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Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted

GUEST,Raven 23 Sep 02 - 03:39 PM
X 23 Sep 02 - 05:00 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 23 Sep 02 - 06:11 PM
wilco 23 Sep 02 - 06:59 PM
X 23 Sep 02 - 07:09 PM
X 23 Sep 02 - 07:16 PM
Steve Latimer 23 Sep 02 - 10:07 PM
DonMeixner 23 Sep 02 - 11:53 PM
X 24 Sep 02 - 02:29 AM
Dave Bryant 24 Sep 02 - 06:11 AM
GUEST 24 Sep 02 - 08:14 AM
GUEST 24 Sep 02 - 10:16 AM
GUEST 24 Sep 02 - 10:49 AM
Jon W. 24 Sep 02 - 12:10 PM
X 24 Sep 02 - 12:35 PM
GUEST,M Cooney 24 Sep 02 - 04:15 PM
X 24 Sep 02 - 05:40 PM
GUEST 24 Sep 02 - 08:09 PM
X 24 Sep 02 - 08:18 PM
Jon W. 24 Sep 02 - 09:47 PM
banjoman 25 Sep 02 - 07:33 AM
Steve Latimer 25 Sep 02 - 07:52 AM
X 25 Sep 02 - 12:49 PM
X 25 Sep 02 - 12:50 PM
GUEST 25 Sep 02 - 09:26 PM
Steve Latimer 25 Sep 02 - 09:55 PM
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Subject: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: GUEST,Raven
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 03:39 PM

Hi everybody --

I've been dinking around on a borrowed banjo, and realize I'm hooked. Yes, I'm going over to the Dark Side.

So I'm interested in buying one of my own. I know nothing about manufacturers, styles, how to determine quality -- nothing! I'd like to get one that's not too fancy to start off with, since (a) I'm far from flush and (b) it would be insulting to submit a fine instrument to such poor playing.

Can some of you veterans with time to kill on a new convert's behalf help me out?

Thanks! Raven


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: X
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 05:00 PM

You might try the "Goodtime Banjos" made by Deering Banjos. They are a fine student banjo running from $300.00 to $560.00.

Email: www.deeringbanjos.com


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 06:11 PM

This link will take you to Paul Hawthone's banjo site, specifically to a page dealing with Asian imports, which is what most inexpensive models are going to be. He has some good things to say about a few brands. But poke around and look at the American-made pages too.

If you do decide to go with an Asian-built instrument, be sure to consider the Samick brand. Samick actually manufactures many of the instruments marketed under other names (ie Epiphone). The ones that actually say "Samick" are usually quite a bit cheaper because one link (and one price mark-up) has been eliminated from the distribution chain.

Personally, I have an Alvarez "masterclone" that I bought from a local guy who picks up a few Alvarez instruments from the importer every time he happens to be in NYC and sells them through the classifieds at about half of list price. I really like it (particularly considering how little I paid). I also have an old Dixon (no longer made?) that I picked up from a pawn shop for $130.00 that I like for D and C tunings.

As far as features to look for in inexpensive banjoes goes, the most important one is whether it has a cast aluminum pot (the rim part of the banjo) or a wooden one. Wooden is defintely preferable. Also, many inexpensive banjoes, including the Deering "Goodtime" models Banjoest mentioned, have guitar style tuning machines instead of planetary-geared banjo tuners. The guitar type tuners work just fine, but they broadcast a "cheap banjo" message. All other factors being equal, a banjo with regular banjo tuners just looks more like a "real banjo". But it's strictly a cosmetic issue. If one with guitar tuners sounds best, buy it.

Bruce


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: wilco
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 06:59 PM

The Deering Goodtime apparently has a good mark-up. They've been selling in SE Tennessee for $165.00, with a bag to carry it in. I doesn't have a resonator. Goldtone's are good too. A frind of mine just got an openback kit from them for less than $300.00. I bought a Bart Rieter about two months ago. It was about $700.00 though. Welcome to the darkside.


