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Banjo Recommendation

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Banjo Recommendation

Postby skunk » Fri Feb 24, 2017 9:48 am

Hello,

Last October I decided to start learning my first ever instrument (not counting 2 weeks of saxophone in grade school :D) and that instrument was the banjo. At that time I read quite a bit about beginner banjos and decided to go with a Deering Good Times (the basic white one with an open back) because it came highly recommended and it's made in USA for a good price.

I've been playing every single day since then and I love it. However, since I am learning bluegrass style, I am looking to purchase another banjo at some point in the not-too-distant future and I'd like to get a decent one with a resonator and a tone ring. Perhaps the tone ring isn't really necessary -- I don't know. I just want to have something with the traditional bluegrass punchy-ness because I think I am lacking that on my Good Times open back.

Ben plays a Huber so I looked at those online -- particularly the Workhorse line -- and they look awesome but I'm not sure if I should be spending $3,000 on one being so new to the instrument. I've also been looking at Deerings (like the Boston) but I thought I'd ask the community for some other recommendations.

What other brands / models am I missing and should consider? I'd like something made in USA and good quality but I am not planning to become a professional so I don't need anything too ridiculous (not that there is anything wrong with that).

Thanks for your suggestions and apologies if this has been covered ad nauseam. I tried searching the forum but didn't get many helpful matches.
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Re: Banjo Recommendation

Postby mreisz » Fri Feb 24, 2017 11:52 am

skunk wrote:they look awesome but I'm not sure if I should be spending $3,000 on one being so new to the instrument.

I have yet to regret buying too nice of an instrument. If you fall out of love with the instrument and you buy used (and make a decent purchase), you can generally re-sell it for what you have in it. I think of money in nice instruments is kind of liek money in the checking account. The money isn't really gone, it is just a bit less usable.

I will be interested to see what responses you get. I am thinking about getting a banjo as well. I played a Recording King that had a nice tone (to my not well trained banjo ears) for a nice price. I think it was about $800.
Mike

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Re: Banjo Recommendation

Postby skunk » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:06 pm

Unfortunately, I've been unable to find a used Huber... Maybe that says something (good) about the brand :)
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Re: Banjo Recommendation

Postby 5stringpreacher » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:55 pm

I salivate over Hubers.

With that being said, I own a Washburn B-19. I bought it off a guy for a steal, or else I'd be looking at a Recording King for my price range.

I think it all depends on what your wallet allows you to get. Like Mike said, I don't think you'll regret buying nice if you're able to do so. If you're looking at the $800-$1500 range, I'd look around for a Recording King.
$2,000-$3,000 - Deering Boston/Sierra or might be able to snag some Gibson from somewhere or a used Huber Workhorse
I don't know much beyond that, other than my dream Huber Roanoke at $5,350.

I often check Greg Boyd's House of Fine Instruments website. It gives me a good baseline on what models are currently priced at.

We have quite a bit in common. I also picked up the banjo as my very first instrument. You'll also notice from my side pic that I play a Deering Goodtime open back (even though I pick bluegrass). I actually play that banjo more than I play my Washburn.
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Re: Banjo Recommendation

Postby bluenote23 » Fri Feb 24, 2017 1:26 pm

I would take a look at the classifieds at the Banjohangout forum (well, maybe not right now as there seems to be a server problem, or maybe it's my browser that's the problem...) You will find a large number of used banjos there.

For a budget over $2000, I have heard great things about Hatfields as well as Bishlines, Yates, Hubers, Stellings and Deerings. You can get older model Deering Deluxe tone ring banjos for really low prices.

Other than an old Deluxe (which has different specs from the current models which makes for the low prices) I don't think there would be a USA banjo of note for around $1000 or so. At that point new Recording Kings (not the vintage Gibson ones) or Gold Tones would be better targets.

All that said, I haven't played any of these so you have to take this advice with a grain of salt. I do have a Nechville and a vintage Gibson Kel Kroydon though so I have done a fair bit of research on banjo purchasing.

added: At 8 months ins, if you are still having fun and not feeling too frustrated then I think you might be in for the long haul. In which case it would be well worth it to get a nice banjo. As mreisz said, if you buy a well researched used instrument, you can probably recoup most if not all of your investment if necessary.

I would also take a look at Gibsons, especially from 1987 to 1993 though the modern ones (up until they stopped making them) are all considered quality instruments. I would be wary of Gibsons from the 60's to 1987. They are not all bad but not consistent so you have to really do your research.
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Re: Banjo Recommendation

Postby skunk » Fri Feb 24, 2017 8:34 pm

Oh, I've had some frustrations but I've been sticking with playing every single day and I have fun with it. Thanks for that advice, I will dig around a bit on that forum.
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Re: Banjo Recommendation

Postby skunk » Fri Feb 24, 2017 8:51 pm

Any opinions on the Deering Maple Blossom? I can get a used 2003 model for $1895 locally.
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Re: Banjo Recommendation

Postby 5stringpreacher » Fri Feb 24, 2017 11:12 pm

Can't say that I know anything about them. I've just been impressed with Deering in general (my Goodtime, played some models at music stores, also have a Deering Banjolele). Plus, I like the whole American made idea. They seem like a reputable company that stands by their product.
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Re: Banjo Recommendation

Postby skunk » Sat Feb 25, 2017 12:07 am

I'm going to head to the music store tomorrow to get a set of strings anyway so I think I'll bring my picks and ask to try it out.
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Re: Banjo Recommendation

Postby bluenote23 » Sat Feb 25, 2017 12:19 pm

I have no experience with that model but here is what I have picked up on the internet. Being able to play a banjo before buying it will be a big plus.

As a negotiating tool, you can use the fact that this will not have the 'improved' 2006 tone ring. In 2006 Deering changed their tone ring design. I don't think there is any agreement on how much different it is but it was supposed to be an improvement according to Deering.

According to some, Deerings, like Stellings have their own particular sound which is different from the classic Gibson sound (Hubers, Hatfields and Yates and Gibson all chase after that sound) for whatever that is worth. And set up, meaning more precisely the tightness of the head is very important for sound. In a shop, the banjo might not be set up optimally.

From my experience no matter what the banjo, you will still sound pretty much like you. I have some really nice banjos that sounded pretty bad for quite a long time (it wasn't the banjos' faults!) but hopefully you'll hear a pretty big quality difference with a high end Deering.

Have fun with it and good luck!
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