Page 1 of 2
#1
Hey guys. Sorry for asking this in the acoustic guitar area, but I figured some of you guys might be able to help me out. I'm interested in playing the banjo. Here's some questions:

1. How hard to learn banjo is it for a guy who can already play guitar (cowboy style, lol). I'm a fingerpicker, not real good yet.

2. What are some good brands for the money? Are guitar manufacturers generally competent at making banjos too?

3. Should I get a 4 string or a 5 string? Leaning towards 5 string since that seems the most common.

4. Which TYPE of banjo is easiest to care for. Looks like there are different models where the back is different and such.

5. I'm looking to keep it under $400, but if there is something awesome just outside that range I'm interested.

6. I'm looking at Epiphone, Oscar Schmidt, Dean at this time (but leery of the Dean).


Regarding the capo: I had a nice Dunlop Capo but can't remember which model number it was. I remember it was about $30, but I got it for free after I bought an expensive guitar. I'd like to keep it $30 or less, and to be very good. I have a cheapo plastic one that doesn't work very well.
Last edited by TobusRex at Jan 10, 2017,
#2
1. It requires more right hand precision I guess. The fingerpicking kind of different.

2, 5, 6. Deering Good Time or maybe one of the more inexpensive Gold Tone or Recording King models

3. Two completely different instruments with almost nothing in common other than anatomy, history, and name. 4 string banjos come in a few varieties but they are all designed with plectrum playing in mind. It's more like playing a mandolin and probably not want you unless you are looking to play old timey Dixieland jazz or Irish trad.

4. I don't really get the question. Do you mean like open back versus resonator? The only difference for maintenance is that the resonator needs to be removed (it is held on by four screws so it takes no effort at all) to adjust the coordinator rods (which you will almost never need to do) and the head tension (which you probably will need to do at least once).

Beyond that, the resonator is designed to project sound foward which makes it seem louder to people that are in front of you even if it isn't really louder and just seems that way. Traditionally open back is used for old timey clawhammer folk playing and resonator is used for bluegrass or other times when you need better projection because you are surrounded by other people that are also trying to make noise.

For your first instrument resonators probably don't matter too much and they contribute weight and cost. Also look out for what kind of tone ring (just go read a bit about them) the instrument has. Heavier tone rings are preferred for bluegrass or other louder styles. They make the instrument brighter and louder but also, like resonators, heavier and more expensive. Old timey musicians prefer less substantial tone rings or none at all. Again, it doesn't matter much for your first instrument.
Quote by Hal-Sephira
Shut the mother#%$& up, $^%got. You have a #$%^ing terrible muther&@$#ing taste in %#$@ing music, @&%$ing movies and %&$#ing video games. Every time I see you on the forums, you are always saying something overrated and some $@&#ing sh*t. You are just mother$^@%ing ignorant as a whole.

Get a #%$@ing life or you will get banned for life.
#4
Quote by TobusRex
Hey guys. Sorry for asking this in the acoustic guitar area, but I figured some of you guys might be able to help me out. I'm interested in playing the banjo.
Where else would you ask this question? "Acoustic guitar", seems to cover all types of stringed acoustic instruments. Well, except for the piano.

Quote by TobusRex
1. How hard to learn banjo is it for a guy who can already play guitar (cowboy style, lol). I'm a fingerpicker, not real good yet.
Well, a banjo is tuned completely different from a guitar. As for finger picking, there are several styles which are unique to banjo players. That said Roger McGuinn, (I know, that guy again), I think played the banjo before he got famous with the 12 string, and some of his 12 string stuff is embellished with "banjo rolls".

Quote by TobusRex
2. What are some good brands for the money? Are guitar manufacturers generally competent at making banjos too? [/QUOTE Already covered.

Quote by TobusRex
3. Should I get a 4 string or a 5 string? Leaning towards 5 string since that seems the most common.
The 5th string on the banjo is responsible for the "plink/drone", (the high note you always hear, which is in key, but sounds out of sequence during a roll.

