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Electric Banjo thanks

clansfolk 13 May 00 - 03:23 AM
Jon Freeman 13 May 00 - 05:19 AM
catspaw49 13 May 00 - 09:56 AM
JedMarum 13 May 00 - 01:24 PM
rangeroger 13 May 00 - 09:19 PM
The Shambles 14 May 00 - 04:06 AM
clansfolk 14 May 00 - 01:10 PM
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Subject: Electric Banjo thanks
From: clansfolk
Date: 13 May 00 - 03:23 AM

Greetings and thanks,

Sometime agao I posted a request for information on Electric banjos, and received several replies - thank you all, I have now purchased one after looking at the few choices available and I'm so impressed I wrote the following for our local folk mag,

Good news for Banjo players, sick of feed-back when playing amplified? Having to keep the volume of the banjo low and missing out on those lead breaks? Well the answer could be at hand with the arrival of the Swan electric "mellowtone" banjo.

I have just had the privilege of visiting the maker of the Swan banjo range for a look around his work shop and a play on the various models he manufactures, I was so impressed I walked away with one of his fine instruments, the only regret being that I only walked away with one but I'm sure I will be back for more.

Terry Swan lives near Nottingham in England, the home of the famed Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor and righted many a wrong, well Terry has done much the same for Banjo players by using his craftsmanship and lateral thinking to make what I think is a superb working banjoist tool.

I play with several bands, ranging from Ceilidh, through Folk and Bluegrass to 50's Rockabilly and Goodtime music. My biggest problem (like most banjoists) was how to amplify the banjo to compete with fellow musicians and singers and to boost the sound for those lead instrumentals without the dreaded feed-back or loss of that all important "Banjo sound". Contact pick-ups have been used, mikes both on and off the banjo have been employed but problems still occurred especially in those tight venues when you're "sitting" on top of the speaker cabs!

Then I came across the Swan Banjo Web site whilst surfing around the internet (thanks to our friends at which heralded the solid body electric banjo - good idea I thought but won't it sound the same as an solid electric guitar tuned like a banjo? So I sent Terry Swan and email which resulted in an invitation to visit him and try them out. We travelled down to Nottingham on a bright sunny Saturday arriving around noon to be met by Terry and his two dogs - all three greeting us like old friends, coffee was made, and left to get cold whilst I played on the various models he had set out for perusal.

The models were, a 8 string banjo/mandolin (Terry also make a 4 string version), 6 string guitar banjo, 4 string tenor banjo, dobro guitar and 5 string banjo, several variations being available to appreciate. The first thing that struck me was how much better they looked in "real life" to the pictures I had seen on the internet, the next was how much they sounded like a banjo when they were plugged into the amp, this being down to Terry's patented "tone module", OK not 100% like an acoustic instrument, but as near as I have heard and with a bit of equalisation and the possibilities of adding special effects, the versatility of this instrument greatly excels that of the humble acoustic banjo without dispensing with its natural charm. Terry eventually dragged me away from his instruments to show me his work shop, the woods he employed and how he assembled the instruments, plus his magic "Tone module". Then back again to the instruments, by the time I'd played the banjos again it was mid-afternoon and as we were due at a folk festival later that afternoon, it was time to bid Terry and his banjos a fond farewell, but not before I'd purchased one, this was not and easy decision as I, if not my bank manager, would have loved to have filled the car with them!

I'm sure like myself other banjoists will have heard of other electric banjos on the market, but they are not readily available in the UK and command a high price, when imported (usually pound for dollar price tags) and of course you can't try it before you import it! So what I suggest is if you play banjo with an amplified band and want a new and inspiring experience, try one of Terry's Mellowtone Electric banjos. I have now had the chance to play the instrument at a couple of venues, and can honestly say that I am more than happy with my purchase, it's bright and fun to play, does its job well and has also gained a lot of admiring attention not only from other musicians, but from members of the audiences as well, and one other thing, it's a lot lighter than my acoustic banjo so maybe it'll even cure my back and neck ache.

