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Thread: Ukulele --> 5 String Banjo

  1. #1

    Default Ukulele --> 5 String Banjo

    My ukulele playing is primarily focused on Clawhammer right now, and I'm thinking about a trip into the Banjo world to continue my obsession. I've already got a Gold Tone banjo ukulele that I'm enjoying immensely, and I'm thinking that my next step is an actual 5 string.

    Anyone else made this particular journey?

    I have concerns about the volume and scale length of a traditional banjo--I get enough complaints from my family about my uke playing, so a steel stringed instrument might leave me homeless. Plus, the frets seem too far apart on even my parlor guitar. I'm thus thinking about something smaller, and with nylon strings.

    The instrument that's most caught my eye is Aaron Keim's Beansprout Mini 5 String (scroll down past the uke to see it). But that's far more than I can spend at this point, and also a long wait.

    There are a few other smaller banjos out there: the Gold Tone Plucky and CC Mini; the Deering Goodtime Parlor. Elderly tells me they can convert any model they sell to nylon strings (widening string slots; possibly taller bridge) so I would probably buy through them to ensure a proper setup.

    Anybody with mini banjo experience out there? I'm also researching this on the Banjo Hangout forums, but would very much appreciate the perspective of someone from the Uke world.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Location
    Austin, TX
    Posts
    9

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    I made the same jump last June, buying a full scale G9450 "DIXIE" 5 string open back. The size and hardware were a bit intimidating for the first week or two, but it helped the clawhammer style click. Now I have no trouble fretting the most common chord shapes Its not a super expensive banjo buts its much better than the $100-200 range entry levels, so the little extra money was worth it.

    Any way you slice it this thing will be louder than a ukulele, with way more sustain. Stuffing a cloth behind the head helps a bit, but it takes more effort to keep the volume down when playing. You might want to consider a wooden instrument from Backyard music; they sell them both complete and as kits. The wooden head keeps volume down, and they are a pretty good price point for starting out. I haven't played one myself, but I still have my eye on them.
    http://www.backyardmusic.com/banjos.html

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    PHX, AZ
    Posts
    2,163

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    I love banjo ukuleles but the one or two banjos I played felt huge. Also the thin spacing between strings seemed cramped to me. But I do love the sound. Maybe consider checking out Barry Should(sp?) Gourd banjos too.
    "If a lot of people play the ukulele, the world would be a better place to live."

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    City of Angels
    Posts
    92

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    I play baritone ukes (I have 3), tenor guitar and 5 string banjo. Banjo Hangout is a good forum with many knowledgeable players. I would strongly suggest a ‘real’ 5-string, not a banjo uke, not a banjo with nylon strings (ugh!). You will find, like with other instruments, you will get what you pay for. Good luck.
    Baritones Only - 'Don't Fret The Small Stuff'
    MyaMoe cutaway custom - Curly Redwood/Walnut
    Portland Guitars custom - Sitka Spruce/Bolivian Rosewood
    Pono - Mahogany

    Bart Reiter 5 String Banjo
    Blueridge Tenor Guitar

  5. #5

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by GregT View Post
    I would strongly suggest a ‘real’ 5-string, not a banjo uke, not a banjo with nylon strings (ugh!). You will find, like with other instruments, you will get what you pay for. Good luck.
    Thanks for the input. Given my previous Instrument Acquisition Syndromes, I think there's a good chance I may evenutally end up with a "real" 5-string. But I gotta say I love my re-entrant banjo ukulele, and having spent many years with steel string acoustic guitars, I'm also really liking the softer, warmer sound of nylon strings. Since banjos were initially strung with gut, I'm thinking there's something "authentic" about using the modern equivalent, though of course the banjo is now a steel string instrument for most everyone.

    Quote Originally Posted by EWeiss View Post
    I made the same jump last June, buying a full scale G9450 "DIXIE" 5 string open back....

    You might want to consider a wooden instrument from Backyard music; they sell them both complete and as kits. The wooden head keeps volume down, and they are a pretty good price point for starting out. I haven't played one myself, but I still have my eye on them.
    http://www.backyardmusic.com/banjos.html
    Thanks for these tips! Given how inexpensive they are, I might just try one of the Backyard kits, just for kicks. I am mostly wanting to dip my feet at this point, so buying a good quality traditional banjo feel like too much of the deep end.

    Still contemplating....

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Posts
    18

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    I bought a Backyard Fireside kit a few years ago and really like it. Easy to assemble, light, sounds decent (almost a dulcimer like sound) and stays in
    tune...in fact, I haven't played it in a while so now is the time...wc
    Fireside-banjo.jpg

    (Didn't notice this was an old thread until I had posted...sorry)
    Last edited by wc-uke; 01-27-2018 at 07:08 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Port Hope, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    588

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    Don't pay attention to those who say, "not a banjo with nylon strings (ugh!)." Well, pay a bit of attention, since that's one opinion, but many talented old time banjo players use nylon or Nylgut strings on at least one of their banjos. I have an old S.S. Stewart banjo with Nylgut strings and I'll never switch it back to steel strings. I also have a couple of banjos with steel strings and if I could have only one banjo it would have steel strings, but I played the banjo for 35 years before I got a ukulele.
    If you want to be a bluegrass musician, then stick to steel strings, but if you want to play clawhammer or old time banjo, nylon is certainly a viable option.
    Last edited by Jim Yates; 01-29-2018 at 10:04 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
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    18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Yates View Post
    Don't pay attention to those who say, "not a banjo with nylon strings (ugh!)." Well, pay a bit of attention, since that's one opinion, bany talented old time banjo players use nylon or Nylgut strings on at least one of their banjos. I have an old S.S. Stewart banjo with Nylgut strings and I'll never switch it back to steel strings. I also have a couple of banjos with steel strings and if I could have only one banjo it would have steel strings, but I played the banjo for 35 years before I got a ukulele.
    If you want to be a bluegrass musician, then stick to steel strings, but if you want to play clawhammer or old time banjo, nylon is certainly a viable option.
    +1000...I have a several (inexpensive or self made) nylon string banjos and they are great sounding. I play (at) clawhammer and old time both fretted and fretless, I also have a couple of steel strung banjos and enjoy playing them but like the nylons better, of course I don't play bluegrass (love it but hate wearing picks).

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    L.A. California
    Posts
    641

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    Just got a Firefly banjo ukulele and got the clawhammer bug, BAD.
    Already ordered a Backyard Banjo kit, the Basic model with a 23" scale.
    I'll let you guys know how the build goes, but I don't expect a great deal of musical progress in the first year though.
    Already joined the Banjo Hangout forum. Same nym as here.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaFO...L3GP8DUN3c10TD
    Last edited by maki66; 03-13-2018 at 10:25 PM.
    Playing my Magic Fluke and grinning like a fool!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Posts
    18

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    You'll love the Backyard Banjo. I added the optional armrest to mine. Looks and sounds good.
    I have a bari uke tuned DGBE but thinking of getting a second one to tune dGBE for clawhammer
    and more of a regular uke sound (also can use a capo on the 5th fret to match regular uke
    tuning for group or jam sessions). Too much fun, I do need a 12 step program for UAS (and GAS and BAS).
    Last edited by wc-uke; 03-15-2018 at 06:51 AM.

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