A 4 string banjo is worthless as far as I'm concerned. The Philadelphia Mummers use them by the hundred, and I avoid the TV New Years because I simply can't abide the shit they play. I mean really, 100 people trying to play the exact same strum pattern on 100 tenor banjos is an ear breaker as well as a deal breaker

4. Which TYPE of banjo is easiest to care for. Looks like there are different models where the back is different and such.

5. I'm looking to keep it under $400, but if there is something awesome just outside that range I'm interested.

6. I'm looking at Epiphone, Oscar Schmidt, Dean at this time (but leery of the Dean).


Regarding the capo: I had a nice Dunlop Capo but can't remember which model number it was. I remember it was about $30, but I got it for free after I bought an expensive guitar. I'd like to keep it $30 or less, and to be very good. I have a cheapo plastic one that doesn't work very well.


STUFF TO DO, I'LL FINISH THIS POST LATER
#5
Quote by Captaincranky
Where else would you ask this question? "Acoustic guitar", seems to cover all types of stringed acoustic instruments. Well, except for the piano.
]


Hehehe....I gotta admit that one cracked me up.

You know what I mean dude...I want a GUITAR PLAYER's perspective.
#6
For the record...this is what I ordered after checking and finding nothing that sounded appetizing on Craigslist or the local shops (I called them, all they had was Fender). Listened to some videos on youtube which showed the differences between open back and resonated, plus other things. Was fun (I always love researching shit). At you Cranky, I checked with Sweetwater first and they didn't sell this.

https://www.amazon.com/Deering-GOODTIME-BANJO-GT-Goodtime/dp/B001Q9F34W/ref=sr_1_1?s=musical-instruments&ie=UTF8&qid=1484072333&sr=1-1&keywords=deering+goodtime+banjo
#7
I've played 5-string banjos, and +1 on what Kristen wrote, including the recommendation of Deering Goodtime. Also have a look at Gold Tone.

You're asking about guitar capos? Yesterday I used both the Shubb and Kyser and realised how much I didn't like either of them compared to screw capos like the Planet Waves NS and Dunlop Victor.
#8
Quote by Captaincranky
A 4 string banjo is worthless as far as I'm concerned.


Quote by Hal-Sephira
Shut the mother#%$& up, $^%got. You have a #$%^ing terrible muther&@$#ing taste in %#$@ing music, @&%$ing movies and %&$#ing video games. Every time I see you on the forums, you are always saying something overrated and some $@&#ing sh*t. You are just mother$^@%ing ignorant as a whole.

Get a #%$@ing life or you will get banned for life.
#10
theogonia777 And in spite of what the Dubliners are able to accomplish with the tenor banjo, I still think they're useless to one degree or another.

I imagine you could always take the 5th string off a real banjo to get that 4 string flavor. But, you can't stuff a 5th string on a 4 string. The 5th string plink & drone for me, is what establishes the banjo's sound and purpose.

Be that as it may, I've been suffering from acute 4 string banjo overdose, for at least the past half century, since the Mummers use them virtually exclusively. When you get 50 or 60+ of them together, it sounds like a bunch of pot lids strung with barbed wire. Although, the other natives here seem to enjoy them immensely.

And now the joke you wouldn't be likely to live through, if you told it on 2nd street in Philly, New Years Day; "What's 10 miles long, covered with feathers, and has an asshole every 2 feet"? Answer, "The Mummers Day Parade"!

And to bring you up to speed on the rest of my musical adventures. "Nightwish" isn't my favorite symphonic metal band. (At least for the timer being). I reserve the right to go back to them, even if it's only to hear what negative things you have to say about them/me.

