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A Question for Banjo Players

khandu 30 Jul 01 - 06:24 PM
JedMarum 30 Jul 01 - 06:33 PM
Jon Freeman 30 Jul 01 - 06:53 PM
khandu 30 Jul 01 - 11:27 PM
Coyote Breath 31 Jul 01 - 10:08 PM
GUEST,fretless (at work) 02 Aug 01 - 11:32 AM
IanC 02 Aug 01 - 11:59 AM
GUEST,fretless (at work) 02 Aug 01 - 03:12 PM
GUEST,djh 02 Aug 01 - 03:50 PM
IanC 03 Aug 01 - 03:53 AM
GUEST,fretless (at work) 03 Aug 01 - 09:03 AM
Coyote Breath 10 Aug 01 - 11:40 PM
GUEST,pappy 12 Aug 08 - 04:37 PM
GUEST,Mickey 13 Aug 08 - 10:42 AM
GUEST,Jim 13 Aug 08 - 02:22 PM
olddude 13 Aug 08 - 03:22 PM
Stringsinger 13 Aug 08 - 03:37 PM
GUEST,Jim 15 Aug 08 - 05:49 PM
Art Thieme 16 Aug 08 - 05:21 PM
GUEST,lyman369 04 Nov 08 - 08:48 PM
Les in Chorlton 04 Nov 08 - 08:52 PM
Geoff the Duck 05 Nov 08 - 03:15 AM
GUEST,BanjoRay 05 Nov 08 - 05:31 AM
GUEST,Lyman369 05 Nov 08 - 08:04 PM
Charley Noble 05 Nov 08 - 10:20 PM
GUEST,Geoff the Duck 06 Nov 08 - 03:32 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 06 Nov 08 - 10:00 PM
GUEST,jason 05 Apr 09 - 12:42 AM
GUEST,ivy & joel 24 Apr 10 - 02:48 AM
GUEST 31 May 10 - 01:29 PM
DADGBE 31 May 10 - 05:17 PM
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Subject: A Question for Banjo Players
From: khandu
Date: 30 Jul 01 - 06:24 PM

Since I am predominately a guitarist, I know very little about the different brands of banjos. A co-worker brought me one today that he is wanting to sell. It is an "Alex". Is this one of the thousands of "bastard" brands? What should I look for to determine if it is worth the asking price?

Like I said, regarding banjos, I am ignorant. Any help will be appreciated!

khandu


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: JedMarum
Date: 30 Jul 01 - 06:33 PM

I never heard of a brand name or banjo maker called Alex - but I did find the name listed among Oriental Banjo makers at a website called Basic Bluegrass Banjo. There was no additional info about the name.

However, if you can know what makes a good guitar you can make a pretty good guess about what makes a good banjo; quality of workmanship, tuners, neck, string action and of course sound. Most good banjos have a bit of weight to them. I don't know if that's a rule, but it's something I've noticed.

I'd keep searching the banjo websites, search ebay of for anyone selling an Alex banjo, etc. Good Luck!


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 30 Jul 01 - 06:53 PM

I go along with Jed on applying guitar (or any fretted stringed instrument) knowledge to the banjo.

Re Jed's comments on weight, the biggest single factor is the tone ring which, assuming the banjo has one (some don't and some without do sound quite reasonable), can be quite heavy but other things like the rim construction and the presence of a resonator also make a difference - a banjo designed for bluegrass playing, i.e. one built along the Gibson Mastertone lines to give the sound that seems to be favoured by people liking that genre (?Scruggs' "fault") tend to be very heavy.

As far as I understand it, people liking say an old timey style are likely to favour instruments that are a lot lighter in weight, e.g. open back seems to suit that style and perhaps a player might like a "Whyte Ladie" construction, etc. In Irish music on the tenor banjo, we just tend to pick a sound we like - no hard fast rule on construction.

So I'd suggest weight does not indicate quality but in a sense could be a very (very) loose indicator as to suitability as an ideal instrument for certain types of music.

Jon


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: khandu
Date: 30 Jul 01 - 11:27 PM

Thanks, guys.

This particular banjo has been in my co-workers closet since 1986 when he acquired it from a down on his luck picker. It has not been played in 15 years! The strings are rusted, there is a very slight bow in the neck. However it does have an adjustment rod in it. Even with the ancient strings, it rings quite loudly. He is asking a mere pittance for it, so I will probably buy it and do a bit of work on it.

It is a five-string and it is quite heavy.

Jed and Jon, I appreciate your input.

khandu


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: Coyote Breath
Date: 31 Jul 01 - 10:08 PM

ANY banjo that ain't been painted a cutesy color and hung up in a crafts' shop is worth acquiring and revereing, praying to the banjo goddess Irene (or was it Molly?) honest!

Alex?


