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  #1  
Old 01-08-2017, 05:56 PM
dcmey dcmey is offline
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Default Banjo advice?

I am considering getting a banjo. A little background for you I have played guitar for 15 years self taught, I can play bass, and uke. I am looking for something decent that's entry level. I am thinking about more of tenor banjo but I am open minded toward a 5 string. What models should I be looking at. Thanks
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Old 01-08-2017, 08:37 PM
H165 H165 is offline
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Excellent vintage tenor banjos are dirt cheap right now. A few brands to look at:

Paramount, Bacon, B&D (Bacon & Day Silver Bell, Senorita, etc), Vega, Oriole (made by Gibson), Buckeye (made by Gibson), Kalamazoo (made by Gibson), Gibson tube-and-plate models, Epiphone (Recording A, Mayfair, etc), Leedy, Ludwig, Weymann, Gretsch, Slingerland, Maybelle, Rettberg & Lange, and about a zillion no-names, the list is endless.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Weym...0AAOSw241Ybav9

http://www.ebay.com/itm/VTG-1920S-VE...wAAOSwA3dYZDyQ

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Leed...QAAOSwFqJWrRyz

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-1917...MAAOSw-0xYOMFr

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Estate-Banjo...YAAOSwPCVX4aRo

and so on......
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Old 01-08-2017, 09:39 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Tenor banjos can be exceptionally versatile in terms of tuning/stringing, far more so than their longer-necked (5-string/plectrum) counterparts - here's just a few (pitches low-to-high):
  • Standard (mandola) - CGDA
  • Irish (octave mando) - GDAE
  • Plectrum - CGBD
  • Modified bluegrass (open G) - DGBD
  • Chicago (baritone uke) - DGBE
  • Drop-G tenor uke - GCEA
While prepackaged sets are available for the first two, you'll need to make up your own for the rest (FYI a standard plectrum set is gauged for a ~26" scale so you'll need something heavier); in terms of getting your feet wet, I'd recommend either Chicago or drop-G tenor uke to start, as the chord formations (and names, in the first case) are identical to the equivalent four-string guitar chords. My Deering Boston tenor is presently set up in drop-G uke, and I find it lends itself to the broadest variety of both musical genres and ensemble types, as it fills much of the range of mandolin/fiddle/5-string banjo (I've even fingerpicked it on occasion) - and the fact that's it's only slightly less loud than John Force's nitro funny car makes it my grab-&-go for chantey sings and Irish seisiuns...
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Old 01-08-2017, 10:03 PM
dcmey dcmey is offline
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I want to thank both of you for your advice. I don't have a timetable buying, when I see the right deal then I will pounce on it. I can see myself trying out different tunings for a while I am learning to play. Probably trying one with a string change
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Old 01-09-2017, 04:05 PM
cu4life7 cu4life7 is offline
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I would suggest listening to a lot of youtube of both standard and tenor banjo. For me, the 5 string with the drone string is what makes the banjo unique and makes it sound banjo-ee to me. Plus, with uke you will already be familiar with re-entrant tuning. But tenor can be cool too. Anyway, for 5 string, a deering goodtime is the standard advice from the forums and I started on one and loved it. American made and solid, and there are plenty of used examples around. Happy hunting.
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Old 01-09-2017, 04:17 PM
darylcrisp darylcrisp is offline
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I'll 2nd the deering models. I think they are extremely well made and sound nice, setup easy, and are light in weight. Just a fun all around banjo.

they make a tenor model also I think.

one that I've grown to love is the Americana model. I tend to like smaller pot sizes, but the 12" on this just sounds so good. Its still light but solid made. I've owned many a banjo that is much higher end, but I've found a lot to like and enjoy on the Americana.

