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Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..

Jane of 'ull 06 Mar 08 - 07:40 PM
Charley Noble 06 Mar 08 - 08:32 PM
Les in Chorlton 07 Mar 08 - 02:41 AM
GUEST 07 Mar 08 - 03:13 AM
GUEST,Larry 07 Mar 08 - 03:14 AM
Geoff the Duck 07 Mar 08 - 03:46 AM
Geoff the Duck 07 Mar 08 - 04:53 AM
BanjoRay 07 Mar 08 - 05:27 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 07 Mar 08 - 05:35 AM
Leadfingers 07 Mar 08 - 06:09 AM
rabbitlegs 07 Mar 08 - 06:45 AM
BanjoRay 07 Mar 08 - 07:01 AM
BanjoRay 07 Mar 08 - 07:19 AM
BanjoRay 07 Mar 08 - 07:23 AM
banjoman 07 Mar 08 - 08:02 AM
GUEST,Ray 07 Mar 08 - 12:49 PM
BanjoRay 07 Mar 08 - 02:11 PM
GUEST,Jim 07 Mar 08 - 02:48 PM
Jane of 'ull 07 Mar 08 - 04:04 PM
Charley Noble 07 Mar 08 - 08:24 PM
GUEST,Ray 08 Mar 08 - 09:48 AM
Stringsinger 08 Mar 08 - 03:46 PM
BanjoRay 08 Mar 08 - 07:33 PM
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Subject: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: Jane of 'ull
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 07:40 PM

I am looking to buy a 5 string banjo, open back frailing style, and would greatly appreciate some advice on buying. I played banjo over 10 years ago and want to take it up again, I can already frail so am not an absolute beginner. My budget is very small though, £100-£200 is all I can afford at present unfortunately.

My local music shop offered one model, the Vintage brand at £99. but I didnt like the sound or feel of it much.

Hobgoblin have the Blue Moon model at £115, wooden rim, made in China, or the Ashbury at £195 which has a maple body and neck.

The Music Room, Cleckheaton has the Tonewood Maryland at £114, very much endorsed by them as best value for money in its class.

On Ebay I found an Ozark for £112 which has a Remo head, and a Rally brand banjo for £99 with a mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard.

I also found a Hudson 'Dixie Kid' model with a Remo 'weather king' resonator head and rosewood fingerboard for £99.95. This was from Cranes music store, who had a wealth of info on there about all instruments.

There were also some websites selling 19th century instruments and the like but I think thats too risky without playing them first.

I personally like the look of the Tonewood Maryland, just a hunch.

The sound I like from a banjo is a clear but 'clunky' sound, not too resonant or echoey. if that helps!!

Thanks very much

Jane x


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: Charley Noble
Date: 06 Mar 08 - 08:32 PM

Jane-

It sounds as if you're in the UK rather than in the States. I certainly would be cautious about buying any new banjo without trying it out. That is so important.

It would also help if you explained how you planned to use the banjo. Do you want it for accompanying vocals or primarily for dance music?

My favorite new banjo in the states has to be a Bart Reiter banjo via Elderly Instruments Lansing, Michigan). They have a nice mellow sound, cost about $1000 US, and are modeled after the classic 1890's banjos.

My favorite classic antique banjos are the S. S. Stewart banjos, which are available in the UK and on E-Bay, and I would be happy to evaluate different models on your behalf as they come up.

There are also banjo websites which might do a better job of covering a wider range of banjos such as "banjo hangout".

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 02:41 AM

Be assertive, don't take the jokes personally, go to Hobgoblin on a quiet day with out credit cards, play lots then come back on another quiet day and buy one you can nearly afford


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 03:13 AM

Agree with Les. Avoid anything sold in a guitar shop as it will have been in the shop for ages and be a pile of pants. By strange coincidence I did a tour of Denmark Street and beyond on Wednesday: there is not much choice in that price range in most shops but Hobgoblin has most of what there is. I bought a Tonewood from Music Room for just under £300 last summer and am very pleased with it. (Prices have been falling over the last year so tis model is probably in the mid £200s somewhere. But I wouldn't recommend that you buy anything for under £200). Hope that this helps.


