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Jun 20, 2024 - 8:16:10 PM
111 posts since 4/14/2024

I'm sure somebody must have thought of this before but as there are so many builders/luthiers on this site I just have to ask...
Can a banjo be made to play, or actually made by hand, in open G but an octave lower? All the same notes etc just an octave lower..in my head it sounds like it might be kinda cool..but..then there's the real world, right? I thought it would sound kinda cool in a jam session that doesn't have a bass player. I know theres the Bela Fleck model but its not in open G

Jun 20, 2024 - 8:57:26 PM

817 posts since 5/29/2015

Something like this?  https://bernunzio.com/p/c-fairbanks-whyte-laydie-contrabass-banjo-18317/    See the last photo.

Jun 20, 2024 - 9:30:58 PM

241 posts since 1/7/2021

It can be done, and you can buy one!

goldtonemusicgroup.com/goldton...nts/ceb-5

Jun 21, 2024 - 3:54 AM
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3394 posts since 2/18/2009

They are most commonly called a cello banjo, and the term bass banjo seems more often to refer to a banjo tuned like a bass guitar or a double bass, but I don't know why. I've made 10 cello banjos over the years with a 16" rim and 29" scale length, after a member here kindly responded to a post when I asked what I could make with a 16" rim, when I got a bigger lathe about 10 years ago and had the capacity to turn something that size. He had an S. S. Stewart cello banjo with those dimensions. I've got the last one I made on hand now at the link below.

https://www.banjohangout.org/classified/100027

Jun 21, 2024 - 4:24:56 AM
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11385 posts since 4/23/2004

Here's a link to my youtube video of my Stewart Cello-banjo. It is tuned gCGBD, an octave below standard.

https://youtu.be/XFJmQbw9yug?feature=shared
 

Jun 21, 2024 - 7:36:48 AM

111 posts since 4/14/2024

Thanks for all of the replies..I should have been more clear..was referring to one with a resonator, tone ring etc..essentially a Gibson-esque bluegrass banjo. Didn't realize that the pot would need to be so big.
And that one that Rob posted? Lord have mercy!! That thing was nearly 7 ft long! Would be kinda cool to take something like that to a jam and record the looks on peoples faces though..LOL

Jun 21, 2024 - 8:15:50 AM

11385 posts since 4/23/2004

I recall seeing a full resonator upright bass banjo at the Tennessee Banjo Institute in 1992. Looked like an oversize Gibson with 4 strings. Sounded terrible...but it was probably intended as just a display.

Jun 21, 2024 - 8:32:43 AM
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8345 posts since 9/21/2007

Zachary Hoyt that is a very nice example!

Regarding the Gold Tone... this one is close. So, Gold Tone used a tenor cello banjo for the basis of this. I.e., pitched one octave below a regular tenor banjo.

Think of this like sticking a peg in the side of the neck and trying to tune a tenor like a regular banjo-- it just won't work great as the scale is too short.

To compensate for this they strung it heavy. These tend to lack power and sound dead.

IMNSHO, cello/bass banjos have their use as accompaniment to solo regular banjos, adding root and sometimes harmony. When played as a solo instrument they are an interesting novelty but that is where it ends. When played rapidly (like clawhammer) I find them extremely unpleasant to be near.

This is one of those things that sounds like a great idea. (And they are a great idea in accompaniment roles).

Jun 21, 2024 - 10:40:54 AM

3634 posts since 12/31/2005

quote:
Originally posted by trapdoor2

Here's a link to my youtube video of my Stewart Cello-banjo. It is tuned gCGBD, an octave below standard.

https://youtu.be/XFJmQbw9yug?feature=shared
 


As they say on Facebook:  "Is this still for sale?"  :-)  That sounds great.  Excellent note definition, which is something that big banjos sometimes struggle with.  Call me first if you ever decide to send it on!

Jun 21, 2024 - 11:00:43 AM

115 posts since 9/1/2020

6 string Low-jo has an extra G.
That brings you into the lower range without cutting off the upper register.
BTW the pot doesn't have to be as big as everybody seems to think.
My wife's bass banjo has a 12" pot and it renders the low tones just fine.

Edited by - Bruce Berry Banjos on 06/21/2024 11:01:17

Jun 21, 2024 - 12:41:46 PM
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11385 posts since 4/23/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Murphy
quote:
Originally posted by trapdoor2

Here's a link to my youtube video of my Stewart Cello-banjo. It is tuned gCGBD, an octave below standard.

https://youtu.be/XFJmQbw9yug?feature=shared
 


As they say on Facebook:  "Is this still for sale?"  :-)  That sounds great.  Excellent note definition, which is something that big banjos sometimes struggle with.  Call me first if you ever decide to send it on!


Um, there's been a queue since I bought it. laugh

Edited by - trapdoor2 on 06/21/2024 12:42:12

Jun 21, 2024 - 12:49:56 PM
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11385 posts since 4/23/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Bruce Berry Banjos

6 string Low-jo has an extra G.
That brings you into the lower range without cutting off the upper register.
BTW the pot doesn't have to be as big as everybody seems to think.
My wife's bass banjo has a 12" pot and it renders the low tones just fine.


Somebody gave me (I got it extra cheap) a Low-jo. From the factory, it is probably one of the worst sounding banjos I've ever had. I've described it previously as sounding like a "galvanized steel trash can with strings".

In reality, I think it needs a properly sized set of nylon strings and a light bridge. Heck, even its overtones have overtones. Another project in the queue...

