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Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo

GUEST,JB 11 Mar 21 - 04:43 PM
Felipa 11 Mar 21 - 04:59 PM
Joe Offer 11 Mar 21 - 05:06 PM
Felipa 11 Mar 21 - 05:16 PM
Felipa 11 Mar 21 - 05:49 PM
Felipa 11 Mar 21 - 06:07 PM
gillymor 11 Mar 21 - 06:10 PM
David C. Carter 12 Mar 21 - 04:50 AM
David C. Carter 12 Mar 21 - 05:15 AM
Ernest 12 Mar 21 - 05:52 AM
cnd 12 Mar 21 - 11:07 AM
GUEST,JB 12 Mar 21 - 05:26 PM
GUEST,Felipa 12 Mar 21 - 06:45 PM
Felipa 12 Mar 21 - 07:27 PM
Long Firm Freddie 12 Mar 21 - 07:31 PM
Ernest 13 Mar 21 - 09:44 AM
Rex 13 Mar 21 - 02:38 PM
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Subject: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: GUEST,JB
Date: 11 Mar 21 - 04:43 PM

Any ideas where one could get a fretless Old Time banjo. Living in Germany and have never seen one here. Any information welcome also regarding price range, etc.
Much appreciated.
JB


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: Felipa
Date: 11 Mar 21 - 04:59 PM

Grafton banjos in UK makes a fretless banjo. It does look different from the traditional ones, looks more like a modern banjo without the frets. I have a Grafton fretted 5-string banjo and I am happy with it. Look at https://www.andybanjo.com/ current cost of their fretless banjo is >£400

Have you thought of getting an instrument maker to make you one? That will be expensive I suppose.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Mar 21 - 05:06 PM

I emailed DADGBE (Ray Frank) and asked him to drop by this thread. He's the most knowledgeable banjo guy I know. The legendary Sandy Paton gave Ray a broken Frank Proffitt fretless banjo, on the condition that Ray rebuilt the banjo and use it. He played it for years, and it was an absolute pleasure to listen to.
But then he rebuilt the banjo again a couple years ago, using high-tech fishing line for strings. The banjo has a totally different sound now, much brighter than nylon or gut strings but not quite as harsh as metal strings. It's amazing to hear his second rebuilding of this banjo. Frank Proffitt and Sandy Paton would be proud.
My neighbor and former kitchen boss Debby McClatchy plays a fretless banjo, too. She used to bring it over and play it for my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law was 95 and close to death, but she sure loved "that young woman with the banjo" (Debby was 65 at the time), but she never could remember Debby's name.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Proffitt


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: Felipa
Date: 11 Mar 21 - 05:16 PM

here is something I've never come across before, a semi-fretless banjo https://www.wgfhowsoninstruments.co.uk/custom-banjos/2-11-semi-fretless-sapele-banjo

The Mountain Banjer looks more like a traditional fretless banjo:
https://www.ballardbanjers.com/pricesstandard-models.html

Deering now makes a modern fretless model, similar looking to the Grafton model and cheaper than the Ballard banjos.

I'm simply searching UK pages and I;m surprised to see how many makers are now producing fretless models; have you tried doing the same for germany and adjacent countries?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: Felipa
Date: 11 Mar 21 - 05:49 PM

I've asked Joe to edit muy first post, price of
grafton fretless banjo <£400 according to the website I looked at.

interesting vintage banjo with an inscription in German https://billsbanjos.com/German%20banjo.htm

not all old fretless banjos are Proffit style https://billsbanjos.com/Boucher.htm
See also https://jakewildwood.blogspot.com/2015/05/1890s2015-buckbee-made-wurlitzer.html

new gourd banjo https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Fretless-Gourd-Banjo-/254869045062

Too bad we don't have sound samples to go along with the photos but there are plenty of youtube videos of fretless banjos
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l77qr0mZRh4 (selected as banjo dages to 1890s)


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: Felipa
Date: 11 Mar 21 - 06:07 PM

nice tone
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5uRVPfyhXc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_fPtEWbmpw