I'm on an early "Kamelot" kick now, at least "Epica", and "Black Halo". Other than that, I've been listening to "Xandria" quite a bit. As always, I eagerly anticipate your thoughts on the matter.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Jan 10, 2017,
#11
Quote by Tony Done


What kind of music are you interested in playing on it? Bluegrass? Country? Irish? Jazz? Primitive:
Pay Mr. Rex no mind. He's just got a bug up his ass and wants a banjo. Although I have to say, it would be interesting to plunk along with the early Eagles stuff such as "Desperado". A lot of their early Americana stuff had some 5 string in it. (IIRC )
#12
Quote by TobusRex
For the record...this is what I ordered after checking and finding nothing that sounded appetizing on Craigslist or the local shops (I called them, all they had was Fender). Listened to some videos on youtube which showed the differences between open back and resonated, plus other things. Was fun (I always love researching shit). At you Cranky, I checked with Sweetwater first and they didn't sell this. ...[ ]...
About all I have to say to this is, "Happy New Banjo Day", and "muchas gracias" since now I don't have to finish my earlier post.

I was actually going to kick you over to "Adirondack Guitar" since they, (or rather Dennis), carry a lot banjo / mandolin / folk type string thingeys.

Deering is a major, well known, renowned, and thought of brand. I'm sure you can't go too far wrong with the banjo you ordered.

It is a shame Sweetwater didn't have what you wanted, if only for the fact they wouldn't have charged you sales tax...
#13
Captaincranky

I see the tenor as either a mando substitute or something with strings that can be heard in a jazz band. Like mandos, it would be very easy to overdose. IIRC, the tenor guitar is evolved from the tenor banjo, and the 14-fret guitar neck has something to do with banjo player preferences.

I'm somewhat interested in primitive instruments, and there are some good gourd banjo examples on Youtube. I've got nylon strings on one of my resos, and it has some similarities to a gourd banjo. I just discovered Rhiannon Giddens via gourd banjo. - Wow! - A versatile lass, primitive to opera.
#14
Tony Done

I'm mostly interested in old time hillbilly music like this. Clawhammer, I think, lol.

Last edited by TobusRex at Jan 10, 2017,
#16
I'm somewhat familiar with Stringbean, but even just from listening it's clearly clawhammer and the playing sounds nothing like Scruggs style. Clawhammer is actually very different from guitar finger picking but the basics are very easy to pick up. Mike Iverson has a cool site with a good amount of instructional material and a good number of his arrangements of many old time tunes.

The instrument is mostly likely an open back since that's what most old timey guys use and that's mostly what Stringbean used. That being said, there are not generally significant tonal differences between resonator and open back models on the lower end. It's more projection. Once you get into mid range and high end instruments there is more of a tonal difference between open backs and resonators but it has less to due with inherent differences between the two and more to do with things like tone rings, heads, setups, etc that are aimed more towards a particular sound (ie higher end open backs have lighter tone rings, mellower heads, etc that contribute to a warmer or plunkier tone that is preferred for the styles normally played on open back and the opposite, ie fuller tone rings, brighter heads, etc, for the brighter sounds associated with bluegrass for resonators).

Certain things like heads can obvious be replaced but things like adjusting the tension of the head, angle of the tail piece, changing string gauges and materials, etc can have a huge impact on tonal impact on the instrument and that alone is really all you need to do to get a more mellow sound for clawhammer or a brighter sound for bluegrass.
Quote by Hal-Sephira
Shut the mother#%$& up, $^%got. You have a #$%^ing terrible muther&@$#ing taste in %#$@ing music, @&%$ing movies and %&$#ing video games. Every time I see you on the forums, you are always saying something overrated and some $@&#ing sh*t. You are just mother$^@%ing ignorant as a whole.

Get a #%$@ing life or you will get banned for life.
#17
Last edited by Captaincranky at Jan 10, 2017,
#18
theogonia777

I think you're right but it isn't the kind of sound I associate with leading on the backstroke, I think he is leading on the finger upstroke. I never could get the hang of leading on the backstroke.