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: GUEST,Larry
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 03:14 AM

Sorry - didn't put my name on the last message


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 03:46 AM

My advice is don't buy new, you get more instrument for your money second hand. Also - never buy one you haven't had a play with as tone and set-up can be so variable that only you can decide what sound you actually want, and you can only do that by listening.
It is also mostly true that with an old instrument, any faults have already happened and been dealt with.
It is useful to have another banjo player with you as they can give advice on how playable the instrument is.
Some places have a good reputation and you can be sure their instruments are in good condition, others will sell whatever they have, and it is your look out to check it is playable. Remember a lot of old banjos are nice decorations on a wall, but have warped, bowed or twisted necks. Used as an ornament they may be worth the money paid, but are no use for playing.
Finally, if you can't find the right instrument straight away, don't just buy something that isn't what you want because you are in a shop with money. It is worth hanging on a bit longer for something more suitable.

I'll probably say more later.
Quack!
GtD.


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 04:53 AM

Do you know the other 'Ull mudcatters? If so have a chat with them.
They tend to be people who know what's about and who you should ask for advice on any particular subject. They will probably be able to tell you if there are any shops worth investigating nearer to you than places I could suggest :-
The Music Room and Cleckheaton, Eagle Music near Huddersfield, Manning's Musicals in Bradford, Hobgoblin in Leeds, and The Stonehouse in Whitby. Mudcatter Bill Sables also buys and sells instruments and is a banjo player himself. Bill lives in Rawcliffe near Goole.
As someone who actually does sing with clawhammer banjo accompaniment, I am probably one of the people you should talk to, but I live in Pontefract and don't have spare time for doing anything much at present.
We should be across at Sewerby if you are not organised before then. You can't miss the Ducks.

For accompaniment, you don't want too loud a banjo. Open backed is more likely to fit the bill.
Only you know what specific type of "sound" you are after, but one suitable for bluegrass picking is probably not for you.
A banjo which will play quietly but has volume when "attacked" is a good compromise between use for singing and for joining in with a crowd.
An open backed banjo which has a nice tone, but is over loud can be muted by stuffing a duster between perch pole and vellum. This can be removed for session volume.

There are plenty of other factors to consider, but most important is Make sure the banjo "feels" right for yoou. The wrong instrument will not encourage you to play it.
Quack!
Geoff the Duck.


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: BanjoRay
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 05:27 AM

Jane - Eagle Music seems to have an Ozark California reduced to £148. I know these banjos - they're obviously a copy of a Deering Goodtime {Goodtimes are made in California from white maple); they're well made and have a great tone and playability. I bought one for a friend last summer, and she's well pleased. Beacause it's at Eagle music, it will be well set up (I praise Eagle Music, but have no connection with it apart from being a satisfied customer). If you were one of my banjo students I'd advise you to get it before it vanishes. It's the best new banjo for the money I know.
Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 05:35 AM

Must get some new specs, or a brain transplant.

I just read the title of this thread as Need advice on burning a...etc.

Now I've got to go get a cloth, and mop up my cuppa.

Start the day with a laugh... the true path
Don T.


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: Leadfingers
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 06:09 AM

I agree with Geoff - Buy second hand , and definately play before you buy ! I have dealt with Music Room quite a lot in the past and tend to trust them ! Best of luck , any way .


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: rabbitlegs
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 06:45 AM

I too would recommend Eagle as a satisfied customer. I have a big heavy Ozark for picking and wanted a Californian for frailing. Got Tim to play one and a Goodtime (basic model, no tone ring) so I could here both out front. Bought the Goodtime, more plunky to me. They'll be hard to beat on price either way and at least three of them are experienced banjo players.
Enjoy!


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: BanjoRay
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 07:01 AM

I've played at least 10 Deering Goodtimes and 3 or 4 Ozark Californias in different times and places. Both are similar good players. I think the California gives more for the money, as it's a good bit cheaper. It's just as well made, and doesn't have the strange joint where the headpiece meets the fingerboard. Both banjos can be played very quietly or very loudly - entirely up to the player, as they both respond very well.

