View Full Version : Banjo ukes, some 'old-time' songs sound better on them : New-to-me Banjo uke

03-03-2012, 05:21 AM
It’s been a big year for banjo ukes coming to market, and I’d been thinking about a reso or banjo uke for a while. (Anyone else been considering a banjolele lately?) Although, many of reso/banjo ukes I saw on YT did not sound that good to me. But, I took the leap and got lucky and picked up a used Melrose concert banjo uke in the marketplace forum recently.

This one was built by a banjo maker, which means it is built strong and heavy with an 8-inch pot. It weighs about 5 pounds. I am happy with it. It’s nicely finished, with a terrific ‘old-time’ sound to it, not harsh like some smaller banjoleles.

Tunes like this one ( “on a slow boat to china” or “5-foot- 2”, “my old Kentucky home”, etc) just sound right on it. I’m not looking to get another banjolele, but I think it’s fun to have one around and play on occasion.

Some 'old-time' songs sound better on banjo ukes. Here’s some pics and a sound sample. What do you think?



Hippie Dribble
03-03-2012, 05:34 AM
yeah I agree doc. That's a nice one you picked up there too. Especially the old dixie, ragtime and jugband tunes are just begging for that downhome 'banjo' feeling...

Personally though, I've owned two and just never took to them...I really wanted to love them but just something about them I didn't like - the sound I guess...always felt myself switching back quickly to the standard ukes. The other aspect too was that I couldn't really play them right... clawhammer or rolls...so I was just frustrated. I do like hearing and watching others play them but not for me. Similar with resos...wanted to try one for years and wasn't sure I'd get into them either, but thankfully, I really love the one I bought and it will be a keeper for sure.

Enjoy the BU Doc, thanks for the cool pics and sound demo mate... :)

03-04-2012, 10:37 AM
I attended a Dance Festival a couple of weeks back ( I'm not a dancer, nor do I play one on Television), and had several opportunities to sit in with Old Time Players - fiddle, guitar, banjo, blues harp, etc/ - and I primarily played my FireFly banjo uke. I fit in just fine, even garnering a few complements from people who never thought of a ukulele having a place in old-time music.

Now I have to say flat out: I do not play claw hammer style, and I'm not a Scruggs-style bluegrass picker, either.

I have been told I play a style called "drop-thumb frailing". i don't know exactly what that means, since I've been doing it ever since I picked up a banjo, more than 30 years ago. I know that I play melody lines with both thumb and fingers, sometimes a little more akin to Mother Maybelle's "Carter Family Strumming' than anything else.

What I guess I'm saying is, don't worry about locking yourself into a particular description or style - just go with what feels good and makes you happy.

I've watched Jon's videos (Eugene Ukulele), and to me what he does would translate perfectly to a Banjo Uke. Just because he isn't doing claw hammer or isn't the next George Formby doesn't make what he does uninteresting, irrelevant, or out of place. He plays like Jon - and that's good enough for me.

I'm pretty sure, Doc, that when you feel comfortable playing a banjo uke, that which you play will sound like you.

And that is all it needs to do.


03-04-2012, 10:40 AM
I've got a birthday coming up this week and my lovely wife bought me a Mainland banjolele that I'm not supposed to know about. I'm really excited to get it in and start playing!

03-04-2012, 01:22 PM
That is sure a nice banjo uke there! Is the neck standard Ukulele width?
I have six of the darn things...I play them the same way I play a uke, and the same tunes- just bash around until I find something that sounds passable :) Resonator is scheduled for September, and admittedly I have a thing for the kids of tunes these instruments lend themselves to-
Totally addicted here, but I find whenever you get an instrument out that is as novel as a Banjo-Uke, people are going to smile no matter what you play.

03-24-2012, 12:52 PM
I'm playing my banjo uke more and more these days. I took mine to an old time fiddle jam last week and it fit right in.
Everybody thinks banjo uke = Formby style but not true. You can play it any darn way you please.

03-24-2012, 03:57 PM
. .... I'm pretty sure, Doc, that when you feel comfortable playing a banjo uke, that which you play will sound like you.

And that is all it needs to do.


Thanks Kurt. Those are wise words.

@ TCK.
The neck on the Melrose is standard width about 1-3/8 inches.

03-24-2012, 04:29 PM
Wow, congrats, it's just cute as hell. I'd like to own one just to play it as I darn well please... I love the way they sound. One of our members got one, and you can hear it above 30 ukuleles! No need to amplify!

03-25-2012, 02:54 AM
Sounds sweet, Doc, and looks beautiful - nice choice..... you'll have to bring it to a SEUkers get together one of these days.....

03-29-2012, 05:16 AM
Sounds nice, Doc. I've seen these Melroses, but never heard one or played one before.

A couple of things. I can't play bluegrass, can't do clawhammer like some of these hotshots here (!), but I do love the banjo uke. Like Dave, I have too many for my own good. :) But, like Kurt said, play what sounds good to you. I'll work up a tune on the ukulele and then think, hey, I could do a version of that on the banjo uke that would be totally different, so I'll do a version with more strums and less melody/lead picking. It all depends on what sounds good. I've found 60s and 70s tunes sound odd but good on the banjo uke, while classic banjo songs kind of don't. It's down to you what you can make work!

AC Baltimore
03-29-2012, 09:50 AM
I like the way old hymns sound on mine. Stuff like jesus hold my hand and I'll fly away.