EDIT I did a bit of research. Wade Mainer has been compared to him, and he (Wade) is certainly using finger upstrokes, like typical guitar fingerpicking.
Last edited by Tony Done at Jan 10, 2017,
#19
From experience there is actually really no reason to get a specific banjo/mandolin/bouzouki capo. Standard adjustable guitar capos work perfectly fine on all those instruments.

The real problem is with the fifth string. The old standard solution is to put spikes on the 7th, 9th, and 10th frets for A, B, and C with the 6th and 8th frets being uncommon due to G#/Ab and A#/Bb being very uncommon and anything higher than C being unnecessary since G, A, B, and C covers your 5th for C, D, E, and F (it's more common to play with the 5th string tuned to the 5th rather than capo up past C).

The sliding capo is a nice solution but a bit overkill for a beginner. For the 5th string you can safely tune it up to an A (but probably no higher) which would accommodate A and D tunes in addition to the open G accommodating C and obviously G tunes. Probably like 99 percent of banjo music is in those four keys. For playing unaccompanied you really don't have a reason to even have a capo since you really only need to be able to play in G and C which are both done usually in Open G. Having a capo and a spike at the 7th fret is a good idea though since fiddle players prefer A and D to G and C.

For clawhammer and other old timey styles it's also worth noting that alternate tunings are much more common than in Scruggs style. The old gCGBD tuning (usually called Drop C) is very common and was actually the most common tuning (I eould hesitate yo say standard since there really never was a standard tuning per se) on the banjo for a long time before the modern Open G became standard. In fact, the plectrum banjo (non-tenor 4 string) is stilled tuned CGBD since it diverged before Open G became common.

Other common tunings are Gm (gDGBbD) for minor tunes, Sawmill or Mountain tuning (gDGCD) which is also used a lot for minor tunes like Shady Grove and Clinch Mountain Backstep, Double C (gCGCD), Triple C (gCGCC), Open C (gCGCE), Open D or Graveyard tuning (f#DF#AD or aDF#AD), and Cumberland Gap tuning (gEADE or fDGCD). If you notice, many of those tunings are very similar to others with only one string different.

That being said most material is arranged for Open G since that is the most common tuning these days and many players play entirely or almost entirely in that tuning although some players prefer Open D and some very old timey players prefer Drop C. It is very easy to play Gm tunes in Open G in Scruggs style and so I only really play Wayfaring Stranger in Open Gm since I tend to use a lot of melodic fills that require the open Bb string for that tune. Otherwise I have only occasionally dabbled with Drop C and Sawmill tuning but for Scruggs style the alternate tunings are not really important.
Quote by Hal-Sephira
Shut the mother#%$& up, $^%got. You have a #$%^ing terrible muther&@$#ing taste in %#$@ing music, @&%$ing movies and %&$#ing video games. Every time I see you on the forums, you are always saying something overrated and some $@&#ing sh*t. You are just mother$^@%ing ignorant as a whole.

Get a #%$@ing life or you will get banned for life.
#20
My Kyser & Dunlop Trigger models were a big hassle on my mando (got in the way of my hands), so I picked up that Planet Waves one for it.
Of course, now I prefer the screw models overall, but still like the quick/easy squeeze action for jam sessions on guitar.
#21
How much effort does it really take to adjust a capo? 15 seconds versus 5 for the squeeze kind?
Quote by Hal-Sephira
Shut the mother#%$& up, $^%got. You have a #$%^ing terrible muther&@$#ing taste in %#$@ing music, @&%$ing movies and %&$#ing video games. Every time I see you on the forums, you are always saying something overrated and some $@&#ing sh*t. You are just mother$^@%ing ignorant as a whole.

