Banjo anyone?

Nickie

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Lately I've been bitten by the banjo bug. It's my favorite Bluegrass instrument. I used to "chase" and flirt with banjo pickers in Nashville.

We just saw Mean Mary in concert, OMG she's wild!

Last week we saw a bluesman named Scott Ainsley play a gourd banjo with nylon strings, wow, what a sound.

I don't know how to play banjo yet, but I like to noodle on my banjouke a lot. I just want more versatility than the banjouke offers, the 5th drone string might help.

I don't want a big heavy banjo that's gonna test my strength, and I don't care to play on steel strings. But I really want to learn, and play it in my ukulele ensemble.

Does anyone have any ideas, opinions, helpful hints, etc?
 

captain-janeway

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Do a search for banjo and some stuff will pop for you here. I think I remember something recent where someone threaded up a small banjo with nylon and played it.
 

SteveZ

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The Gold-Tone Mini Cripple Creek at 4 pounds weight may be an option . It still has a 19+ inch scale, so the reach may be an issue.

The most "banjo sounding" banjo-ukes I've found have been the Deering series and The Duke 10. The reason has been the drum size. Deering uses the same drums as their tenor banjos and The Duke 10 has a ten-inch drum. The drum size really makes a big difference. There are other banjo-ukes using comparzbke sized drum, but I haven't tried them.

Going to a steel-string 17-fret tenor banjo still has one using four strings, but the scale length may be more manageable. Weight may be a concern. If one has tried the Deering banjo-ukes and found them too heavy, then so will be the tenor banjo.

Another option, if scale length and weight are problems, is to change the banjo-uke tuning to DgBd or some other banjo-centric tuning for a different sound.
 

Nickie

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Thanks everyone!
So far, the Firefly seems to be the closest thing to what I need. With planetary tuners and a pickup, this could be a viable choice!
 

captain-janeway

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Thanks everyone!
So far, the Firefly seems to be the closest thing to what I need. With planetary tuners and a pickup, this could be a viable choice!

If I remember you have small hands. If that's not the case and you can play tenor, get the Duke10. It's light and sounds a lot like a banjo. I hated getting rid of the one I bought. I liked the sound a lot better than the Firefly I tried. All subjective though I guess.
 

Swamp Yankee

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Plenty of full scale 5 string open back banjos are very well suited to being strung with nylon strings. They often sound really good, too. Remember, the 5 string banjo predates steel strings by a long way. The open back Old Time and Clawhammer banjos are usually whole lot lighter in weight and much more mellow sounding than their resonator backed, Bluegrass counterparts.

Check out the Carolina Chocolate Drops ... plenty of nice plunky banjo music there. Also check out the forums at Banjo Hangout, plenty of Clawhammer banjo players use nylon. I myself have an open back, full scale 5 string Ramsey “Student” 5 string banjo strung with nylon strings.... I haven’t played it in years, but I still have it.

I still have some of songs and sound samples I recorded of different 5 string banjos, fretted and fretless, that I had strung with nylon or nylgut strings. At least it gives a sample of how open back 5 strings can sound with nylon strings

Here’s some links
https://www.hangoutstorage.com/banjohangout.org/storage/audio/70/hd-singlet-7068-9545622008.mp3

https://www.hangoutstorage.com/banjohangout.org/storage/audio/70/green-corn-7068-5491427122006.mp3

https://www.hangoutstorage.com/banjohangout.org/storage/audio/70/cool-beans-7068-52121127102006.mp3

https://www.hangoutstorage.com/banjohangout.org/storage/audio/70/me-and-my--7068-1513142252010.mp3
 
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captain-janeway

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Plenty of full scale 5 string open back banjos are very well suited to being strung with nylon strings. They often sound really good, too. Remember, the 5 string banjo predates steel strings by a long way. The open back Old Time and Clawhammer banjos are usually whole lot lighter in weight and much more mellow sounding than their resonator backed, Bluegrass counterparts.

Check out the Carolina Chocolate Drops ... plenty of nice plunky banjo music there. Also check out the forums at Banjo Hangout, plenty of Clawhammer banjo players use nylon. I myself have an open back, full scale 5 string Ramsey “Student” 5 string banjo strung with nylon strings.... I haven’t played it in years, but I still have it.

