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Real (5 string) banjo players


Real (5 string) banjo players

A group to promote and discuss the use of the 5 string banjo and it's different tunings

Location: Brampton, ON, Canada
Members: 27
Latest Activity: May 5

Discussion Forum

Deering Goodtime Banjo

I am thinking seriously of getting a Goodtime banjo and was surprised to see they offer so many models nowadays. After reading about them at the Deering site, I am still left with questions. Their…Continue

Tags: Banjo, Goodtime, Deering

Started by Michael S. Jackson Aug 17, 2013.

Earl Scruggs

MARCH 29, 2012 Dear Diary – I awoke a bit earlier than usual today because it is my birthday. Not that I look forward to getting older, now that I have significantly fewer Winters in front of me than…Continue

Tags: Gibson, bluegrass, banjo, Scruggs, Earl

Started by Michael S. Jackson May 9, 2012.

Porchlight Sessions

I hope you will bear with me for a moment. There is a new documentary underway entitled, "Porchlight Sessions" which delves into the history and development of bluegrass and the instruments used.…Continue

Tags: mandolin, fiddle, bluegrass, porchlight, banjo

Started by Michael S. Jackson Apr 2, 2012.

Tablature 3 Replies

I have been doing some research on tab and thought I'd share a bit of it and ask for your input on something I read.As you know, tab has been around a long time and it works well for fretted…Continue

Tags: social, tablature, tab

Started by Michael S. Jackson. Last reply by susi Lawson Nov 30, 2011.

Comment Wall


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Comment by Michael S. Jackson on February 26, 2012 at 10:06am

Brent - I had to give some lectures yesterday (about 12 hours worth) so I am late getting back to you.

I have a high respect for Recording King banjos (and guitars). Greg Rich (who used to design for Gibson) designs these and he adheres to the old pre-war specs and materials. When I cautioned about a decent set up, I had Recording King specifically in mind. They have the required components and are inherently capable of great sound. Things such as tailpiece, bridge, strings, etc. can be changed later on to suit your taste, but a basic set up by the seller should tell you what you need to know. The problem is, it's difficult to judge a banjo who's head is so limp that you can press it 1/4" or so, improperly intonated (bridge position), and strings so high you can bungee jump off of them.

I really dislike referring you to another site for more information, because it's bad form to do so in this site, but at you can read about a lot of banjo stuff and lately, on the Recording King Group, there have been quite a few posts on the RK-35. If you want to read about set-up on these (or any banjo), you can look up my home page (bohonkie) to see exactly how I set up my RK, the tailpiece I used, the strings, and the bridge (Snuffy Smith - hard to find now that he's gone but I've heard there are still a couple of places who have some). I also have a pre-war Granada you can read about and how my RK compares to that (excellent, by the way).

Good luck with your search. A lot of this is taste, of course, and playability is different from sound. Regarding sound, to me, if the banjo has that "...nice plunky sound" as Pete Seeger's daughter used to say, it's not a bluegrass banjo. If one displays some of the characteristics of the sound you hear on the Beverly Hillbillies... that's it. Clear, bright but with a good bass response on the low D string. Real presence and clarity in the higher register.... You get the idea.

If you're looking for a good sound, the RKs, Deerings, Pruchas, etc. will all give it to you. Gold Tone and Gold Star can be a hit or miss proposition and sometimes have manufacturing problems (though they are good at fixing them quickly). It's worth a few hundred more to get the sound you want.

I absolutely love banjos and will help in any way I can. All will work out well!


Comment by Brent Faloon on February 26, 2012 at 9:46am

Jim, thanks for the input. I hear what you are saying re: Gibson/Epiphone quality control and unfortunatly in my neck of the woods it is practically impossible to test drive and compare multiple copies of the same I said I *do* have serious reservations with the Epi because most likely I would only be able to lay hands on no more than two at one time for comparison.

Comment by Jim Handsfield on February 26, 2012 at 9:24am

Brent, last summer at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, NE, a couple of the bluegrass bands had banjo players using RK banjos and they sounded pretty good.  I've never played one so I can't address that.  I'd stay away from Epiphone banjos - Guitar Center has stopped carrying Epi instruments because of their overall poor quality.  Gibson quality control has always been iffy - one will be an absolute jewel and the next (the same model) can be a dud.  The good ones may be the best; the duds aren't worth squat.  If you're thinking about a Gibson, make sure you play it and listen to someone else play it before you plunk down your cash.

