Jun 30, 2022 - 7:48:50 AM

14848 posts since 10/30/2008

Short answer, yes you can upgrade parts on a banjo. Even to gold. All it takes is money and your time. And you don't have to do them all at once. A set of half decent gold plated tuners for instance is going to be $100, give or take depending on the quality you buy. A gold plated tailpiece will be similar. Most of the other "visible-from-the-front" metal pieces on a banjo could also be upgraded to gold -- think roughly $100 +/- for each one. And you can take as long as you want to do it.

I own an over-100 year old top of the line Fairbanks-by-Vega banjo which had gold plated tuners (with mother of pearl buttons) but every other metal piece on the banjo was nickel plated. So, it's been done. Even today some new top of the line banjos mix gold plated brackets and nuts with non-gold other parts.

Jun 30, 2022 - 10:16:34 AM

7 posts since 6/28/2022

quote:
Originally posted by thisoldman

On your guitar, it looks like you replaced the 4 tuning machines, bridge and tailpiece.

The AC-1 is a relative inexpensive starter banjo. Good choice for a beginner. Looks like replacing the guitar style tuners, the 5th string tuner, and the tailpiece can be done fairly inexpensively. Caution -- you can get quality or cheap, but probably not both. A gold plated tension hoop is likely going to be pricey, and sourcing cheap gold plated j-hooks and nuts might be problematic. Realize that j/tension hooks come in flat or round configurations. You could easily spend as much as you paid for the AC-1 as you will pay for the gold plated parts.

Would you be willing to consider brass parts instead of gold plated? Would probably be much more affordable. Looks like an interesting project, and you will learn a lot while replacing the parts.


I actually haven't made any changes to it. This is how it came from the builder. Not a fan of the paint job, but it works(not a fan of the sound either). 
As for the brass parts, I believe I would be interested in that as I'm mainly looking to upgrade the aesthetic in the future. 

Jun 30, 2022 - 10:19:06 AM
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ChunoTheDog

Canada

1611 posts since 8/9/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Braillynn

Hello all!

I'm new here so please excuse my noobiness. I used to play guitar when I was younger and would upgrade parts on it when I was able to. I used to upgrade to gold hardware because I liked the look of it. I'm curious, can you do that for the banjo? If so, what are good stores to go to for that on the cheap, and how easy is it to upgrade a banjo with parts like that?

Thank you


The correct answer would be: don't.

Which ever banjo you get will most likely not be your last and swapping in gold hardware will just be money down the drain.

Use that cash toward a higher end, nicer sounding banjo.

Jun 30, 2022 - 10:36:56 AM

7 posts since 6/28/2022

Just curious,

Outside of strings, a case and tuner, what else would I need to get started(or just good to have on hand) for the banjo?

Jun 30, 2022 - 10:45:53 AM
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ChunoTheDog

Canada

1611 posts since 8/9/2019

Some finger picks if you want to play 3 finger "Scruggs" style.

A capo helps, banjo specific capos are less intrusive than recycling guitar capos on a banjo neck.

Otherwise, a strap helps too that way you won't have to carry the weight of the instrument it via your fretting hand.

Jun 30, 2022 - 12:56:14 PM

14848 posts since 10/30/2008

If you use a capo playing a 5 string banjo, you often also need a separate little bitty capo just for the 5th string. You can get a luthier to install little tiny HO gauge railroad spikes, or buy a little "Regan" 5th string capo that is moveable and removable.

Jun 30, 2022 - 2:20:47 PM
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banjopaolo

Italy

1642 posts since 11/6/2008

love that funny violin-tenor guitar!
How do you tune it? I also play tenor guitar, I have a regular gibson tenor and a reso tenor guit that I often play...


Jul 1, 2022 - 9:40:36 AM
Players Union Member

RioStat

USA

5849 posts since 10/12/2009

You could go with raw brass parts, instead of gold-plated......may have to polish occasionally, as brass will tarnish fairly quickly.


 

Edited by - RioStat on 07/01/2022 09:41:30

Jul 1, 2022 - 10:30:11 AM

7 posts since 6/28/2022

quote:
Originally posted by banjopaolo

love that funny violin-tenor guitar!
How do you tune it? I also play tenor guitar, I have a regular gibson tenor and a reso tenor guit that I often play...


GDAE, so Irish tuning. I may give the CGDA a try in the future, but I'm not sure as I've been thinking about selling it. 

Jul 1, 2022 - 1:29:16 PM

banjopaolo

Italy

1642 posts since 11/6/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Braillynn
quote:
Originally posted by banjopaolo

love that funny violin-tenor guitar!
How do you tune it? I also play tenor guitar, I have a regular gibson tenor and a reso tenor guit that I often play...


GDAE, so Irish tuning. I may give the CGDA a try in the future, but I'm not sure as I've been thinking about selling it. 


I use irish tuning on the standard tenor guitar and cgda on the reso, love to play both of them!

Jul 1, 2022 - 7:46:54 PM

7 posts since 6/28/2022

Where is the best place to buy banjo heads?

Jul 2, 2022 - 12:11:27 AM

banjopaolo

Italy

1642 posts since 11/6/2008

Stewmac or elderly

Jul 2, 2022 - 6:03:44 AM

2848 posts since 5/2/2012

Know that banjo heads come in different crown or collar heights. Your's is probably medium, but check this link to see how crown height is measured and the different options there are. Gold Tone sells heads as well.  

Jul 2, 2022 - 6:54:24 AM
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15509 posts since 12/2/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Braillynn

Just curious,

Outside of strings, a case and tuner, what else would I need to get started(or just good to have on hand) for the banjo?


Braillynn, I add my voice to those saying that upgrading an AC1 doesn't make sense, either financially or sonically. An AC1 is what it is - and what it IS is a very affordable starter instrument with good playability and sound for its price point. It is also its own unique design and parts by other makers may not even fit. Get the AC1 to learn to play, and save the $$ you were thinking of investing in bling for a more sophisticated instrument.

Now, as to accessories: as noted, finger picks if you're planning to play three-finger ("Scruggs") style. As a teacher, I've found that the Pro-Pick split wrap finger picks are the easiest to adjust for comfort and retention among new players (you'll need two). Your thumb pick will very much be a matter of trial and error and personal choice. Fortunately, most of them aren't expensive.

The AC1, like many inexpensive banjos, has a very lightweight pot - and that makes it neck-heavy. A strap is all but mandatory here, lest your fretting hand and the arm to which it's attached spend at least half the energy holding up the neck.

Recommend a decent electronic tuner. Snarks are very serviceable at about $20.00.

Finally, a case or a gig bag. Something to protect it when moving about or when it's not in use. Hard cases are safer.

Jul 2, 2022 - 7:19:37 AM

13457 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Braillynn

Where is the best place to buy banjo heads?


There is no need to change the head on an AC-1. 

I think Remo may be the only company in the world making banjo heads. Some in the US, some in Taiwan. So every banjo, down to the cheapest, ships with a Remo head. AC-1 comes with the widely used top-frosted head.

Yes, there are different styles and models, but on an AC-1 they are not necessarily upgrades.

Also, the AC-1 includes a gig bag. That's one thing that made it such a tremendous value when it was introduced not too many years ago.

Finally, let me be one more voice saying don't spend money trying to upgrade this banjo. You could easily spend half the price of the banjo and not improve its sound, playability or resale value. A new AC-1 open back with included gig bag is $250. You can maybe sell a used one with "upgraded" hardware for $200.

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