d
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Old 01-10-2017, 09:04 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cu4life7 View Post
...For me, the 5 string with the drone string is what makes the banjo unique and makes it sound banjo-ee to me. Plus, with uke you will already be familiar with re-entrant tuning...
A couple points:
  • "Banjo" can mean different things to different people. and while 5-string is unquestionably the standard for bluegrass/clawhammer/classical you're not likely to see one in a Dixieland/trad-jazz band or at most Irish seisiuns. FWIW 4-string banjos have a rich history dating back to the first decade of the 20th century, and many of these earlier instruments are highly sought-after by players in specific genres - I have a circa-1920 openback Weymann that I keep in Irish GDAE tuning for when the need arises, and a couple of companies produce replica period tenors for those who can't locate/afford one of the prized originals...
  • Not all uke tunings are re-entrant; in addition to the standard DGBE baritone, drop-G tenor (GCEA, like a baritone capoed at the fifth fret) has been in common use since the early 1920's, and dedicated string sets are readily available from the uke-specialist dealers. Interestingly enough, drop-G was adopted not only to provide extended range but to allow uke players to make the transition to tenor banjo, much as "Chicago" DGBE would for guitarists moving to tenor/plectrum instruments - same chord names/fingerings, and a handy way to make a few bucks with live jazz music in great demand in the speakeasy clubs. Unfortunately, with the adoption of the archtop guitar as the preferred Big Band rhythm instrument these alternate tunings were all but forgotten; I first learned about uke-tuned tenor from Chuck Romanoff of Schooner Fare, and TMK he's the only proponent using it on a professional level today - as I said, very effective for the chanteys and traditional Irish tunes that constitute much of their repertoire...
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Old 01-10-2017, 12:59 PM
dcmey dcmey is offline
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One of the reason's that I am leaning more toward a tenor is because you can strum. I get some numbness and tingling in my hand sometimes and strumming is easier on it. I use to do a lot of fingerpicking on guitar before that happened. Since then I had to learn to strum better. Also i am leaning more toward a Deering Goodtime. Thanks for the advice everyone.
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Old 01-10-2017, 02:03 PM
cu4life7 cu4life7 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
A couple points:
[*]"Banjo" can mean different things to different people. and while 5-string is unquestionably the standard for bluegrass/clawhammer/classical you're not likely to see one in a Dixieland/trad-jazz band or at most Irish seisiuns. FWIW 4-string banjos have a rich history dating back to the first decade of the 20th century, and many of these earlier instruments are highly sought-after by players in specific genres - I have a circa-1920 openback Weymann that I keep in Irish GDAE tuning for when the need arises, and a couple of companies produce replica period tenors for those who can't locate/afford one of the prized originals...
I know this, hence I said "to me". When I was looking I strongly considered tenor since I already played mandolin and they could share the same tuning, but settled on learning 5 string because that was the banjo sound I wanted. Drone string is haunting to me in any format. Either way, I just encourage to make sure you are buying the sound and technique that appeals to your ear.
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Kevin Enoch Tradesman Open Back Banjo
Collings MT2-O Honey Amber
Deering Goodtime Banjolele
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  #10  
Old 01-18-2017, 09:58 PM
dcmey dcmey is offline
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I did pull the trigger and buy a Deering goodtime 17 fret tenor banjo. I won't get it until February. I can't wait.
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Old 01-19-2017, 09:13 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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These days a 17-fret tenor is customarily used in Irish GDAE tuning, an octave below a mandolin or fiddle, and while I personally would have gone with a 19-fret tenor - there's a little more room to spread out, and Deering does make one - as a uke player you might find it more your cuppa tea; that said, if you don't want to learn a whole new set of fingerings this one's made for the drop-G tenor uke tuning (GCEA) I mentioned above. Be aware, however, that Deering sets up their 17-fret banjos for Irish tuning TMK, so if you're going to go with something else (I wouldn't recommend Chicago DGBE since you're losing a lot of upper range - the "sparkle" as opposed to the "plunk" in banjo tone) you'll need to have the nut recut/replaced to accommodate lighter strings (I use loop-end 10-13-17-26 for drop-G - not commercially available so they have to be ordered individually) and possibly a head adjustment as well (to compensate for the change in string tension)...

Good luck - let us know how it works out when it arrives...
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Old 01-19-2017, 09:15 AM
Kerbie Kerbie is offline
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Going over to the other side, huh?

Congratalations! Let us know how you like it when it arrives.
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Old 01-19-2017, 12:42 PM
dcmey dcmey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
These days a 17-fret tenor is customarily used in Irish GDAE tuning, an octave below a mandolin or fiddle, and while I personally would have gone with a 19-fret tenor - there's a little more room to spread out, and Deering does make one - as a uke player you might find it more your cuppa tea; that said, if you don't want to learn a whole new set of fingerings this one's made for the drop-G tenor uke tuning (GCEA) I mentioned above. Be aware, however, that Deering sets up their 17-fret banjos for Irish tuning TMK, so if you're going to go with something else (I wouldn't recommend Chicago DGBE since you're losing a lot of upper range - the "sparkle" as opposed to the "plunk" in banjo tone) you'll need to have the nut recut/replaced to accommodate lighter strings (I use loop-end 10-13-17-26 for drop-G - not commercially available so they have to be ordered individually) and possibly a head adjustment as well (to compensate for the change in string tension)...

Good luck - let us know how it works out when it arrives...
It comes in standard tuning CGDA, and I will learn on that, and then decide when I need new strings what direction to go in. How long do banjo strings usually last? I have a friend that is a guitar a tech and told him brush up on banjo repair skills. I can't wait until I get it. It won't ship until 1-30-17.
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