Get a #%$@ing life or you will get banned for life.
#23
FrogstarWorldA

I will take the accuracy of screw capos over the speed of spring capos any day. The only advantage of my Kyser is that it is big and bright red, harder to misplace than a little black Planet Waves. I wish all capos and other small gadgets of that kind, eg clamp-on tuners, were made in high viz colours.
#24
G7th has gold & silver screw capos, and you can get red or blue Snarks, so the options are out there. I get what you're saying though
#25
How long do you guys think it'll be before I surpass Pete Seeger on the banjo? I'm thinking at least 3 weeks.
#27
hehe...thats the understatement of the year (might be a little longer than that), lol. I was thinking I'd just try to apply my guitar fingerstyle technique, shitty though it may be, to the banjo. I think the alternating thumb will work like a champ, but I've heard guitar players sound weird on the banjo because of the way they pick, lol. On the other hand, I'm a terrible guitar player so maybe it'll be a perfect fit.

Check this lady out. Cute gal, but really interesting banjo work. Good strong singer. She's a fine fiddle player too, btw.

#28
I'm so stoked to get this banjo.

Clawhammer is just thumbpicking plus the other fingers in a fixed "strum", right?
#29
TobusRex

Rhiannon? Nah old news, I discovered her a couple of days ago, see post #13. A very talent lass, apparently also trained in opera. For frailing on guitar, have a listen to Molly Tuttle doing "Little Sadie".

The terms clawhammer and frailing get a bit mixed up and seem to relate to how the thumb is used. I'm talking about the way the melody is played on finger downstrokes with the back of the nail, not on upstrokes as in the great majority of guitar fingerpicking techniques. The downstrokes can be a strum or single notes. I'm currently working on trying to hit single notes on the downstrokes as part of the melody, it ain't easy.
#30
ah....well, guess that my bad guitar work might come in handy then, Tony. I generally tend to strum downward with the backs of my nails

I've always admired a well played banjo. Hell, I've long admired strings played well, fiddles, mandolin, guitar, whatever I love mandolins, but my experience with the uke has told me that I need more room to play than a small instrument can offer, lol. To tell the truth, when I play up the neck on my Cargo, which I love, it gets too tight for comfort.

I'm excited. This isn't like when I bought the uke. The uke was too small for me to ever feel comfy on. I see no reason why I can't be a perfectly mediocre banjo player within a couple months, if I work at it I already know what I want to do...learn the basic folk music chords (D7, G,C,Am, etc), and learn a few simple tunes.
Last edited by TobusRex at Jan 14, 2017,
#31
Oh yeah, I'm going to try to learn banjo just from online resources and a "Banjo for Dummies" book. Should be interesting, hehe
#32
TobusRex

Another thing you could try is catching the string again on the finger upstoke, to get a "bum titty" rhythm. This bit of silliness demos it in a rough way. I've got a little better since I recorded it.

http://www.soundclick.com/html5/v3/player.cfm?type=single&songid=6789600&q=hi&newref=1
#33
Hahaha! I love it Tony! That's cool man, really cool. Sounds Fahey-ish on that one tune
#34
TobusRex

Thanks.

Re ukes. I've got two decent ones in concert size. I learned to play pentatonics on a uke, but like you the small size has damped my enthusiasm. What I have done though, is put 13-36 steel strings on the reso uke and tuned it to open A for playing slide. Lotsa fun, that kind of fits in with the current CBG craze, it works well for the kind of style I was using in that demo. A sort of poor man's "Deliverance".

Because I play mostly slide therefore use open tunings a lot, I can kid folks, briefly, that I can actually play 5-string banjo.
#35
Goodtime is the one I had. It was an all maple model with a removable back. I forget the technical term for it but basically it was an open back with a wooden bowl shaped piece that had 4 mounting bolts so it could be open or closed.

As far as learning, I found it VERY hard. Everything you know about guitar is almost completely useless on a banjo. I enjoyed playing it but it spent most of it's time in the closet so I sold it.
Gibson Les Paul custom
Ibanez RG1570
Schecter KM7
Mesa Boogie triple rectifier
Rectifier 2x12"
#36
Welp, got the banjo today at about 4pm. Took it out of the box and realized I had no idea what the tuning was. Got it tuned up....