Comment by Brent Faloon on February 26, 2012 at 9:05am

Ok Folks, seeking some more input. I will be taking a field trip tomorrow evening to check out a very slightly used Recording King Rk-35. I have been unable to find any negative reviews on this particular instrument which in itself seems odd, so I am interested if anybody has any experience with a) Recording King and b) this model in particular. The tailpiece and bridge have been upgraded and the price is reasonable and negotiable. Thanks again.  Brent 

Comment by Brent Faloon on February 25, 2012 at 8:31am

Michael, thanks for the input...when you say 'a bit of tweaking' are we referring to things like tailpiece tension and bridge placement and head tension and all those other things that I vaguely remember fiddling with way back when I was trying to squeeze Earl Scruggs sound from a $100 banjo? :D

Comment by Michael S. Jackson on February 25, 2012 at 7:21am

Brent - Good idea to try first. Not always easy to do in some areas (like mine). You know what feels good to you and sounds good so go for it, but don't be pressured. Take your time and the right one will come along. One thing: make sure the banjo you try is set up correctly. It might not be set up for your preferences, but at least it should be set up so as to give you an idea of its sound. This is very critical - many a good banjo has gone unpurchased because it didn't sound very good when all it needed was a bit of tweaking by someone who knows how to do it.


Comment by Brent Faloon on February 25, 2012 at 7:10am

Well, after a year and a half of thinking about it, considering the options and all that other stuff I am pretty sure that I am about to pull the trigger and return a banjo to the collection. It's been 20+ years since I've had one of my own, have borrowed a couple over the years but I just can't stand it any longer. My nearly local music store (35 miles from here) is expecting a shipment of Epi MB-250s in the immediate future and I put my name on the list to be notified when they arrive. I could of course order one from one of the online superstores but I prefer to lay hands on, especially considering the inconsistancies in quality that Gibson/Epiphone seem to be noted for. I would be interested in ANY input before I lay down any cash. Thanks. Brent

Comment by Michael S. Jackson on February 6, 2012 at 5:04pm

Perhaps you've heard by now: One of the pioneers and the greats of the Fifth Child, Snuffy Smith, passed away this morning (2/6/12).

Rest well, Snuffy.


Comment by Downtown Freddy Brown on December 24, 2011 at 3:07am

I like this web site. It has lots to offer the banjo enthusiast including all kinds of tabs.

Comment by Michael S. Jackson on July 14, 2011 at 10:45am

Anyone here subscribe to Banjo Newsletter? I've been subcribing for, well, a long time. I recently went through some of my back-issues from the 1970s and thought I'd pass some things along so we can see how things have changed (or have remained the same).

During the '70s, we were in a recession; a near depression that resulted in lots of vintage instruments for sale. Tough times rang throughout BNL articles and ads. Do you recall the "Misery Index?" I won't say anymore about that, since I don't want to get political.

Those '70s issues contained articles and little statements scattered throughout the newsletters telling us to "save energy" and to "take care of the environment." Seems the majority of scientists were waring us of "global cooling" and were telling us that, unless we took action immediately, within a decade or so man would cause global cooling to the point of instigating another ice age. Hmmmm....

National picks were still in business and there was quite a rival between them and Dunlops.

Where is the Imperial Banjo Company now? I met Ty Piper (founder), who also authored "Shop Talk" in the newsletter and found him to be a gentleman who dearly loved his profession and was dedicated to building great banjos.

A tough conmpetitor with Imperial was Saga's Gold Star banjo. I played one of these once; it was for sale and I kick myself to this day for not buying it ($450.00). Two more fairly popular banjos being produced were from the Allen Banjo Co. and Liberty. Of course, there was also Ome and others who are still going.

Stelling was just catching on.

Rob Sax was writing the column, "Banjo Teacher" - this is where I first heard the word "execrably." I've later applied it as a description for some of the cheap wines I have tried.

Sonny Osborne (Keep on the Sonny Side column) had severly injured his little finger and we all followed his therapy and comeback. I met him in the early '80s and I couldn't see where his injury hurt his playing at all.

Luthiers such as A. Craig Hoffman were building recreations of Gibson Mastertones. I haven't seen any for sale... you?

There was a column in BNL entitled, "Jazz Banjo" by Steven M. Brook.

Does anyone recall "Munde's Morsels?" He and Roland White were outstanding in their band; I'm glad I met him also.

Bill Keith banjo strings fold for $2.50 a set, as did GHS, et al.

What became of Lee Lenker of The Buffalo Chip Kickers?

Buck Musical Instrument Products was a major source of banjo parts and supplies.

At the end of the decade I had replaced my beginning banjo (Honer) with a Japanese made copy of a Gibson (Aida). I thought I would NEVER be rich or fortunate enough to own a real Gibson banjo nor a real Martin guitar. (Note: within 5 years I owned both, a Granada and a D-18).

Finally, by the end of the 1970s depression, when bell bottoms and silk shirts disappeared from clothing shelves, we saw the following in BNL:

These were the pre-Flint Hill Flash days when Jack Hatfield was writing the "Scruggs Corner" column.

Janet Davis' "Backup Banjo" book was selling for around $7 (as was Pete Wernick's "Bluegrass Banjo" book).

Fred's String Warehous was selling nylon banjo string sets for under $5; they sold gut stings for $5 - $15 a set.

The following ad appeared in BNL classifieds: 1945 Martin D28 Herringbone $4,300.00; 1948 Martin Archtop Mandolin $450.00; 1921 Gibson F-4 Mandolin $1,650.00; Pre-1940 B&D Silver Bell Serenader (Gretch) $1,000.00.

I wonder if he got what he was asking out of these?

Thanks - m



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