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Help: advice on open-back banjo

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GUEST,wilco 08 Jun 02 - 01:45 PM
Uncle_DaveO 08 Jun 02 - 04:13 PM
greg stephens 08 Jun 02 - 05:16 PM
GUEST,Anahootz 08 Jun 02 - 07:39 PM
Goodfellow 08 Jun 02 - 08:25 PM
Desert Dancer 08 Jun 02 - 09:38 PM
Goodfellow 08 Jun 02 - 10:45 PM
GUEST,wilco 09 Jun 02 - 09:24 AM
Desert Dancer 09 Jun 02 - 07:11 PM
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Subject: advice on open-back banjo
From: GUEST,wilco
Date: 08 Jun 02 - 01:45 PM

I need some advice on banjos. I'm trying to decide which open-back banjo to get. Down here, in SE Tennessee, most of the banjo pickers have resonators and play bluegrass. I want to play "old-time" music. I just play for fun, and in a lot of schools for kids. In buying other insturments, I've gradually up-graded my insturments over time, and I have learned to buy the best that I can afford. There seems to be a price range for entry level banjos, below $350.00. I've looked on EZBanjo and Elderly on the net, and I've looked in local stores. These names (new) keep coming-up: Goldtone 150 ($340.00), SAGA SS10 ($325.00), Deering Goodtime($170.00). Is it worth it to upgrade a few hundred dollars to get a better banjo. I want a fOur or five string, with frets. How about a tone ring? And, should I get a plastic or a fiber head? How about an internal resonator like the Rieter? What does the tubaphone do to the sound? I have a Martin D28 guitar, a $100.00 Old Bull fiddle, and an Orthey autoharp.

Thanks!!!!

Wilco


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Subject: RE: Help: advice on open-back banjo
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 08 Jun 02 - 04:13 PM

As a general matter, GET THE BEST BANJO YOU ALMOST CAN'T AFFORD!

In my own opinion--and others will differ with me, perhaps vociferously--the GoodTime is a mistake. It's butt-ugly, for one thing, and the tone (to my ears) is only so-so.

You say you "want a four or five-string". You need to make up your mind what kind of music you like. If you are interested in jazz, say Dixie or Chicago style, you will want a four-string, in all likelihood a tenor. It's intended for good, loud accompaniment, playing with a plectrum, mostly chordal.

Since you say you are interested in or old-time, then of course you want a five-string, which is ALMOST always played with the fingers rather than a plectrum.

In new banjos, given the three you've named, my own choice would be the Goldtone. But this is SUCH a personal choice! Try, try, try to get your hands on as wide a variety of banjos as possible, to educate yourself.

Heads: The progression of skin, Fibreskyn, Renaissance, frosted, to clear heads is a progression from plunky to very bright tone. In all likelihood I'd expect that for OT you wouldn't want a frosted or clear head; too bright.

If you can manage to squeeze out say $500 for the purchase, I'd highly recommend a Chanterelle (Ramsey) Student Model banjo. Excellent, excellent, excellent for the price.

The general effect of a tone ring is to make the banjo louder. In general, I don't think an OT banjo particularly needs a tone ring, but I know there are a lot of knowledgeable people who will strongly disagree.

I say again: Try to get your hands on and play, even if only briefly, as many different banjos as possible before you commit yourself. Ideally, if you can, try to have pre-played the specific instrument you buy.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Help: advice on open-back banjo
From: greg stephens
Date: 08 Jun 02 - 05:16 PM

I would hesitate to disagree with Dave Oesterreich, but the fact that you even mention the possibility of a 4-string suggests you miht have some thoughts in that direction.And I don'tthink its by any means a ridiculous idea. there are obviously a lot of oldtime tricks you couldnt do without a 5th string, but you wouldnt be the first person who's played fiddle tunes on a tenor tuned banjo ( probably capoed or tuned up to DAEB) or in the modern irish/BritGDAE low tuning. And there is a long history as well of finger or plectrum on the DGBD tuned banjo as well. If youre interested in song backing without benefit of guitar,I'm sure you'll go down the 5-string road, but for playing tunes, or backing in a band context there might be arguments for a 4-string. As regards the head I'd go for skin, and put up with the climatic hazard: failing that, fibreskin.


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Subject: RE: Help: advice on open-back banjo
From: GUEST,Anahootz
Date: 08 Jun 02 - 07:39 PM

If you can spare $650 or so, look up Riley Baugus, he makes a wicked good frailing banjo


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Subject: RE: Help: advice on open-back banjo
From: Goodfellow
Date: 08 Jun 02 - 08:25 PM

I would check out some used banjos. Unless they are really nice Open backs are usually reasonably priced. Elderly usually has some, depending on where you live it might not be easy to find them, but to my ears if you want to play old time music, an old banjo sounds much better than a cheap new banjo for the same money. It might be a no-name or a banjo put together from pieces of good older banjos. If you have enough money to buy a Reiter you can probably find a really nice older banjo for the same money. Although the Reiter is nice. Many years ago I bought a handmade 1880s vintage Banjo from elderly for very little money and it has ended up being a great friend. (They don't sell them cheap anymore I believe).

If you buy a cheap banjo it is not going to matter if it is fiberskyn or plastic there will not be that much difference in tone. I have a very old junky tenor banjo with a very thick calfskin head...it still sounds cool.


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Subject: RE: Help: advice on open-back banjo
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 08 Jun 02 - 09:38 PM

My first banjo (gosh, now I can say that!) was a ca. 1900 no-name that I got mail order from Elderly for $125 in 1984 (it'd be more than twice that, now), and I still love it. I think I was really lucky.

If you can, see how different instruments feel, and how they sound -- though that's hard to evaluate, if you're not already a player. If you can, bring a friend who is a player. I found the inexpensive Goldtone model to be very heavy in the neck (I've been convinced by Dan Levenson to hold the instrument nearly horizontal -- much easier on the left arm).

As to heads, that you can change after the fact pretty easily, so I wouldn't focus on it too much.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Help: advice on open-back banjo
From: Goodfellow
Date: 08 Jun 02 - 10:45 PM

Are you the same Becky that used to run the Celtic Jams at the Market on 6th Ave in Tucson?


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Subject: RE: Help: advice on open-back banjo
From: GUEST,wilco
Date: 09 Jun 02 - 09:24 AM

Thanks for all of the input. I really appreciate it.


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Subject: RE: Help: advice on open-back banjo
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 09 Jun 02 - 07:11 PM

Goodfellow, there's no way I can say I ran any jams (I just try to get to one more than twice a year), but I am the Becky whose name is all over Tucson Friends of Traditional Music's business.

~ Becky in Tucson


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