Started banging on it. Wasn't sounding like Earl Scruggs at all for some reason! In fact...sounded more like a monkey banging on rocks. I have no idea of the scales on a banjo (never held me back on guitar, lol), so no ability to improvise at all and sound good. Don't know a single chord on it either! The fingering is going to take some getting used to.

I don't know if I should go with picks or not. I'm leaning against using them. Never really got used to the thumbpick on guitar. On the good side, I have been occasionally "aping out" on my Cargo, essentially just banging the backs of the strings with my fingernails and thumb. Imagine my surprise to find that, essentially, it's clawhammer, lol.

Gonna be fun.
#37
Quote by TobusRex
Welp, got the banjo today at about 4pm. Took it out of the box and realized I had no idea what the tuning was. Got it tuned up....

Started banging on it. Wasn't sounding like Earl Scruggs at all for some reason! In fact...sounded more like a monkey banging on rocks. I have no idea of the scales on a banjo (never held me back on guitar, lol), so no ability to improvise at all and sound good. Don't know a single chord on it either! The fingering is going to take some getting used to.
This is precisely the reason buying the open back banjo was such a great idea. With the open back, all the bum notes you hit, just come right back to haunt you. With a resonator, they annoy the crap everyone else within earshot, while sparing the player... You don't often see books of banjo chords, you may have to make your own. To the upside, I'ver found that about 6 chords and a capo is all you really need anyway.

Quote by TobusRex
I don't know if I should go with picks or not. I'm leaning against using them. Never really got used to the thumbpick on guitar. On the good side, I have been occasionally "aping out" on my Cargo, essentially just banging the backs of the strings with my fingernails and thumb. Imagine my surprise to find that, essentially, it's clawhammer, lol.

Gonna be fun.
Well, if you learn to use those damned annoying finger and thumb picks, you'll be ready to move right over to pedal steel. Although I feel obligated to warn you, those damned things have at least 9 strings.....um per neck.

In other news, Amazon has that exact model banjo in left handed. So you've succeeded in making me both jealous and feeling deprived. So go take your damned banjo and plunk off.....
#38
I can't believe no one has mentioned a Banjitar yet. I realize it is not the same thing but a 6 string banjo that has the same fingering as a guitar works for me. You don't have to relearn anything.

I take mine to parties all the time. You know how it is. When a guy walks in to a party with a guitar it takes that party to a whole other level. When you walk in with a banjitar (or banjo) it goes to a whole other stratosphere. Just be prepared to learn the theme from Deliverance or whatever the hell it is called. ''Cause all the drunks yell play Deliverance just like they yell play Wonderwall everytime you pull out your guitar
If you have never checked out the Wood Brothers. Do yourself a favor and look them up. Best. Band. Ever.


__________________
#39
KonaNuNu

The converse of that is that you can use a re-entrant tuning on a guitar to get something like a five-string banjo feel. I've done that for playing slide, it adds a bit of interest. - "John Hardy" in Soundclick from my sig.
Last edited by Tony Done at Jan 17, 2017,
#40
Quote by KonaNuNu
I can't believe no one has mentioned a Banjitar yet. I realize it is not the same thing but a 6 string banjo that has the same fingering as a guitar works for me. You don't have to relearn anything....[ ]....
The thing which makes banjo music immediately recognizable, is the high G 5th string. Even when you simply transfer guitar finger picking patterns over directly from the guitar, you get that high G "plink", where you would normally get a thud on the low E-6 string, it positively distinguishes the instrument.. It's for that reason I even dislike the 4 string tenor banjo.

Nothing against the "banjitar", I had prior knowledge of it, and I've even seen relatively prominent Celtic acts employ one. However, our guy was looking for a "banjo", and I feel a "real banjo" is what he got.

EDIT: Save for the fact I have a fair amount of credit card debt, 10 guitars, foot pedals I haven't taken out of the box and plugged in yet, I would have ordered the very same instrument, the very next day.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Jan 17, 2017,
Page 1 of 2