John Dowling, the young ex-world champion banjo player who taught Frank Skinner how to play banjo in a TV programme , has a California and plays it beautifully, as well as a gold-plated Deering he won in the championship at Winfield, Kansas.

Ray


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: BanjoRay
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 07:19 AM

In fact you can hear John Dowling playing an amazing three finger version of Lady Madonna here
at Sore Fingers tutor concert last year, on an Ozark California, as seen in the photograph.
Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: BanjoRay
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 07:23 AM

In fact you have to select the other track, called 'John solo' which is Lady Madonna. Sorry.
Ray


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: banjoman
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 08:02 AM

I have been making my own banjos now for years, but echo what all the others have said. Try as many banjos as you can & be sure the one you buy suits what you want it for.
I recently sold a Deering Goodtime which is a very good but fairly cheap instrument which is suitable for what you seem to describe.

Good luck
Pete


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 12:49 PM

Hi Jane,
Where in the UK are you? You could do worse than calling into Frailers in Runcorn. They have a fair selection from Gibsom Mastertones downwards and the owner is not the type to sell you something which won't suit. (There was a bloke in there a couple of weeks ago - a beginner - who was intent on spending 4 figures on somethong with a tree of life inlay. The owner flatly refused to order him one suggesting that he'd get on better with something cheaper)
Ray


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: BanjoRay
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 02:11 PM

I think calling herself Jane of 'Ull is a bit of a clue!
Ray


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 02:48 PM

Check out and join the Banjo Hangout for lots of advice about buying and playing banjos www.banjohangout.org


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: Jane of 'ull
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 04:04 PM

Thanks for all the advice! I will check out 'banjo hangout' and the other places mentioned. I think I am going to have to do a bit of travelling and trying out banjos.. leeds and cleckheaton aren't too far away.

maybe i should make my visits coincide with any folk festivals that are going on in the areas where these shops are. cleckheaton folk fest is in july. Are there any folk fests in leeds/huddersfield area coming up?

I looked up Eagle music and couldnt see prices online, you had to ring them for quotations. i guess i'd have to visit there too.

I think I shall have to be patient, save up a bit more money and yes, buy one that i can 'nearly' afford! it's usually the best way. I don't really want to be lumbered with a crappy one, it only makes for frustration..

Cheers

Jane x


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: Charley Noble
Date: 07 Mar 08 - 08:24 PM

Jane-

Thanks for checking back!

Saving up the money does make sense in the long run, especially so if you have experience in playing banjo.

I recently had to make do with a borrowed banjo for a gig (since my personal banjo was hostage to international luggage limbo); it was not a good experience in spite of the generosity of the person who loaned the banjo in question.

Clearly I need to stash banjos in critical corners of this world well in advance of my travel.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 08 Mar 08 - 09:48 AM

Borrowing a banjo isn't always a bad thing. A mate of mine was playing second line at a club we used to run. Seconds before he was due to go on stage his bridge collapsed. Here - use this one - said Tommy Makem handing him his Gibson.


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: Stringsinger
Date: 08 Mar 08 - 03:46 PM

the basic problem with many banjos is that they are not too adaptable. They can play
a certain kind of music and maybe not another kind. I like the long-neck Seeger type because it's capable of playing a variety of musical styles. It also plays in different keys.
Tuning the banjo each time you want to play in a new key is daunting if you have to
tune most of the strings. Using a capo and tuning the fifth string is easier.

I tend to like the Ome or Vega for its versatility. I prefer a "ring" to the banjo rather than
a "plunk". A ring blends better with other instruments.

Goldtone is a good cheap start.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Need advice on buying a 5 string banjo..
From: BanjoRay
Date: 08 Mar 08 - 07:33 PM

Well I went to the open Day at the Eagle Music shop today and tried a lot of banjos. The Goodtime banjos still astonish me - they're totally predictable and good. Every one plays and sounds exactly like it's siblings. I got my hands on the Ozark California, that still has a price of £160 on it - I think it's an amazing deal. Plays beautifully, with a great tone, and unlike a Goodtime it comes with an armrest and two coordinator rods. I can't understand why it hasn't been snatched up.
Cheers
Ray


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