And Rhiannon Giddens voice in the chocolate drops is amazing!
 

LarryS

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Funny, I fancy trying a banjo but I don't like bluegrass
 

Nickie

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Yankee...
Thank you. That is just about the sound I am looking for. I think it will sound great with an ukulele and a Ubass.
Rihanna is a good singer, but that isn't my style of music.
Larry each to his own. Bluegrass music has been my fave since the early 70s. That kept me from getting into rock n roll, except for the Beatles.
 

Jim Yates

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I have a S.S. Stewart tenor banjo that is strung with nylgut strings. It has a very light pot and a simple brass tone ring. I really like the sound. I made a fretless banjo, patterned after the one on the first (only) Frank Proffit LP cover. It is strung with nylon strings. I bought an R.S.Williams 5 string banjo at a yard sale that was in pieces. My friend Teilhard Frost is gonna help me get it in playing condition with nylon strings. Except for banjoleles, my other two banjos have steel strings.

17973-14092026112019.jpg
Home Made fretless

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S.S. Stewart tenor

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R.S. Williams 5 string

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Sam Allison, me and Teilhard Frost. Teilhard built the gourd banjo I'm holding and has also built one for Rhiannon Giddens.

Here's Rhiannon playing her Frost Fretless Gourd Banjer.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZBBB-iJN4M
 

Jim Yates

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Funny, I fancy trying a banjo but I don't like bluegrass


You are definitely not restricted to playing bluegrass on a banjo. Old-time, jazz, folk, pop, Irish trad, pub songs. . .
Similar to guitar, violin, mandolin, dobro and bass in versatility. None are restricted to bluegrass.
 

Nickie

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Very cool Jim. Thanks for the pics and the encouragement.
I am actually not fast enough to do justice to Bluegrass music. But we do a lot of Irish folk, and I love using the banjouke with that, and I imagine the 5 string will be a lot more versatile. Sometimes I catch myself looking for that 5th string, but.....
 

LarryL

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Funny, I fancy trying a banjo but I don't like bluegrass

My thoughts exactly !..I have owned a lot of nice banjos over the years, my most current being an Ome, and I enjoy playing and the sound of the 5 string, but dont like bluegrass music at all, especially the singing and the break neck speed of it. That being said, I would second the suggestion above about check out a Deering Goodtime and stringing it up with nylon strings...check with the Deering company and they can lead you in the right direction.
 

Patrick Madsen

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I found this tenor at a garage sale 30 years ago and am recently thinking about having her restore and made into a baritone nylon string banjo with Chicago tuning.

My main concern is having the head cleaned and ensured it's okay to use. I'd hate to change out the flapper drawing. She may have been the owner as the fretboard has divots in it from long fingernails.

Deering Goodtime tenor banjos are okay? May look at a vintage Maybell of spmething similar to change over rather than the flapper girl.
 

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Jim Yates

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Patrick, I love that flapper girl on the head of your banjo.
I have a couple of banjo heads that were decorated plus a banjolele head that's covered in autographs of people I've never heard of. Most of these autographs are dated like "Dad 1932" or "Aunt Mary 1929".
Banjolele autographs D.jpg

This head is no longer on my SS Stewart tenor. It's now on a friend's 5 string.
banjo head decorated.jpg

I was playing at a festival where a woman was painting henna tattoos, so I asked her to do my banjo head. I love it.
Henna Banjer.jpg

My SS Stewart tenor banjo now has nylon strings and, with a capo on the second fret, I've managed to get it up to gCEA tuning.
 

Jerryc41

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Banjo uke is what I like. It looks like a banjo, and it sounds like a banjo, but it plays like a ukulele. I experimented with playing a banjo years ago, but with no local group, I lost interest. It's still sitting in its case, larger and heavier than any of my ukes. : )
 

Jerryc41

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The Gold-Tone Mini Cripple Creek at 4 pounds weight may be an option.

My Gold Tone DLX is by far my loudest banjo uke, if that's what anyone wants. I played it for my group's Saturday jam, and it almost hurt my ears - the volume, not the quality of my playing. :)
 

Patrick Madsen

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Looks good Jim. So it'd be okay to change out a tenor banjo to a nylon strung baritone DGBE? They're both the same scale length.