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Which? What are their qualities?

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Jul 5, 2022 - 12:02:34 PM
50 posts since 9/30/2016

Pisgah, Ome, Ode, Dogwood, Enoch. What are their notable qualities? I don't have the opportunity to try any of them so I thought I better ask before buying. Any other brands?

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 07/05/2022 12:12:39

Jul 5, 2022 - 12:16:27 PM
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Players Union Member

banjo bill-e

Tuvalu

12363 posts since 2/22/2007

All good banjos, and so are lots of other brands. You would probably be happy with any as a first banjo, as all are quality makes and all can sound good. What can only be determined in person is how the neck feels to your hand, how the pot sits on your lap, the weight and balance, etc. If buying blind then you are taking a chance on those important factors, but you are not taking a chance on quality with these brands as opposed to the low end imports.
So if you can't try first, then pick what looks nice to you at the price you want to pay. And I'll bet that you like your banjo!

Jul 5, 2022 - 12:27:33 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

26186 posts since 6/25/2005

Albuquerque had an active old-time music community before the pandemic. May still have. See if you can find some players who would show and let you try their banjos. You could start by checking the BHO member search for those living there. I just found 153. Not all are active, of course, but it's a place to start. 

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 07/05/2022 12:32:28

Jul 5, 2022 - 1:04:27 PM
Players Union Member

Lorilee

USA

50 posts since 9/30/2016

Well, I just sold my Bishline Patriot since I'm only playing clawhammer now. I loved that banjo but it was just hanging on my wall anymore. I have a Bart Reiter Round Peak with a 12" pot. Love it. I'm looking for an 11". Both the necks on the Bish and the Bart are very comfortable. I'm just wanting for something with some difference in tone quality and feel. And I am currently afflicted with BAS!

Jul 5, 2022 - 2:49:33 PM

9812 posts since 8/28/2013

Some outlets, I believe, have trial periods, where you can check a banjo and if you don't like it, you can return it. Not sure if they'll do this with new banjos, though. You might check with some reputable dealers.

Jul 5, 2022 - 3:31:04 PM
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173 posts since 12/9/2018

Having owned and/ or played multiple banjos from the five builders you listed, I would say that Enoch, Ome, and Ode have the best and most consistent build quality. Not to say that Pisgah and Dogwood are poorly built, but the examples I've seen could use a bit more attention to detail and higher level of build quality/ consistency, especially at their current retail prices.
In general the Ome and Ode will have wider, flatter necks than your Reiter.
Enochs will have a similar neck width to the Reiter, but maybe a hair thicker front to back.
Pisgah necks are slightly larger overall than Reiters.
Dogwood necks vary from build to build, but the handful I've played were on the wider side similar to the Ome/ Ode lines.
Two other builders worth checking out would be Rickard and Cedar Mountain. Both have stock builds readily available at several retailers and they both have custom options as well with very reasonable lead times.

Jul 5, 2022 - 5:49:52 PM

5509 posts since 5/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by banjo bill-e

All good banjos, and so are lots of other brands. You would probably be happy with any as a first banjo, as all are quality makes and all can sound good. What can only be determined in person is how the neck feels to your hand, how the pot sits on your lap, the weight and balance, etc. If buying blind then you are taking a chance on those important factors, but you are not taking a chance on quality with these brands as opposed to the low end imports.
So if you can't try first, then pick what looks nice to you at the price you want to pay. And I'll bet that you like your banjo!


Lorilee,

banjo bill-e is exactly right. You have listed some great builders. You can't go wrong with one of those.

Jul 5, 2022 - 10:24:11 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

26186 posts since 6/25/2005

If you want a snappier, punchier sound than than your Reiter, avoid the Odes. They have wood tone rings. Ditto Dobson-style rings. The most punch probably is heard from the tubaphone and electric (aka whyte laydie) rings as well as Ome’s “Vintage” tone ring. You should be able to get an excellent tone-ring openback for $2,500 or less—depending on….

