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Nov 27, 2022 - 5:03:06 AM
6 posts since 11/11/2022

Thanks for replies on few of my post- as stated I am looking to purchase new banjo- I am now leaning toward open back- with 3 finger playing-( can’t get hang of claw hammer) Should I consider going with 11 or 12 “ - I like sound of both. Any thoughts?? Thanks - enjoy the day

Nov 27, 2022 - 6:47:11 AM
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327 posts since 11/4/2012
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I am fortunate enough to have one of each to my ears the 12” is a little deeper and not as bright as an11”but I like them both if you can put your hands on one play them both, I also can’t get the claw hammer thing down either so I play thumb lead which is very satisfying,good luck and keep us posted on you banjo journey.

Nov 27, 2022 - 9:52:42 AM
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96 posts since 9/13/2017

When I commissioned my open back banjo, I was faced with the same decision. In the end, I decided on 12" because I wanted the mellower tone with a decent low end and some growl. When playing with the banjo sitting on my thigh, the larger pot is also more comfortable for me. It fits perfectly under my arm and feels just right, as it was made for this position -- but this depends on your body, and it can work the other way around too and feel uncomfortable. When playing with the banjo sitting in my lap, both sizes feel the same (I still have my factory banjo too, which is 11").

I went with a 27" scale, for a little more "zing" and even better low end. I didn't want the banjo to sound muddy (which is different from mellow!). Oh, and a slightly wider neck/nut width for comfort at 34mm. I picked a Dobson tone ring as I liked it best in videos, though I think I'd have been happy with any of the popular open back tone ring choices. It's difficult to make decisions based on just videos and other people's descriptions of sound. I didn't have an opportunity to listen to different configurations in person, but if you do have a chance to do this, I'd really recommend doing it.

I also fingerpick (two and three), no CH. Bare fingers, occasionally with picks.

Realistically, this may not be the last banjo you will buy, so I'd just pick a size (and other features) and then stick with it for a while. Your preferences will eventually develop. I commissioned my custom banjo prematurely (big birthday coming up, had the funds at the time, and wanted to fuel my motivation), and it did work out, but it was a bit of a gamble. In retrospect I should have waited another year or so. No regrets though, I love that banjo and it checks my boxes.

Edited by - Mivo on 11/27/2022 09:54:57

Nov 27, 2022 - 10:10:46 AM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)


26651 posts since 6/25/2005

For fingerpicking I would choose an 11”. I think a 12” would be too plunky for that style.

Nov 28, 2022 - 2:25:36 AM
Players Union Member



16351 posts since 8/30/2006

The 11's will play and mount any neck from mandolin to longneck.

Think of the 12's as having to drive a 4x4 everywhere. I have one 12" that is being played in a group of fathers called "10 mile March."

Nov 28, 2022 - 4:50:34 AM
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58 posts since 4/19/2014

I highly recommend trying to get your hands on whatever size pot you haven't played. Recently, I was looking to get a banjo, and I was convinced, based on the youtube clips I heard that I wanted a 12" banjo. I just liked the bass response better that I heard. (I was going to have to buy this banjo I was eyeing online, but there was a local shop that had some 12 inch banjos), so I went there to try a 12" to check it out first. I hated it. It was just like everyone described it - more air, less focused, more bass response, but it just didn't sound good to me with how I played. Some people make those 12" sing and sound amazing, and the more banjos I play, the more I'm learning, with the way I play, for whatever reason, I really like how I sound with a particular type of banjo. Plenty of people sound great on both sizes, but it was eye opening for me at least.

Nov 28, 2022 - 6:47:34 PM

706 posts since 10/23/2003

I am firmly of the opinion, that the first answer is what works for you. It depends on how it feels especially about the size of your hands and the sound.

If you are aiming at playing the banjo seriously, one banjo is never the answer. Different banjos will give you different things.

For finger picking, i would very seriously also explore getting a Resonator banjo. Even in old time music in the 20s and 30s the great finger style players all used resonator banjos from Dave Macon to Charlie Poole to Will Keyes. Roscoe had a resonator banjo when John Cohen et alia came upon him and did move up to a Tubaphone

Go and try banjoists or go down to NYC or up to Boston or providence and try what works for you.

But in all of these things, there is no single answer, and especially no single answer that a stranger can provide you.

The best is to find banjoists who will let you play their banjos.

But one banjo is never the answer. I only know one player who is serious who owns one banjo, and then he has Charlie Poole's banjo!

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