I looked for a sample of finger-picking style on fretless banjo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKS_KZ1-DTk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYGzy-KOQgo


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: gillymor
Date: 11 Mar 21 - 06:10 PM

A friend of mine has one of these Deering Goodtime Frettless. It sounds really good and is very well made, like every other Deering I've encountered (though I think their higher end models are overpriced). The Goodtime goes for 500 U.S. Not sure if it's available over there. You might get some more info from the very helpful folks at the banjohangout.org forum and maybe check out their classifieds while you're there.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: David C. Carter
Date: 12 Mar 21 - 04:50 AM

Does anybody know the make of the banjo that Rhiannon Giddens plays?

Thans in advance.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: David C. Carter
Date: 12 Mar 21 - 05:15 AM

Er...Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: Ernest
Date: 12 Mar 21 - 05:52 AM

Hi JB,
I am in Germany too (part time in Berlin and Hessen). Recently I saw a fretless Prucha on ebay, not cheap, but apparently a good one.

The others that I saw have been vintage ones (mine is said to be an unmarked english one from the collection of a late friend), another years ago in a shop that has closed a few years ago and another one is played by a fine player on the Oldtime Jam in wedding (that Jam is run by Ben Smith, who also runs oldtime-central.com)

Which part of Germany are you located?

Best wishes
Ernest


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: cnd
Date: 12 Mar 21 - 11:07 AM

David C. Carter:
There's a few different answers.

Giddens plays primarily a cherry, maple and rosewood minstrel banjo, a replica of a design by the 19th-century Baltimore luthier Levi Brown built by James Hartel (source; source)

She is also sponsored by Deering and has played the John Hartford 5-String Open Back Banjo (source)


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: GUEST,JB
Date: 12 Mar 21 - 05:26 PM

Thank you Ernest for that and to all those who contributed. Yes, I see that Prucha on ebay and although I`m sure it`s excellent, it`s a bit expensive for me as I`m not sure if I can learn it at all. I play the tenor banjo and Irish Bouzouki, but I sure love the sound of the fretless. I`m impressed by the Deering Goodtime Fretless and the price range is good, but getting one in Germany seems to be a problem.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: GUEST,Felipa
Date: 12 Mar 21 - 06:45 PM

it looks like Joe changed fretted to fretless twice in my first post rather than just once. Grafton makes a keenly priced fretless banjo. I have a fretted banjo from Grafton, an open-backed 5 string banjo, and I am pleased with it. I don't have a fretless banjo myself.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: Felipa
Date: 12 Mar 21 - 07:27 PM

video of Grafton fretless banjo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eeWD-2W7yw
If it's good enough for you, you could get it sent to Germany from England. Doesn't Deering have dealers in Germany?

You may be able to find a fretless tenor banjo. Or maybe you like the sound of the 5 string banjo in general. It is tuned differently than the tenor banjo. Have you listened to Irish musician Gerry "Banjo" O'Connor? He's the one tenor banjo player who somehow often makes the instrument sound similar to a 5 sting banjo, to my mind anyway.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: Long Firm Freddie
Date: 12 Mar 21 - 07:31 PM

Thomann are a huge German music business. They stock both Gold Tone and Deering banjos. I couldn't see any fretless models on their website, but I should imagine it would be worth a call to see if they could order one for you.

Thomann

LFF


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: Ernest
Date: 13 Mar 21 - 09:44 AM

Hi JB,
have you considered to get a fretted one and have the fretboard changed/frets removed? Tis could probably be done by any music shop even if they don`t have experience with banjos.

As for Felipa`s idea of the fretless tenor: one (again not cheap)here...

Fretless tenor

Best wishes
Ernest


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Subject: RE: Tech: Fretless Old-Time Banjo
From: Rex
Date: 13 Mar 21 - 02:38 PM

George Matthews made banjos in the late 1800s in Birmingham England. Every one that I've seen has been fretless. He must have made many or he is credited as such with his name being on them. I find one for sale every time I look. I've been playing one for many years.

Rex


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