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,fretless (at work)
Date: 02 Aug 01 - 11:32 AM

There's an "Alex" being auctioned on eBay, #1450452091. Current bid is $127.99; auction closes in a few hours. Maybe this will help put your co-worker's offer in context. of course, it's hard to go wrong paying a "mere pittance" for any instrument as long as it's playable (for which, watch out for that bowed neck).


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: IanC
Date: 02 Aug 01 - 11:59 AM

Sorry to hi-jack the thread, but I've got a different question for banjo players.

Anyone who can recommend one or more good books on the instrument, could you let me know via the Basic Folk Library PermaThread?

Cheers!
Ian


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,fretless (at work)
Date: 02 Aug 01 - 03:12 PM

Ian, there are lots of good books on the instrument. I, for one, have successfully stacked an entire set of Encyclopaedia Britanica atop an old Stella 5-string. And despite the fact that most banjo players are reputed to be unable to read, there are lots of good books about banjos, their history, how to play, regional styles and players, etc. Are you looking for any special topics, or just a general sense of what's out there that's worth looking at?


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,djh
Date: 02 Aug 01 - 03:50 PM

Another question for Banjo Players-
Why? In the name of all that is Holy!!! WHY?

hehehe, just kiddin' I love the Banjo.


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: IanC
Date: 03 Aug 01 - 03:53 AM

Fretless

I'm looking for one or more book that a mudcatter would recommend. See here for the other instrument examples. If you can suggest something useful, leave it here.

Cheers!
Ian


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,fretless (at work)
Date: 03 Aug 01 - 09:03 AM

Thnaks, Ian. I'll post the following two, about banjo history, to the permathread:

LC Control Number: 85168631 Type of Material: Book Brief Description: Ring the banjar : the banjo in America from folklore to factory / [compiled by] Robert Lloyd Webb. [Cambridge, Mass.] : MIT Museum, 1984. ix, 101 p., [1] p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 30 cm

LC Control Number: 95168823 Type of Material: Book Brief Description: Linn, Karen, 1957- That half-barbaric twang : the banjo in American popular culture / Karen Linn. Illini Books ed. Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 1994. xiii, 185 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: Coyote Breath
Date: 10 Aug 01 - 11:40 PM

best book ain't been writ yet.

it is to be played, ya know. since it is the anarchist of the instrument world, there ain't no one way to play it. work it out yer ownsef. You might do it well or not but you can't do it wrong.

challenge me on that, if you like, I got proof!!!


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,pappy
Date: 12 Aug 08 - 04:37 PM

i just bought an alex banjo from the local flea market for 75 bucks....ive been playing a nice alvarez now for two years and as soon as i re strung and set up this alex i never went back to the alvarez, the sound is superb! and it has the cheapest hardware on it the original head and now ihave never been happier as a banjo player.


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,Mickey
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 10:42 AM

Pappy! That Alex banjer sounds great! UPGRADE the hardware! Talk to that dude Zach at Galucci's!


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 02:22 PM

Check out the banjohangout.org for some knowledgable people who are always willing to help a newcomer.


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: olddude
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 03:22 PM

I have one, I like it, first one I bought. I use it as a knock around. It is an Asian banjo but if you can get it cheap it will be fun to play. Some of them are really bad and very hard to play, check the action. The one I have has a big bark, easy to play and well worth the 100 US dollars I paid for it. I would snap it up if you can get it cheap and strings are cheap and easy to put on. If the neck is straight, action easy you can't go wrong and it is better than most name brand known ones. I have only been playing about 6 months but have a lot of fun with it. I have an expensive banjo on that is near top of the line name brand but I find myself sitting with this cheapo Asian cause I like the sound

Dan


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: Stringsinger
Date: 13 Aug 08 - 03:37 PM

Khandu, if you are a guitarist, I assume you know quite a bit about guitars. Solution:
learn about the different types of banjos before you buy one.

1. Bluegrass
2. Old-Time
3. Irish tenor
4. Jazz tenor
5. Jazz plectrum
6. Jazz (guitar-tuned)
7. Six string banjos (Banjars or guit-jos)
8. Electric five-strings (mainly for new-grass)
9. Fretless (nylon-strung) old-time banjos
10. Classical banjos (usually nylon strung)
11. Banjolins (mandolin double strung banjos)

Banjos that are any good today are too damned expensive.
(except for Goldtones)

Frank


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 15 Aug 08 - 05:49 PM

Frank forgot 12. Gourd banjos


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: Art Thieme
Date: 16 Aug 08 - 05:21 PM

Frank missed the ones called PANJO'S----made by putting any old 5-string banjo neck you might have laying around the house on any old bedpan you migh'tve brought home frafter a hospital stay. I made one of those a good dozen years ago. You can see it at my Folk Photos "Art's Place" website being played by Pete himself sitting at Cathy Fink's kitchen table.

http://rudegnu.com/art_thieme.html

Art


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,lyman369
Date: 04 Nov 08 - 08:48 PM

I have a rather cheap 5 string banjo,an Epiphone,which to my hearing sounds pretty fair.The question is when you have the banjo in tune with a tuner from a website and with a guitar why won't the strings be in tune with one another like 2nd string tuned with 1st string on the 3rd fret and worse yet the third and forth string and so on.This is with the banjo tuned in open G.I hope everyone understands my question.As you can probably guess I'm a banjo beginner.I have played the guitar for several years.All answers will be appreciated.