For more information on the Swan range of electric banjos contact:

Terry Swan. E-mail: Website:

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Subject: RE: Electric Banjo thanks
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 13 May 00 - 05:19 AM

I'm pleased you like the Swan Banjo's and I'd hoped you'd like them when I gave the link when you first asked your question.

I had come across them about 1 month before that when he advertised there existance in u.m.f. I initially expressed doubts over their sound and after a couple of exchanges of email, he put a sound clip on his web site. He was quite delighted when I wrote back saying that judjung my the sound clips I had heard, I preffered the sound of his product to the Deering Crossfire!.

I have no use for an electric banjo but if I was looking for one, Terry Swan would be the first maker I would look at. For now though, I am quite happy with my Kildare tenor.


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Subject: RE: Electric Banjo thanks
From: catspaw49
Date: 13 May 00 - 09:56 AM

........oh gawd..........ELECTRIC BANJOS...................

Seriously, I really liked the website and clansfolk, if they look better "in the flesh" than that's really impressive because the quality and craftsmanship are obvious from the photos. Here's a blue clicky thing to the site.



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Subject: RE: Electric Banjo thanks
From: JedMarum
Date: 13 May 00 - 01:24 PM

Sounds great, calnsfolk. I am very interested in the subject. I just purhased a beautiful Vega long neck (from Deering) and had decided that I could live with the on-stage problems of micing the instrument. I conisdered seriously at the electrics made here in the US, and read up quite a bit on them, and in the end determined to stay with the acoustic instrument. I don;t regret that decision, but I have been reconsidering the way I capture the sound on-stage.

When I play in a concert environment; ie., carefully set-up room and stage, time to sound check well, with pro sound man, I have never had an issue with a mic for the banjo (not so for the guitar, even under those conditions) - but in the closer, less 'sound friendly' atmospheres of the clubs/pubs, it's a crap shoot. I sometimes find myself taking on faith that what I'm playing and what the audience is hearing, is what I intend! Under these circumstances I wish I'd simply gone for the electric.

Sounds like you're happy with you decision. I am curious about Swan and their product. I will be looking through their website. Thanks kindly for your input. I appreciate it!

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Subject: RE: Electric Banjo thanks
From: rangeroger
Date: 13 May 00 - 09:19 PM

I'm sorry I missed the first thread on electric banjos.Just a shortstory about them.
When I lived in San Diego, we used to do a lot of music campouts in the desert.Great place in the winter.At one of these, Greg Deering brought out the prototype of the Crossfire.None of us could believe when we saw it,but we ran it through a Pignose battery-powered amp and had a blast all weekend.
Of course now they are everywhere.I know Bela Fleck loves his.
Will have to check out the Swan site.

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Subject: RE: Electric Banjo thanks
From: The Shambles
Date: 14 May 00 - 04:06 AM

Link to the first thread Electric banjos, help

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Subject: RE: Electric Banjo thanks
From: clansfolk
Date: 14 May 00 - 01:10 PM

Just a bit of a follow-up,

Yes acoustic miked up is ok for the bigger venues - and I must admit our "sound man" does a great job - but outside of the festival scene we're stuck with the pup/club situation and the inherent noise to overcome and with comes the problems!

Just put the new swan through a carlsbro sherwood 65 back line acoustic amp (the sherwood seems appropriate as Swan banjos are made in Nottingham!) then DIed into the PA adding a bit of "fun" from a pandora 3 effects (even adding the cr... drum machine and bass)and WOW!! instant lift music, bluegrass Beatles, jazz and even some traditional music - it all came out they can't get me off stage!!!! Yes I still have acoustic banjos (7) and will still play them and record with 'em but the swan is a great new tool to add to the other instruments - not a replace more a new friend.

I will continue to play with the Swan and if time allows I will lay down a CD of music played on the Swan - I thought of calling it "Pete's Swan Song" but that seems a bit terminal :-)

As I have said before the "banjo" sound, of this instrument (when played through the right amp - I found the acoustic amp with the right eq setting gave me a good range of banjo sound from "old time" to ultra bright "bluegrass") compares to the way my acoustic sounds on the Cds. They're great value - I want another please, Mum

OK I'll stop rabbiting but I have really enjoyed playing it!

Take care


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