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Apr 13, 2024 - 1:55:12 PM
113 posts since 9/5/2021

Hello banjo experts.
Sometime between now and Christmas I plan on buying a new banjo.
My playing isn't worthy of a new one, lol, but sae la vie.
I have narrowed it down to three banjos, The Bishline Midnight Moon, The Deering Rustic Wreath, and
a choice of one of the Huber Workhorse MG-3.

I love the look of the Midnight Moon. I have always been a fan of the tiger eye stone and it reminds me so much of my youth, plus the example has a beautiful sound. It almost seems too extravagant for me, which means at my age I deserve it. lol

Then there is the Deering Rustic Wreath, which is in the Golden series. So in a very nice banjo category. They say it's plain in looks, but I love it. Also the sound is marvellous.

Then there is the Huber. As close as a prewar sound as you can buy new, as I am told. There are nice looking banjos to choose from, but if sound is the only criteria then by most accounts it wins.

I understand that a sound comparison is impossible to make since it's all online.
I din't think I'll eve be somewhere where I can try playing different ones to test them out. I don't even know where a place like that might be, certainly no music store around where I live.

If anyone has an opinion I'd appreciate it. These are just in consideration...

Apr 13, 2024 - 2:43:57 PM

1407 posts since 1/26/2011
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I owned a Bishline Heirloom. It was my primary banjo for a couple of years. It was good, but nowhere near as good as the Gibson RB3 I purchased later. The Bishline was beautiful, but it didn’t have the “depth” of the Gibson. Of the three you list I’d probably go with the Huber. I’ve played a Workhorse and it was really good. I’m not a big Deering fan.

Apr 13, 2024 - 3:53:12 PM

15228 posts since 6/2/2008

What great choices, Diane.

And even if you don't think your playing is worthy of one of these, the great thing about a truly excellent banjo is that helps you become worthy of it. The whole reason to own a quality instrument is that in every way it works with you rather than against you.

No one here can tell you what to buy.

From the one or two I've played, I think Hubers have slender necks, which might be particularly comfortable for women's (on average) smaller hands. While Deerings also have very comfortable necks, the necks in the "Golden" series have a different profile: Deering's version of prewar Gibson. I think the Rustic Wreath is still going to sound like a Deering, that would be a plus for me.

I played a Bishline or two at Mandolin Brothers ages ago and didn't care for the neck or the action in the low frets. The sound did not move me. But the Midnight Moon is a distinctive looking banjo. A work of art. So if that's what you're after then maybe it's what you want.

Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto doesn't have any of your choices in stock right now. But they do have a Huber, so you could visit and get a feel for those. The one they have probably has a different tone ring than the Workhorse. It might well be something that you like.

Only other comment: You will always get more for your money by buying used. But that ony works if a used copy of the specific model you want is available.

Have fun shopping and buying.

Apr 13, 2024 - 6:38:29 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)


27999 posts since 6/25/2005

With many choices available to me for a bluegrass banjo, I bought a used Huber—coincidentally, from Gryphon. I have not been disappointed.

Apr 13, 2024 - 8:24:12 PM

15228 posts since 6/2/2008

2012 Huber Sammy Shelor at Gryphon for $300 more than a Workhorse MG3.  This banjo has the  pre-war alloy HR-30 tone ring instead of the lower-cost 844  "semi-leaded red brass." It's also a good sounding ring. Huber actually made the 844 and sold it to other makers for many years before putting it in his own banjos.

Anyway, the banjo is within driving distance. You could find out what a Huber feels like. Maybe even make an offer.

Apr 13, 2024 - 11:07:49 PM

113 posts since 9/5/2021

Thank you for your experiences. I've never heard of Gryphon, it sounds like a place I should visit.
Maybe they'd have something else for me to consider. I'm not ready to buy just yet.
I want to look around and explore every option, Because when I do buy a new banjo, it will probably
have to last a long time.

Sound is my first criteria. I'm not sure what sounding like a Deering means as I don't know what they
sound like in person, Or the difference between a Huber and Deering in sound.

I think I need to learn about the tone rings.

Apr 14, 2024 - 3:24:33 AM
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572 posts since 12/30/2005

Hi Diane

Congratulations on the imminent arrival of a new banjo!
Whilst the prospect of buying a new banjo is certainly a cause for celebration, I feel I must sound a note of caution. Despite living in the UK, over my 50+ year playing career, I've been fortunate to play banjos from many of the leading builders. In my experience, when it comes to sound and feel, the name on the peghead is no guarantee. I've played some expensive, big-name banjos that were really unremarkable. Equally, I've played some intermediate quality instruments that sounded great. If the sound and playability are your primary concerns, please don't get too hung up on big names. Set-up is everything, and two identical banjos from the same builder can sound and feel entirely different.
I'd recommend you play as many different banjos as you can find, regardless of the model or maker. You may find that your ideal banjo is not one on your shortlist.
Good luck with the search!

Apr 14, 2024 - 5:32:01 AM

1407 posts since 1/26/2011
Online Now

Harry has good advice. I’ve played two of the exact same model banjos in the same sitting with as close to the same setup
as possible and one was better than the other. Each banjo is different. So find the one that sounds like you want it to sound.

Apr 14, 2024 - 6:30:30 AM

5728 posts since 5/29/2011

The Deering sound is not easy to describe but it's easy enough to hear when a Deering is played beside other banjos. A Deering resonator is not as deep as most others.
Of the three banjos you mentioned, does one seem to pull you back time after time? Do you look at them and keep returning to one in particular? If so, that may be the one you want to purchase.

Apr 14, 2024 - 7:23:17 AM

3373 posts since 9/5/2006


Apr 15, 2024 - 12:02:46 AM
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152 posts since 11/30/2021

"I understand that a sound comparison is impossible to make since it's all online.
I din't think I'll eve be somewhere where I can try playing different ones to test them out. I don't even know where a place like that might be, certainly no music store around where I live."

NAMM is held in Anaheim CA, which would be about a 5 hour drive from Modesto. If it were me, I'd make the drive and pay admission so I'd get the chance to play those models side by side in person. Even if Bishline or Huber are not present, you'd still get to play quite a few banjos I would think, and just that would be worth it. Especially before you spend high end money.

Happy picking!

Apr 16, 2024 - 3:08:19 PM
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932 posts since 2/24/2008

California Bluegrass AssociationYou can check out several banjos at the Father's Day Bluegrass Festival if you make the treck North to Grass Valley mid-June put on by the California Bluegrass Association. We will have Deering banjo display there and Greg will do some workshop and set up banjos for free. It's an opportunity to get your questions answered and meet Greg personally.

Apr 17, 2024 - 6:30:53 PM
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297 posts since 3/18/2006

I own all Gibson and Deering banjos. Several from Jim mills as well as modern Gibsons: blackjack, Scruggs,
Deerings include golden era and Deering tenbrooks Legacy.

That being said, there is NO such thing as a Deering sound. All are great sounding banjos, they all just feel different

Enjoy the hunt, pick the one you like to play! Enjoy your new banjo

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