Jun 21, 2024 - 1:45:01 PM
Players Union Member

rmcdow

USA

1412 posts since 11/8/2014

Abigail Washburn plays the CEB-5 clawhammer style, and it sound great alone and with Bela Fleck playing his 5 string. Hearing her inspired me to purchase a CEB-5, which I enjoyed as an accompanying banjo for years. I didn't like the sound of the strings Goldtone supplied, and changed to flatwound strings. Joel is correct saying that they lack power, which could also have something to do with my setup, and some of the sound is a bit dead, but they do give nice low accompanying notes in harmony an octave lower.

Jun 21, 2024 - 3:02:11 PM
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2478 posts since 2/9/2007

If you want a bluegrass-style cello banjo, I'll bet the Bela baritone could do a pretty good job with the right set of strings. I'm guessing the GT set for the CEB-5 would work, but probably not optimally-- Getting the tone you want might take a bit of experimentation with different materials and gauges. And bridges.

Jun 21, 2024 - 3:20:30 PM

62225 posts since 12/14/2005

I made a bass banjo in bass guitar tuning, but I was willing to try make you a 5-string bass an octave lower than G, if that's what you want.
Shipping's going to be a bit of an expense, from Wisconsin to New Mexico.

Then I noticed you apparently wanted a cast brass tone ring.

So, if that's a really important feature, I have no plucking idea how I would accomplish that.

But, best wishes for a successful search.


Jun 21, 2024 - 5:25:37 PM
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3381 posts since 9/5/2006

I used to go to a jam at an old fiddler's music room above his garage back 40 or so years ago. He had a bass banjo that looked like a bass drum with a banjo neck attached to it. It had quite a rumble to it. His room was full of strange and wonderful instruments he collected. I'd imagine that is all long gone as I heard he died about 20 years ago and I had moved away from that region.

Jun 21, 2024 - 6:20:25 PM

62225 posts since 12/14/2005

Come to think of it, the bass banjo I made had too much sustain on the strings for any rapid-fire Scruggs style playing.

Jun 22, 2024 - 6:16:06 AM
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174 posts since 8/22/2023

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory

Come to think of it, the bass banjo I made had too much sustain on the strings for any rapid-fire Scruggs style playing.


Agree on all the sustain. It was a fun project tho. I used a 14" TomTom cut in half.




Jun 22, 2024 - 7:13:20 AM

62225 posts since 12/14/2005

fotoguzzi
Have you a sound file you can share? I'd like to hear what that 14 incher sounds like.

Jun 22, 2024 - 10:31:32 AM
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115 posts since 9/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory

Come to think of it, the bass banjo I made had too much sustain on the strings for any rapid-fire Scruggs style playing.


Mike, Such is the nature of everything that produces low tones.

It's the high register of frequencies that lend to "rapid-fire" anything.

Low and fast =  muddy.

I just build banjos to be banjos and bass banjos to be basses.

Here my wife is playing a bass with a 12" pot. Plenty of volume acoustically without a huge drum.


Jun 22, 2024 - 12:27:47 PM
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martyjoe

Ireland

541 posts since 3/24/2020

Big diameter pots, small diameter pots. Deep or shallow rims, different scale lengths it’s all compromise. There are ways around some of these compromises with either cello or bass banjos. Multi-scale is one such way of keeping the low strings long enough for maintaining optimal tone & volume while keeping easy playability on the shorter high strings. Another way to get a good compromise balance is the use of an archtop pot. Say a 12” diameter vibrating head area gives a nice definition to the bass notes on a 15” pot for deeper overtones, a bit like the principle of a multi-cone speaker. Sometimes it is possible to get the best of both worlds. I often build a sound chamber into the pot between the tone ring & the rim which is also a big help to push the overtones.


 

Jun 22, 2024 - 4:09:42 PM
Players Union Member

Bilhe

Ireland

34 posts since 6/17/2023

Hi, there's a wonderful original Irish performer i love called Lisa O Neill, this cailin go haileann's voice is guaranteed to give you goosebumps. I'm bringing this up in this topic because if you take the time to watch the entire utube vid linked below you will see her bring out what i think is a plectrum cello/bass banjo in the song Silver Seed. And by golly she makes it work. I will leave it to the experts here to identify the instrument but it sounds divine!

youtube.com/watch?v=1hMxG92KTG...=NPRMusic

Mother there's a star in me, Nectar sweet indeed. I sing like sparrow, I won't dream narrow. I'll know about the Silver Seed.

Jun 22, 2024 - 5:55:33 PM

111 posts since 4/14/2024

What I was originally wondering is if it could be an octave lower but still play all the regular BG songs the same way..FMB, Cripple Creek, etc..is that even possible?

Jun 22, 2024 - 7:07:01 PM
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3394 posts since 2/18/2009

If you play bluegrass tunes with all the usual notes and at the usual speed an octave lower on a cello banjo the result will be muddy and unsatisfactory. It is possible, but will likely not be enjoyable to the average person.

Jun 23, 2024 - 9:06:25 AM

115 posts since 9/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Patrick1962

What I was originally wondering is if it could be an octave lower but still play all the regular BG songs the same way..FMB, Cripple Creek, etc..is that even possible?


Low and fast = muddy

Jun 23, 2024 - 4:14:19 PM
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111 posts since 4/14/2024

ok..thanks everybody...guess it sounded cooler in my head than what it would in the "real" world

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