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: X
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 07:09 PM

I was teaching banjo here in San Diego back in the 70s and people started bring plastic banjos in to the store. The banjos had plastic necks and rims! The plastic was like this old "Bake-a-lite" plastic. Does anyone know where these people got that crap. I was thinking there were the first Stellings. LOL (Sorry Geoff, you know I'm pulling your leg.)

If you like the "Goodtime Banjos" and dislike the tuners, Greg Deering will put what ever kind of keys on it you would like. I'm sorry, I just like the little "Goodtime Banjo," they are well made in the U.S.of A.


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: X
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 07:16 PM

wilco48 is correct about the price of the "Goodtime Banjos." I was just giving you the high-end market. Deering does make a "Goodtime" with a resonator, it's a the "Goodtime II."


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 10:07 PM

Raven,

Do you want to play Bluegrass or Clawhammer? If Bluegrass then you want a resonator model, clawhammer you want an open back.

I would suggest a good used one. Check out eBay. THere is an Aria Masterclone there right now and the bidding is low. THere are a few other decent banjos, you can probably get a used one of quite good quality for what it would cost to get a new starter banjo.

A lot of folks here prefer the Saga to the Deering in the new starter market.


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: DonMeixner
Date: 23 Sep 02 - 11:53 PM

Crawl thru' the Elderly Instruments catalog. There are no inexpensive student prince models any more.

Banjoest, I learned on a Bake-a-lite Harmony Sovereign. Great axe.

Don


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: X
Date: 24 Sep 02 - 02:29 AM

Don,

A Harmony, is that what thing was? Do you still have it? I guess it didn't hurt you any.


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 24 Sep 02 - 06:11 AM

One bit of advice - wear disguise in case anyone you know, sees you coming out of the shop with it !


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Sep 02 - 08:14 AM

If you're looking at the low end of the "asian import" mrket, I would favor an alloy construction to a cheap wooden ring and a single metal coordinator rod. In my experience the metal ones tend to be more playble and the wooden ones can be hard to adjust.

As you go up market wood does become the best option but the quality wooden rims are much more solid.

I agree with Don about the Harmony bakelites.


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Sep 02 - 10:16 AM

Don't buy an aluminum or alloy rim banjo. Do buy anything from the Deering folks. Call them and they'll send you a very informative packet, including a catalog. Buying a cheap (not just inexpensive) banjo now will just drive you crazy in six months. Get a Deering Goodtime (two or three models), a Boston (with steel rim) or a Sierra (wood rim). Don't be scared off by list prices. The Goodtime series is inexpensive and so rarely if ever discounted, but my Sierra came from my friendly neighborhood retailer for about four hundred off the sticker price. I stretched my abilities and my budget to go from aluinum junk to the Sierra and it was worth it. Good luck.


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Sep 02 - 10:49 AM

Let's not forget that the Sierra is listed at $1679. Also, it would be quite unrealistic to compare the Goodtime to the Sierra.


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: Jon W.
Date: 24 Sep 02 - 12:10 PM

The bakelite banjos (usually only the rims were bakelite, the necks wood) were made by Harmony and a few others that were pretty minor players. I bought one on eBay for cheap once and put a new neck on it and frankly I really liked that banjo. The sound is more mellow than the aluminum rims (mine also had a genuine skin head so that contributed to the sound). It's all a matter of taste. There is an Asian company (at least I think it's Asian) that are putting them out again, under the name of Rover, and they are selling for new for about $160 including a gigbag and instructional video.

BTW some of the bakelite banjos were chrome plated so beware if you really want an aluminum rim banjo. The one I bought was chrome plated (or painted) but I took it off with that safe paint stripper stuff, revealing the handsome black plastic underneath for all to see -)


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: X
Date: 24 Sep 02 - 12:35 PM

You pickers that like the "plastic banjo" have gone WAY past the Dark Side. :o)


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: GUEST,M Cooney
Date: 24 Sep 02 - 04:15 PM

Those bakelite/plastic banjos are ok; someone gave me one several years ago and I recently gave it to a daughter who expressed an interest in learning. Aluminum, wood, plastic -- all can sound good. The great thing about banjos is that if the neck is straight, almost everything else can be adjusted -- head (plastic or skin), tightness of head, bridge, thickness of bridge (thicker = more mellow, thinner = more sharp), strings, height of strings, etc., etc. Cheap banjos can be made to sound and play great and vice-virtue. I'm out of touch with who makes what these days but I think as long as the neck is straight, price is the only issue. Later, if you really get into playing, LOOKS will become an issue. That's a whole nother deal.