Jul 5, 2022 - 10:39:45 PM
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rcc56

USA

4341 posts since 2/20/2016

It seems to me that most of the modern hand made openbacks are being built with a thumpy tone in mind, rather than a snappy tone.

If you want a snappier sound, and can find any in your area to try out, you might want to check out a few of the old Vega banjos. There's quite a lot to choose from. Original 5 strings turn up regularly, as well as tenors with 5 string conversion necks. They tend to be snappy instruments.

The originals are less expensive than current Deering-made Vega instruments.

Edited by - rcc56 on 07/05/2022 22:42:01

Jul 6, 2022 - 10:48:17 AM
Players Union Member

Lorilee

USA

50 posts since 9/30/2016

Thanks, everyone. I find myself looking really hard at the Dogwood. Other than that their neck is a bit wider than what I'm used to, can anyone give me your impressions of them and the pros/cons of them, especially if you've ever owned/played one. The one I'm looking at has a pau ferro fretboard. I have no experience with that. Will it hold up well and is is as smooth as an ebony fretboard? Sorry for all the questions but this is a big deal for me! :)

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Jul 6, 2022 - 1:51:17 PM
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rcc56

USA

4341 posts since 2/20/2016

Pau Ferro is a South American hardwood that is more or less similar to rosewood, although it is a different genus. It is not as hard as the ebonies, which are the hardest woods in common use for fingerboards. It is slightly less hard than Indian rosewood, which has been used successfully on a large number of instruments. Fender and others have been using Pau Ferro for fingerboards for a few years.  Its use is becoming more common because of increasing stress and restrictions on the rosewood supply.

It takes a long time to dig divots in rosewood fingerboards unless a player doesn't keep their nails clipped. Pau Ferro won't hold up as well as ebony, but should hold up reasonably well as long as you clip your nails and don't manhandle the instrument.

If you're young and you keep the instrument for a long time, you may eventually end up with some divots.  But there are a lot of old guitars out there with divots in the fingerboard, and most of them are still playable.

As far as smoothness, a lot of that depends on how much trouble the builder goes to.

Edited by - rcc56 on 07/06/2022 13:58:02

Jul 6, 2022 - 4:37:57 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

26186 posts since 6/25/2005

Dogwood may be perfectly fine, but… they don’t post prices beyond their basic wood-ring banjo. So they are deliberately making it hard for players to comparison shop without contacting them and handing over information. That’s a business model that would immediately drive me away. Because their pricing is a mystery, my best guess is tat you could get a great old tone-ring banjo from the teens or twenties of the last century for less than a Dogwood would cost. But who knows?

Jul 7, 2022 - 6:34:24 PM
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173 posts since 12/9/2018

I owned Dogwood #72 for a bit and have also played a couple more of Mike's builds. All of them were very striking looking instruments with good playability and tone. #72 was easily the loudest non-tone ring banjo I've ever played and had a similar voice to the Ome Minstrel and Tupelo I owned.
As mentioned in my previous post, the attention to detail and build quality was a bit lacking when compared to the Omes that have passed through my hands. Examples of this were minor, but worth mentioning. The nut and fifth string pip were a little sloppy, the bracket shoes weren't perfectly symmetrical on the rim, and the finish work could have been better.
Some folks would chalk those issues up as the quirks of a one of a kind handmade item, but at the current asking prices I personally expect a higher level of refinement and consistency.
I enjoyed my time with #72, but I purchased it used for under $1000. If I found another Dogwood in the same price range and could inspect it in person, I would certainly consider it. But at full retail, I believe there are better values to be had.
Related to the discussion, but a slightly different direction since you mentioned your BAS, would be two banjos. If we're talking $2000-2500 budget, I'd be looking at something like a Cedar Mountain Jubilo and maybe something from Billybilt or Gary Schattl for something unique. There's also a good looking Bishline Okie in the classifieds at a decent price with free shipping.
Hope some of this was helpful and good luck in your search.

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