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View Full Version : Banjo ukulele - Please help me identify this instrument



Ben_H
02-11-2013, 10:24 AM
Hi,

A friend of mine has loaned me a banjo uke and in return I said I would try and find out a bit more about it. Ideally he'd like to get some idea of it's worth in £Sterling with a view to selling it. I may buy it off him if I find I like it and can afford it.

I cannot see any makers marks, it's a soprano scale though the finger board is narrower than I'm used to on a soprano uke. It seems pretty old though I have a feeling the skin, which has a crescent moon and stars on it is a replacement. The bridge is also a new addition to make it playable before handing over to me. (Should the bridge have bone as well or is a wooden only one standard?)

Anyway, I've got four pictures to post so please have a look.

Cheers

ben

anthonyg
02-11-2013, 10:35 AM
A narrow neck suggests to me that its actually a banjo mandolin. I don't know the instrument though.

Anthony

RyanMFT
02-11-2013, 10:39 AM
That is a very interesting headstock design. I've never seen a single slotted headstock like that except on Swagerty ukuleles. I can't help you on the builder but Aaron Keim, a member here and an incredible player/songwriter knows about everything there is to know about banjo ukuleles. You should ask Aaron for help on this one.

Ben_H
02-11-2013, 10:54 AM
Good suggestion Ryan. I'm on Aaron's mailing list so I'll bounce him an email.

Cheers

ben

aaronckeim
02-11-2013, 04:36 PM
That is a true mystery to me, I have never seen a headstock like that. But, the fact that the fingerboard runs over the head, the fingerboard is narrow and the pot is 10-11 inches tells me that it was built as a banjo mandolin. It was fairly common to build banjo mandolins as four string instead of eight. They were sometimes called "melody banjos" or "tango banjos." (although tango banjos were more commonly short scale tenor banjos, not banjo mandolins)

coolkayaker1
02-11-2013, 04:45 PM
It doesn't appear to have an attachment for a resonator. Does that add support to the banjo mando theory, or did resonators come in later years?

aaronckeim
02-11-2013, 05:06 PM
Resonators were never standard for banjo mandolins, and many resonators attached in ways that don't leave evidence behind. This one has a spunover rim, which is a nickel plated brass sleeve around a maple shell. They are a bit earlier and less likely to have resonators than later heavy rim instruments with heavy tone rings. I guess that this one is from 1915-1925 and made in the UK. It looks like nothing I have seen out of the Chicago, NY, Boston or Philly shops from the same time.

coolkayaker1
02-11-2013, 05:29 PM
Resonators were never standard for banjo mandolins, and many resonators attached in ways that don't leave evidence behind. This one has a spunover rim, which is a nickel plated brass sleeve around a maple shell. They are a bit earlier and less likely to have resonators than later heavy rim instruments with heavy tone rings. I guess that this one is from 1915-1925 and made in the UK. It looks like nothing I have seen out of the Chicago, NY, Boston or Philly shops from the same time.

Wow, you're good! Thanks.

BlackBearUkes
02-11-2013, 07:06 PM
The instrument is not a mandolin. It is similar to an older W. Lange Banjo ukulele or some other name they called it, I'll see if I can find that info. It definitely looks British made like Aaron says. There were many UK 5 string open back banjos made, the headstock is a British design. Could be a one-of-a-kind special order, but who knows.

Strummin simon
02-11-2013, 07:50 PM
looking at the headstock design & pot i would suggest its a Barnes & Mullins made uke. more than likely made as some sort of hybrid tuned uke/banjolin/short scale banjo.
here is a link to a B&M banjo that i restored.
http://ukulelerestorationbarn.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/i-do-banjos-too.html

how does it sound? do you have it tuned GCEA?

Ben_H
02-12-2013, 02:07 AM
Hi All,

Many thanks for your thoughts.

I haven't been able to play it properly yet. I had a short go last week at a Trad folk jam (tuned gCEA) and I really couldn't hear it. Having said that my normal strumming fingernail was knackered so I couldn't get going on it. I've never played a banjo uke before so am working on the assumption that I do it the same as a soprano uke. Someone sat on the other side of the room said it sounded great though. I'm getting the fingernail fixed in about 10mins so will try again tonight! I may have to play it in the garden shed so as not to wake up the kids.

I have to say that the body feels very big in relation to the neck and strange for me to hold and play. I haven't found a comfortable and effective way to do it yet. I'll let you know how I get on tonight.

Anyone got any thoughts on value, or is it too unique an instrument that it will be what the buyer is willing to pay?

Ben


looking at the headstock design & pot i would suggest its a Barnes & Mullins made uke. more than likely made as some sort of hybrid tuned uke/banjolin/short scale banjo.
here is a link to a B&M banjo that i restored.
http://ukulelerestorationbarn.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/i-do-banjos-too.html

how does it sound? do you have it tuned GCEA?

TG&Y
02-12-2013, 07:52 AM
No kidding! I love threads like these - where else do you hear stuff like this?


Wow, you're good! Thanks.

Strummin simon
02-12-2013, 10:34 PM
as for value,
with the unusual headstock. no makers name on it. and slightly odd dimensions, i would suggest about £75-£100 on ebay.

Ben_H
02-13-2013, 01:56 AM
Thanks Simon.

I'm not on commission for this, just passing the info back to my mate. He's a bit of a comedy Uke'ophobe, so probably picked up the banjoleles by accident. He said he'd sort another one out in the next month and throw that at me as well. Got someone interested in this current one already at my uke group.

Cheers

Ben


as for value,
with the unusual headstock. no makers name on it. and slightly odd dimensions, i would suggest about £75-£100 on ebay.