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: X
Date: 24 Sep 02 - 05:40 PM

How much did you pay for them plastic banjos? Did they come in a box with a tube of airplane glue? LOL


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Subject: buying tips wanted
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Sep 02 - 08:09 PM

Jon W hs it right about personal preferences but these Asian makers are no fools and never have been.

They know that given a certain budget that using alloy or bakelite can produce an instrument that in many ways will out perform wood.

They know the manufacturing costs and know that they could not produce lets say a 3/4" maple rim for an instrument that would be retailed at lets say $200.

There will be cross over points in terms of materials and quality but they put alternative constructions such as alloy instruments out at certain price ranges for no other reason than they believe they can offer a better product in that price bracket.

It is more a case of clever engineering than anything else. Perhaps another case for the "blindfold test".


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: X
Date: 24 Sep 02 - 08:18 PM

I think you guys who LIKE the plastic banjo have been sniffing the airplane glue that holds them together. ;o)


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: Jon W.
Date: 24 Sep 02 - 09:47 PM

Airplane glue is used on styrene, not bakelite. We've been sniffing the crisp green cash we saved.


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: banjoman
Date: 25 Sep 02 - 07:33 AM

I bought a Gold Tone Kit Banjo a couple of years ago (Andy Perkins had already put it together) and would really recomend it to anyone. I also have a very old Windsor (circa 19???) which despite its age and condition stilll rattles out a good tune provided its not raining outside. Best advice is -if it sounds and feels ok to you, then it probably is - good luck and welcome to the pluckers fraternity( no that is not a mis spelling)


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 25 Sep 02 - 07:52 AM

If you're looking to play Bluegrass I'd stiil recommend a used Masterclone. There are a number of decent looking ones on eBay, Epiphone, Aria, Kay, Ibanez etc. You can probably get one of these for about what you would have to pay for a Goodtime or Saga. I just got a used Aria this year and there is no comparison in the sound or playability of it versus the aluminium pot starter banjo that I had. Some of these are excellent copies of the Gibson Mastertone at a fraction of the price.

(Heck there's even a Harmony Bakelite on there, although I think that you'd be better off getting something that's made of wood and has a tone ring.)

The other thing is if you buy a decent used one and decide that you don't want to play, you can probably get all of your money back out of it.


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: X
Date: 25 Sep 02 - 12:49 PM

Good morning:

I just got back from looking at the Harmony Bakelite Banjos at Ebay and I must tell you, these are not the banjos I'm speaking of. The banjos I'm talking about are ALL plastic. The rim, neck, fingerboard, frets. They look like a full size toy or a full-scale model. These Harmony Banjos look kinda neat; I don't think I'll trade my 37 Style 12 Mastertone for one but if I wanted to play a banjo and had limited cash I MIGHT buy one.

Nope, the Harmony isn't the banjo I'm talking about.


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: X
Date: 25 Sep 02 - 12:50 PM

Raven:

When you get your banjo let us know what you get.


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Sep 02 - 09:26 PM

Steve Latimer,

I've never seen a decent Kay. The ones I hve seen have all been cheap ones but I'll believe you that they exist.

If anyone can get their hands on a decent Aria or even Ibanez for the sort of money you are talking about, I'd say YES grab it. There have been some wonderful instruments produced.

Rumour has it that the best examples at least rivaled the genuine article.


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Subject: RE: Help: Banjo - newbie buying tips wanted
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 25 Sep 02 - 09:55 PM

Guest,

You're right, I was thinking of Lyle when I wrote Kay.

Raven, Check these ones out. Most of them have harshell cases which would probably run you $100 new. Some have picks, capos, books etc. All of these things add up if you have to buy them after buying a new banjo.

Lyle

Vega

Epiphone

Aria

I hope this helps.


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