Lyman


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Nov 08 - 08:52 PM

Are Banjo players with Obama or what?


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 05 Nov 08 - 03:15 AM

GUEST,lyman369 - the most likely reason is that your banjo bridge is in the wrong position. With a guitar, the bridge is a fixed part of the sound box whereas with the banjo it is held in place on the vellum by the strings. If it is not positioned correctly, the strings will not produce the correct notes when fretted (It's all physics).
To position the bridge, measure the distance from the nut to the 12th fret. The distance from the 12th fret to the bridge should be the same length. If not your banjo will not tune correctly. You don't need a ruler, just to match the two lengths. As a quick fix, I tend to use a length of string and hold it so I can use my thumb nails to mark the distance between nut and 12th fret (Banjo flat on my lap - Left thumb at nut, right at fret 12). I then move the string along the fretboard so the two thumb nails mark the bridge position (left thumbnail at fret 12, right nail marks bridge position).
Hope that helps.
Quack!
Geoff the Duck.


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,BanjoRay
Date: 05 Nov 08 - 05:31 AM

Lyman369 - Geoff's prpbably right about the bridge being in the wrong place, but there's an easier way to fix it if you can play harmonics - there's a good chance you can if you've been playing guitar for a while. Compare the harmonic note you get at the 12th fret with the fretted note in the same place. Move the bridge until both notes are the same.
Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,Lyman369
Date: 05 Nov 08 - 08:04 PM

Thanks Geoff and Ray.Your advice fixed the problem.Sounds good now.I still can't play it but at least it's in tune.

Lyman


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Nov 08 - 10:20 PM

Lymnan-

Life is better when your banjo is in tune, and even more better when you are in tune with your banjo!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,Geoff the Duck
Date: 06 Nov 08 - 03:32 AM

Lyman - Your next step is listen to different people's banjo playing and decide which style you would like to play.
Once you have done that, return here and we can probably help point you in the right direction for instruction or advice.
Quack!
GtD.


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 06 Nov 08 - 10:00 PM

Hey, Khandu:

How great to see you on here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I opened the thread out of curiosity and suddenly became very enthusiastic, just seeing that you'd started the thread.

Wot plays good plays good.

I have a wonderful 5 string banjo, with no brand name at all. It looks home-made, but what a home! I paid $10 for it. That's $2 more than I paid bor my beautiful Lyon & Healey mandola, but it was worth it. My old friend Luke Faust used to play instruments people just left behind in his apartment, not even thinking they were worth coming back to get, and he played fine music on them. I had a Stella 12 string, which made the best cheese slicer I ever owned, and paid $25 for it. I ended up giving to Dave Cohen who became D. David Cuffe, and finally Dave Blue. I've never been impressed with brand names or model numbers. Pick up the instrument and if it sounds good well, I thought that was what people look for in an instrument. I have a beautiful hand-made fiddle I had to kick out $40 for and I wouldn't trade it for far more expensive violins.

Hope you're doing well down your way, Khandu. My life is jes fine.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,jason
Date: 05 Apr 09 - 12:42 AM

I am about to pay $100 for a used Alex banjo, i hope it is worthwhile. I might post a follow-up after i get it.


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST,ivy & joel
Date: 24 Apr 10 - 02:48 AM

we are jamming on a recently resurrected 'Alex' banjo. it was living in an old train car for the last two and a half years! it really gots a bark to it!


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: GUEST
Date: 31 May 10 - 01:29 PM

I was given an Alex banjo when it's previous owner was going to trash it. It has a "Made In Japan" sticker on it so I know where it comes from. It has a nice cheerful if light sound and a very good action and it got me hooked on banjos. I now own a more expensive (and much louder) banjo but if I am in a stinking mood (frequently) I like to thrash the Alex in a feeble attempt to play clawhammer. It is a nice old thing and well worth the zilch I paid for it. I hope you get as much pleasure from your one as I get from mine.


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Subject: RE: A Question for Banjo Players
From: DADGBE
Date: 31 May 10 - 05:17 PM

Boy, there's some good banjo smarts here. Stringsinger is right with his incomplete list of different banjos. It's mostly about what kind of music you're interested in playing that decides what sort of instrument to get.

They're all good; Coyote Breath has the right idea. Remember, there ain't no notes on a banjo, You just play it.

Love the panjo, Art. A feller around here makes 'em into resophonic mandolins which he has dubbed 'the commodium'.


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